Do You Have Doubts?

doubt-faith-copyI am a pretty skeptical person.  How about you?  Tend to believe everything you hear or tend to be doubtful until there’s proof?  Skepticism (brother-in-law to Cynicism) is a trait many of us take for granted as “right” and “sensible.”  But have you ever taken a moment to doubt your doubts?  If we are going to be consistent skeptics, shouldn’t we be skeptical about our own skepticism?  Why is it better to doubt everything and how do I know which doubts are healthy and which are unhealthy?  Skepticism actually turns out to be a faith system – ie I only believe what I see or what is proved, or at a deeper level of skepticism, I don’t believe that anything can be known at all.  Do you see the faith commitment it takes to be a skeptic?  You must believe nothing outside of what is proved to you is valid…and that itself can’t be proven, it can only be taken on faith.  The human heart has no way to function outside faith commitments.  Even our doubts are radical leaps of faith.

 

 

I Didn’t Ask to Be Rescued…

Man set to sue first responders who rescued him from his submerged car – that is a real headline from today’s news.  Not a joke or a parody of this scene from The Incredibles:

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Watching the interview of the man with his lawyer made me want to punch somebody in the neck – mainly the lawyer.  Some of his facial expressions are so… so… so… smug and condescending.  Now, now, don’t blame me for taking full advantage of any opportunity I find to exploit the system – that’s what his face screams.  Neck punch.  We are living at an amazing time.  We live in a land of laws with no connection to their source.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when laws and rights are elevated to the status of absolutes, we should find ourselves barraged by legal actions that defy belief.  A NJ teenager suing her parents for the cost of college tuition after she left home or was thrown out – an executive branch of government that selectively enforces laws or rewrites laws completely outside of its legal authority – these things are to be expected.  Law doesn’t work if it is not a given thing.  That sounds strange, but it is true.  If grace = a gift, then law cannot work without grace.  It also sounds strange but the reason we are becoming more and more lawless is that law has become more important, not less important to us.  These yahoos running around suing people who saved their lives value law over grace.  They fail to see anything as a gift.  Everything has a price tag and the people who are going to thrive and survive are going to be the ones who figure out how to charge a price for anything they can.  If law is disconnected from grace – in other words if law is not given to us from some place or some where or some one other than us, then it is completely negotiable every day, every way, every circumstance.  You could say that this guy who got rescued is ungrateful.  Right.  Exactly.  He is an ingrate.  He apparently believes it was his right to be rescued and rescued on time.  No such thing as gratitude.  No such thing as grace.

Since we are raising kids to believe there is no God and increasingly our politicians act as if God is the most unwelcome entity in our legal, social, or political processes, then the law is what we have and it is nothing.  The law is useless.  If we make it up for ourselves, the law is a power play.  Whoever has the most power now gets to make or break the laws at will.  Why shouldn’t they?  Law is constructed by people if God didn’t make it and if that is the case why should the last set of people to make up laws keep telling us what to do?  Dump it.  Rewrite it.  Ignore it.  Sue your rescuers.  The Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  The opposite is true too:  the ignorance of God is the beginning of stupidity.  We are in a slide down into idiocy.  But as hard as it is to take, we don’t have to take it and we don’t have to go nuts looking for solutions that are so hard to reach or enact.  Just believe.  Start believing.  Look at the evidence this world presents for a moral framework we all believe in although we struggle to know why.  Big turns come in little increments.  If this story ticks you off, maybe it could be the thing that gets you thinking about what kind of world you’re living in and what you can do to change it.

 

 

Who Keeps Your Family Safe?

“The war (WWII) will fail to absorb our whole attention because it is a finite object and, therefore, intrinsically unfitted to support the whole attention of a human soul.”
– C. S. Lewis

Late one night I was contemplating the safety of my wife and kids.  I was on a ship somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea.  If you are a thinker, underway on a ship at night can be a lonely place.  I worried about who would check the front door and make sure it was locked.  What if they had a flat tire, who would help them?  What if the baby got sick?  What if someone broke into the house?  What if my wife gets in a wreck?  On and on it went.  My own bad news network broadcasting in my head.  My favorite channels to tune into: doubt, fear, and worry.  There seemed to be no end to the channel surfing.  But I got a break through signal from God.  He walked me through some simple thoughts: what if you weren’t 4000 miles from home right now, you’re on the ship sitting at the pier in homeport…I was liking this channel…now imagine you have to spend the night on the ship because you have duty…ok I may not like this channel so much…but you’re there and your family is at your house about 20 miles away, who is keeping your family safe from the imagesthings you’re worrying about?  I had to say all of my fears could come true even if the ship was in homeport.  Then He asked me if all of them could come true if I was in the house or car with my family.  All of them could.  God revealed to me His constant watchfulness and care was what kept my family safe (and always had been).  What a blow to my ego!  It’s not me who’s been ensuring our well being it is God.  In that moment I didn’t relinquish control of my family, I acknowledged I never had control of my family.  What a relief!

Who is keeping you safe?  If I was depending upon our government to keep us safe I would still be up in the middle of the night, not because it is incompetent, but because the absolute safety of a soul is beyond the reach of any government.  If any government of ours ever sets out to make us each “safe” we should all head for the hills as fast as we can go.  The only way humans know to keep other humans safe is to take away their freedom.  It is only in a sovereign creator God that we find both freedom and safety.  As C.S. Lewis said of World War II, war will fail to absorb our whole attention because it is finite.  We should add fear, worry, doubt…everything else will fail to hold our attention because we have infinite souls.  We have God sized souls.  Rest, peace and hope only come from having God in our souls, and once you’ve recognized and invited infinity into your soul, the finite will have to flee.  When  all the bad news starts again, instead of letting it force you to ask “where is God?” let it remind you that you are not in control, and you need God.  The distance between you and safety is the exact distance between you and God.  How far apart are you?  At Calvary God erased the distance between Himself and us through Christ.  Now, through faith in Him, we can say there is no distance between our souls and God.  That is safety.  No wonder Jesus said “Let not your heart be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.”

My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. Ps 131

Are You Free?

One of the most sacred ideas of authentic Christ followers (if not the most sacred) is the freedom of will and thought. A true follower of Jesus doesn’t just tell you to feel free to have an opinion and to express it, they actually believe you are free to have an opinion and to express it.  Without this freedom there are no lovers of God, there is no repentance, there is no choice.  Anyone who attempts to steal your freedom in the name of Christ is a thief and has climbed into the sheep pen rather than using the gate Jesus created by shedding His blood. broken-chains-man

If There Is No God, All Bets Are Only Bets

Olevskoy shouted, “No! Absolutely not!  I will not risk an ambush!”
“I swear to you,”  Greenwood shouted, “that there will be no ambush, and that you will have the freedom of the village afterward.”  Distant echoes, then calm again.
Olevskoy shouted, “Do you believe in God?”
Greenwood was flabbergasted.  After a moment he shouted, “No!”
“Then who are you to swear to anything?”
(from The Blue-eyed Shan by Stephen Becker)n318942

How to Have a Happy New Year (and leave the old one behind)

“Happy New Year.” (no, no exclamation mark, just period) Smile.  Words.  Move on.  I do it every year and it is done to me every year.  Mechanical, and polite and seasonally appropriate.  But it seems like many people did not have a happy 2013; at least from the comments I’ve heard and seen.  And this year I get a sense that there is not a great deal of Dans-le-Townhouse_Happy-New-Yearconfidence about 2014 being a better year. We can have a happy new year.  You can have a happy new year.  The worst can come to pass and not make it a bad year. What is the worst for you?  Financial ruin?  Relational failure?  Health destroyed?  If you have health and wealth and great relationships, there is a way to have them better than you’ve ever had them before.  Healthier.  Wealthier.  Lovelier.

There is a secret to having a happy new year.  It is an open secret, however and we are all able to learn it.  If 2013 wasn’t a good year for you, it is probably because you feel you were impoverished in some way.  You lost something.  Your money did fly away.  Or you did lose a relationship or your health did fail.  If 2013 was a good year it was probably good because you feel you were enriched in one or more of those areas: bank account, love life, health (although we don’t always take note of this at the time).  If you are nervous or hopeful about 2014 it has to do with the prospects of being enriched or impoverished in those areas next year.  But what if you were so rich in all those areas you could not become enriched or impoverished?  What if you had so much wealth, and health, and love that giving as much as you could give you never got poorer or sicker, or lonelier?  Brewster’s Millions was a movie in the mid 80’s with RIchard Pryor and John Candy (enough reason to want to see it).  Brewster inherits a ton of money, 30 million, but the catch is that he can inherit 300 million if he spends the 30 million in 30 days without telling anyone what he is doing.  He goes on a mad spending spree trying to lose all his money and have nothing to show for it.  The only problem is the more he spends the more money he makes.

That sounds like a great concept, you say, but I don’t have a rich uncle to leave me 300 million, and there is no fountain of youth to sustain my health or a way to keep from losing my loved ones.  I can be impoverished and I can be enriched, and I have to take care of myself.  Not if you learn the secret.  The Apostle Paul wrote about the secret in a letter to his friends at Phillipi.  He said:

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

When he wrote those words he was in prison facing execution.  He was in the most 220px-Brewsters_millionsimpoverished state imaginable; away from relationships, wealth and health.  Yet he says he is content.  To be precise he says he had “learned” to be content.  He said he had been wealthy and poor and come to a place where neither state changed his true condition.  He was full.  He was Brewster.  He found out that no matter what he spent he wasn’t poorer.  He found out that no matter what he gained he wasn’t any richer.  What happened to Paul?  Could it happen to us?  In reality he found out that he didn’t have a rich uncle who died and left him everything, but he did have a rich older brother who died and made him into the heir of infinite riches.  Riches that can not be exhausted.  This is the Christian story of the world.  Jesus Christ, the true older brother, the one in line to receive the inheritance of God the Father, chose to die on a cross so that we could become the heirs.  But it isn’t only wealth that comes to us through him (although God is the owner of all things and so we can lay claim to all wealth), but it is also health given in the defeat of death and love given in the defeat of hell.  The cross is Jesus the infinitely wealthy, healthy, and beloved becoming utterly impoverished so that anyone who asks according to his name can become heirs of God.  He loses all his possessions, even the clothes off his back are taken away at the cross.  He loses his health, writhing up and down as he is executed.  And worst of all he loses his Father, crying out in abandonment.  All is lost so that infinite love, health and wealth can pass to us.  This is the secret Paul learned.  This is the way to have a happy new year and forget the old.  Become the heir.  Take the offer.  And then go on a spending spree.  Give away as much love and money and energy as you can. You can’t lose.

What Happens if We Forget First Principles

When a people loses touch with the land they lose touch with more than just geography, they lose touch with a fundamental principle of life:  the principle of sowing and reaping.  The ages brought us from agricultural society to industrial society, and now into information society.  We’ve gone from first hand experience of reaping and sowing to second hand to third hand.  Our distant ancestors were intimate with sowing and reaping, our recent ancestors lived in respect of it, but this age does not know or understand it.  The a-farmer-holds-sea-oats-seeds-in-his-hard-worked-dirty-hands,1937045implications are not just economic or political, but relational and spiritual as well.  Once we forget that we must sow in order to reap, or that others must sow and reap in order for us to thrive, we have forgotten how to live at all.  We don’t cultivate the ground – the earth, the communities, our own hearts any more.  We begin to believe life “just happens,” and that abundance is a right of human existence.  We expect to receive when we have done nothing to even prepare ourselves to receive, much less to sow something that someone else might receive.  Relationships wither as people stop sowing into another person’s life.  Marriages and industries, communities, economies, and nations cannot long survive and certainly do not prosper when the majority of us let go of the principle of sowing and reaping.

It takes courage to sow, but if you decide you are not going to do it you are contributing to the destruction of our world.  A time is coming when enough of us will be far enough removed from the land and the principle of sowing and reaping that the land will die.  Society will die.  It will take a movement of people who sow fearlessly to save us.  It will take a movement of people who teach others to cultivate real industry, real economies, real communities, real relationships.  I believe that movement can best be fueled by a people who most would suspect of having the least motive for doing it; Christians.  Why do Christians care about sowing and reaping in this world?  Isn’t the whole gig about getting out of this mess alive and moving on to heaven?  No it isn’t.  Christianity is not about escaping this world and going to heaven, it is about cultivating this current ground we hold as servants of the Landowner who is surely coming.  Christian doctrine is that yes, the faithful are going to be with God in heaven, but it is also that God is going to bring heaven down to earth.  This is the closing act.  Not disembodied spirits with clean hands stroking harps, but new bodies with new hands digging in renewed earth.  Becoming a Christian is not an act of cowardly escapism, it is an act of courageous acceptance of the responsibility to dig in here and now and to sow for heaven’s sake.

8 Thoughts About Giants and God

Reading 1 Samuel 17

1.  God never told David to take on Goliath – our course often lacks specific God words, all of us must move in faith that we do in fact have a God no matter where we go.

2.  David’s motives are mixed:  rewards, fame, God’s name – so what?  wait until you purify your motives and you will never act.  Let God sort this out for you and keep moving.

3.  God’s purposes could have been accomplished even if Goliath had crushed David –  being God’s anointed does not mean you are safe from harm, if you don’t believe it see Jesus.

4.  Maybe David always intended to knock the giant down and then kill him or maybe he was just improvising, but either way he went into the fight without everything (physically) he needed to finish the job – the perfect conditions to take action don’t exist and won’t.

5.  It is easier to cut off a giant’s head when it is lying down rather than when it is standing upright.

6.  When you decide to kill a giant other people (probably older, more powerful, and more experienced) will (a) criticize you and (b) have ideas about how you should do it.

7.  The only good reason to take on a giant is if it is in the way of God’s purposes.

8.  If this was the modern church all the army of Israel would’ve thrown down their spears and swords and made slingshots before they ran after the rest of the Philistine army.

Bonus thought:  If you read this story and don’t get that it is pointing you to the true and greater David who takes on our giants at the cost of his life, and whose victory is imparted to us who stand around watching without lifting a finger, you are really missing everything.  Don’t try to be like David, invite the greater David to be your champion.Did Jesus Die

How to Help Others

A person who makes claims on you to get them well will also blame you when they don’t.  Why graft a branch into another branch? The vine is healthier than the healthiest branch.   If you want to help others get well, don’t let them depend upon you for wholeness – point them to genuine wholeness, perpetual health, authentic holiness.  These only exist in one place, actually in one Person.  Jesus was so healthy that death couldn’t kill him, it could only coronate him.  Attach the broken to this him and let them have full life.

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