Archive for August, 2010

August 29, 2010

Happy Katrina Day!

Enjoy Katrina Day with this lovely local’s song with a nice montage of pictures that remind us of the beauty of the city beneath the sea.

August 27, 2010

Thin but Anchored

I finished the last post by asking how does knowing specific reasons behind why God leads Christians down a path of suffering help us survive.  This is not just an academic question. In many ways, a question like this helps give depth and understanding to the Christian life. For some, the answer results in turning away from Christianity and for others it strengthens the resolve. The reason for this is because this is a question that deals with hope. And despair. Resolve. Or to vacillate.

Everyone, regardless of their worldview, has to deal with  hopelessness at some point in life. It may be fleeting. Or it can last a life time. It can be private – the emperor’s new clothes; or it can be as plain as the clothes you are wearing right now (I hope no one is reading this naked, after all).  Hopelessness is a strange bedfellow. It happens because of family, community, work, finance, recreation, romance and the list goes on. Just think of the time in your life when you couldn’t see any hope – no answer to relieve you of whatever caused your despair. After all hope is powerful and it cannot be underestimated. The need and want to hope is powerful indeed. We cannot underestimate people’s needs for it – and all that we are willing to trade in to have it. We trade in logic as an example. Try to explain the statistical absurdity of the lottery to the impoverished who are so decimated by their situation that their only hope (seemingly) is something that siphons their meager bank accounts. Yet they play. Or people sucked into a prosperity gospel – bankrolling the expenses of false prophets just for the hope of good health or the promise of a comfortable lifestyle.

So this universal human experience – albeit its many manifestations – must be addressed. Unfortunately, I fear, too many don’t dealt with it. We find our worldview lacking to give us satisfactory answers and we don’t know how to press on and we feel defeated. We feel as if life has killed the dream we dream (which is why this song, for me, epitomizes the issue).

The answer lies beyond both emotions and reason. It lies beyond emotions because our emotions can be misleading. We can’t always trust our heart so to speak. For example, we can overreact in heated arguments with loved ones – saying things we don’t mean just to inflict pain. Or we can stop trying to love our spouse just because “we lost that loving feeling.” It is good to know that love is more than just a feeling. Not that emotions don’t have their place, but in a place of hopelessness all your feelings are going to do is perpetuate a state of despair. It is unreasonable to think we just will our feelings from one state into another by sheer will power.

Reason – or knowledge – also falls short. You can have all the right information in the world – all the answers – and still by submerged in despair with no comfort. Knowledge itself nor the capacity to reason a situation through mere intellect is enough to fortify one’s souls to deal with the onslaught of the difficulties of life. For example, we know that reason by itself falls short because James tells us so (James 2:19).

I have another reason to dismiss emotions and reason as the deciding factor in how a Christian should work out an understanding of suffering in his/her life. The reason has to do with our current culture. Before us we see vie two competing worldviews – postmodernism and modernism. And each elevates one of these answers as the path that will lead us to the answer (ultimately I think there is at least a book full of answers – as my last post implied, but this is a blog so I’m only picking one for today). But for the Christian, I think there is a different answer. It may seem silly at first, but stay with me on this. The answer that God gives Christians to persevere through despair and hopelessness is…hope. What? Were you expecting something else?

This is part of the faith journey that we are invited into by God. What gets you through the day when you feel not just paper-thin, but cigarette paper-thin? You need an anchor. A heavy anchor that can handle the weight of the storm. Here you are getting tattered and beaten up. How do you stand your ground. Well, you don’t really. You need something to keep you anchored as the storm picks you up, tosses you around and tries it’s best to destroy you. A heavy anchor….

…like Ununoctium. The heaviest element known to man (I think). It sounds like a good answer, but it isn’t. Ununoctium is like emotions and reason. It is synthetic and it  is temporary. It gives all the appearances of being the answer, but in the end – at the height of the storm it dissipates and you are left helpless.

No, you need a heavy anchor like uranium. It is heavy – the heaviest natural element (again, I think). And it is never going to disappear on you. In fact, it can even be used as armor if nothing else. Interesting thought. How does this anchor of hope look?

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance,  endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

The anchor of hope is made of faith. We are on a faith journey. Our covenant that we have been joined to God in is a covenant of faith. It has always been that way; that is why God’s covenant people are called “faithful” in the Bible (Gen 15:6; Ex 19.9; Hebrews 11 as examples). The nice thing about faith is that it is a gift from God (Gen 15:6 cf Gal 3:6; Rom 3:22-24; Eph 2:8) – not something we have to muster ourselves. We don’t have to muster up the will or the activity that surmounts to faith (Rom 9:11,16). Our actions are in accordance to it. So, as we struggle with life, our faith produces hope as we persevere. In this respect I think Augustine’s statement “I believe in order that I might understand” makes all the sense in the world. Take that saying and put it in a different context and it seems, to me at least, a little nonsensical. But in the world of living, when it is hard to make sense of a despairing horizon, it makes all the sense in the world. Perhaps the faith journey is the furnace where our emotions and knowledge are tempered. It is at this junction that our worldview most noticeably informs our understanding of reality. For Christians, like Augustine, it is not a vacuum behind the “believe.” It has in view the power behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the hope to which we set our eyes upon. That before God we have been declared innocent. That God, right now, is transforming us into innocents and that one day we will stand completely transformed. Our souls long for hope in despair because we were created for hope – and dwell in it in life everlasting we will.

August 20, 2010

Pinching Jesus’ Cheeks

Ever been in the place where you feel that  if Jesus were standing in front of you that you would pinch his cheeks?

For example –

Jesus:    Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall  (Matthew 7:24-27).

Me:  Awe, aren’t you cute (Pinching Jesus’ cheeks ensues in a manner similar to seeing a new born baby with hamster cheeks and you just can’t help but pinch them). Isn’t Jesus cute! (I exclaim to others around me).

– or –

Jesus:   I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14.6).

Me: Uh, yeah, okay. Sure thing (Slight squeeze with a little hand slap like when we want to chase a child off).

– or –

Jesus: Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand (Luke 14:27-31)?

Me: YEAH (Pinching Jesus’ cheeks like you do with another adult that you’d like to knock out, but don’t because it just isn’t a good idea)!

Does this sound a little sacrilegious? Well, it is, but I got to admit that I think we all pinch Jesus’ cheeks every once in a while. Because the one thing that pinching cheeks seems to connote is that you know better. Pinch the little baby’s cheek, because she is so cute and her precocious preciousness is fleeting and you know it. Pinch the child’s cheek in a condescendingly affectionate way because you see the bigger picture and he doesn’t. Squeeze your friend’s cheek because he is belligerent and arrogant and you are warning him to back down without getting hostile.

Often in our walk with God we struggle with the idea that we know better than God. As Christians, we struggle with God’s instruction. Perhaps we struggle with our love for materialism and don’t want to heed God’s warnings (Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13). Or the idea of being married is so important to you that you think that God’s wise instruction not to be unequally yoked doesn’t apply to your situation (2 Cor 6:14). Or that your life belongs to you (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23).

Or you want an easy life – not the life of Bill Gates, but a life without turmoil and hardships. I think this is the place where we are most likely to fall into the trap of pinching Jesus’ cheeks – you know, actually thinking we know better.  Fortunately, our wisdom is God’s foolishness (1 Cor 1:25) but we must wrestle with coming to terms with these difficulties.

After all, we do have promises such as 2 Timothy 3:12, where we are reminded that ” In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. ” I love this verse because it reminds me that the requirement to be persecuted is not living a godly life in Christ Jesus, but wanting to live a godly life. All you have to do is desire it. And Paul includes things like being shipwrecked, labor, hardship, being hungry and thirsty, cold, without clothes, insomnia as part of his list of persecutions he experienced in 2 Corinthians 11. So persecutions can manifest themselves in many ways because “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens (Ephesians 6:12).”

But there are other reasons for difficulties too. Things such as God gives blessings and sufferings indiscriminately to those who live in His creation (Mt 5:45), God disciplines those he loves (Heb 12:5-11), that the universe groans under the consequences of sin and that these consequences are a reminder of our needing salvation (Rom 8:22-25), that by our suffering Christians exhibit to the world Jesus’ sufferings so they know who it is that can save them (Col 1:24), and all of this ultimately leads to the glory of God (Rom 5:2-4).

But this all leaves me with a question. How does this knowledge help me? I’ll attempt to answer this question in my next post.

August 19, 2010

Thank YOU Brett Favre

August 11, 2010

Starting to Get Excited…

It is a little early, but I am starting to get excited. Last year for Katrina, this year for the Gulf oil spill…