Earlier in the week, I had to make a choice—to trust someone’s directions or go with my instinct—that told me to NOT to turn. As we were headed up the road, with no visual indication that they were correct, I said, “I trust you but I am not sure I believe you.” I said that I was trusting because I took action based upon their knowledge even if my head told me otherwise. Is not the essence of faith, action based upon knowledge? Knowledge that the person we are trusting knows what they are doing or a belief that the person upon whom we are relying is trustworthy.
If we know or have a guarantee how things are going to work out, we have no need of faith. Is that correct? Yet, my (preferred?) default is to live life without the need for faith. I think this is because I must admit an absence of control when I choose to live by faith. And maintaining control, even an illusion of control somehow brings comfort. Not really but I think I have more security when I am in control. In actuality, when I acknowledge my lack of control to someone I can trust to be in control and who genuinely cares about my well-being, I can relax. The pressure is off. Now, I am back to Psalm 24:8-10.
Who is this king of Glory? The LORD strong and mighty.
Who is this king of Glory? The LORD mighty in battle.
Who is this king of Glory? The LORD of Hosts
He is the King of Glory.
So, why not . . .
Open up your gates (Surrender control)
Let this King of Glory come in!
Imagine the scene in Mark 4:35-41
The disciples are in the boat trying not to lose their boat and avoid drowning and Jesus is asleep in the back. When they wake him up, they ask, “Don’t you care that we are perishing”?
Jesus response is not what I would expect. “Why are you acting so cowardly? Where is your faith?”
Is it cowardly to be afraid you are about to die?
I think of being a coward as running away from something; not doing something out of fear of the consequences.
What the disciples (and I) don’t get is that when Jesus is in our boat, when he is with us, we are safe and there is no need to fear the consequences. Big waves, fierce wind, feeling unproductive, unfulfilled, frustrated, angry–trust me says Jesus.
I find it interesting that after Jesus stops the storm, the disciples became fearful–actually, they were caused to fear (passive) with a great fear.
Why? Because of the awesome display of the power of God.
I love what comes next, “Who is this guy?” Even the wind and waves obey him!
Seems like there are two kinds of fear here–a self-centered fear and a God-centered fear. In the storm they were afraid to die, afraid they were being left alone to make it with out any help. Faced with self-centered fear, they might have done anything to get out of the situation–including insulting their teacher, “don’t you care?”
But the other kind of fear is a God-centered fear, the kind that causes you to fall down and say, “ok God, I surrender, I give up.” A fear that produces reverence and awe. A safe yet holy fear. I want to have a God-centered fear but tend to have a self-centered fear.
Does a self-centered fear lead us to doubt that God really cares?
What do you fear today?
Yet another study on the beliefs of today’s generations. Believing More than Belonging is the title of the article, based on a study by the Pew Forum “exploring the behaviors, values and opinions of the teens and 20-somethings that make up the Millennial Generation.” Here are a couple of charts from the full study
In a related article, here is a quote on what we need to do to get the younger generations into our churches.
“To attract these young adults, religious leaders have to rethink the taken-for-granted package of ministries they offer, de-center support for family formation as their primary area of ministry for those under 35, adopt less hierarchical styles of organization, and listen more. This is more difficult than railing against ‘those young people’ and their supposed lack of a moral center, but it is more likely to achieve the desired result.”
You might expect the above statement to come from a health and wealth proponent but it comes from a man who is soon to die; who has lived with severe chronic pain and cancer the last few years. Following are excerpts from an interview Timothy Dalrymple had with William Stuntz. One of the most compelling pieces I have ever read. Thanks to my dear wife. Headings are mine but the rest is excerpted from an interview with Stuntz.
God is eager to bless
My experience of cancer especially is that God is just so eager to bless. I find blessing all over the place, not in the cancer itself but all around it. It would almost be easier to answer what blessings I have not found.
Since my cancer diagnosis, I have experienced more friendship from more people than at any other time in my life. I’ve experienced not just a quality of medical care but a kind of medical care, humane medical care delivered by humane and decent people, that seems Christ-like to me. I don’t know the religious convictions of all the people who have treated me, but I certainly believe that they are used by God in ways that are really quite extraordinary to bring blessing to people who are in circumstances that lead them to hunger for blessing. I do hunger for blessing in the midst of these medical conditions, but I regularly find that hunger satisfied.
Life has become more concrete
Chronic pain and cancer both make life more concrete. In times of good health, when our bodies are doing everything we want and expect them to do, there is a tendency to think of spiritual life as something that is anything but concrete. That’s not possible, I find, in my present circumstances. My medical conditions, independently and together, are inescapable. Perhaps that’s the key feature. They are there all the time. There is no time when I am not aware of them. I hurt all the time. I’m exhausted all the time. There is no escaping either of those states of affairs. I simply never feel like I used to feel virtually all the time.
I am more than but not less than a cancer patient
I want to be more than a cancer patient and chronic pain patient. But I cannot be less than a cancer patient and a chronic pain patient. Those are large parts of my life. They are part of who I am. Although I would love to have my pain and my cancer removed tomorrow, that would not be an easy thing. I would have to learn how to be somebody else.
NOT Believing in the God of Disappointment
What I am displeased with is my own living of life. I feel an acute sense that I ought to have done better with the circumstances I was given. This is one of the reasons why it cut me so deeply when people suggested that suffering is God’s discipline — because I find it so very, very easy to believe in a God who is profoundly disappointed in me.
It seems utterly natural to believe in the Disappointed God, because I myself am disappointed. He must be even more disappointed, I think, because his standards are so much higher than mine. How could he not be disappointed? That makes complete sense to me.
It’s the other God, the God who does not experience that kind of disappointment, the God who sees me the way that Prodigal Son’s father saw him — that is the harder God for me to believe in. It takes work for me to believe in that God.
God longing for me is unspeakably sweet
“You will call and I will answer. You will long for the creature your hands have made” (Job 14:15).
I find those lines very powerful. The concept that God longs for the likes of me is so unspeakably sweet. I almost cannot bear to say them aloud. They are achingly sweet for me to hear.
There are many passages I love, but that one in particular has grabbed hold of me. Job’s hope, it turns out, is more realistic than his despair.
Sad morning. A young MK from our mission and a long-time friend of ours (another missionary) died in the night. John wrote, “We’re numb, shattered hearts and yet our soul is anchored by the firm foundation of Jesus, the author and completor of our faith. I remember Lynn and celebrate a life well lived. With hearts surrrendered to His eternal purposes”
Found this song by Gungor last night. Beautifully expresses what I am sure both families have experienced in recent days. May these two families continue to know God being their strength.
Please Be My Strength
I’ve tried to stand my ground
I’ve tried to understand
but I can’t seem to find my faith again
like water on the sand
or grasping at the wind
I keep on falling short
please be my strength
please be my strength
I don’t have anymore
I don’t have anymore
I’m looking for a place
where I can plant my faith
one thing I know for sure
I cannot create it
I cannot sustain it
It’s Your love that’s keeping (captured) me
Please be my strength…
at my final breath
I hope that I can say
I’ve fought the good fight of faith
I pray your glory shines
in this doubting heart of mine
and all would know that You
You are my strength
You and You alone
Keep bringin me back home
You are my strength
You are my strength
You and You alone
Keep bringin me back home
Here is the Gungor myspace and their own website Unfortunately, I could not find the song above so you will need to go to itunes or another similar site. I did download it and the melody fits well with the words.
Usually, I read about why we should offer or give forgiveness but this post from the Henri Nouwen society on Jan 25, 2010, is on receiving forgiveness.
There are two sides to forgiveness: giving and receiving. Although at first sight giving seems to be harder, it often appears that we are not able to offer forgiveness to others because we have not been able fully to receive it. Only as people who have accepted forgiveness can we find the inner freedom to give it. Why is receiving forgiveness so difficult? It is very hard to say, “Without your forgiveness I am still bound to what happened between us. Only you can set me free.” That requires not only a confession that we have hurt somebody but also the humility to acknowledge our dependency on others. Only when we can receive forgiveness can we give it.
I think I missed making a re-post of Michael Hyatts Why You Aren’t Dead Yet. I have slightly reworded the title of the post here since the title might be a bit discouraging. The contents are anything but! Thought of this after talking to a couple of friends. Hyatt did the post in response to the following question of an old yet wise friend, “Do I have anything left to contribute? Are my best days over?” Needless to say, Hyatt’s response to his friend and to all of us was, you better believe it. Hyatt’s conclusion,
You may be old. You may be sick. You may be divorced. Your kids may not be speaking to you. You may be out of work. You may be broke. You may be discouraged.
But you’re not dead yet.
And that’s proof that you still have not completed what you were put on earth to do.
Aftermy recent post on paradoxical commandments, the song, “I do it anyway” and 2 cor 4:16, me thinks there is an ongoing theme here.
Excellent sermon here from John Piper on the need for both a disciplined and a spontaneous prayer life. He does not equate spontaneity with freedom because in our acts of discipline, there can be “wonderful freedom and joy.”
He points out that neither does discipline equate with legalism as “though any intentionality that drives you to do a thing when you don’t feel like it can only be a work of the law, or an act of merit, or a way of earning salvation, or a strategy to get God on your side.” Piper points out that “steadfast opposition to discipline may reflect a heart of legalism.” His point is that both kinds of prayers are wrong if we are trusting in our own righteousness and not that of Christ.
More from Piper, “The opposite of legalism is not spontaneity. And the opposite of faith is not discipline. Spontaneity may be legalistic. And discipline may be an act of faith.”
Reflecting on Romans 8:32 and 2 Cor 1:20, Piper writes,
“In other words, every answer to prayer that would be good for us, Christ purchased by his blood. We did not and cannot purchase them. So when we go to our closet, we are not going to make a purchase. We are not going to negotiate. We are going because God has ordained that what Christ obtained for us, we receive by asking.”
And he ends the message with a challenge to be intentional about our praying, “Because Christ died for you, and through prayer God will give you what you need—mainly more of himself.” yes and yes again!
What would a Christian response be to Brett Favre? An article today quotes him with regard to his feelings of doubt and insecurity. For those non-American-football fans, Favre is a 40 year old star quarterback who has come back with great success after retiring. Talking about his self-doubts, Favre says:
“I think it’s human nature,” he said. “For me, I know it’s always been a source of drive or a sense of always needing to prove myself, not ever being satisfied. I think it’s OK to be confident. I don’t think it’s OK to be overconfident. Doubt to me at times is a good thing. It makes you work harder. You never get complacent.
I have had a few conversations this week about doubt and insecurity and am often confronted with my own. I suspect that most of us have doubts and insecurities and about some very significant issues but not too many are willing to admit it as did Favre. Not that he is asking but as a Christian, what would you say to Brett?
Just read an article in which “knowing God” was stated to be more important to the Eastern religions of Buddhism and Hinduism versus the importance of “knowing about God” of to Christianity. While I beg to disagree, there does seem to be some element of truth when you look at the experience of many Christians (and yes, I am including myself here). According to Gary Moon, the reason why there is so little distinction between Christians and non-Christians is because Christians (and I would add especially evangelicals) tend to focus on salvation as judicial pardon from sin instead of intimate “knowing” of God.
BUT John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” According to Moon, we enter into eternal life by “knowing” God, a knowing which he would describe a “deeply intimate, interactive, and transforming friendship built upon abiding, living in the other.” Apprenticeship with Jesus, p. 125
Moon gives a great quote at the beginning of chapter 14 in the above book from Dallas Willard,
In the purpose of God’s redemptive work communication advances into communion and communion into union. When the progression is complete we can truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20) and “For me, living is Christ” (Phil 1:21).
I know the progression is not yet complete in me! The last few days I have been wrestling with lots of self-doubt and fear and only minutes after spending a lovely time alone with God early this morning reflecting on what it means for me to fear God, I found myself furious over an email that I received in which I felt publicly humiliated (another story). But, I also know that God is not finished with me!
Moon suggested the following spiritual exercise to help us celebrate salvation as living in intimate union with God:
Spend the next twenty-four hours abiding in God and then resolve to spend as many present moments of the day “with God” as you can. (italics mine)
Helpful Hint: At any point you become aware of yourself thinking about either the past or the future, let those thoughts go and return to being with God in the present moment. After a few deep breaths, ask him simply, “What should we do together right now?”
Let’s see what happens.
“I believe that the essence of sin is the fear that God does not have our best interests at heart.” 97 So said Gary Moon in Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to live like the Master. I am currently in the section called “Know Yourself” and there are four chapters here, The Good, Bad, The Ugly and The Beautiful. Naturally, I want to write about “The Bad.”
Moon says that when we begin to fear that God does not have our best interests at heart, we try to control things. Then, he concludes the chapter with some reflections and says, “Consider that apart from God’s presence and grace, your soul is lost and ruined.” He then asks us to consider what happens when God is not in control of your life and when he is not in control.
Three questions for reflection come out of this
What happens when I am in control of my
What happens when God is in control of my thought
What can I do to allow God to be in control in my life?
Maybe I will share my answers later in the week.
After reading an article on Nidal Hasan, I was struck by the question about how difficult it is many to distinguish between piety and fanaticism. That got me going on a parallel track. The author of the above article was actually commenting on an earlier article published in the Washington Post and asked the following:
In other words: when does piety become deadly? The question is not only how do you draw the line, but where? Daily prayer? Making a pilgrimage Mecca? Traveling to Pakistan for terror training?
Further, there is a serious societal danger in misreading piety for fanaticism.
Looking up pious on Wikipedia, I found the following: “While different people may understand its meaning differently, it is generally used to refer either to religious devotion or to spirituality, or often, a combination of both. A common element in most conceptions of piety is humility.”
Spirituality is one of those words that is often used today but seldom understood and has as many definitions as there are writers. The word “spirituality” is not used in the Bible but there is “spiritual” or pneumatikos (greek). Pneumatikos is used 21 times in the NT, 20 of these by Paul and 11 of them in 1 Corinthians. It seems that the opposite of spiritual is unspiritual or fleshly (sarkinos) which is also translated as worldly in the NIV. Spiritual individuals are also contrasted with the immature or nerios in 1 Cor 3:1) Spiritual teaching is contrasted with human wisdom or sophia (1 cor 2:13). Something is spiritual because of the work of the Holy Spirit (pneuma) and so we have spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:1, 14:1), spiritual people (Gal 6:1) spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3), spiritual songs (Eph 5:19) , spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col 1:9) and a spiritual house (1 Pet 2:5). The one exception is in Eph 6:12 in which “the spiritual forces of evil” are referred and there spiritual seems to contrast with the fleshly or bodily forces of evil. One could also look at Gal 5:22-23 to see what the fruit of the Spirit should be.
Now it gets very interesting when one considers religion or threskeia in the NT which is only used in three passages. In Col 2:18 threskeia is used to describe the worship of angels. And what does Paul equate with this religion? False humility, an unspiritual mind that is “puffed up with idle notions,” someone who has “lost connection with the Head” (referring to Christ), “based on human commands and teaching,” have an appearance of wisdom, self-imposed worship, false humility, a “harsh treatment of the body” that “lacks any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Sounds like fanaticism to me.
When you look at threskeia in James 1:26, 27, we learn that true religion (spirituality?), religion that God accepts as “pure and faultless”, means that we can “control our tongue,” that “we take care of orphans and widows in their distress” and involves keeping ourselves from “being polluted by the world.” If we don’t do these things, then we are “deceived” and our “religion is worthless.”
I find this to be quite convicting personally and would welcome comments.
What stimulates a longing for God? John Fischer had the following in his Dec 9 2009 email which says it well and valuable to remember during this season.
With every longing, every shortage, every need…
We’re looking for the Lord.
With every heartbreak, every disappointment, every loss…
We’re looking for the Lord.
With every accomplishment, every triumph, every gain…
We’re looking for the Lord.
With every mystery, every question, every doubt…
We’re looking for the Lord.
With every struggle, every challenge, every win…
We’re looking for the Lord.
I had written the following on a scrap of paper that I found as we were packing and sorting this week. I think it came out of our conference in Chaing Mai a few weeks ago?
The question concerns the difference between heavenly adoption and earthly adoption. When we have human adoption, is there not always some kind of loss? But in heavenly adoption, rather than a loss, is there not a gain we receive? But for us to receive a heavenly adoption, Jesus had to suffer a grevious loss. And then, the question, “Do our losses here not stimulate a desire for a heavenly adoption?”
What does it mean to be a Christian writer of fiction? That all your characters live out a high level of morality? If so, then according to L. B. Graham, we might be equating Christianity with moralism or good behavior. Not that the two are unrelated but they are certainly not equal. Graham suggests three ways we could have a more biblical view of morality and fiction.
“First, we should remember that we do live in a moral universe and attempts to portray immoral behavior as free from consequence cuts against the grain of reality.”
“Second, we should remember that portrayals of characters with ‘good morals’ doesn’t mean a book is Christian.”
“Third, the portrayal of sin in realistic terms, and even the attribution of sinful struggles and moral failures to key characters, even good ones, doesn’t necessarily prove the author condones such behavior.”
“At the end of the day, I don’t see many Christian fiction writers leaving much doubt that they believe God’s standards for human behavior are both good and right. What I do see is a certain level of discomfort if characters portrayed in some way as “good” are given significant moral struggles or weaknesses. I hope this will change and that audiences and authors alike will embrace a redemptive rather than a moralistic view of stories – both their own and the one’s they read.”
What exactly is the relationship between our spiritual health and our psychological health? Between despair and depression? I think most people would say that they are inter-related—what affects one affects the other. But, even though they are inter-related, are the fundamental or core problems different? And thus, are the solutions not different?
Gordon Marino suggests in an article in the NY Times, Kierkegaard on the Couch, that today we have become “deaf to the ancient distinction between psychological and spiritual disorders, between depression and despair.” Are not many happy and yet full of despair. Quoting Kierkegaard, Marino says, “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair.”
If despair is a spiritual problem, then perhaps the solution is also physical? Marino said that despair equaled intensified doubt for K? Quoting, from From K’s Sickness unto death, “A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity.” For K, despair seems to occurs when there is an imbalance in this synthesis. Despair according to Kierkegaard is a lack of awareness of being a self or spirit, says Marino. Perhaps the dark feelings of depression and despair may look similar but come to be due to different causes.
So, if despair is related to a loss of hope or could we say a desperate longing for the transcendent, then a visit to a mental health professional alone will not bring the answer that is needed. A spiritual consultation may be what is needed, along with a visit to a mental health professional and to a medical doctor. How do we provide care for depression and yet allow people to sense their despair at being disconnected from the Transcendent one?
Gordon Marino at NY Times on Oct 28, 2009
After being stuck in Psalm 139 and John 9 for the last few weeks (not bad places to be stuck) I began to read in Psalm 16 and Matthew 25 earlier in the week. Actually, I was supposed to read Mtt 25:1-13 but I ended up looking at the entire chapter.
My takeaway from Psalm 16 was from verse 2,”You are my master. All the good things I have are from you.” That was a good reminder for me after I read Mtt 25.
In the first parable, all ten of the ladies went to sleep but because of the master’s delay, 5 ran out of oil and were left behind and heard the words, “I don’t know you.”
In the second parable, all three men knew that the master would hold them accountable. All three called him master. Two were faithful and received more responsibility. The one who was fearful was also called wicked and lazy and he was sent to a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Seems harsh just because he was afraid?
In the third parable, all the characters did not know that what they were doing to the poor and needy (or not doing) was being done (or not) to Jesus. Again, eternal punishment awaited those who did not give.
Trying to make sense of this passage, I come up with three simple statements.
Parable #2 All my stuff belongs to him and I should not forget it. I am not to be afraid but to be faithful. Whatever he wants he can have–it belongs to him anyway.
Parable #3 Everyone belongs to him and I am not to ignore anyone, especially the least of people. I am to be compassionate. I am to love whoever you bring to me.
I welcome any insights others might have on these parables. In packing up my books last night, I was reminded that I don’t have a good commentary on Matthew and that will be one of the things I look for in the next months since I know there are some new ones out there.
If you haven’t heard “I will trust you” by Steven Curtis Chapman, you will likely be singing it in church before too long. I put it in the same class as “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman. Could not find the lyrics on the web and so I transcribed them this morning. In doing so, I find this song is even richer than I previous thought. If you don’t know the story out of which this song arose, here is one story. I have added a few pictures that seem to fit with the song.
I don’t even want to breathe right now. All I want to do is close my eyes. And I don’t want to open them again. Until I’m standing on the other side. I don’t even want to be right now. I don’t want to think another thought. And I don’t want to feel this pain I feel. Right now, pain is all I got. Feels like its all I got. But I know its not. Oh, I know You are all I got
And I will trust you, trust you, trust you trust you God I will. Even when I don’t understand. Even then I will say again. You are my God. And I will trust you
God I’m longing for the day to come. When this cloudy glass I’m looking through. Shattered in a million pieces. And finally I can just see you. God you know I believe its true. I will see you. But until the day I do.
I will trust you, trust you, trust you God I will. Even when I don’t understand. Even then I will say again. You are my God. And I trust you and with every breath I take. And For every day that breaks. I will trust you, I will trust you. And now that nothing makes sense. Even then I will say again. God I trust you, I trust you
I know your heart is good. I know your love is strong. I know your plans for me are much better than my own.
So, I will trust you, trust you, I trust you God again. And I will trust you, I will trust you I will. Even when I don’t understand. Even then I will say again
I will trust you, I will trust you I will. I know your heart is good, your love is strong, your plans for me are better than my own. I know your heart is good, I know your love is strong, I know your plans for me are much better than my own.
And I will trust you. You are my God. And I will trust you
Following is a link to the second video short from 24-7 prayer network called Prayer as Community. First a few quotes,
- Prayer is talking, living, an ongoing talk with God
- Prayer is not supposed to be cut down to prayer times. Your whole day is supposed to be a prayer. Whatever you do is supposed to happen in connection to God and in connection to what he wants you to do and in connection to your calling.
Zinzendorff said, “Unless your day is a prayer all your prayer times are for nothing.”