Tag Archive: faith


so in my considerable drive time that i log each week there are times when it’s very ordinary; “look, there’s a deer, there’s a turkey, there’s a whole family of turkeys!”  seriously, one sunday morning i could have taken out a whole family of turkeys as they were just standing in the road.

other times it’s profound; other times i feel like God must be sitting in the seat beside me.

not long ago i was thinking about the group of pastors that i have breakfast nearly every monday & the close bond that we share.  it’s truly an unusual thing for pastors of different churches, different denominations, different ages & experiences to share this kind of closeness & friendship.  i know this because i have seen the other side of this kind of relationship & have heard stories of disconnectedness & competition between pastors.  so i’ve become well aware of the uniqueness of this shared friendship & shared ministry.

one sunday of driving from one church to the other, feeling like God is riding with me, i was thinking about these friends of mine; and then the thought hit me that there are times that i am intimidated by the closeness.

if  someone is too close to me the chance of me hiding the dark corners of me from them goes way down.  i can’t hide as easily as i’d like if they’re too close.  and i don’t really have any deep secrets that i’m keeping from them, but what if i did?  what if there became something i didn’t want them to see?  kind of hard to hide if they’re all a little to close.

let me be clear; it’s not them, it’s me.  more on that in a minute…

just recently i was speaking out of hebrews 11:6

“without faith it is impossible to please God…”

originally had always thought & taught from the angle that this statement would have been a world-changer for the 1st century Christ-follower.  for them, & for us still in many ways, pleasing God was about adhering to the law.  “complete these tasks & God will like you better” was the thought.  and we, in our enlightened way of doing life still live like this to some degree.

Jesus comes along & reminds them [& us] that it’s not what we do that gets us close to God but our belief in Him & belief of His desire to save us…our faith in Him to do these things.

for the record, i still think this is a legitimate way of teaching this passage.

but the monday after teaching that passage, in that fashion & with those points made, the meaning took on a new color for me.

faith, at it’s core, is about a belief that God is going to do something with the future that we can’t yet see.

back to my friends & why it’s about me & not them…

the reason we don’t like to get too close to people is rooted in our insecurity.  we believe that if people saw the real us we’d be out on the street with nothing.

they’d find out that we’re not really all that great,

we’re not that good a friend,

we’re not that good at our job,

we’re not that great a parent,

and the list goes on & on & on…

insecurity about who we are & how we’re defined by others & ourselves can cause great havoc.

this ties to faith & what i believe about God & what He does to & through me.  specifically, my faith is revealed in how close i let people get to me.  it’s a faith issue because of what i believe about what God is doing, that He’s always in the process of refining & reshaping me & my life.

do i have the kind of faith in God that even as i get close to people that really trust, that He’s already been involved,  that and grace & mercy are at work in their lives?

do i have the kind of faith in God that i trust Him for the future in those relationships?

“without faith it is impossible to please God” because, in part, we will try & hold all the details of life in our own hands; trying to control the pieces on the game board so much that we’re not exercising any faith & not trusting God for a future that hasn’t yet arrived.

so in spite of the occasional encounter with turkeys & the struggle to be real with my closest of friends i’m trying to figure out how to let go of my own insecurities through the growing of my faith:

the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen

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love as the highest value?love value [blog]

in the non-church world i think many would agree that this could be the highest value to pursue.  i have a working theory that in the world, in america specifically, we care more about money than we care about anything else; but that’s another conversation.

so love, that makes me feel all warm inside, & YES!! we should pursue love above all else.

but in the church…as followers of Christ…is this the highest value?

shouldn’t the pursuit of Christ be the highest value?

what about worship to God?

how about correct doctrine & theology, that’s certainly most important?

the list could continue for a while…

while it’s true that sound doctrine & theology are important,

and worship of God & all that He is matters greatly,

and we should always find ourselves in pursuit of Jesus Christ in all we do.

if we simply look at the life of Jesus [dangerous] we see that all He does is motivated by & through love.

the woman at the well…

zacchaeus’ redemption…

His walk to the cross…

i think sometimes that we get concerned about making sure the “whole” story of God is told.  and when we focus on something like “love” aren’t we then leaving out some important details about what God wants from your life & mine?

i think that can happen.  which is why it’s so important that the church you’re a part of is teaching the totality of God’s word.  but a beginning point, a motivating factor & daily, life-long pursuit is the love of God & how that impacts the world we live in.

i’m a firm believer that when we, no matter the station of life we’re in, pursue truth we end up at the feet of Jesus.

if we’re looking for a way to justify our lifestyle, we’re not seeking truth.

if we’re trying to find a way to do something that stands in direct opposition to God’s word, we’re not seeking truth.

 

if anything gets in front of our ability to love, we’ve begun the descent into a life, a church, without Jesus at the center.  we’ve decided that our preferences are of greater value than the people Jesus loves…the people that we’re supposed to love.

so love as the highest value, pursue it!

very recently i was drawn into a conversation that, truthfully, ranged all over.  these are good conversations because they have the possibility of opening doors that we may never consider.

part of the conversation touched on thoughts of what “used to be”; that is remembering a very fond time with a specific group of people & a little of mourning the loss of & disconnection to those relationships.

i was a part of that time in history for this person & i remember those times & those days & i have to concur with the sentiment; those WERE good times!  i remember them well.

drake-hold-on-were-going-home

a phrase i’ve heard before; “you can never go home”

we can physically go back to places we’ve been before, but it always feels a little different, not quite the same.  i remember this walking into my elementary school dropping off or picking up my kids as they attended the same school.  that place feels small now!  it must have shrunk!  it had to have changed, because it doesn’t feel the same.  grant it, it still looks the same, but it’s not the same…at least for me.

obviously we’ve all experienced this, and it’s why that phrase is true; you really can’t go home again.  this is a mental issue much more than a physical issue.  when we remember & recall we’re remembering some very specific things about a specific place in time, many times with some very specific people.  and that moment is calcified in our minds.  so if the memory is good, the calcification is a good thing.  if the memory is bad; well, not as good.

when the memories are good this human condition can also known as nostalgia.  this is when we look back with great fondness on something & little parts of us want to return to that moment.  the trouble with nostalgia is that not only that our memories are built from our specific vantage point, but that they are always in the past.  i know, not a revolutionary thought, and not what you came here for.  no one’s ever said, “i remember tomorrow fondly.

WHAT GOD’S UP TO

one of the things that God does with us, if we’re willing to pursue Him, He’s always drawing us into the future, creating new paths for us to walk, new understandings of Him & what He has for us.

the trouble with nostalgia is that it can take a strong root in our hearts.  yea, our hearts.  when our hearts get involved there is a great possibility to grow increasingly emotional about an event or moment in time or a way of doing something.  this can become problematic because that nostalgia can keep us from seeing a future God has in mind for us, thus keeping us  in a perpetual state of longing for something that will never return.

community is tricky.  it requires a level of transparency that many of us are uncomfortable with.  community, for it to really work well, needs to have some honest, truth-telling.  even truth-telling about the past; “hey, that thing you remember so fondly…let me tell you about it from my perspective, the people involved, the larger picture of what all was going on then.”  done with grace & love for one another, this can be a beautiful thing.

WHEN DOES NOSTALGIA BECOME A HINDRANCE TO TOMORROW?

at the risk of being vague or providing no real handles for us today, i do think it depends on one thing…you.

if, in your remembering, your longing for what once was is greater than your hope for the future…

if you remember yesterday with fondness & angst or frustration or even anger for the future…

if more of your conversation revolves around “the good old days”…

if reasons for not venturing into the new are “we’ve never done it that way before”, or, “i don’t think i’d like that”…

if you’re living out the words of the springsteen song, “i hope i don’t sit around trying to recapture the glory, but i probably will”…

if we are surrounded by a community of people that are very much like us this is a trend that will be harder to break.  because this is a trend that will show up in our lives.

if though, our community is diverse in age, race, economic demographic, taste & even fashion our hearts will be soft toward change, the new, unusual & different.  and it is there that God has great freedom to moves us, change our direction & draw us closer to Him.

to my friends that are struggling to connect with a new group of people, to those that find it hard to experience the new, hoping to not forget the past, to those that fell like part of them dies with the advent of new things, remember;

“He is new every morning, great is His faithfulness” [lam.3:23]

meaning that God is already in tomorrow waiting for you…in the new things He desires to show you.

this issue has been brewing in me for a while now…bill-of-rights there are a host of difficult issues at play with the activation of the religious freedom act.

 FEAR

both sides of this issue have fear as a motivating factor.  for those that believe on one should be with-held services because of their sexual orientation through the lens of religious belief the fear could be placed at the feet of the question; “what’s next?  who are they going to bar next?  don’t i have the right to eat & sleep where i want?  isn’t this a free country where no one shall be unfairly judged or mistreated because of their nationality, creed, etc.?” the fear coming from the other side of the issue may sound like this; “if we, who morally object to this lifestyle, are forced to set aside our beliefs what’s next?  what will they take away next, our right to freely gather, our right to worship our God without mistreatment & persecution?” for the follower of Jesus the conversation, for me, begins in the wrong place. Jesus tells His disciples [and us] to not be afraid.  to let go of our fear, to trust in Him.  i kind of wonder, as one who is a follower of Christ, that our fear [Christ-followers] is a simple lack of faith that God has all things under His control.

 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

-mk.4:40

 something’s that at stake here for us all, is the answer to this question:  will you & i live in fear with what might happen if…? if we get under the surface at all that’s much of this is all about.

“are we headed back to segregation?”

“what will the government make us do next?”

“is this the end of religious freedom?”

“is this the end of my personal freedom?”

WORRY

are you, am i [as a follower of Christ], willing to trust in God that He has it under control? Jesus was very explicit that if we followed Him it would get tough [putting it lightly – He actually said we could die].  but that struggle, difficulty, persecution doesn’t mean that God had let go of the wheel & mayhem is on the loose.  it simply means that the struggle continues & government, no matter it’s form or goals, does not have the last word. “but what about the WORD of God standing tall?  don’t you want that?”   of course i  do.  but judgment is best reserved for God and God alone. accountability for actions is served best in the context of relationship.  picket lines & petitions don’t allow for any relationship & draw lines of one side against another; and i’m just not that interested in doing that.  i’m more interested in the love i show & how it reveals the work of Christ in me, broken & hypocritical as i can be.

 LOVE

as followers of Christ we are continually walking a thin line between demonstrating the love of Christ & doing whatever we want.  i saw a facebook post earlier this week from a friend when he simply reminded us that Jesus hung out with the prostitutes, tax collectors & those who partied too much.  and in the eyes of the religious elite, ruined His character. Jesus’ time here on earth was spent with those that the “church folk” didn’t want to have anything to do with.  and all Jesus does is spend time with them, offering them a chance to have a relationship with God. a God they may not have known. 1283-Indiana-Religious-Freedom-Restoration-Act-Frequently-asked-questions a God they may have felt abandoned by. a God they were not invited to know. we all have a tendency to get our rights all mixed up in all kinds of things.  as a follower of Jesus my rights take a back seat to the real call on my life; to love well.  Jesus tells us that how we love communicates whom we follow, so He says love others in the same way He has loved us.

 there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. the one who fears is not made perfect in love.      

1jn.4:18

 so our worry & fear stand in the direct path of God’s working in the midst of the muddy, murky water of life.

 FINALLY

the whole truth of how this all plays out is yet to be determined, but i have said this for a long time.  i believe that it’ll be settled by the wallet & not much else. we like money more than we like almost anything.  and this decision will have a financial impact on indiana more than the religious or LGBT community. when our wallets are affected we become different people, almost entirely regardless of our beliefs & convictions.  we have placed a great deal of importance on money & the false security it provides…

…but that’s probably a topic for another time.

so in the mean time love well, in the manner that Jesus loved. lay your worry to rest; and don’t let you fear be your spokesperson.  that guy gets enough air time.

4478910885_2f984019fa_zin our day & age to be reminded, or maybe notified, that our time here on earth is very short in the grand scheme of human history.  it’s even smaller when we consider the eternal existence of God.  in our life-times it’s easy to believe the hype that we know all we need to know, that our judgement is darn near perfect, & our decision-making, and that our understanding of the circumstances is well in-hand.  and to boot, when situations don’t turn out in our favor or the way we would have chosen we are tempted to rail our fists at the heavens & say, “hey God, what were You thinking allowing that to
happen?!”
 
this is what we see with habakkuk the prophet when he complains to God.

“why do You force me to look at evil,

stare trouble in the face day after day?

anarchy and violence break out,

quarrels and fights all over the place.

law and order fall to pieces.

justice is a joke.

the wicked have the righteous hamstrung

and stand justice on its head.” [hab.1:3 & 4, msgB]

seems like i’ve said those words to God before.  but God is gentle with habakkuk here & simply says, “i’m not passive or bro.  i’m going to do something about all of this.” [my paraphrase].  in the story of job God also receives a complaint about the conditions of life and here God responds a bit more direct.  God monologues for 4 chapters on how little job [and we] know about the universe.  and then God says this:

“surely you know, for you were already born!

you have lived so many years!”  [God from job 38:21]

i just love the way God speaks to one of his sons here.  what he’s doing is reminding us who He is, and simultaneously reminding us who we are.

the real question is this; are you, am i, willing to trust God even when i don’t understand how He’s rolling things out?  the things that go on in my life, the things that happen in my country, in the world at large.

it’s easy to point the finger at all that’s wrong & suggest ways to fix it & make it right.

just an aside, i think it’s important that as followers of Christ we do long for the redemption of ALL His people.

but God also gave us the freedom to choose.  and in the midst of that things will be broken, lives will be wrecked.  the scope of what i see is limited to right now.  even as i look backward my vision is cloudy & i don’t see things as clearly as i think i do.

ooohhh this is a good article.  take a few minutes & read it.  this kind of thing stirs up our emotions & the things we think are true & right.  it’s always good to challenge the things we believe are true!

3 Phrases Christians Should Quit Relying On | Jayson D. Bradley.

a lacking…

are there times in your history, if we can be honest with ourselves, that we exhibited a lack of faith?  i mean if we can really be honest with ourselves…

as we look backward & see clearly that we should have done this or gone there but it was a lacking in our belief that God was handling all the details.  and some of this is reflected in our prayer life.  i’ve come to realize that there are some significant things that happen when we begin to pray…really pray fervently for what GOD wants, not just our wish list of what would be best for us & our lives.

     WHEN WE PRAY WE ENTRUST A COUPLE OF THINGS:

we entrust ourselves to God – and we entrust others to God

ENTRUSTING OURSELVES:  when we truly do this it removes our need to worry & fret over what may come tomorrow.  when we stop worrying about tomorrow we’re able to live in today, to be present.  present with God & present with others.

ENTRUSTING OTHERS:  when we entrust others to God it removes our desire to control the action & activity of those around us.  let’s be honest here [if we can].  when we see someone that we love doing something that we don’t agree with [lifestyle choice, friendship decision, etc.] we want to change that.  because, after all, we usually believe that we know what’s best.  as a parent i hope i do know what’s best for my kids & i do want to control their activity.  but when they become adults, and even before then, my control over what they do will become more and more limited.  ultimately i have to come to the realization that i can’t control all they do & that God is supreme over all things.  even the bad choices that my kids may make.

so when we entrust ourselves & others to God, through the way we pray things can begin to happen in our lives.  we begin to behave differently & our faith is expressed in new ways.  we are less inclined to use phrases like:

we’re just not ready.

i don’t know if we have enough?

when we’ve paid that off, then we’ll do…

when God invites us to do something, shift a thing that’s been in place for a long time, make a change [significant or small] we need to remember that He isn’t asking us to hold the whole thing on our own.  He’s inviting us to join Him in something He’s already doing.

[reference to this kind of life can be found in matthew 6 & 7]

so, a couple of questions before you go:

what excuses have you made for a lack of faith?

can we even admit our lack of faith?

what might God be inviting you into that you’ve been putting off?