Talking about what no one wants to talk about.
Talking about what no one wants to talk about.
>Because the bottom line is: Your understanding of the goodness of God will determine your journey.
Thanksgiving memories are usually fond ones, aren’t they? Turkey, gravy, smashed potatoes, stuffing, apple pie. But what about the other side of the holidays? The less popular stuff? The things we try to gloss over and forget because we hate them, like the consequences of eating too much, spending too much, fighting too much.
Thanksgiving 2008 reminds me of one thing: vomit. (Unfortunately, that’s not the only Thanksgiving that reminds me of this—but that’s another story from my other book.)
That night, one by one, my wife, my one-year-old, my four-year-old, my six-year-old, and I began what would become a 24-hour cycle of violent vomiting. We were all lying in beds and on floors near the bathrooms surrounded by towels and blankets. We ran out of clean ones in no time.
Physically and emotionally, I felt terrible. Movements that normally would require little to no effort became monumental undertakings. I was constantly on the verge of passing out. Even worse, I was helpless to assist my fatigued wife and frail children.
It wasn’t long before I started making deals with God while curled up on the bathroom floor:
“God, if you just make this go away, I’ll never again eat appetizers of chips, shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers, three plates of food in a row followed by apple pie and a hot fudge sundae. In fact, I’ll never overeat again. Do you hear me? I’ll also NEVER eat unhealthy things again. I vow this day to never again eat two dozen chicken wings and a full basket of onion rings while washing it down with a chocolate milkshake. No more Coke, chips, ketchup, French fries, or cheese popcorn. From now on I’ll only eat granola, egg whites, brussel sprouts, and carrot juice. No bad carbs. Only transfat free. And all organic. No more synthetic food for me— if you just make all this go away.”
If God is good, then he will… Right?
Ever make deals like that with God when life isn’t turning out like you want? I have. I do.
>Making deals with God is destructive and disappointing.
Read all these related posts in order here:
Just when you thought you’ve seen everything, along comes something to make you wince. You’ve heard of Fight Club. Well forget about that. I now present Fight CHURCH! No joke here. In fact, an actual quote from one of the participants is, “The hope is that through the fight I can create a relationship with the person I’m fighting and extend Christ to him.” Um, okay…. Watch it below.
“Let’s get ready to RUMBLE….in Jesus name of course.”
Nothing to see here but 2 minutes of runway models falling down. I don’t know why, probably because I’m cruel, but I can’t stop laughing. Enjoy! And if you do you might be a jerk like me…
PS-The last one is the best.
*Last week I started this subject with part 1:God Isn’t Good. Today is part 2 of 2.
Over the last few years, my wife and I have developed a friendship with a lady who relocated to the Atlanta area after Hurricane Katrina devastated her home and her life, not long after cancer had taken her son.
Having not been able to evacuate, on the night of the storm she woke up to a cracking noise. She stepped out of bed into a house filled with water. A tree had fallen into her bathroom. She waded across the street to her elderly neighbor’s house, which was on higher ground.
The next day, looking out her neighbor’s window, she watched the water rise to the roof of her house. She could see her possessions washing away. Parts of her house crumbled. The storm also claimed several of her pets.
Is God good?
Sometimes she still wonders, in times of deep reflection.
I could go on and on with story after story. Everyone has one or two, or three or four, or five or six. A person doesn’t have to live long before he or she starts facing disappointment, tragedy, or pain that tests the foundation of the soul. These experiences create an emotional and mental burden that’s often difficult to navigate and impossible to carry.
>Sometimes life crushes us. Sometimes life breaks us.
How does one reconcile the innate skepticism that seems to be the only consistent company during misfortune and heartache? It’s as if the steel of every soul and foundation of every person’s faith has a few hairline cracks that an experience or two can break.
This leaves me asking myself if our questions disappoint or offend God. Is it wrong to challenge his intentions, or his very nature? Is he displeased with our apparent variance of soul? With the pause in our devotion? With the rough patch in our otherwise absolute faith? How can I possibly think God is good, or wants the best for me, in the midst of the personal misery that life is peppered with?
I think it’s good to question that premise.
I know it sounds like crazy talk, but if we never wonder if God is good, how will we know?
How can we be sure if we don’t honestly ask? After all, even God’s own Son wondered about it.
While suffocating in gruesome peril on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45).
>Although sinless and flawless in how he lived, in this terrible moment even Jesus wondered: Is God still good?
Never has anyone questioned the premise more passionately.
The shortest verse in the Bible simply states, Jesus wept. But perhaps even more potent is what we hear in his words on the cross about being forsaken.
So here we are, left to live on, trying to figure it out, still wondering if it’s wrong. So many times I’m stuck in the thick of needing solace and healing, and it doesn’t arrive.
So many times I find myself with raised fist damning God in my heart because I think he isn’t good. I so much want to sort this out, return, and mature. How do we make sense of it and put it all back together?
There’s often a range of emotions I have to sift through before I’m willing to consider that God is good again. Sometimes I go through several. Sometimes it’s just one. If the pain is deep, I’ll wade through them all. And within this gap, there’s much that can undermine my faith.
Yes, question and doubt. But pursue.
The point is: never give up and I never give in.
Read all these related posts in order here:
So Prometheus comes out today. This is one of my favorite mythologies in film. The Alien creature as originally introduced by Ridley Scott will always be the 2nd best villain ever in moviedom. And I mean that in a good way. (If you’re wondering, Darth Vadar is #1). I have seen the Alien movies dozens of times. So needless to say, I am really looking forward to seeing it.
In any event, I had a friend (and a Strongarm fan) email me about some ideas of God and the origins of human life that Prometheus seems to delve in to. He had some great questions which is why I want to hit on the ideas briefly here.
“From what I have read, this movie will explore the idea that God may not have been our Creator, but “aliens” or extraterrestrials did. What do you think of that?”
This is a great question. Sure, there were a few other things he said, but this was the important part. This question also alludes to many other interesting thoughts as well, which is why I wanted to post the highlights of mt response to him.
>The idea of aliens seeding life on earth, is nothing new.
Even Richard Dawkins (the famous atheist) thinks that may be the case. Which is interesting considering atheists pride themselves on disavowing foolish theories and obvious ‘myths’ for what is scientifically able to be proven (often called a philosophy of Naturalism). Go figure. In fact, X-Files hammered this point all the time. Part of the reason I loved it so much. I LOVE sci-fi.
Do I think that is what happen? No. Not even close.
I suppose I am ‘narrow-minded’. I do believe in the Genesis account. There is much to be said on that–understanding Hebrew narrative, poetry, oral tradition, etc.–but as for the major events and spiritual truths, I hold them to be absolute. Here is a great message on understanding the meaning behind the genesis account by a Christian philosopher, John Rankin, I hold in high regard.
I think the question comes because often people will feel that they are limiting God for thinking we are the only life (like us) in the universe. It is often characterized as small minded or even selfish. As if ALL THIS is only for little old me?
This idea does not ‘limit’ God or the possibilities in a way that demeans him. On the contrary. It does the opposite.
Often people think it arrogant to think that God created all the universe with only us in mind–as if it is merely a painting for us to look at. In many ways it is, it represents his majesty and ability. And let’s not forget what it took for him to create it all: simply speaking it.
By his mere word it was all birthed into existence. In reality, it’s no big deal for him–to create us and all the universe. It’s as if it took him 5 minutes of his time, which is eternal and infinite.
>And in reality, to think otherwise is actually what limits him and not vice versa.
Why? Because we are confining God the measures of our understanding.
He loves us enough to make all this for us. It expresses his nature, power, and glory. And it keeps life interesting and beautiful for us as we learn and explore it all.
Just my 2 cents.
Enjoy the film! I’m seeing it in 3D at 10:30 AM tomorrow!
*This is part 1 of 2. You can read part 2 here.
God isn’t good. There, I said it. That’s what I’ve been thinking too many times at pivotal points throughout my twenty-four-year faith journey. It’s hard to come to terms with or admit.
I’ve never verbalized it before. Perhaps I didn’t want to be so brave, or maybe I didn’t want be so irreverent. There’s so much that rips at the fabric and undermines the alleged—and assumed—premise of God being good. Life has a way of pushing you toward cynicism.
>But I confess: When life sucks, I think God isn’t good.
When there are hardships and things aren’t going my way, or the way I want or think they should go, my tendency is to doubt, and eventually deny, that God is, or could be, good. It’s my default reaction. I’m not saying I’m right. I’ve long wrestled with the fact that I might be horrible for thinking it. At best, I’m not as mature as I should be. And the more difficult the experience, the more potent my questioning.
It’s not just me.
I’ve noticed that many people wonder about this more frequently than they’d like to admit. Everyone has a different way of saying it, but it seems to be the first impulse for so many when there’s pain and disappointment in life: If God is so good, then why would he let [insert painful situation here] happen? It’s common to wonder.
Do you wonder at those times? I do.
>Let’s be honest about our doubts and struggles.
It’s the first step toward working though this issue, which I will talk about in part 2 of this post next week. So come back, but for now:
When are the times in your life that you’ve thought God isn’t good?
Read all these related posts in order here:
>One indispensable trait of my faith is: perseverance.
Giving up is easy. We do it all the time. Everyone’s quit a job or dumped a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sometimes it gets more serious.
We may change or major halfway through college, because our first choice was too hard. I did that. I changed from Broadcast Communications to Mass Communications after 2 D’s in College Algebra. I loved math (and was good at it) until they mixed letters in with the numbers. I was smart enough to pass. I just didn’t want to put in the time and effort.
>Perseverance is one of the most important qualities you can develop in your pursuit of faith.
It is something I pray for in my kids nearly every night. It’s just that quitting is such an ugly trait to be characterized by. It’s destructive, defeating, and robs you of a better future.
Starting something is easy, but follow-through is much more difficult and way more valuable. It is something that can be built on. It is what finishes.
>Things worth doing, are worth doing right, doing well, and finishing.
If your faith is the most important thing to you, and it should be, then you must be persistent in the pursuit. You must persevere whatever comes your way. I once wrote and sang some lyrics on this for some friends that appeared on their EP I’ve Lost All Faith In Myself. I wrote:
“Never give up. And never give in.” –The Call, Venia
What else is there to say? Again, you must persevere.
>You’ve got to learn to get over stuff or it will hold you back.
You don’t want to be 50 years old rattling off a litany of hurts every time someone or something comes up—explaining why you won’t do that or be friends with them. That’s when you’ve become bitter. And bitterness rots the bones.
Don’t get me wrong. You’re probably totally right. How you feel is likely completely valid. Unfortunately, you can’t change people or past outcomes so it doesn’t matter.
>Festering will get you nowhere except alone and complacent.
That’s no place to be. That’s no goal worth achieving.
You can be responsible with your actions and attitudes. Don’t let other people or disappointment about life dictate yours. You’ll get nowhere relationally or professionally.
Learn to get over past hurts and disappointments. Talk to someone or get counseling if you have to. Just learn to get over it no matter what it takes.
Ephesians 4:30-32 states:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)
What else can be said? Just get over it or else you’ll pay is so many ways.
Sometimes you hear of things that you can never imagine happening. Like teachers threatened with fines if they say Merry Christmas and Christmas trees being renamed ‘holiday’ trees because of the religious undertones (except for the fact that the Christmas tree has zero religious significance and is actually a pagan symbol). Anyway, now there is another situation to add to this list.
In the world of the strange a student has been suspended for wearing a Christian t-shirt.
Does it depict people burning in hell like in Dante’s Inferno. Nope. Is it a pro-life shirt with an aborted fetus crying out? Not even close.
It is simply a shirt that states: Life is wasted without Jesus.
AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! THE HORROR!!!
According to this article:
Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, board superintendent, said some students and teachers found the T-shirt offensive. ”When one is able or others are able to interpret it as, ‘If you don’t share my belief then your life is wasted,’ that can be interpreted by some as being inappropriate,” she said.
Can you believe a High School student being so freakin’ evil? I know! What a jerk. Doesn’t he know he is not allowed to hurt anyone’s feelings? Dumb kid.
Obviously, I am kidding. This is a ridiculous situation. These officials are ridiculous. You have to wonder if he had worn a shirt that said Satan is my buddy! if officials would have been as upset. Probably not.
Now, the only saving grace in all this is that that this is not happening in America. Right?
Actually, I almost got suspended for nearly the same thing 20 years ago in High School (yes, I am that old and, yes, I wore some stupid Christians shirts every once in a while). Like this kid, I refused to listen to the assistant principal warning me citing ‘separation of church and state.’
So when I was called into the assistant principal’s office for an official reprimand, I asked for her to show me this policy in the student handbook. She couldn’t. And I was free to wear my cheesy religious shirts whenever I wanted.
Just some interesting news I thought you should know about happening up in America’s hat, aye (Canada, that is).
In the world of oddities, some Christians have made a horror film. What?
The film is called Harmless and it centers around a box of porn.
I’m not kidding. From the movies official site:
“Harmless is a feature film shot in the popular found footage style. It’s the story about a husband and father and his battle with a box of porn that is found in the closet. Once opened, the box of porn begins to torment the family, much like a poltergeist. It’s sort of a social commentary on how pornography can destroy a family.”
Below is the trailer for the movie. And I must admit, it’s low budget (you might say ‘indie’ if you wanted to be generous about it). But I must also admit, I found it a little interesting.
Watch the trailer:
So a couple weeks ago I talked about new Bible translations that remove “Father”, “Son”, and “Son of God” as not to offend anyone. Que your outrage because it gets worse…
>There is a new Bible called The Voice that takes out “Christ,” “angels,” and “apostle.”
Now, before you get your full outrage goin’, hit pause. Unlike the Bible translation that simply removes terms that might offend people (like Father, Son, and Son of God), which I would argue changes the very meaning, intent, and overall message, The Voice aims to be a simpler read.
Let’s compare. The ever-popular John 3:16-17 in the King James version reads:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
In The Voice it reads:
“For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction.”
>It is not really for in depth Bible study.
It is geared for the person who just wants to sit down and read on a lazy Sunday afternoon, perhaps. It is captures contemporary English (no King’s English or Shakespeare spoken here) in story from.
Just thought you should know.
Okay, just one more day of narcissism. Monday I posted some highlights from our road trip to Nashville and the Stand Together Fest. Here is footage that VENIA posted of the show last weekend when I performed “The Call” with them. It’s way better quality than my Flip video. Enjoy!
*Below is an excerpt from my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. I thought this would be good due to my involvement with Stand Together Fest last weekend and I talk about my band Strongarm.
I was in a band called Strongarm. Psalm 89 in the Bible inspired the name. It talks about God delivering his people with his strong arm. Our name also had a double meaning as an indirect reference to Jesus. But mainly I picked it because it sounded tough.
Musically, we called ourselves hardcore. The style fell somewhere between metal and punk rock. Like punk, it was outspoken and raw. Like metal, it was heavy and a little more polished. Either way, if you heard Strongarm, you’d probably wonder what the heck we were saying and why we were so mad. The style was passionate, aggressive, and cleansing. I loved it. I still do.
I was the lead singer, but I can’t really sing. So I was the screamer. I also wrote the lyrics. In fact, I wrote 15 of the 19 songs that are out there. But who’s counting? And I ran most of our business affairs. By the time I quit, we’d recorded a full-length album, released a few singles on seven-inch vinyl records, shot a music video, and done several small tours. There’s still a bunch of our merchandise floating around online auctions, if you’re interested.
I learned a lot in the band. Overall, it was a great experience. Though I quit in 1996, I still get a few emails a month from avid fans. I’m always complimented and honored by their well wishes.
When our first album, Atonement, came out, we did something out of character. We did a tour of Christian venues. The opportunity came up, so we took it for the quick exposure to support the record. There were a lot of memories, like the last show of the tour when we stood around and shared how much we hated each other before going on stage. Did I mention we were all Christians?
We brought along a friend named Tom. He volunteered to be our roadie, helping us with extra muscle. This gave him an opportunity to travel the country for free. He didn’t believe what we believed, but he was an amazing guy. We really liked him, and he liked our band. We also hoped the experience might have a positive influence on him. It influenced him all right.
One show in particular stands out. It was in Memphis. We arrived and were greeted by the promoter, who told us he’d received a call from our previous stop. They called to advise him that we weren’t “Christian” enough. They recommended he cancel the show.
You see, our friend Tom had an underground magazine (called a zine). He hoped to promote it and make contacts on the tour. There was some slightly coarse language in it, but it wasn’t a huge deal to us. It really wasn’t any worse than what is on primetime television. We just asked him to hand it out on his own time and not from behind our merchandise table.
Anyway, a parent got hold of one of the zines and went ballistic. So, we were horrified when we arrived in Memphis to accusations that our band promoted filth and pornography. At the time, we felt the parent’s reaction was unwarranted. Tom felt terrible about jeopardizing our tour. We felt bad for him. But something even worse had happened.
This hit Tom hard. He just wasn’t the same after that. He learned something about Christians. He learned to hate them. It’s something I’ve always struggled with, because there always seems to be some type of fallout when they’re around. The deeper issue was that Tom, like many, decided to stay away from Jesus. I don’t know where Tom is today, but in the grand scheme of things, I wonder if it would have been better if he hadn’t toured with us.
Nothing has discouraged me more in my desire to follow Jesus and know God than my observations of those who call themselves “Christians.” They make it so easy to hate them. They can be crazy, annoying, judgmental, and hypocritical.
Even worse, I regret that each of those words also represents me personally, to some degree.
So last weekend there was a music fest called Stand Together Fest (by the way, that is the title of a Strongarm song). I got asked to do a cover of “Trials” by Strongarm with Debtor and to sing “The Call” with VENIA (it was the 2nd to last show ever). So I took the whole family. My kids loved it.
PS-It’s been 17 years since I did “Trials” so don’t be too hard on the old man!
Sometimes it’ll go something like, “I don’t believe in organized religion, but I am very a spiritual person.” This seems to imply that a person is in tune with their soul (or true self), the environment around them, and others. But that’s not enough.
>Newsflash: Hitler was spiritual. Charles Manson was spiritual. It was just a different kind of ‘spiritual.’
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the term doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a catchall that sounds good but lacks any real meaning. It has style but no substance, if you will.
As a follower of Jesus, the goal should not be spirituality—or to be spiritual. The aim is higher and not so vague or ambiguous.
>Our best efforts are to be righteous and Christ-like.
Admittedly, these phrases are not going to be popular with co-workers during break time or your study group at school. So don’t use them in those settings! They are ‘inside baseball’ lingo and that’s okay.
Just know there is a difference. And let that understanding be you personal guide.
Strive to be righteous and Christ-like. That’s so much more than simply being spiritual.
It’s being godly.