Well, first let me preface this post by saying I’m not so much referring to the moment of conversion, when you become a Christian. But I’m referring to is the on-going process of trusting in God to be who he said he is.
The other day I got into a good discussion with friends about trusting in the Lord. “What does that mean?” one asked. I think on a surface level we understand that to be trust that God is on our side and work things out. But I think it needs to deeper than that – trusting in who God says he is and relying on that in the face of contradictions.
Now, I’m about to get real honest in this post. What about to share is not for those whose life has gone pretty well or even better than expected and/or those inclined to dismiss the realities of living with deep disappointments. If that’s you, you might want to sit this one out.
For those who have experienced disappointing twists and turns, busted dreams, failures of various sorts and the overwhelming feeling that you thought your life would turn out better than it has, and boatloads of unanswered prayer this post will probably resonate with you. Because let’s be honest, all of these factors can take a toll on our ability to trust in the character of God. You can be substantially challenged when experiencing a good amount of unanswered prayer, when you’ve longed for him to intervene in situations and circumstances and he hasn’t and those nagging questions if God really cares bubble up. It’s when you’ve poured your heart out to the Lord for years for personal concerns to get back…nothing. It’s when you’re confronted with pending change of circumstances for the worse, and you wonder is God going to hear me this time? I know I have. And I know how easy that is, over time, to allow those thoughts to dominate, to shape how we see the character of God. Continue reading
I’ll state up front that this is a reflection piece based on observations, conversations, on-line interaction and ruminations. It is a way for me to process the events and responses to events that keep swirling around in my head in the interest of being fair but also empathetic with concerns of injustice where it exists.
With yet more instances of police shooting of unarmed Black men, the lament and visceral reactions are understandable. And the more I consider the evidence of these isolated and tragic incidences, the more I ask what this is really about. The quick answer is racism, the devaluing and hatred of Black lives. Of course that is what the Black Lives Matter advocates will have us believe and nothing else.
And really, who can blame this response? Considering the lengthy trail of historical injustices against Blacks in this country, it makes sense to me that each incident is like a fresh reminder that all men [and women] have not been treated equal. In fact, I think its safe to say that reminders of sins past fuel fans on the fire of present grievances and contribute greatly to how these instances are viewed. For each police incident causes a sort of PTSD and demonstrates the toll of years, no make that centuries, of image bearing transgressions and the stain they left on too many souls.
The fear, though exaggerated, is completely normal under such circumstances. In fact, I think it’s to be expected and why empathy is so critical. When brothers and sisters see black bodies die at the hand of police, it is reasonable to hear the hyperbole of not wanting to leave the house, fearing for life, concern for fathers and sons and wondering if a routine traffic stop could end in death. Don’t be so quick to judge, correct or dismiss. There is pain involved. Continue reading
Recently, I was in a business meeting in which I represented the organization I work for in a collaborative project with other organizations. The collaborative involved a grant application and therefore was contingent upon receiving those funds to be implemented. While we were putting the application together, at times others involved would assert positive declarations about receiving the funds under the premise that this would happen if we just declare it…in Jesus name.
These folks were acting on a strain of teaching that has infiltrated evangelicalism, that is positive declarations are needed to make circumstances happen. In Positively Powerless, Laura Martin, DTS grad, addresses the foundation and fallacy of this teaching as it contradicts the premise of Christianity. She sketches the historical development, which is built on the Positive Thinking movement that considers the mind a force in which we can “will” events in our favor. She notes this is not found in Scripture but rather has its foundation in Eastern Mysticism (I would have loved to see this built out a little more).
She then provides a snapshot of what Scripture does provide regarding the reality of sin and how that has impacted us. More importantly, Christianity is not built on positive declarations but rather submission to the lordship of Christ. In Jesus’ upside down kingdom paradigm, “success” from a kingdom perspective will sometimes result in our lives not looking successful or at least as the world sees it. We will see complete reversal of the Fall’s effect in the new heavens and new earth, but not entirely now. I love that she brings up Joni Erickson Tada because she is a prime example of what successful Christianity looks like from a Christian perspective, which does not jive with the proclaimers of positive thinking.
The chapter entitled A Christian View of Self is particularly noteworthy. Fueled by the the prominence of self-esteem that took root in Christian teaching in the 20th century, positive thinking places an emphasis on the power of self to create reality in contrast to the emphasis on Christ. She concludes, “When the church came under the power of this movement it had the significant consequence of distracting us from Christ, shifting our priorities, and creating a different gospel entirely.” Indeed, this movement has created a great distraction and emphasizing the wrong things! Continue reading
I keep saying I’m going to stop writing about about singleness and truthfully, this probably will be my last article on the topic. Because after I get to the point of this very short post, I don’t think there is more say on the topic.
I’ve seen so many articles that are meant to be encouragement to Christian singles. It goes something like this. You struggle in singleness, here’s how not to struggle. Typically these articles offer good points about contentment, eternal perspective and so forth. But where so many of these articles lose me rests on this one point – you’re not supposed to struggle in singleness.
The formulas offered are pretty common so that single people can remove the ache their singleness causes;
The problem is you’re not busy enough for the Lord
Marriage is idolatry
If the church valued singleness, then singles would be content
All these formulas have one thing in common in that they treat pangs in singleness like some kind of disease that needs to be cured. Implicit in theses prescriptions is the idea that if you suffer from any kind of discontentment, the problem is you and your lack of spirituality. Or the church is not enough to value singles. These common formulas emphasize that if you are discontent in singleness and a longing for partnership, there’s some kind of magic bullet that if you can just get it, you will no longer struggle. The implication of course, is that you really aren’t supposed to struggle. Continue reading
I’ve been working on a post on Rev. 13:16-18 and in doing some commentary diving, was struck by Greg Beale’s commentary on Rev. 13:11. The passage of Rev. 13:11-14 sets the backdrop of my next post and Beale’s poignant assessment of what this passage is saying;
And I saw another beast coming out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he exercies all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. And he performs great signs, so that even he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast who, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.
As I indicated in my post on reading Revelation, it helps if we understand Revelation to be a series of visions that describe the goings on of what happens between the first and second Advent of Christ, these visions describe the reality of what occurs during that period particularly in relation to the opposition that comes against Christ’s church. In other words, it doesn’t help to see these visions transpire after the church is taken out of the way via a Rapture and isolated to a 7 year period, but rather describes happens from the tine of Christ’s ascencion until his return. As evidenced by the presence of the church, very much describes the onslaught of deception that eventually pits the mainstream culture against Christianity. (It also helps to see chapter 13 as a reflection of a larger series of visions beginning at 12:1). By way of observation in our culture, I have much to say about this, which I’ll get to in a bit, but I found this section from Beale compelling and sobering. Continue reading