Monday, September 30, 2013

Twang!!!

I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. (Chapter 2, quoting Romans 10)

Do I know these kind of people? I tend to be a bit cautious when answering that kind of question, lest I be the one it is talking about. And I think I was at one time. I followed by heart, I went to Bible College and got me degree. I went into ministry and worked my tail off. I had a zeal, but ended up getting divorced and losing my job.

And do you know what my biggest regret is? It is the fact that I know believe that I was totally unprepared for ministry. I had the knowledge, the degree, but I was ignorant that my righteousness was not found in my effort to please God, but rather that my righteousness came from God. I just wonder how a solid comprehension of that fact might have changed many things.

I was in Youth Ministry. I spent tons of time with kids, and our population was growing. And that was gone in an instant when my wife said she wanted a divorce. I should have seen the signs, but I was too busy being zealous for God. Meanwhile, my wife was being zealous for a deacon.

I don't blame her. I was wrapped up in something that I believed was good. I was at the schools, the sporting events, contributing to the state conventions, etc. Spreading myself as thin as I could. Trouble with spreading yourself thin is, eventually the rubber band snaps.

Twang!

But it was in one of those moments, after the divorce, after taking my son back to his mom, that depressing ride home, wondering where it went wrong, questioning why God let this happen, didn't He need me? It was in that moment when the answer came. No. He didn't need me. I was devastated. But after a few moments of self-pity, another word, telling me that although he didn't need me, he wanted me. That was the beginning of a new-found righteousness. A realization that although I had failed, He had not failed me. And I wish I could say that since that moment it has been smooth sailing. It has not. But I am learning not to stretch the rubber band to the breaking point. I am learning that it is not about me. That is a good, but hard lesson to learn.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Take a well deserved break...

You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. (Chapter 2, quoting Augustine)

Father Knows Best. That was the name of an old TV show. It was back in the days of "Leave It to Beaver," "Lassie," and "My Three Sons." Before it was a TV show, it was a radio show. The premise being that as silly things happen in life, as they sometimes do, especially when we stray from the advice of a wise and loving Father, when it ultimately winds up is with the truth that Father Knows Best.

The thought that God made us for himself is amazing. Being God, He could have created more angels, or a new being that was superior to the angels. Oh, wait, he did. But not in the way that we would have done it. We would have created perfect beings that could not sin, that were more powerful. Instead, He created us without wings, and harps if you choose to believe that. He created us with the ability to fall, and now we live in a fallen world. But I believe that Father does know best.

He has given us a heart for Him. He has build worship into us. Don't believe it? Then how do you explain all of those die-hard Cub fans? How do you explain all of the many other sill things that we chase after, knowing that in the end it all ends in death? How can we escape such pursuits? Only as we rest in the knowledge of faith in God.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the full. He said that we can rest in Him. Rest, because He has accomplished for us what we could not ever accomplish for ourselves. Rest because we do not have to earn His grace, we just need to respond to it. I can rest in Him and praise Him, knowing that it was for this that I was created. And what could make a person feel better?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Because I love Him

No one should become a Christian simply because of how helpful you've found it to be in your life. (Ch. 1)

What is the motivation to be a follower of Jesus?

God has always been the giver of good gifts. The problem always occurs when we put those gifts above Him.

I think of my kids here. I provide many things for them. Sometimes they put those things above me. They take me for granted at the provided. Does it make me angry? Sometimes. But it does not keep me from loving them. It does not stop me from providing for them. I know how it is, because I have done it too. I have taken my parents for granted at times too. So I want to teach them. I want them to appreciate me, but even more to appreciate God.

Sometimes things don't go your way. What do you do then? If you become a Christian simple because you find it helpful, what happens when it isn't helpful anymore. My daughter struggles with CIDP. It has gone on for about 2 years now. God could heal her. I pray that He does. But I don't base my faith or love for Him on whether or not He does.

Of course, we should be grateful for God's blessings. And yes, God is helpful. But he also disciplines me at times. He doesn't always give me everything I want. I didn't take my kids out for ice cream tonight. I could. But that doesn't make me a bad dad.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The fine line

Acting out of honest loyalty to his deepest convictions about God and his unfolding plan in history, Saul came to see that his whole take on God, himself, Israel and the Gentiles, and confidence in his moral zeal was wrong. (Ch. 1)

This is a tough one. On the one hand, we should have a sense of faith and assurance. One the other hand, we should be humble enough to admit that we might be wrong about some (or all?) things. How do those two reconcile with one another?

To me, it has a lot to do with the heart. I have talked to many people who (like Saul?) were very zealous about what they believed. But it seemed at times that it was more about being right than it was about following Jesus. Jesus said that we should have "ears to hear." So I think that within the element of faith there is also an element of humility that keeps us in line, examines our heart, and allows us to be attractive to others in the sense that those who want to hit them over the head with our "spirituality" or "be like me" mentality cannot do.

So Saul was able to question his belief system. Somewhere, deep inside of his being, he knew what he was doing did not match up with the truth of God. That had to be tough for him, because surely God was with him on his fast track to the top of Judiasm. What a change of heart, change of view, change of life. Am I strong enough to question mine? Are you?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Which curtain shall I choose, Monty?

...the law makes sense to us already; the gospel has to be told by heralds. (Ch. 1)

Human nature. We all have it by virtue of being human. So why is it that we look at the human nature of the Pharisees, and can wag a finger at them, while not realizing that those same human tendencies exist within us?

The law makes sense. Give me something tangible that I can see and hold on to. None of that blind faith stuff for me. Tell me what kind of movies to watch, how long to wear my hair, where to draw the line with my girlfriend, etc. Give me details!

Having a law just makes sense to us. But the gospel frees us from the law. We are not saved by the law, we are saved from the law. Now we become a law unto ourselves. (Paraphrase of a Matt Chandler quote.) That law is not written on tablets of stone, but on our hearts!

Enter the gospel. Not written on tablets of stone, but heralded by angels, Jesus himself, the disciples and Apostles, and hopefully you and me!

Or maybe you could just give a something to hold on to. A tract or Bible with all of the important verses highlighted. Or just a list of the top ten rules. That I can handle so much better.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Big Difference

God is not a supporting actor in our drama; it is the other way around. God does not exist to make sure that we are happy and fulfilled. Rather, we exist to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. (Ch. 1)

God should be the object of our affections, and not the other way around. Yes, I do believe He pursues us. But what He wants is for us to find Him, and find our joy in Him. We are not the center-stage.

If you don't think this is true, read the bible. Look at the heroes of the word. People like John the Baptist. Did he find happiness in prison or being beheaded? Did Moses find fulfillment in not seeing the promised land? Did David take pleasure when he was not allowed to build the temple? How about Hosea? Peter?

When God does bless, it is to reveal Himself and His love for us. But it is not something that we can insist on. Ultimately, it is our glorification of God that will make us happy and fulfilled.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tired of the hype - looking for hope.

Like Christless Christianity, this book is written for a wide audience of Christians who are burned out on hype and are looking for hope. (Introduction)

That's me, tired of the hype. I no longer believe that we do people justice when we try to attract people to the church, rather than attract them to Jesus. I am not against good music, energetic preaching, good programs, etc. It is just that so often the means of our worship becomes an end in itself.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered something was missing. Jesus. We had gotten so intent on drawing people to church, that we forgot about Jesus. We became so intent on having the outside of the cup look good, that we neglected the inside. We had become Marthas. We had become more concerned with making sure the housework was done, and we just don't have time to just sit at the master's feet.

To live a gospel driven life our eyes must be fixed on Jesus. Where is that in today's Christian culture? Where is the church that simply says, "We love Jesus?" Instead, we promote our children's program or a particular ministry, or our kickin' worship band, great preaching, etc. And people can walk in and walk out without experiencing what it means to come face to face with Christ.

I understand the disconnect. I just don't believe it anymore. I just can't practice it anymore. And that usually ends up getting me into trouble.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel? I think it is different things to different people. And I think God is okay with that. Sometimes.

We can have differences that fall within God's purpose, but I believe that we can also have differences that fall outside of God's purpose. I am drawn back lately to the time when this blog was begun, back when I started to struggle with the meaning of what it means to be a Christian, and started questioning some of the stagnant beliefs that had been a part of my life for so long.

Perhaps that is why I have not blogged in so long. I don't like being negative, but I cannot help but think that the answers to such questions have a greater impact than we would like to admit.

So where do I go from here? I could tell stories. Been there, done that. Although I believe that the group that I am a part of now is more well intentioned. I think that I had those good intentions at one time, and was very satisfied in that place.

So a book it is.


Having read his book, "Christless Christianity," I have a lot of respect for this author. I am sure that it will offer much food for thought, and perhaps a few challenges along the way.