MW Cook

an ex-evangelical doing a year of living christianly

Tag: exvangelical devotions

An Unbeliever’s Prayer

Sometimes I pray that God would

create in me a clean heart
renew in me a right spirit
have his presence go with me
and restore the joy of my salvation

What can that mean to someone like me who does not believe
in God,
or cleanness of heart,
or salvation?

A clean heart can be unclouded desires
A renewed right spirit can be an energetic and positive attitude
The presence of God can cast out fear
The joy of my salvation can be ultimate gratitude with my state and rituals

That works

Morning Devos: Moses and Resistance

In Exodus chapter 4, Moses has Pressfield-style Resistance. He saw the impossible: the unburnt burning bush. It was a perspective-widening experience that changed how he sees everything, and he knows, more or less, what he’s supposed to do next. But he’s afraid and doubting.

Doubt 1: They will not believe me (my contribution won’t be respected or validated and thus will not matter)

Stick into a snake (and back again)!
that cool thing you do where a thing turns into something else–you’ll be able to do it again

Hand all leprous (and back again)!
that time it looked like it was all over but then it got better–that happens too

Water into blood (it isn’t coming back)!
failing all else, pouring your heart out onto the sand should be convincing

Doubt 2: I am not eloquent (i’m so dumb when i talk it’ll invalidate my whole thing)

Who hath made man’s mouth?
the complex wirings and intricate circumstances that have arisen to form your supposed deficiencies are part of the same system that makes up even your most treasured conceptions of self

I will be with thy mouth.
trust the soup

Doubt 3: Send by the hand of whom thou wilt (i can’t think of any other excuses at the moment but just please not me)

The Levite your brother can speak well. #angerkindled
you don’t have to do it alone but you do have to do it

“OK”

And Moses took his wife and sons,
and set them upon an ass,
and he returned to the land of Egypt
and took the rod of God in his hand.

Morning Devos: Seeing God’s Floor in Exodus 24

One day, at the mountain, God tells Moses to bring the ruling class of Israel up for dinner.

And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in its clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. Exodus 24:10-11

Imagine one of the nobles, coming home after supping with God.

“What was He like?”

“His floor was…so blue. Clear as the sky.”

“But what was He like?”

“He didn’t lay a hand on me.

“…”

Big revelations and encounters cannot be easily put into words. We resort to phrases like, You had to be there, when the story doesn’t hit our hearers the way it hits us. This is probably why most worldviews, besides your own, look trite or foolish or just plain wrong.

Reality created itself by accident? That’s just stupid!

A deity with an elephant head? How silly!

God kills himself to stop himself from killing us? Give me a break!

A dinner party with Yahweh and a shiny blue floor? What a fairy-tale!

Every meaningful experience has something in it that is ineffable. When we meet something real, sometimes the only thing we can put into words is the floor.

And, man oh man, it was clear as the sky.

Exvangelical Devotions: The End of Job

God shows up and is all, Who’s darkening counsel without knowledge? Then, in four chapters, God tells Job all the things he’ll never understand or accomplish. Job listens, puts his hand over his mouth, and withdraws his complaint.

From the pulpit I’ve heard that the answer to Job is kind of an expansion of Isaiah 55:8; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” Basically, God knows what’s up and we ought to trust that everything will work out and Job got his money back and new kids so, over all, there is a justice to the world.

My interpretation is a bit different. See, God keeps coming back to the same kinds of questions. Where does light live? Does rain have a father? Can you bind the constellations? Will the unicorn serve thee, doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and all that? The end of that matter is that the question falls fully apart. Why do the innocent suffer? Where is snow is stored for winter? It isn’t. It just doesn’t make sense.

The three friends are moved by this revelation to bring food and throw down some money for Job to get back on his feet. They stop blaming. They stop trying to figure out the Story. They just help.

Morning Devos: Proverbs 3:31

Envy thou not the oppressor, and chose none of his ways.

Lines like these strike a sad chord because of how often Christendom is the oppressor. And how often Christianity envies the oppressor and choses his ways, or at the very least gets out of the oppressor’s path so he can get on with his oppressing. And how many times cries against oppression are implicitly and explicitly resisted by Christian voices.

Almost every week I hear social commentary from the pulpit: how #metoo is rooted in the sin of sexual liberation, how social justice distracts from the gospel, how conservative politics are a mark of being Christian: and all of it couched in Biblical-sounding talk.

oh i don’t know the sufferings of people outside my front door.
and i join the oppressors of those i choose to ignore.
i’m trading comfort for human life
and that’s not just murder, it’s suicide.
and this too shall be made right.

Derek Webb, “This Too Shall Be Made Right”

Morning Devos: Job 30:20

“I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not.”

Job’s not doing so well. By the end it works out for him because (spoiler alert) eventually God is going to show up and give answers. Cryptic answers, but at least something to work with. Job is going to be OK because eventually the voice from one high will have something to say about the whole situation.

I’d like to see what would happen if God never showed up, and Job just had to deal with the silence, like so many others who have cried out with no answer, and stood with no regard.

Morning Devos: Job 27:5

Job’s friends are still at it. He says, “God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”

There’s something noble about being willing to face death before disintegrity. I think integrity isn’t the same as convictions. Integrity implies a kind of stable wholeness. It implies my integrals–my important things–are in position and cared for.

Job can’t repent for something he hasn’t done. He’s not going to capitulate to his friends on their word, because that would ignore what he knows about his situation and experience. In the end, his friends can’t understand, but that doesn’t make it Job’s job to justify them. He just needs to hold on to his integrity.