Saturday, September 14, 2013

a theological conversation with an anonymous stranger: the real reason i blog.

  1. What a joy it has been to have this interaction with Anonymous :). Anonymous agreed that he/she probably was not the only one with these questions and so we wanted to do a post on our conversation in hopes that it would bring theological clarity and more of a love for the gospel to others. Anonymous' original comment was in response to my "following jesus to walmart" post...
  2. I never comment on blogs so this is a bit awkward for me. However, I keep returning to this post and reading it over and over. I am a Christian and rely heavily on my faith but in all honestly am not well versed in scripture. Can you please explain to me what you mean when you say " my unbelief."? I feel this blog is really speaking to me and I want to understand fully what I am intended to get from it. Thank you so much.
  3. Hey! That's ok! Thank you so much for commenting, Im honored to interact with you about this:)! I struggle with loving the bible and understanding it too. "I believe, help my unbelief" is a reference from Mark 9:24.

    Im going to rewind all the way... So (theologically) our story is: 1) CREATION (God created all things), 2) FALL (adam sinned and the world broke, pain & death entered), 3) REDEMPTION (Jesus came and is fixing the world~ which is where we are now), 4) CONSUMMATION (Jesus will come again and completely fix the world, and there will be no more sin, death or pain, and only joy & peace).

    So, we were (are) created in the image of God and to be in relationship with God (that's why we ever long for something more and better). But, because of the FALL, that relationship was broken. We are all sinners, and so we struggle with doubt and believing the Gospel. I mean, even Adam, who physically took evening strolls with God, and personally knew God's goodness, decided that God was actually a lier and he ate the fruit (unbelief). How much more will WE struggle!

    On this side of the CONSUMMATION, we can't NOT sin. After CONSUMMATION, we CAN'T sin. God gives Christians the Holy Spirit which helps us believe, but because of the fall & sin we cannot believe perfectly. EVERY Christian will be a mix of belief and unbelief- Which is why we need Jesus. Thankfully, it is not the strength of our faith that saves us, but Jesus who saves us. We are all glorious ruins, a beautiful mess, wounded healers... because we are full of belief and unbelief.

    one more thing...picture a head on train wreck. CREATION is one train going in the "belief" direction and The FALL is the other train going in the "unbelief" direction- we are the wreckage that Jesus is and will fully put right.

    Did I say too much and make it worse? thanks for reading and asking :) let me know if youd like to email..
  4. Thank you so, so much for taking the time out of your busy life to offer such a detailed and easy to understand explanation. This is so helpful! It means more than you can know that you are willing to offer so much to a stranger. It's a comfort to know others doubt and struggle with the gospel although my biggest issue is understanding what the message is. I hope that makes sense. For example, I thought Jesus died on the cross for us in order to carry the burden of original sin so that we would be born in Gods image in a pure form, so to speak? Also, when you refer to dying to self what exactly do you mean? Is that turning everything over to God and trusting that he knows better than we do what's best for us? I am sorry. As you can see I am full of confusion and questions. Emailing would be nice but honestly I know as a mother to your two beautiful girlies you are busy with things far more important than my confusion. You are a beautiful and giving person and I am grateful for that. Thank you.
  5. Don't be sorry! I love discussing this, and our theology is so important! It is good to ask questions and discuss.

    What is the gospel message is a great question. Tim Keller defines it as 1) the good news of gracious acceptance 2) the good news of changed lives 3) the good news of a new world coming. check out this article:

    You are correct that Jesus died to atone for original sin; sin corporate and personal, past, present, and future. However, until Jesus returns, nothing is pure because there is still sin. That is why we need to rely on Jesus all the time, not just once (although you are saved just once). Additionally, we are all (christian and non) made in God's image. But, when someone becomes a Christian, God gives them the Spirit, and they go from spiritual death to spiritual life and this allows them change through the process of sanctification and become more and more Christ like. We can never be perfect or sinless though until Christ comes again.

    you are correct about what it means to die to self. It is trusting Jesus that he is good and loves us even when it is painful for us. It is giving up our will for his. So that post was about how it is painful for me to shop at walmart and live in a dilapidated house on the highway (which I do not, praise god!) but I do it because that is what it is for me to follow jesus into a life of ministry. It is painful for me (a giving up of self), but I am trusting is it what is best for me, and God loves me and He is good. Does that make sense?

    Feel free to email: anderson(dot)laurahope(at)gmail(dot)com

    you will find that with theology, the more questions you ask the more you have... :\ :)
  6. Hi Laura,
    I continue to read this post and your detailed answers to my questions over and over again. It is weird. I understand what you are saying but it feels even more than ever that I am meant to understand even more. I know I sound crazy in an insane kind of way but I promise you I am not. I am however confused by how drawn I am to the words(meaning) in this post. I read the article by Tim Keller several times which I am sure doesn't surprise you at this point. It is excellent and answered my questions in just the right way. I do think I may email but I'm so taken back by my behavior over a blog post that I worry I might be too bothersome or a pest. This is just so out of my comfort zone that I feel a bit uncertain. I am wondering if you would mind explaining sanctification to me. I am sorry if that's a silly question with an obvious answer but would love an explanation. If you don't have the time I understand and thank you for all the time you have already given me.
  7. It's me again. I would also be interested in discussing your winter update post at some time if you are willing. That was one that peeked my sense of curiosity in wanting to know your perspective. Taking Jesus to Walmart is different in that I feel drawn to it over and over again-almost like a thirst or a hunger. Ironically I started following your blog to pray for you and your girls and what I am finding is a place for my own spiritual growth and scriptural understanding.
  8. hey, i think your curiosity and interest are awesome. i think alot of people have the same questions, but just aren't asking... also, I am so happy to continue this conversation, but just FYI, if you would like to meet with someone and talk face to face, you know your pastor is there for that too! you might enjoy that as well.

    sanctification is a process that happens by the holy spirit after someone is justified by christ (saved) in which God makes them more holy/christ like. God commits to doing this by his spirit, the person does not do it by trying harder to be good...this is part of how Jesus is redeeming the world now. often times sanctification is painful, and God using hard things to make us more holy. honestly, i love my husband and marriage, but God has used my marriage as my biggest mode of sanctification. this is bc ryan calls me out on my sin, asks me to change and repent, etc. that is hard!

    does that make sense? what can i answer about the winter update post??:)

    you may want to listen to Tim Keller's sermons online and read anything you can find- he is an incredible preacher and so understandable. thank you so much for praying for my girls! XO
  9. Hi and thanks again. I thought I had a good understanding of sanctification and I was right. My downfall is trying to grasp the idea that God makes us more Christ like w the the spirit which is unrelated to how hard we try. I really understand accepting Jesus as my savior but I can't let go of the feeling that I need to work for His love, for my place in His kingdom. I guess it's a glaring example of how far I have to go. No matter how hard I want to let go and turn everything over, I realize that I don't. Obviously lots of work to do-lots of prayer to put in.
    I read Winter Update again and I think I am ok with my understanding.
    I will explore Tim Keller-thanks for the suggestion. I am not likely to seek out face to face sessions with our pastor although I know it would be the sensible thing to do. For some reason I feel awkward in doing so.
    You have been a great help and I thank you again for all of your time.
  10. that is all of our downfalls. the place of the will is so hard for me. We do have "means of grace" that God gives us to help us; such as, the church, the sacraments, scripture, and prayer, and there is a place for "trying" to access these. but we do not do them to get God to love us, we do them because he already does and we want more relationship with him. what is absolutely true is that you are accepted and loved by Jesus in spite of your very best works. In fact, scripture says that even your best works are like dirty rags, so we need a savior! we DO NOT do good works SO THAT God will love us, we do good works BECAUSE he loves us and we desire to obey freely because we know it is for our good! We love others and give ourselves up for others because he already has for us! The acceptance comes first so that we can love and give freely trusting in him. keep up your curiosity! it is so good! best wishes.
  11. Hi Laura,
    This is my favorite response so far and it actually made me teary-eyed. I am not sure why although I think the enormity of the concept that God loves me with all of my faults and shortcomings is always overwhelming. I love how you said......." we do good works BECAUSE he loves us...."

    Jesus welcomes your questions, christian and non christian. He would love nothing more than to wrestle with you through them. Do not turn off your brains- He gave us really good ones, keep asking!! Theology is hard and we (ALL) are in it together. If anyone; Christian, Christian hater, agnostic, cynic, skeptic, whatever, would like to anonymously post a theological comment/question, I would be honored to interact with you below. I do not pretend have all the answers, and there are many answers we simply cannot know, but I'd love to discuss, and I  do have a husband that pretty much knows everything :)... 

    Let's love people who are different from us well- we are all trying to figure out this beautiful, broken, and confusing world together. Thanks for reading! And special thanks to my "no longer a stranger, but still anonymous" new friend :)


  1. When you say a person can only be saved once what does that mean? Does that ensure their place in heaven? No matter what their behavior or actions? If so, what happens if they go on to commit horrible crimes and sins and never repent? Does being saved one time excuse their sins so they enter the gates of paradise?

  2. hey! thanks for asking!

    A person is saved (will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus)/justified when they trust Jesus with their life and salvation because of His work, not their's:
    Romans 10:9: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart othat God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

    Justification is a legal action that happens once where a person is made right in the sight of God by the perfect work of Jesus. His death has atoned for their sin, past, present, and FUTURE. The gavel has been sounded in the courtroom. Done.

    We may not know/understand the exact timing of when it happens, but God does. For some, they think they know the moment, for others it seems like a long process... but it is once. At that point in time God enters a covenant with us- kind of like a marriage, but a perfect marriage- "I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded(husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." right? :)...the institution of marriage is a human picture God gave us for our relationship with Him...

    So, yes, if you are in covenant with God, no matter the actions, he has paid for all of it- you are saved.

    This is where it gets tricky. We are all sinners, right? So all of us Christians will continue to sin our whole lives. And much of our sin we are not even aware of to repent from, ya know? BUT a true person that follows Christ will desire to know their sin more so that they can turn from it and repent because they know that is what is for their good. It's a heart posture that the holy spirit gives, a contrition. If a person says that they are a Christian but has a blatant disregard for their sin all the time, never repents, and has no humility or broken heartedness about it ever, then I may call into question if they are really wanting to follow and trust Jesus.

    God commits to enduring to the end all those who he is in covenant with. meaning, those who are justified by jesus WILL follow him until the end by the holy spirit, by his grace.

    brace yourself here, those who are not endured until the end were never really saved/justified/in covenant.... which is so hard!

    Sum up. Yes, Jesus paid for all your sins one time on the cross. you are justified by him. But also a person that trusts and loves jesus will demonstrate a heart posture of repentance. did that help?? :\...its tough.

  3. This is tough. So, a person who lives a kind, selfless, humble life....always loving and doing for others but has never really had faith of any kind will not go to heaven? Some people, in some parts of the world don't even have exposure to the bible so how can the same expectations even be there for them? It's a great concept that God sent his son to die for us and cover our sinful ways as long as we believe and trust but then, if ya think about it, it also seems unfair.

  4. great questions. I know..but the grace and mercy are unbelievably beautiful.

    correct. it is jesus that saves by grace, it is not us that save ourselves by being good. thank God! Moralism (earning our salvation by being moral people) is NOT the gospel. In fact, it is anti-gospel. not to mention, it doesn't work- we can NEVER be good enough, right? and how exhausting.

    we do not perform to get God to love, accept, save us. He choses to out of his grace and love for us. additionally, we are all sinners in need of jesus. no person is perfectly kind, selfless, and loving. even that person is sinful and in need of a savior.

    the bible exposure question is tough. Romans 1:19-20: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

    God's creation is meant to point us to him. The billions of stars twinkling on a clear night, the view from a snowy mountain top, the way a palm tree raises it's branches as if praising it's creator, the vastness of the ocean. Creation is made to make us think about what glorious person created such things. Beauty, kindness, all good things are to point us to God. Any kind of redemption that happens in the world points us to ask more questions. All good things come from God and are meant to direct our gaze to him. BUT we do need scripture to understand the work of Jesus. We do not know all the answers here, except to say God calls himself a loving father. We lean into his loving character. He is a person, not a technical robot. What about an infant that passes? ..We trust he a good and loving father. And also, this is why scripture says, go and tell people the news! This is what he calls us to do.

    the unfairness issue. it depends how you look at it. if you see us how God sees us- all as sinners, then actually we all deserve hell, and it is his incredible grace and mercy and kindness to desire to save us at all! how beautiful! if you look at it as, but we are so good, we deserve heaven, then it does seem unfair. but the truth is, we are not so good, but God is so good to us! We are saved by his great grace alone, and also he is God, he gets to make all the rules...which is hard for us too...

    you are asking really good, hard theological questions, that do not have simple answers. please keep asking, discussing, researching, reading, praying. God is honored by it and wants to reveal more to you. thank you so much asking :) is it clearer or no?

  5. I encourage you to read Romans 3 :)

  6. Greetings Laura! My name is Heather and I just have a quick question about your blog! If you could send me an email at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com that would be great!

  7. What about all the horrible things that happen to good people? The children with cancer or painful diseases? The senseless school shootings? The list could go on and on? Are these things the gifts from a loving father who never gives a bad gift? I know we have been given free will so some of the pain and suffering come from others bad choices but how does that make sense to the innocent who are suffering? How does that soothe a mother who lost a child to SIDS? Sometimes the pain and suffering feel like they come from a place of evil and certainly not love.

  8. ugh. this is SO hard. i don't wanna even try, but this is what i can offer here. We live in a fallen, broken, sinful world, and Satan is the prince. Jesus is still king and ultimately has won, but for now in His perfect timing he is still allowing suffering. We beg him for his return!!! Lord Jesus come quickly!!!

    God IS NOT the author of sin. Absolutely NOT are shootings and disease and SIDS a gift from God, he HATES death, sin and disease and grieves with us. But, you are correct, we have choices and we sin and He hates it! That is the reason he sent to son to begin to redeem it now through the holy spirit. Ultimately he will get rid of all sadness and we will live in the perfect world we have always longed for. In this age though, 1) Satan is still trying to draw people away from God however he can, He really does work evil in this world. 2) The fallenness of this world causes natural disasters, disease, mental illness, death, etc. and 3) our own sin hurts everyone around us. God is not the author of this but does allow it because of his own great knowledge that we do not understand- this is so hard and painful for us. Suffering does remind us how much we need Jesus and want him back, it makes us long for heaven.

    Our consolation is that God promises to work all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). He desires for us to trust that he really is good even still, and that our sufferings are NOT the end of the story. One day it will all just be a distant bad dream.

    In the midst of suffering Jesus promises 1) to enter in. He knows what it is to suffer as an innocent man. 2) to be with and care for 3) to work the good out of every painful situation for those that follow him 4) to grieve with/ shed tears with/ rage anger with 4) that one day justice will be had and all wrong things will be put right 5) that all sad things will come untrue. The mother who had a child pass away from SIDS will hold her lively cooing baby in her arms once again.

    I do not want to be trite or simplistic here. When things we don't understand happen, I encourage us to grieve, be angry, be sad, wrestle with God, these are right/ good responses. its okay to not understand.

  9. *just wanna be clear, the promises I mentioned above are for those that are in Christ...(important detail :))

  10. Why do bad things happen to some people and not others? I know everyone has sadness and losses but some have to suffer some horrible, even unthinkable, circumstances. Why them?

  11. Laura, I'm a friend of Lauren S - and met you back in the day at a Cardinals game. Followed your journey and was praying for you when you were having pregnancy complications. Just want to say I LOVE this!!! So much wisdom in this - we are studying Romans right now too, so I love how this all goes with the story. God is so good and I love all the wisdom He has given to you!!

  12. O man! This breaks my heart. I really don't/can't know why some people suffer more than others, and I probably shouldn't even dare to answer it. But I will say a few things I do know. We do know that the reason we suffer CANNOT because God DOESN'T love us. We know by the cross that he is for us. He loves his creation just like we love the things we create.

    However, there is an order that God has created for this world, and if one goes against that order it causes suffering. For example, when you get a hair dryer what does it say in the instructions? Warning: Do not throw this in the tub- right?. "Well, why not? what if I would like to throw it in the tub?" Then go ahead, but there will be painful consequences. God gives us an instruction manual/ warning label on the world he created in the commandments because he wants to see us thrive, and not get hurt. When we don't obey, it hurts us and others. So if someone decides to cheat on their spouse or steal from a neighbor, it will cause pain and suffering. Additionally, the more we engage in sin, the harder our hearts become because of the choices we make. So, some suffer because they bit God's order and it bit them back.

    As for suffering that was totally out of people's control, the book of Job shows us that it is best not to try to even guess- but just grieve continuing to believe in God's goodness and love, we cannot know.

    check out this free Tim keller sermon on suffering:

  13. I can't check out Tim Keller's sermon at the moment but I will. I am glad you mentioned the commandments though because that makes me wonder if our actions, our behavior, doesn't actually determine if we go to heaven or not?! I know you said it doesn't but then why have we been given the commandments at all? I know you said we want to do good to feel closer to God and BECAUSE he loves us. However, if breaking the commandments or taking things out of God's order causes consequence that results in pain doesn't that imply that what we do, our actions do matter?! Or are you saying the consequences and suffering are only in this life and have nothing to do with the afterlife? So, once again, we can break the commandments and cause suffering for ourselves and others but as long as we love God, believe he sent his son to die on the cross and save us, we will be rewarded with life in Heaven? Is that correct or am I missing something? An important piece of this confusing puzzle? I surely must be because this doesn't make sense. Does it?

  14. If some people suffer because they bit God's order and it bit back is that God being angry? Is it God teaching the sinner a lesson? It makes sense to me because I believe in consequence but doesn't that mean God does intend for us to suffer at times? For our own good, in other words.!

  15. Our actions DO NOT determine if we go to heaven. the commandments are his kindness to us to keep us from harm- this is not for salvation. Jesus saves, we do NOT save ourselves by our actions. remember the hair dryer example in my comment above? don't drop it in the tub or it'll hurt. thats what the commandments are. they are an instruction manual for his world. In the time of Moses the commandments were the law, now we have Jesus who kept the law for us, because we CANNOT keep it ourselves- this is the new covenant. can i get a hallelujah?!

    yes, our actions matter in terms of there will be consequences- but if you are in Christ- then you are saved. period.

    have you read this entire post? i know its a lot- but it may help to re-read it if you have the time. :)

  16. To the God's order question. is not like he is up there zapping lightning bolts. I mean, our sin grieves him, but it just the natural consequences of the world. remember, JESUS was the one punished for our sin- all his anger was taken our on Jesus. it is finished.

    I guess you could see it as teaching a person a lesson. God is sovereign, meaning, in control of all things. And he does discipline those he loves, just like your father would, out of love and care. I think it is always good to be thinking, "what is God trying to show me/ teach me?". But I kindof think of it more as just, there are natural consequences. If you lie to your BF and it hurts her, you do learn that you didn't like that and don't want to continue it.. God does ALLOW us to suffer at times and experience hardship and trials. He promises to use it for good, he works everything for our good for those in Christ. But, don't forget about the fall, and sin- remember- he is not the author of that! but he will work it for good.

    He is kind, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love. Whenever you have questions about suffering, remember his character. I might encourage you to re read this entire post if you have the time- it may clear come things up a bit. And continue to talk to others, pastors, read, pray, etc. this is tough stuff and hard to do through writing... thanks! :)

  17. I think you have done an awesome job answering some very, very difficult questions that are discussed and debated over and over. Your faith and love for our Lord is comforting and admirable. I want to be like you....strong, steady and sure of His love. Thank you.

  18. Thank you so much. I really am not strong and sure- just ask my husband :), I am filled with belief & unbelief ...just like the next person :). Any strength and wisdom I do have is from the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful it has been helpful for you though.