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Archive for the ‘Faith.Reason’ Category

I found myself thinking the other day about faith. Most of what we know and think about faith comes from a passage in Hebrews:

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT)

Confidence. Assurance. Those are good things. Right? Raise your hand if you’re “Sure”…remember that commercial? Always a good thing to be confident in one’s deodorant (different blog post, but I digress)…

Yet my mind went to a different place: When is faith simply us wanting to slack off and not do the hard work that needs to be done?

“Oh, I’m leaving that up to God.”

Really? What if leaving it up to God means God gives you the strength to deal with it yourself?

“My marriage is a mess. I’m turning it over to God.” What if God wants you to ask your spouse what’s wrong and actually entertain the fact that you may be the source of the problem?

Can faith, the belief and trust in God, become a cop-out we use to stay away from obedience?

Do we sometimes believe that in leaving it up to God and trusting Him that He’ll let everyone else know where they need to change to make our life easier?

How do we walk the fine line between trusting God and trusting God enough to walk the path He lays out for us?

I think, and not to start a theological argument (though I love them) that this is where James‘ line that “faith without works is dead” comes into play. It’s not about salvation. It’s not about doing good things to get to heaven, etc.

It’s about the fact that if we really trust God, true faith, means knowing that trusting God with the issue may lead to Him trusting us with the solution.

What do you think?

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Every Christmas we are locked in by the season, the traditions, the carols, the presents, the stress, the guilt of knowing that we’ll never quite put ENOUGH Jesus in Christmas (which even the most steadfast followers of Jesus feel guilty about every year for some reason) and the list goes on and on.

But we also begin to think about the year that is past. My wife and I have a great ornament that contains a scroll where we every Christmas we write about what’s going on in our life, and then the next year we read over the scroll and reflect on where we’ve been.

Today, my question to you is this: What has happened to you in the last year that has impacted your relationship with God the most?

I’d love to see your memories in the comments section below. Be well friends and Merry Christmas!

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Several conversations in the last few days about spiritual growth – if that term doesn’t make sense, it’s basically our intentional movements to become completely consumed by God’s Spirit. In other words, it takes a while.

Like, from now until we die. Hope that’s more encouraging than it sounds.

If I could summarize those conversations I’ve had, they would all pan out to this:

Life IS spiritual.

What does that mean to you? If it’s true, what does that look like? We talk a lot about a “spiritual life”, but what if “life is spiritual” whether you have a relationship with God or not? Is it possible to be experiencing a life of “bad spirituality?”

Why does it seem like spirituality only addresses things that WE d

efine as specifically pertaining to God? Can playing board games with our kids be “spiritual”? Can building shelves be

“spiritual”? Can napping when there are other seemingly essential things to do be “spiritual”?

Why or why not?

 

 

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The Influenza Virus - Yikes

Yeah, it’s hard to say this going into a season where many of us in Chicago will have our lungs blasted with the kind of cold air that serves as time-share property for bugs, germs, and viruses of all types.

Kind of makes you want to gargle some bleach, huh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

But all the same, we live in a viral world. My morning news show has an entire segment devoted to viral videos and links (I take no responsibility for any content you find on the site, however) and much of what we find as illustrations for sermons come from videos we’ve been forwarded or recommended which probably came from someone else forwarding or recommending…

You get my drift.

The reality is that everything we know, do, say, eat, read, wear, drive, tweet on, sit on, think on, love on, and focus on has been passed on to us and is therefore perfectly prepared for us to pass it on to others.

That includes spirituality.

Unlike other viruses, spirituality (or Christian spirituality to be more specific) is something that we should WANT to pass on. This is good news – this is the true evangelism that we’ve been taught is about rescuing people from Hell when they die but really its about giving hope and life in every kind of Hell that we face.

Knowing Jesus and the God He loves and patterning our life after Him through the power of His spirit is contagious.

Look at all the times when Jesus does something in the Gospels and we read “and word about Him spread…” There is an epidemic of love and hope when spirituality is passed on.

There is more and more data coming out today saying that we need to start learning by doing again – so, my question is this: Who are you infecting today with the hope and truth of Jesus? Who are you taking the time to show a life that is bigger than just “heaven when I die”?

Are you really even “infected” yourself?

God, completely infect me with your contagious love and grace so that I can’t help but pass it on to others today.  

 

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Last night I did something I rarely do. I sat down and watched a movie.

As a huge fan of the original “Clash of the Titans” film I thought it would be good to see the new one to make some comparisons.

As far as action films go, I was underwhelmed by the new one. However, after watching the trailer for the 1981 version I realized that my taste in movies as a kid wasn’t as good as I thought it was.

I digress.

The changes to the storyline, the introduction of new characters, the absence of the mechanical owl (except in a jab at the old movie made early on) aside, I realized something about this movie that made me curious.

The premise of the movie is that the chief of all gods, Zeus, desperately needed people to give him strength. He needed people to pray to him and love him in order to stay alive and in command.

The less people prayed to Him, the stronger other gods like his brother Hades became.

So I had a thought: Does God, Yahweh, the God of the Bible need us?

I have to say “no.”

The absence of our prayers to him would not cause God to cease existing. The lack of our knowledge of God would not erase Him from the comings and goings of people.

It disturbs, destroys, and torments US, but not God.

In Job chapters 38 & 39, a man who has been beaten senseless by evil is contending for a day in court with God and gets it. Wow does he get it.

God shows up and spends 2 chapters talking about why Job isn’t God, and how God made and sustains everything without Job’s help. Don’t you know, I can do this without you? Who are you to question and judge me? I don’t need you to make this work.

And yet, by the end of the book God gives Job back everything because He was willing to go to God with questions and arguments and, though He learned the hard way, come to a new place of knowing God.

God doesn’t need you. He wants you.

That’s the gem of this whole thing. We can lean and depend on the fact that the suspension of planets in orbit doesn’t depend on us. The salvation of the world doesn’t depend on us. God doesn’t need us to make things happen.

But he wants us for relationship. He wants us for mission. He wants us to bring hope and life to the world because it’s what His Son would have done.

What would it do for our lives being formed around Jesus if we began to realize that God doesn’t need us to make this whole thing work, but He wants us and gives us the grace to live into that “wanting”? What if we prayed knowing we aren’t God but we belong to God?

How would we read the Bible, pray, serve, speak, and think if we truly knew that it was out of God’s wanting (not needing) us that we even have that opportunity?

Interesting.

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A recent trip to my dear friend Dr. Bill the optometrist revealed an interesting thing about my eyes.

I don’t produce enough tears.

My tears should last for about 10 seconds longer per eye than they do – apparently I’m all dried up.

Perhaps I should see more tear-jerker movies?

In either case, this disorder seems to be the same as what I see in people in general – we live in a culture that expects us to dry up, suck it up, and move on when we experience loss or pain. Mostly because we are so insecure in our own ability to keep it together that we don’t want to see someone else lose it because we might do the same. Some people even “religiocize” it and say, “If you really trusted God, you wouldn’t have trouble dealing with this anymore.”

To be clear, that’s ridiculous – trusting God doesn’t make everything better, it simply says that everything is His (which ultimately brings healing).

However, there was a practice in the Bible that I think we need to recapture – lament.

Before I get too far, let me mention that I think people who follow Jesus aren’t nearly as joyful as they should be for folks who know they’ll never die. But I also think that the “pull-ourselves-up-by our-bootstraps” approach that we’ve been taught our whole lives has cut us off from what it means to truly…

Weep.

Mourn.

Be contrite.

Lament.

Lament the evil that happens every day. Mourn the loss of goodness and beauty on a daily basis. Weep over people who are a part of completely dysfunctional cycles of life and being.

Why?

Because when we lament, when we truly mourn, we have an opportunity to be reminded about the solution. The solution is that Jesus came, taught, and died to show the way through the valley of the shadow of death so that we don’t have to fear pain, evil, injustice, oppression and violence.

We lament to remember why lament will not last forever.

That day by day, as we are acting on the example of Jesus, we bring heaven to earth.

That one day, God’s Kingdom will come in completion and evil will get taken out behind the woodshed – forever.

Can you see what we lose if we don’t lament? If we don’t think about what is lost?

We forget what is gained.

The best way to lament is to spend time thinking on what has been lost in your life, and then move to what God can, will, or has already done to bring hope and life to you in the midst of it.

Try this exercise today – write down what you lament and where God is working. I believe you’ll see something amazing.

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Haven’t blogged in a while due to vacation and other assorted events, but that’s good because it gives me time to think which can do one of three things:

  1. Generate a really great thought.
  2. Generate so many thoughts that I can’t pick one and so I have to write something with a numbered list in it (how awful!)
  3. Generate no momentum or energy and so I end up writing something short and somewhat meaningless.

Let’s hope #1 has happened. Then again, you aren’t paying to read this so if it’s bad then you can always read Brian’s blog.

Truth be told I’ve been thinking about a lot of things, but the one thing that is stirring in me today is something I read this morning from Sam Rima’s Leading From the Inside Out:

“The true quality and nature of our leadership will ultimately be determined by the condition of our inner life, which, in turn, is the product of the degree to which we do or do not engage in effective personal soul care.” (130)

Please don’t get lost in the “leadership” language – I’ve seen this be an issue for all kinds of folks whether they are in leadership or not. The reality is that all of us are in trouble if we don’t know the places where our inner life needs work.

I’m a strong believer in the fact that if you don’t know where you’re vulnerable, you won’t know where you can be defeated. I ask couples who come to me for pre-marital counseling “What would have to happen to cause you to leave this relationship?”

FYI – to a person they all say infidelity, but the stats on why marriages end speak differently and most say that the #1 reason marriages end is because of communication but perhaps that’s another post…

So, here’s a thought: if we know our spiritual weakness, we need to address it. We need to do some personal “soul care.”

If your spouse came to you and said “Our communication has to get better or we’re going to have to get divorced” my hope would be that you’d get every book on communication in marriage possible. You now know your vulnerability, time to sure it up.

If we know that one of our soul’s greatest weaknesses is pride, we need to do something about that.

If we know that our soul is prone to ignore hard conversations, we need to do something about that.

If we know our soul has trouble trusting God in real, daily situations then we need to do something about that.

God’s grace will give us the strength to do this – it isn’t all on us to do the heavy lifting – but we need to acknowledge that there are some places needing work. Soul care is simply bringing habits into our life to give God the leverage and space to strengthen weak spiritual muscles we may have.

Today, what if you took some time and sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down the places where you feel you’re vulnerable and are in need of soul care?

I did it this morning.

It was really good and now I’m thinking through a plan to deal with those areas.

Want some strength in your soul?

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