Bill Maher’s Personal Relationship with God

I’ve never met Bill Maher, so I don’t know what kind of guy he is.  He does say plenty of things that irritate me, and lots of people, but he also says some pretty funny things that make me laugh. On par I’d say he’s probably a good guy with some strong opinions about some things I don’t share.  He hates religion, though, saying religion is a bureaucracy between God and man he doesn’t need.  I’m on his team for that one.  He calls himself an apatheist, saying he doesn’t know what happens when we die and he doesn’t care.  I can’t hang with him there.  When he got on a jag about the Russell Crowe movie Noah Maher said something very interesting about God:

“It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God”

He also said that God “drowns babies.”  Now if you can get past the bravado and sarcasm and hear the basic question Maher is asking, it isn’t so easy to answer.  He wants to know how a good God not only allows suffering and pain, but how a good God inflicts suffering and pain.  Maher is not saying there is no God.  He repeatedly says he doesn’t have the answer to that question and is open to there being a God or gods, but that thehqdefault-37-460x260 God of the Old Testament, which is the same God Christians claim as their God, is not a good God.  Maher is saying he doesn’t like the Christian God and he presents his reasoning for not liking Him:  God is a mass murdering baby killer who wipes out everyone because He doesn’t like what a few of us are doing.  Bill Maher’s personal relationship with God (at least the Christian God) is enmity.  He doesn’t want to be friends with this God.

It makes sense to me.  If I thought the Christian God was a crazed baby killer who might go off on me at any moment and kill my family or my whole country because I wasn’t acting the way he wants me to act, I wouldn’t want to be his friend either.  Who needs friends like that?  But I am friends with the Christian God, so I have to take Maher’s accusations seriously and not just be irritated because he said “bad things” about my friend.  Christianity is not for lazy people or squeamish people.  It takes effort to be in a relationship with real people.  They do weird things.  They embarrass us.  Some times they need to be defended against false accusations.  Some times we need to hear an outside opinion of our loved ones because we are too close to see their flaws.

The problem with Bill Maher’s opinion about God is this:  we have no concept of a bad God.  The name “God” is itself derived from the word “good.”  God is simply good writ large.  The highest GOOD we can imagine is God.  When Maher calls God a psychotic murderer, he calls him “not God” = or = he says this God can’t be real; this God doesn’t exist.  So Maher contradicts himself when he says he doesn’t know or care if God or gods are out there and how he might or might not relate to them.  He very much does care about at least one God; the God of the Christians and the Jews, and he definitely doesn’t want to have a relationship with him.  But what about any other God?  How would Bill ever find a God he could agree with?  If the standard he sets for an acceptable level of God-ness is only what Bill Maher calls God or what Bill Maher can understand about God’s actions, how would he ever know he had a real God at all?  That would mean that Bill himself is perfect and judges perfectly any and all actions of the divine being.  It would mean in fact that Bill Maher would have to be that god.  And that is precisely what anyone in his position does have – a god of their own manufacture.  A God who never contradicts us or confounds us, but only agrees with us and acts in the exact way we think they should act is indistinguishable from our self.  A god like that is not worth much when we need help or advice.

I said that relationships with real people are hard, and they are.  The Christian God is a real person.  He does things that embarrass me.  He does things I don’t understand.  He does things that make no sense to me that I wish he didn’t do.  The problem for me is different though.  My problem is that knowing the extent of God’s goodness; his perfect love and wisdom, I can’t lay any fault at his feet for these things.  He is good and he doesn’t do bad things.  He is wise and he doesn’t make mistakes.  The lack of understanding is with me.  The misperception is mine.  This is not because I’m inferior or stupid or unimportant to God.  Its because if I’m going to have a God at all I’m going to have to have a God who is great enough to do things I can’t understand.  The Christian God doesn’t leave me without information, however.  The Christian God gives me plenty of confidence in his essential goodness.  He dies on a cross for me.  He enters into our suffering.  He is touched by my frailty.  In other words the Christian God gives me an overwhelming reason to trust that a God who would go to such lengths to have a real relationship with us would not randomly kill babies.  He is not psychotic.  He is not a mass murderer.  The cross contradicts me when I am angry at him for not acting in a way I find appropriate.  He did not withhold Christ from us; why should I believe he would withhold any good thing when he gave the highest thing so freely?  I don’t know why my God does what he does.  I don’t know why he chose the cross either, but I am sure my God cares and cared about every person ever born more than me or Bill Maher ever did.  And so I trust him.  He is my friend.

This is Gonna Leave a Mark: The Hookup Culture

Screen-Shot-2013-07-14-at-9.28.27-PM-e1373851764641What is the “hookup culture”?  It is not, as some might say, the liberation of women’s sexuality as much as it is women losing control over their sexual choices.  Does that sound absurd?  Every psychological measure tells us that when women use sex the same way men traditionally use it (low intimacy – low commitment – pleasure only) it leads to poorer long term emotional states for them.  Sex in any context is the mantra of post modern America and has been for a generation; long enough for the shine to come off the apple and for people to stop claiming that women only feel bad about their sexual activities because of social stigma.  There is no social stigma.  The problem is that men and women really are different and experience sex from completely different perspectives.  Pornography has driven the cost of sexual experiences down to little or nothing for men who use it regularly (and the majority of college aged men do use it regularly).  Real women are messy and expensive and, because of the proliferation of high speed digital porn, no longer necessary for men’s sexual satisfaction.  Women who want any relationship with men are up against porn stars who perform on demand and look perfect all the time.  Men’s sexual appetites and expectations are warped and their patience is thin.  Women who don’t conform to these sexual expectations are discarded.  The belief that everyone is having fun and it all doesn’t matter unless you let it matter is a lie that eventually wears thin for both men and women.

Watch this video of college aged men and women talking about the hook up culture and you will see evidence of sexual deception throughout.  Watch what the one man says about who he wants a long term relationship with in the end.  Watch the one woman tell us that she wants her daughter to know she is worth more than rubies so she can navigate this sexually liberated sea of confusion.  Watch it till the end of their segment and see the answer to the million dollar question: Do you want to have a life long committed relationship in marriage?

Someone should write a book to help these people…

Do You Have Problems You Can’t Fix?

I decided to get rid of a program on my computer.  I went to the Add/Remove programs section, found the program I wanted to delete and clicked on a tab saying “remove.”  A Broken-Screenmessage came up on the screen:  You do not have sufficient access to delete this file, see the system administrator.  I tried it again and got the same result.  This was a program I had installed myself.  After puzzling over it for a while I decided to call the company from which I downloaded the file.  The helpful people there walked me through all the steps I tried already.  They couldn’t delete the program.  Insufficient access.  Finally they gave up.

This was pretty frustrating.  I didn’t know it at the time but when I downloaded the program, I was receiving something I couldn’t get rid of later.  My computer didn’t seem to be my computer anymore.  Every time I logged on the icon for the program would remind me I wasn’t in control.  It was one thing to consciously download a program and then be stuck with it, but what if you never asked for it? Spyware are programs which come as files attached to something on the internet like an advertisement.  You click on it to see what it’s about and a little dialogue box comes up saying you have to download this file in order to go further. Click.  Next thing you know you’ve got a program pouring popups into your screen every five minutes for Viagra.  You may have been looking for info on trips to the Bahamas but now you are being inundated with info you never asked for and don’t want.  These programs get intertwined with your hard drive like an electronic boa constrictor.  Often, when trying to delete them you will get the same message: Insufficient access.

What if there was something inside of you you didn’t want but constantly had to face?  You try every trick you know to erase it.  Reboot, run away, read up on it, buy another program which will supposedly get at it, ask an expert to help free you, but in the end you find no way to rid yourself of it.  Fearful? Angry?  Suicidal?  Suicidal people are really on to something.  They have come to the conclusion there is something so broken they can’t fix it.  They know they don’t have sufficient access to get at the thing making their lives miserable.  The problem is killing the outer man doesn’t get at the inner man.  Suicide is like taking a sledge hammer to the computer monitor; the light may go out and you don’t have to look at the image anymore, but the hard drive is still running and still messed up. Sin is the human spyware none of us asked for, but all of us live with.  It has wrapped around each of us in ways we can’t even understand.  No one has the access to rid themselves of it’s effects on their own, even though some obviously cope much better with errorimagetheir fallen state than others.  No matter how well you deal with sin here and now you are left with one final effect of sin you must face: death.  Insufficient access.  Somehow, somewhere we all come up against this statement about our own lives.  We can’t sustain them.  We can’t fix what’s broken.  We have to have someone with the ability to reach places we can’t reach.  Jesus can reach anywhere.  He holds the keys to hell and death.  There is no door He cannot open, there is nothing overcoming us that He hasn’t already overcome.  You may think you have done things to your life that cannot be undone and you are probably right if you look at your access or the access of men or the tools of men.  Invite a God into your life and He won’t start on the exterior.  God begins to work where men are unable to reach.  Just admit you personally have insufficient access and let Jesus initiate the true work in you.

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” – Jesus (Rev 1:18)

“Therefore (Jesus) is able also to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25)

“See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” (Rev 3:8)

Cruising in Darkness

“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”– Chinese proverb
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”– John’s Gospel
“If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”– Matthew’s Gospel

“I’m in a dark place,” a friend said,  “A really dark place.”  So many pictures flash through my mind when I hear people talk of personal darkness.  I grew up a city kid until I was about ten years old.  I didn’t know darkness.  The few times I visited relatives who lived out in the sticks were brief experiences into a new kind of night; a night without the orange 11-07-2012-8-22-04-pmcityglow background.  When we did move out there ourselves, and those unlit nights became my nights it was hard to adjust.  It was the hardest part, actually.  Dark was really dark.  Years later I found a darkness even thicker than a country night.  In the middle of the Atlantic running with wartime lighting on a cloudless night I walked out onto the bridge wing to look around.  As soon as the hatch closed behind me I felt lost.  It was like entering a sensory deprivation chamber.  We were running with the wind so there was no breeze.  I barely made out the sound of the bow slicing into the ocean.  I felt my way over to the rail and inched out toward the end of the wing.  I had been standing there for a few moments when a voice said, “Dark out here, huh?”  I thought I was alone.  I ‘d been holding my hands up in front of my face trying to see them with no luck.  The voice startled me.  I could recognize my junior watch officer’s voice, there was no face to go with it.  “Yeah.”  I said back.  “Pretty darn dark.”  And it didn’t get lighter.  After 15 minutes I still couldn’t see my hands in front of my face. This was a darkness that enveloped me.  It felt like I was wearing it.  The only break in it was along the waterline where the ship was stirring up algae and creating a green glow of phosphorescence.  It was so faint and sporadic it seemed unreal.  The darkness was imposing and seemed eager to steal even this feeble attempt to overcome it.  This is what dark means, I thought.

A dark place.  How can we get out of a dark place?  I’m not really sure.  Most of the dark places I’ve found myself in are like the bridge wing or the move to the country.  I didn’t ask to move to the country, and I didn’t expect the bridge wing to be so dark.  Something happened, I went through a move or a door and…and there I was in the dark.  The only thing I know for sure about getting out of a dark place is that it isn’t accomplished by thoroughly examining the darkness.  It doesn’t come through determining all the reasons you’re in it either.  Some people seem to think it’s helpful to know how dark the dark really is, or to spend their time determining exactly how they ended up in it, but I don’t.  I don’t want to cruise the darkness and I don’t want to curse it either.  I just want out of it as soon as possible.  But if you are in a dark place today there are two things I learned on the bridge wing I hope will help you.  First, I wasn’t alone in the dark and neither are you.  There is a familiar voice which can penetrate the deepest darkness of our souls.  Second, there are hints of light as we move in the darkness, and they are real.  You are moving, even if you can’t fully discern it.  Follow when you can’t see.  Listen in the dark.

“I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”- John’s Gospel

An Unusually Good Reason to Get Married

“But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
(1 Cor 3:28)

The only people who don’t believe this are either comatose or they’ve never been married.  If your goal in life is simply to avoid trouble you are going to have to avoid people – and the further away you get the better off you’ll be.  Marriage is the exact opposite.  It is putting on the handcuffs and swallowing the key. It makes everything more difficult.  Youtrouble may be able to avoid every one else but how can you avoid another person when they have become ‘one flesh’ with you?  You can’t.  Avoiding trouble means avoiding growth and life.  Conflict with no resolution is hell.  No conflict and no resolution is stagnation.  Conflict and resolution equals growth.  Living things grow.  A good reason to get married?  It will cause trouble.

In Time of Trouble

In time of trouble say,
First:  He brought me here; it is by His will I am in this strait place:  in that I will rest.
Next:  He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.
Then:  He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in heavy_seasme the grace He means to bestow.
Last:  In His good time He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.

Say:  I am here
(1) by God’s appointment
(2) in His keeping
(3) under His training
(4) for His time

– Andrew Murray

The Real God is not Afraid of Our Anger

“Stripped to a scream, undressed to a cry of pain, he sobbed his anger at God in hoarse words that hurt his throat. He asked for nothing now, nor did he wonder if he’d been bad or good. Such concepts were all part of the joke he’d just discovered. He cursed God directly for the savage joke that had been played on him. And in that cursing Mellas for the first time really talked with his God. Then he cried, tears and snot mixing together as they streamed down his face, but his cries were the rage and hurt of a newborn child, at last, however roughly, being taken from the womb.” (from Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes)

A-MatterhornA friend emailed last week to ask about crying out to God.  She said I made it sound simple, but she felt intimidated by the prospect.  As I thought through this with her it occurred to me that many of us probably feel scared or awkward about crying out to God.  I wondered why this should be.  If God isn’t the great comforter then what is He?  If we can’t run to him in our sorrow, where can we go?  And then it struck me; we do run to him, we do cry out to him, we do expect him to comfort us, but we also expect him to keep us from needing comfort!  Isn’t he supposed to protect us???  Isn’t he supposed to stop the pain dead in its tracks???  How can we run to a God and cry to a God who didn’t keep us safe and didn’t guard our hearts?  If we let ourselves rest upon this idea for a moment I think we might discover that instead of crying out to God for comfort, what we’d really like to do is to cry at God in pain.  We’d like to ventilate our anger at not being protected.  And that is scary for a lot of reasons.  Is it ok to be angry at God?  Is our theology big enough to allow for this?  Is our morality in the way?  Religion leaves no room for God-anger, it only lets us account for self-anger or others-anger.  Either we messed up and we are getting what we deserve or someone else (the bad people) are doing what bad people do and God will get them eventually.  But we do not blame God for our mistakes or for bad people being bad.  God stays lilly white.  He stays above reproach.

This is not Christianity.  Christianity is a God who gets dirty.  The gospel is a God who, while remaining fully God, allows himself to become reproachable; who, while remaining shaking-fistcompletely faultless, accepts the blame for every fault.  If we look upon the cross long enough we will not find the answer to our suffering.  We will not see why our tears fall, or why we were not protected.  But we will see this – we will see that the real God did not run away from our anger or the anger of God the Father.  We will see that the wrath of men and God were not great enough to destroy Jesus Christ.  And we will see that the one thing we know about suffering is that God willingly participates in it with us.  He doesn’t stay lilly white.  He becomes darkness itself.  Jesus was not protected.  Jesus was not comforted.  Jesus cried out and was unanswered.  My heart can sometimes not contain itself when I look on this, even in my own suffering.  I know I cannot accuse my God, the real God, of apathy toward my low estate.  The cross contradicts me.  Perhaps we do not begin to speak with God until we cry in pain and anger at him.  Surely he is not afraid of it, just as I was not afraid to hear my children cry themselves to sleep when they were infants, knowing I’d provided all they needed and that they were safe and secure in my house only needing the crying in order to sleep well.