The Challenge of Maturing Faith

highway road w_cloudsWhen I was young in the faith, it seemed as though my prayers made a straight b-line to the Father and he answered them accordingly. It showed me that he really hears and cares. But more important, that this Christian thing was real. Not only that, but there were the extras, you know the things you just didn’t expect that came out of the blue.  Sure there were bumps and trials, but God had a way of showing his faithfulness in an apparent and expeditious way.

Of course, I believed by faith that Jesus was alive, seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for me. I believed it because that’s what I read in the Bible and heard in sermons. But there’s nothing like actually experiencing the delight of answered prayers with something that comes through just at the right time. And the extras are even better.

But as a grew a funny thing happened. The trials have grown longer. Prayers don’t immediately get answered. Disappointments set in. Failures occur. What you want, you don’t always get. In fact, I have discovered that you can receive the opposite of what you are hoping and praying for. Compound this with the greater awareness of sin and brokenness, when stuff you didn’t even realize was an issue comes to light.  Continue reading

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They Were Not Rejoicing

passion of Christ_mary cryingAs Christians around the world celebrate Good Friday today, we celebrate the transaction on the cross where Jesus atoned for the sins of lost people. While we have the immense benefit of recognizing what this day meant, if we were to transport ourselves back in time, there was nothing to celebrate on that day at all.

In his book Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright says it well;

And it shows, of course, that the crucifixion of Jesus was the end of all their hopes. Nobody dreamed of saying, ‘Oh that’s all right – he’ll be back again in a few days. Nor did anybody say, ‘Well, at least he’s now in heaven with God.” They were not looking for that sort of kingdom. After all, Jesus himself had taught them to pray that God’s kingdom would come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ What they said – and again this was the ring of first century truth – was ‘We had hoped that he was the one who would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21), with the implication, ‘but they crucified him, so he can’t have been.’ The cross, we note, already had a symbolic meaning throughout the Roman world, long before it had a new one for the Christians. It meant: we Romans run this place, and if you get in our way, we’ll obliterate you – and do it pretty nastily too. Crucifixion meant that the kingdom hadn’t come, not that it had. Crucifixion of a would-be Messiah meant that he wasn’t the Messiah, not that he was. When Jesus was crucified, every single disciple knew what it meant: we backed the wrong horse. The game is over. Whatever their expectations, and however Jesus had been trying to redefine those expectations, as far as they were concerned hope had crumbled into ashes, They knew they were lucky to escape with their lives. (39-40)

Imagine the grief and hopelessness of the situation. Is it any wonder that they were huddled inside, when the news came?  To be continued…

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What Her says about Him

Her_Theodore in front of computerTheordore Twombly was a sweet, soulful and complex man who lives in a virtual world. If you’ve seen the movie Her, you would recognize him as its main character played by Joaquin Phoenix.  Little seems to be real in Theodore’s world. His work involves writing heartfelt letters on behalf of others he does not know. For recreation, he cozies up to a larger than life video game. Outside of the venues, he has little interaction with others, expect for the sporadic encounters with his neighbors…and an earwig that pretty much stays implanted in his ear and serves as his lifeline to his parallel universe.

To be sure, Theodore lives in two worlds, preferring the company of electronic stimulation of his senses to the extent possible. Yet despite all the stimulation, Theodore appears to be a lonely man. Having experienced a recent divorce, he strives to find pleasure in this detached reality but never quite getting there.  That is, until he meets Samantha. She turns him on. She seems to provide him with what he lacked despite all his stimulation. She makes up for the pain of the loss of relationship and draws him to herself.  She is an OS system with a seductive voice and witty charm. If you’ve not seen the movie, you might find this strange but it seems even stranger watching it. It is both odd and captivating the way  Theodore finds relief for his frustrations, need for companionship and even sexual tension through a relationship with an OS system, whose voice streams through his constant companion of the ear wig.

Yet Theodore instinctively knows there is something better. Something is missing. Why else does he search? He knows there is a goodness to be grasped that will touch his soul – something tangible; something real. He mistakenly believes it is in this virtual reality. As the movie progresses and the relationship between he and Samantha explore depths beyond human imagination, he simultaneously finds relief and discomfort.  Samantha ends up pulling the plug on the relationship, leaving Theodore grasping to fill the void.  Through the complexities of this human-machine relationship, his friendship with his neighbor Amy intensifies, and the machine dumped Theodore and Amy end up turning to each other for solace.  Though safely now in boundaries of human relationship, it is nonetheless a glimpse that we yearn for something more. Continue reading

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When Your Eyes Have Seen the Glory…but not so much now

eyes in darkHave you ever gone through a dark period of time in your Christian walk? And by dark, I mean a stretch of time marked by endless trials, barrenness and/or uncertainty about what to do? I came across this picture that I thought captured it so well. As we traverse the Christian walk, we’ll have high times when so much seems to be working. But then we’ll have times when we don’t know what in the world is going on.

Now there’s a sect within Christianity that says you just have to have strong faith. Stand and declare your promises. God won’t bless you unless you’re declaring the victory over your circumstances. Nothing personifies than Hank Hanegraaf’s article on the Osteenification and What it Portends. The premise behind Osteen and his ilk is that in order for stuff to happen in our lives, we need to be positive and strong.

One of my Facebook friends provided this wonderful commentary the other day in response to this article and kind of mentality;

“Osteen is such an easy target that I can debunk him without even using theology, by sheer experience alone. The VERY few times (that I can count on the fingers of one hand) where God spectacularly intervened in my life over the last 30 years, was when I was at the weakest in my faith, doubted him and had no conviction or assurance whatsoever that he would actually DO anything.

Glimmers of hope and desperation was all I had left in the tank and some times not even that. I felt about as strong as a beggar begging for scraps. On one particularly painful season I felt so gutted that I couldn’t even bring myself to pray and ask for anything, so I asked others to do it on my behalf and they obliged. I wish I could be more specific but some of the details are too painful to regurgitate and I am mindful of others who are still waiting on an answer to prayer on some personal and pressing issues.

Continue reading

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Looking in the Driscoll Mirror

Mark DriscollLord knows I am no fan of Mark Driscoll. For some years now, I’ve been chagrined at his approach to ministry, his bully-like posture and evidence that he has treated staff disrespectfully and with disregard. Though I think he has contributed some good things to contemporary evangelicalism, it was difficult for me to see past the stains.

My disdain for him only grew when plagiarism charges emerged and there was no apology. The final straw came when it was discovered that the questionably ethically tactics were employed to market his book…and there was still defense. Or at least, that is what was portrayed in the articles I read. And I was angry. Angry that the celebrity status had apparently insulated this man from suffering the repercussions of his actions. Angry that so many still defended him. Angry that he was getting away with it.

Then he apologized publicly and acknowledged his error.  He volunteered to take some action to rectify the situation. And he put up a mirror for us to look at. The mirror reflected something back that raises the question of how we treat the repentant and examine the attitudes of our own heart.

Driscoll’s apology shined the light on my own history of transgressions.  It put up a mirror to those extended periods that I acted unseemingly, especially a 13 year rebellious period away from the Lord. I’m a person who battles many regrets in life and wish I had done many things differently.  I even recall times when those around me tried to bring things to my attention but I was so seeped in my own way that I blew them off. Even when I repented in 1999 from my rebellion away from him, I still had stuff that wasn’t dealt with, ways that I operated in and unaware of its stains on my Christian walk and rebuffing attempts at exposure and correction. Continue reading

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