I Am = What Is

Let’s get real. One of God’s many names is “The Great I am”. That means He is everything, everywhere. Another way to say that is, “He is What Is”. Exactly and completely What Is. He is what’s real. Right now. He is reality. Let me say, very boldly, that I can understand reality.

I should say, I can understand my viewpoint of reality. I have my own angle from which I see What Is, unique to me. God is the Big Picture. The Bird’s Eye view. The Forest. I’m just a tree (and a very small sapling, at that). I’m looking up at the soaring Eagle from ground level. From my Ground Zero. But all the same, I see What Is.

Note that I said I can understand. There’s choice involved. I can deceive myself or be deceived about What Is. I really do wonder how much deception is out there running rampant in the world today. And why that might be.

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Let me compare the old me to the new creation. I used to not like my reality, so I pursued every opportunity to alter it – that is, my perception of it. I drank to excess. Used. Escaped to virtual worlds. Thought fun was the best thing to have – all the time. Sought satisfaction in material things. Jumped at the chance for momentary bliss.

But ignorance is bliss. Ignorance of What Is. Affected moods and distracted mind don’t change reality. What Is remains, waiting patiently for me to deal with it, to accept it – to accept God and what He Is. He finally got through to me eight years ago. I finally became frank. With myself. I looked at What Is and really asked myself, “What Is Next?”, if I want to get to somewhere better.

Let me say, very pointedly, that my “What Is” is different than anyone else’s. Sometimes it can be very different. Sometimes it can be similar. This is, of course, because our circumstances (yes, the socio-economic ones) are either similar or different. It can be very difficult for any one of us to truly identify with any other’s reality – but, all the same, What Is is What Is.

[The Lord] grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He Is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
Proverbs 2:7

Some other names for What Is are “Common Sense”, “Honesty”, “Integrity”. I’ve always been confused by Common Sense – if it’s supposedly so common why does it seem to be so rare? (There’s a cliche out there that goes something like, “He/she doesn’t have the common sense God gave a _____”. So, again, we have this idea of trying to deny reality in favor of something else.)

We’re talking about my ability or willingness to be frank about What Is. Or not.

The way you lived and the things you did brought this trouble to you.
It is your evil that made your life so hard.
Your evil brought the pain that hurts deep in your heart.
Jeremiah 3:18 ERV

“Evil” doesn’t have to be a “bad” thing, done on purpose. Think of the cliche, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Not doing the right thing, or doing nothing can also be the source of challenges, of bad outcomes.

Start now, from where you are, with what you have.
Teddy Roosevelt

On the other hand, being completely Honest about What Is is the necessary starting point for moving forward. I must work with What Is to plot a path to What Could Be, and that is what God wants. He desires the best for us. And, if one is being completely Honest, what and where one is starting from does have an impact on how far one might go, and one has to accept that, too.

(For example, What Is is that I love music and singing, but honestly I don’t have such a great voice. That doesn’t mean I should never sing; indeed, I make a joyful noise at the one place it’s always welcomed, in my Church. And, being frank about What Is my singing, I am motivated to practice every chance I get – so who’s to say I won’t get better, I won’t get “good enough”? That’s What Could Be. My “evil” was thinking and claiming all those years to be a singer without actually singing. I was in denial about my need to work hard at something I felt passionate about.)

Let’s review: There is What Is, and my response to it, accept or deny. Get real or avoid. On the day of the conception of my rebirth – the beginning of my beginning to learn, so to speak – I was blessed to be stabbed with the revelation of exactly where my past reacting had brought me. This was an intensely real experience. Oh, the places I had drug myself through! Things I never had expected, had never thought I would do! Arrest. Behavioral hospitalization. Business failure. Harm given and received. Obsession, Procrastination, Isolation, Avoidance. Perhaps, though, for me, What Is Next was quite easy. There literally was no way to go but “up”. And there was- there always is, always has been, always will be – help. A How To Guide. But I had to become willing to receive it – by pursuing it.

Yes, I speak of reading The Bible. “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” The original self-help, self-improvement manual. Except it’s not about “self” – about being or going through life alone. It’s the voice of What Is, speaking through the wisdom of thousands of years of human experiences and best practices. It is the repository of Common Sense.

Stay tuned for how finally seeing and accepting What Is has resulted in a completely changed me…

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Undeserved Privilege

“White Privilege”. There, I said it. It’s been burning in my mind for several days now, after a friend posted a meme that stressed the words, “We whites”. I responded in an un-Christian manner, because that phrase really got to me. Let me tell you why (but first, let me sincerely apologize for my manners. You know who you are.)

Using the pronoun “we” in conjunction with anything is to include yourself and myself. In the case of a negative thing, this amounts to accepting (or even claiming) responsibility. In the case of today’s socio-economic situation, this is most definitely undeserved guilt. To give a sense of why, I quote from a movie:

“None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended.”
Balian of Ibelin, Kingdom of Heaven

The only one capable of taking on undeserved guilt was Jesus Christ. It was The Undeserved Privilege of all time, and He did it willingly. I will not boast that I am able to do so great a thing. In short, you and I are not responsible for the way the world is, and I take offense at any words to that effect.

The only undeserved privilege I have ever had is to be chosen by God, The Creator, to receive His gifts of faith and a changed heart. Faith is what made everything in my life different. It makes everything in my life worthwhile – no matter my circumstances. Frankly, it bothers me when I’m accused of being given something others do not have the equal opportunity to experience, or that I am somehow to blame – guilty only by association – for their lack. Is this a Christian view? Yes! To be Christian is to have an individual relationship with God; to realize a personal need for salvation, and then to serve others who are in need, so that others may hear and see this Good News through my words and actions. Meanwhile, I hold quite enough guilt for the evil I have actually done. I struggle to grow beyond it.

1 Peter 1:14 ERV
In the past you did not have the understanding you have now. So you did the evil things you wanted to do. But now you are Children of God, so you should can obey Him and not live the way you did before.

How aptly this verse describes me! Falling for my selfish desires, I did do harm – but to myself and to those closest to me, not to any I have never met. This is my guilt. By my own hand I descended into a perversion of life, and that is where God found me and from where He saved me. And He continues to strengthen me, one day at a time.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

God wants all people to be saved – not from having challenges here on earth but from falling to them, from failing to get up again. There is no doubt that life will have struggles, but it is fact that God yearns for us to turn to Him for help to rise above. He stands beside everyone of us, ready, willing, and able to lavishly give faith, encouragement, strength, and hope to lift us to our feet, whatever our situation.

John 16:33 NIV
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

I see this faith in people from all walks of life and all geographies and all economic and health conditions. This confirms to me that God is working to make salvation available to anyone. To everyone. The only lack one needs to realize is the lack of God in one’s life. And with God present (and with His presents), believers are equipped to work for what is truly worthy and important, giving and sharing from whatever their bounty is.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Without God, I self-destructed. With Him, I live. I accept what is, and, knowing my starting line, I am guided forward. I take my place as a member of the Body of Christ, with my own situation, talents, and purpose – to voluntarily share, Christlike, sacrificing only what I have been given in abundance. This is my privilege.

A Rued Awakening

Newsflash. I remain imperfect. I still make mistakes. I put my foot in my mouth again. And I continue to be … a ‘worthy’ recipient of God’s grace. It’s God’s gift to me, to us humans.

[All] are made right with God by His grace. This is a free gift. [All] are made right with God by being made free from sin through Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:24 ERV

I confess. What I’ve seen recently in (and of and from) the world has had the tendency to make me an angry Christian. Some might say that’s an oxymoron. That may be. Do I have the right to be angry about what others are doing/believing? In answer, let me put it another way: Do I have the right to be angry about what I perceive God is NOT doing?

I confess. If I haven’t been an angry Christian because of what I see, I’ve had the tendency to be a “sorry for them who don’t know, and especially for them who choose wrongly” Christian. Right. Forgive them, for they know not. This morning, the rude, rued awakening is that both these feelings stem from pride.

There are two facets of God and faith that I have been pondering – that I have misunderstood until today. One is my part in my salvation. Surely, I have a part in it? Aren’t I choosing to believe?

“…Paul knew, both from personal experience and from Scripture, how deeply embedded in our fallen hearts is the pride that wants to take some of the credit for being our own savior. Even if we acknowledge that God is the primary agent in our salvation, we’re still prone to claim that we had something to do with it, so that we can boast.”
Steven J Cole, Bible.org, Faith vs Pride

So, no, it’s not my choice. At least, not in that initial, life-changing, soul-saving moment. God gifted me with faith. He changed my heart. Perhaps all I have ever done is simply to realize how much I haven’t done, how much I’m not capable of doing. Maybe the one thing I have done is hit rock bottom, realizing how little I know about how much I need God’s grace. Again. Surely, there’s nothing to be proud of in being a screw up.

Cole quotes C. S. Lewis:

“Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted upon, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget yourself altogether.”

There is hope here. Hope that I will someday be able to simply forget myself ‘altogether’, and know only God and the peace that surpasses. That would be a true moment of Sharing His Story, of not taking my story in the slightest boastful way.

The other thing that has been made clear to me is what it means that “God hardens hearts”. In a sense, then, I suppose this means that even disbelief comes from God, although this does not compute. Maybe it has to do with the season a person is in. Maybe it is a piece of how we are used by God, to allow Him to make others right with Him.

… God worked all this out in a way that allows Him to judge people fairly and still make right any person who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:26 ERV

That God would want someone’s heart to be hard is beyond me. But this must be why I am instructed to NOT rely on my own understanding. Thinking “I get it” is actually yet another form of that pride.

Do I have the right to be angry or to pity the condition of other souls?  The list of commandments, impossible for me to follow – this much I know – has been reduced to two: Love my Maker with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, trusting that He knows what He is doing, and to Love my neighbor as I do love myself. Do I get mad at myself when I mess up either of these? Should I blame myself? Love the sinner, hate the sin. Read Romans 7 again. Know what my part is now that my heart has been changed.

Just be sure you live as God’s people in a way that honors the Good News of Christ… Stand together with the same purpose… Work together like a team to help others believe the Good News.
Philippians 1:27 ERV