re: help my unbelief

You may have grown up in a church where you sang hymns or you may not.  I did not.  I love them now.  They are beautiful and intense and often deliver great theological truth.  John Newton wrote Amazing Grace.  He also wrote a bunch of other hymns which we don’t sing or know about anymore.  “Help My Unbelief” was featured in the Gadsby Hymnal.  Red Mountain Church has covered this hymn beautifully in recent years and the words have really been turning over and over in my mind the last few days.

I know the Lord is nigh,
And would but cannot pray,
For Satan meets me when I try,
And frights my soul away,
And frights my soul away.

I would but can’t repent,
Though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can never relent
Till Jesus makes it soft,
Till Jesus makes it soft.

Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.

I would but cannot love,
Though wooed by love divine;
No arguments have power to move
A soul as base as mine.
A soul so base as mine.

I would but cannot rest,
In God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best,
And murmur at it still.
I murmur at it still.

Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.

I’m not one who usually shares song lyrics.  They’re usually meaningless to anyone who does not really know the song well.  I know you all just scrolled down past those words, maybe skimming them quickly with your eyes to try and understand the main theme in case it is important.  It’s ok.  I mostly put them there to pay homage to Newton’s work.  I put it there so that it would be there.

I know I need to pray but I don’t. When I do, it is meaningless and empty-hearted.

I know I need to change the way I am.  I can’t.  I want to but I don’t want to. My heart just isn’t in it.

I don’t love people like I should.  I know I am loved by God but my heart is still hard and apathetic toward people.

I complain.  I know that something can’t be changed.  It may be what God wants but instead of making the best of it, I complain.

Who don’t these things describe.  We suffer from murmuring, and baseness, and hard-heartedness, and fear and all of these stem from not believing that God is who He says He is, from not believing that God is good, and just, and sovereign.

Where is your unbelief today?

Oh, God! Help my unbelief.  My help must come from you.

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30 Important Questions About Christianity

A good friend of mine interviewed me for a project she was doing on Christianity.  She asked me some really great questions.  I decided to share my answers because I think that they are questions that many have.

  1. How does someone become a Christian?

–Anyone can become a Christian by recognizing that they are a sinful being made by a perfect God.  Sin separates us from God.  By believing that Jesus Christ is God who became a man, and took the punishment for man’s sin, but then rose from the dead conquering sin and death so that we can have a new life as a child of God.

 2. Who made God?

–God was not made.  He always was.  He is not a person. He is someone else, someone so much bigger, much more, something different from us.  His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 59).   He is outside of time.  He is the original being and the source of making.

3. How do you know there is a God?

–This is something that you have to take on faith.  God is like the wind—a force in the world that is very real and evident but not tangible or visible. .  Although He is so much greater than us, He allows us to know Him. I, personally, see God most unmistakably in the natural world.  .  God is declared loudly through His creation (Romans 1, Psalm 19).  He makes Himself known through its intricacy.  Like an artist makes himself known through his art.  I love all of the patterns and symmetry in the natural world, the immense beauty of it, the delicacy of eco-systems, photosynthesis, the amazing intricacy of the human brain and nervous-system—it is all so immense and detailed that it would be a greater act of faith to believe that it happened by accident.

4. How can there be a good God with so much evil and suffering in the world?

–God is good.  The Bible says that God IS love.  He is the source of goodness and love.  But because God is good, he is also just.  If God was not just, He would not be good either.  He would be like a judge who lets a murderer go free because he likes the guy.  That’s corrupt.  Not good at all.  God made the world perfect.  He made humans good.  He made them to live in love and harmony.  There was no fear of God, no secrets with each other, just love, and respect, and friendship, and helping. Instead of forcing His will of goodness on them which would not be good, God gave them a choice–they could trust Him and live in this harmonious world forever or they could distrust Him.  Humanity chose not to trust God even though He made them and gave them good things; they wanted to take control and thought that they knew better than God.  When they disobeyed Him the world was broken.  This is the fault of humanity.  Because God is just, He allowed the world and our relationship with Him to be broken.  Because God is love, He did not want the world to stay broken.  God sent us His son, Jesus, to show God’s love to the world, take the punishment for our sin, remove our separation from God, and conquer the power of death over the world.  Our relationship with God can be restored because God came to us, we just have to accept that. There is evil and suffering in the world because God is good and God is just and people are bad and they do not love God.

 5. Why do Christians say that Jesus is the only way to God?

–Jesus was God.  We are arrogant if we think we can find God without God wanting us as well.  God sent Jesus because He wants us.    Jesus is the only way to God because He is God.

 6. Do you believe in the trinity?

–definitely.  The trinity is God being three while still being one.  That’s an integral part of God being God.  I can’t be three people while still being one person.  God can.  I can’t really wrap my mind around it but He’s God.  If I think I can understand Him, I’m being foolish.  The cool thing about having a God who is three is that He is friends.  He works together.  He made us with that attribute—to have friends and work together.  God is in community, we can be too.
7. Why do Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God? 

–The Bible claims that it is the word of God and is widely accepted as such for a long time through history.  The Bible is widely accepted as an accurate historical and prestigious literary document.  About 2000 of the 2500 prophecies recorded in the Bible have been fulfilled perfectly.  The chance of any of these major prophecies actually occurring and being recorded is one in ten to the two thousandth power.  And then it’s another faith thing; like the existence of God, there is evidence but there is also an element of deciding that you believe it.

 8. How can you trust the Bible due to its continuous alterations throughout history?

–Our earliest manuscripts of the Bible match up to the ones that we have preserved throughout history.  Simply as a historical document the amount of manuscripts we have available and the similarity which they show to each other over thousands of years makes it very reliable. The fact that this document was deemed important enough to copy so many times bears witness to its importance.  As a historical document it is supported by other historians of the day secular, Christian, and Jewish.  The Bible is widely recognized as a great literary and historical document even outside of the Christian realm. The differences among manuscripts are small, do not affect any major doctrines, and can easily be attributed to human error in copying by hand for hundreds of years.  The care taken in the copying of this document through such a long period of history is amazing.

 9. How can a loving God send someone to Hell?

–This goes back to God being just.  Because we choose sin, we choose hell as consequence for our sin.  God doesn’t want to send people to hell.  That’s why He took the punishment for our sin and if we believe that He is loving and He is just and He took our punishment—we don’t have to go to hell.

10. What happens to people who have never heard of God/ Jesus?

–I can’t speak for God.  I believe that God is good, He is love, He is just and He will take care of those people in a loving and just way.  Same with babies and the mentally handicapped—God loves them and will take care of them in a loving and just way.

 11. Will God accept those of other religions who are sincere in their faith?

–No.  There is only one way to God and that does not include the worshipping of other gods.  All other faiths demand something from you but the God of the Bible gives to us freely.

 Do you feel bad for them?

–yes. Not “feel bad” in a patronizing, “I’m better than you” way.  I’m not.  I just love them and want them to know the freedom I have.  We’re all people.  Brothers and sisters made by God.

12. Were you always a Christian?

–No.  I was an atheist for quite a while before I started to consider Christianity as a possibility for truth.

 13. While you were an Atheist, did you angrily dispute those with religious beliefs?

–No, I wasn’t an aggressive atheist.  I just didn’t believe in God.  I didn’t think that I needed anyone else.  I was angry because I was depressed and miserable.   My life was hard and I thought that if there was a God, there was no way He would let me be so miserable.  It turned out that I was depressed and miserable because I was so focused on myself.  It was all selfishness.  Everyone’s life is hard in some way.  When I stopped focusing on myself and started loving God and loving people, my depression and anger went away.

 14. How was Heaven and Hell portrayed to you as a child?

–I don’t remember being a child.

15. What is your perception of Heaven and Hell currently? How do you envision it?

–Heaven is a place where I get to be with God.   And because God is there, love is there. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s beautiful.  There are mountains to climb, rivers to raft, songs to sing.  The air is fresh, the water is clear, the ground is not polluted, there is all kinds of food to eat and beautiful things to look at.  You can see all of the stars. There are totally green cities.  There are animals.  They are all friendly.  Everyone is a vegetarian.  I can take a nap with a big cuddly tiger in a puddle of sunshine under an apple tree and go swimming with sharks who will not eat me.  It is full of people who also love God and we are all in community and love God and love each other.  No one is ever tired or sad or hopeless.

Hell is where God is not.  There is no presence of God, no love, no community.  It’s empty and hopeless.

16. At what age were you baptized?

–I have not been baptized.  I want to be, though.  Baptism is a way of making your love for God public.  I had the opportunity of baptizing one of my friends this summer but I have not personally been baptized.  I hope that I will have that opportunity in the next year.

 17. How can you be a Christian and not be baptized?

–Being a Christian is not dependent on being baptized.  You’re a Christian because you believe something and it changes you.  Baptism is a symbol.  It’s a way of showing other people that you believe something.  It’s something that you do because you’re a Christian, not something that makes you a Christian.

18. When did you realize you were saved? What led up to this?

–I didn’t believe in God for most of my life.  I struggled a lot with depression, attempted suicide a few times.  When I was in my teens when I realized that the Christians in the Bible were excited about life and loved God enough to die for Him.  I didn’t love anyone or anything except myself.  I just wanted to die because I was selfish and had no reason to live.  I needed God.  The next few years I claimed to be a Christian and lived a good life but I was really depending on myself to be good enough for God.  I was seventeen before I really understood the depth of meaning in God dying in my place and stopped living for myself and living for God.  It has given me such an immense freedom.  I love life, I love people, I love God.  I like myself because God made me the way that I am.  I want to take care of people and show them that God loves them.  I want to clean up the world because God made it and it’s broken.  That’s sad to me but I have so much hope in knowing that God is going to fix the world completely someday.

 19. What made you realize you needed God at 17?

–I wasn’t doing a very good job on my own.  I started to realize that I had no idea who I was and I was claiming to know a God that I really had no idea about.  I read some books and talked with some people who loved God. One of the books that really changed the way that I thought was Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.  In that book, he talks about the freedom you have as a Christian.  You’re free to love people because you love God.  You don’t have to worry about what anyone thinks anymore, you just get to love everyone and treat them with dignity.

 20.  What are a few good things being a Christian has led you to?

–I went to school for psychology.  I have completely devoted my life to showing people that God loves them and helping them to see Him in the hard times that happen because the world is broken.

21. What type of hope do you receive from being a Christian?

–The type that does not fade or give up.  The type that comes from knowing that I don’t have to be good enough and I am free to do my best and fail sometimes, that my strength comes from the God who made the Rocky Mountains.  I have the best kind of hope because it comes from something so much bigger than me.

 22. Have you ever had any doubts regarding Christianity?

–Yes.  I ask questions often.  I think that it is healthy to have doubts.  To ask “what if I am wrong?” is a humble question.  Everyone should not just know what they believe but understand why they believe it and when I have questions I go find answers.

23. When did you struggle most with your faith?

–Probably my freshman year of college.  I went through an enormous time of asking questions and finding answers.  God put a lot of people in my life to guide me and help me to know Him.

24. Do you have anyone you share your beliefs with? (ex . Family member, friend, colleague…)

–I currently work in a ministry setting so all of my co-workers and many of my friends share my beliefs.  However, I have friends of different faiths and lifestyles as well.  I love them and respect them.

 25. How does your faith reflect within your household?

–I am currently single. I live with some old people who let me stay in their house.  They’re awesome.  But I think that a household should operate with love and mutual respect.  Husbands should love and honor their wives, wives should love and respect their husbands, children should listen to the guidance of their parents, and parents should respect and know their children.

26. How does your faith reflect within your life?

–I want to treat everyone who I come in contact with the way that Jesus Himself would treat them.  That is how Christians are called to act.  I fail.  I fail a lot.  I will probably always fail. But, by the grace of God, I am growing to know Him better and I am getting better at being like Him—showing mercy and kindness and love.  I don’t wear the Christian t-shirts or carry a sign or have one of those fish things on my car or anything.  I drive an old Jeep.  I usually carry a notebook around because I like to write things down or I will forget them.  I dress like a pretty normal person—old shoes, oversized sweaters, skinny jeans. I brush my teeth, wear a little make-up, and smile a lot because I’m happy.  I like to laugh. I like to go backpacking and rock climbing and get dirty.   I like good coffee. I’m just a person but I want to be a person who helps people to understand God better.

 27. What do you make of all the different denominations within Christianity? Can they be considered Christianity?

–A lot of them—yeah.  This is tricky because there are some varieties that are clearly not Christian.  A good example would be the people from the Westboro Baptist Church who claim that God hates gays and stage protests at the funerals of soldiers.  That’s not Christianity; they would be considered a cult.  God doesn’t hate anyone.  That goes completely against Christianity.  Most denominations have beliefs that would be considered “Christian” some things we disagree on but usually not the big things that really matter.  I think that Christianity operates on a case by case basis.  If you’re a Christian, you’ll act like a Christian.  If you claim to be a Christian but don’t live like one, you’re probably not. I would venture to say that most people who claim to be “Christian” are not real Christians. There are Catholics who are real Christians and love Jesus; there are Egyptian Coptics who are real Christians and love Jesus, there are Baptists who are real Christians and love Jesus, there are Presbyterians and Lutherans who are real Christians and love Jesus and there are people in all of those denominations who don’t love Jesus and are living a lie.

 28. How do you feel about other religions that are Monotheistic and Polytheistic?

–I love those people, we can be friends. I will treat them with respect, but I think that they are wrong.  They will think I am wrong also.

 29. Would you consider the aspect that being happy in a religion is about ones perspective?

–Happiness is cheap.  It operates on how you feel.  If you feel like you’re doing a good job in your religion, you’ll be happy.  Christianity is different because your joy is something so much deeper and it depends on where you stand, not how you feel.    You get the chance to know the God who made you with his hands and pursue His beautiful, divine purpose for your life.  That gives the ultimate joy and satisfaction even though it may bring pain and suffering.  Knowing that God loves you and you are free to love Him and love everyone is the ultimate freedom.  You don’t have to care about yourself anymore.

 30. Do you agree with everything that is written in the Bible regarding the rules in how one should live their life to get into Heaven?

–The Bible does not teach that you should follow rules to get into heaven.  The Bible teaches that God gives you His love even though you don’t deserve it and you get to go to heaven if you love Him back and trust Him with your life.  The Old Testament is full of rules and guidelines that God gave to Israel so that they could see how hard it was to live a perfect life.  They did not have to follow these to get to heaven then, they had to trust God.  When Jesus came, He took away the need for us to have a law.  Our standard of living a perfect life is Jesus, himself.  A Christian’s guide to living is demonstrated in the life of Jesus and iterated in the New Testament.  I do agree with living as the New Testament commands.

 31. Within the New Testament, what are the main guidelines you follow within your life?

–The word “Christian” means “little Christ”.  I’m supposed to be like Jesus.  The teachings of the New Testament support that in outlining some specific ways which we are supposed to live in order to best show Jesus to others.  Treating all people with love and dignity, giving generously of what I have been given, being a gracious, joyful person, living a life of sexual purity, fighting for truth and justice, and speaking words that are kind and honest are just a taste of the life I try to live.  I fail a lot.  I’m not perfect.  Not even close.  But it’s not all about the rules, it’s about following the example of Jesus in order to show the world that God is great!

re: things I have learned this year.

I learned about homeless people who live in tunnels under New York City.

I learned about dinosaurs.

I learned about climbing mountains.

I learned about creation and how important it is in the hearts of girls that God is creative, beautiful, and detail-oriented.

I learned about roller derby.

I learned that I’m not really sure that I want to get married but I think I do.

I learned about the way my mind works.

I learned more about how selfish I am.

I learned about how to use the copy machine in the main office at work.

I learned more things that make Jesse giggle.

I learned that it’s hard being in a new place where you don’t know anyone.

I learned more things that make Jesse sad.

I learned that our dog like the sound of pine cones crunching in her mouth.

I learned that washing my hair and shaving my legs in the kitchen sink is way easier than showering.

I learned that everyone should have an Egyptian in their youth group and you just have to wait around for them to graduate highschool and throw a party.

I learned that I miss Scranton even though I didn’t think I would.

I learned that love is more deep than I ever thought possible.

I learned how much I neglect to love.

I learned that believing in someone is one of the most powerful things in the world.

re: where God has brought me

January:
The beginning of my final semester of college.
Jesse asked me to be his girlfriend.  I told him no.
No idea what I was doing after graduation.

February:
Continued to tell Jesse no.
Struggled with school.
Visited Ohio to meet some kids at their winter retreat for possible job that didn’t really interest me.

March:
Said yes to Jesse.Said no to job in Ohio.

April:
Said yes to job in Ohio.

May:Graduated college
Moved to Ohio

June-November:
Wondered how in the world I got here.

December:
Realized that I have come full circle but am a different person now and while I have a firmer grasp on who I am and who God is, I may have less direction than I had even a year ago.  I believe that one of God’s favorite things is to keep me guessing until I am actually uncomfortable and the wild thing is how easy it is to get me to the point of discomfort even though He has proven His worthiness over and over.  How many times have I thrown all of the options into the air only the catch the one I consider least desirable and drag my feet to follow it only to find that it is a thousand times more golden than what I originally thought I wanted.

A year ago my most favored option after graduating was moving to Dallas and working at a restaurant, getting involved in a Southern Baptist Church.  But here I am in Cleveland and I can’t imagine a better life for right now.

I have options in front of me.  Exciting adventures involving camping, conservation, marriage, Cleveland, youth, teaching, poetry, storytelling, and Indiana.  They’re in the air and soon one will be in my hand, on the table.  It might not be my favorite but it will be the one that God uses to show me Himself.

letters: a series.

 

Dear Life, when you don’t let me sleep at night it makes me want to take drugs to go to sleep. Drugs are bad. I would appreciate some sleep. Love, Kate

Dear Christmas, I hate you. I know that’s not the Christian/American way and I am simply a terrible piece of humanity and a scrooge for even thinking such things–but Christmas, you stress me out something fierce. That’s not even fun. Love, Kate

Dear College, I still don’t miss you.

Dear Kate, You are a mess. You look a little homeless. It’s OK.

Dear Apathetic Christians, you say you love God, yet you also sit back and love sin and tolerate injustice. When did Jesus tolerate injustice? When did injustice not make Him angry?

Dear Aggressive Christians, You can’t tell someone to repent of their sin if they do not believe that God is good and just. You can tell someone who does not share your view of God all about their sin and they will hear hatred and intolerance and the message of a hateful God. How did Jesus talk to unbelievers? Check out His interactions with Zachaeus and the Samaritan woman at the well. He talked about their sin after gaining their interest and trust. He didn’t just dive in with the attack on their life.

Dear Christians, people might take us seriously if we had honesty AND tact. Basic social skills still apply to you. People also might take us seriously if they actually saw us out there doing something about injustice and not just churches full of apathetic people who get aggressive when the topic of gay marriage and gun control comes up.

Dear World, I am sorry that the majority of people who claim the name of Jesus Christ actually act nothing like Him.

Dear Everyone, What comes next?

re: bind my wandering heart to thee

I know so many women who allow their joy to be sucked away by men.  They are not in abusive or bad relationships–they simply are not in a relationship at all and they are lost, they have no identity, they often don’t even have much of a personality because they are just waiting for prince charming to ride up and reveal their fate.  She wants to find herself in him.

I know so many men who find their identity in independence, in searching for themselves and trying to fit in with other men.  So many men who are just looking for a place to belong, sold on being strong enough, afraid to give or feel or love.

There is a girl who I know who is completely in love with this boy.  She wants him to love her more than anything.  She also claims to love Jesus but I am not convinced.  I think she likes Jesus and she knows about Him.  But I don’t think she wants him as much as she wants this boy.  If you talk with her, she’s funny and cute but there’s a general feeling that she isn’t positive of who she is, she’s uncomfortable with herself.  You can tell that she does not feel valuable or confident.  I think that if God took the boy away, she would have nothing and have to go searching for herself again.  This is everywhere.  I probably know ten or twelve girls like this.

Low self-esteem is pride.  Arrogance is pride.  Thinking that you are important is pride.  It’s all a matter of worshiping something that is not God, ultimately it is worshiping self.  Thinking that you are important.  Prideful idolatry keeps us from really finding ourselves in our Creator.  Instead of finding ourselves somewhere or in someone, we must bind ourselves to Him.

Proper view of God results in a proper view of self.  We are only important by His grace and it has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him.  It is important to keep view of self as an important concept in youth ministry.  We often put it on a shelf with Creation, Image, and the Gospel in favor of addressing more trendy topics.

When you’re talking with or observing a kid, you can pick up on it very easily.  Where do you see arrogance?  Where do you see low self-esteem.  What are they hiding behind there? Bad relationships with parents?  Hurt from a broken relationship?  Abuse?  What is getting in the way of this kid having a proper view of God?

Are you arrogant?  Do you struggle with low self-esteem?  Do you think that you are important?  Does your importance determine your value or success?  Where does your strength, your success, your value, and your identity come from?  If God took everything away from you, would you still have something?

Oh, God, bind my wandering heart to thee.