Touchy Subjects

Dear Christian, Don’t Be A ‘Mature’ Christian

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I’m gonna say something that may rub some the wrong way. It’s not necessarily positive or motivational at first read. Too bad. It’s necessary.

I’ve been part of a lot of small group environments, and, with out a doubt, the most destructive people in those settings have been the ones who have called themselves ‘mature’ Christians.

>It’s a terrible thing to be in a group of people who simply want to work on spiritual growth, but a few just want to clobber others with religiosity.

Mature Christians are always the ones arguing about Harry Potter, rock music, baptism methods, versions of the Bible, and how to pray correctly. They are cold, judgmental, and gossipy.

>In the small groups I’ve been part of, it was the ‘mature’ Christians destroyed the intimacy of the group and ruined it.

They weren’t committed to the group or the relationships. They were only concerned with getting their needs met. Instead of spiritual curiosity, they possessed religious indignation. Instead of humble self-awareness, they were grossly self-satisfied (and maybe even a little self-absorbed).

I know this isn’t nice to say. I’m not trying to be critical, but sometimes some things just have to be said for fear of others falling into this mold (that’s me and you). So don’t. Please don’t.

I’m not perfect or even close. That’s why I prefer the term ‘seasoned’ Christian, if a term must be used. It is not so absolute. It implies that you’ve been through some stuff but haven’t necessarily arrived yet.

>Rather, a seasoned Christian is dedicated and devoted and still working on it.

Keep working on it, Christian.

>>>

Dear Christian, Be An Informed Citizen

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So there has been presidential debates and a vice presidential debate. There will be an election in a couple weeks so it seems fitting to talk about this.

>We live in a day and place where ignorance is the most costly commodity there is, so to speak.

Start by realizing all media has a bias. As I like to say, if you have a pulse you have a bias. Much to their protesting, that goes for the news media as well. So work at informing yourself. Read multiple sources—the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Watch Fox News and CNN.

>You also need to know the news media as a whole mostly votes for Democrats over 80% of the time–and always has.

I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, actually it’s left (Ha!). I simply think this is important to know when reading the ‘news’ and how facts are reported. There’s often a slant.

Part of the professionalism breaks down in philosophy. Too many journalists view their role as a means to “make a difference” or “report the truth” or “affect change.” I even remember hearing this while working on my Mass Communications degree from other students. The problem is, whose truth? Whose change? And for what difference?

>It’s unavoidable for ideology not to break through.

All these imply agenda and activism, and that is not the role of a responsible journalist. The fundamental role and purpose of a journalist is to report the facts, hence the name reporter. But I guess reporting facts gets boring, so ideology bleeds through. Don’t be offended. Just be aware.

>Be a responsible citizen and be an informed one.

Personally, I read around 100 headlines a day and about 10% of those articles from a variety of sources.

Being ignorant is dangerous. Being informed is effective.

>>>

This Message Is Awkward & Powerful At The Same Time

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Saw this last night and wanted to post it. It’s hard to watch but contains some things for us all to think about when coming to politics–and both sides of the aisle.

Sometimes I Hate Remembering

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I didn’t want to do this for several reasons. Mainly, because I thought everyone else would. But then I realized they probably wouldn’t. When something big, emotional, and traumatic crosses our paths, sometimes it’s easier to forget about it. But sometimes there is value in remembering the thing you want to forget forever. It can clarify what’s important to you. In a sense, by remembering the hard things you refresh your list of priorities.

I remember it like it was yesterday…

I was living with my wife in our first house in Ft. Lauderdale. I had taken a job at an insurance repair business as a supervisor of a small crew. We repaired water and fire damage, mainly. My wife and I were also deep in the process of helping start a church in Miami, FL.

This particular day I was working alone. My job was to go to south Miami(Kendall, I think) to do some punch-out on an apartment building that the company had the contract on. I have always been a news junky, so I had the radio on in my work van while driving.

Just as I had arrived there was a new flash about a small commuter plane that had accidentally flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. Of course, in a short time I would learn that both those details were quite wrong.

At that point, I had no reason to be overly concerned or worried. I thought it was awful, but I had no idea. So I gathered my tools and went into the apartment building to work.

I set up and went to work. I put on my little portable radio and started painting a door jam. While I was working and listening a second plane suddenly hit the other World Trade Center building. That’s when I knew it wasn’t an accident.

From there, the news was patchy. I was lacking focus and momentum, because I was a little afraid by this time. I continued working. I was dragging, but what else could I do?

And then the first building collapsed.

The news wasn’t clear on this at first. That’s because it was so unbelievable. Eventually, the truth was clear: The building was gone. I was in shock and sick.

And then…

The other one fell.

By this time, I couldn’t work. I decided to take an early lunch. Mind you, I had only been working some 30 or so minutes. So I took my lunch in the van and listened to the radio. And listened. And listened.

Finally, I decided I couldn’t work. I was just so distraught. So I packed up, went home, and watched the TV coverage all day and late into the night. I couldn’t watch and couldn’t stop, all at the same time.

I went to work the next day. I also continued to watch the news coverage at night. But by the weekend, I couldn’t anymore. It was just too much. And that is the main approach I’ve taken since then.

I remember only when necessary.

Several years ago, I flew up to Connecticut to help my Dad move. He lived in the south west portion of the state, which functioned as a suburb of New York City.

Through the course of the day, neighbors would stop by to wish my Dad well (we were pushing out the next day). One neighbor got to talking. We all sat on the grass in the spring sun. They had a beer and I had a Coke (since I hate beer, and all).

He got to talking about his big brother. Stories of childhood, being best friends, best men at each others weddings, etc. ensued. So I asked if his brother lived in the area.

That’s when he told me all about September 11th. And I remembered it all over again. His brother worked in one of the buildings.

He proceeded to recount the events of the day—from his perspective. He cried all the while. This was a big dude. He was a construction worker, big and burly. So it had quite an impact on me. I looked at the situation totally different. I’m glad he shared his story. In that moment, it brought clarity and does just as strongly every time I remember.

Remembering the things we never want to remember is hard. But sometimes it is good to. It helps us think on what is most important to us.

What were you doing that day?

>>>

*Remembering Never is something I repost each year, since there’s no better way for me to say all this.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness

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What if I told you the existence of evil is actually evidence of God’s true goodness. Sound outrageous? It is, but it’s true. Imagine if we could keep that mind when bad stuff happens. But let me explain first. Be warned, this is gonna sound a bit ‘churchy.’ There’s just no way around it.

>The ability to sin is an echo of God’s goodness—it shows how good God really is. Actually, it screams of how great he is.

Yes, you read that correctly.

God created us to be loved and to love. For love to be pure and real, it must be built on choice. There’s no mystery or romance in a love that’s mechanical. There’s no sincerity in a choice that’s forced. That’s not love. The teddy bear that says, “I love you!” when squeezed does not actually love anyone.

God didn’t make robots.

>Because God is perfect, because he’s unselfish, because God is good to his core, because he’s great in all his ways, he gave us the ability to choose.

Only then can there be true and complete love. It was dangerous for God to do this, as we now know. But it was the only way for it to be real love.

Then and now, we can choose to love and trust God, his ways, and his goodness—or not. When we don’t, whether or not we realize it, it’s because we have an issue with God’s sovereignty.

>Questioning the goodness of God comes down to a sovereignty issue.

That is, will we respect him, his nature, and that things are the way they are for whatever reason He has decided?

If you’ve ever read the stor of Adam and Eve in Genesis, you know they didn’t. And ‘forbidden fruit’ has become a metaphor for so many difficult choices in life.

Remember, if our Enemy can trick us into thinking God doesn’t know what’s best, or that God’s not really in control at all (or not doing a good job), or that he isn’t good, then it won’t be long before we stop believing God is real.

>The world is the way it is and things are the way they are because that’s the way God sees fit to let it be for now.

There may be a plan or reason, or, even worse, there may not be.

  • So, can we (you) accept that God is good and that the world is fundamentally in a broken state?
  • Can you accept that these may not be mutually exclusive—that both can exist, and often do, at the same time?

That means sometimes things are ordered and sometimes things just happen and are random. If we can do that, then there can even be purpose to our existence and value in each experience, whatever that may be—then we’ll mature and gain wisdom.

Why is it like this? I don’t know. This is why striving to be content is so important. It’s the precursor to wisdom and maturity—perhaps something Adam and Eve didn’t have the experience of life to glean from.

>But if I can let God be sovereign and not try to put myself in his place by deciding how things should be in the thick of my own emotions, I’m on the path to healing, rebuilding, comfort, and peace.

The idea that God is good is at the very core of creation. God started with “Let there be light.” And when he was all finished, he looked at everything, took stock of it, and declared it good. Creation—existence itself—is good by just being.

The very fact that there is life, the creative force set in motion by God, is daily evidence of his goodness.

>The bottom-line: Our understanding of the goodness of God will determine our journey.

If we don’t accept that God is good, our faith won’t survive the trials of life. It’s as unwavering as day and night are fastened in their places. Sometimes that’s not enough for us, but it’s always true.

Yes, sometimes you’ll wonder, but always come back to it:

God is good.

>>>

Read all these related posts in order here:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens

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So would you believe me if I said that the existence of evil is actually evidence that God is good? First, let me discuss why bad stuff happens…

I’ve been talking about our understanding of God’s goodness and how nothing affects our journey in life more (than how we view it).

I’ve gone though Anger ManagementGood & Mad…at God?Let’s Make A Deal, GodIf God Is Good, Then He Will…Good, God &, Evil.

Last week I said:

>God is good, but sometimes you’ll wonder, and it’s okay.

But we need to talk about the brokenness in this world because it is undeniable.

It is the result of sin. Yes, I know that is a very churchy and uncomfortable word. Too bad. It’s true. Call it brokenness, evil, or bad, but nothing says it better than good old fashioned sin.

Sometimes it’s because of a person’s sin, their choices—or sometimes our own. Like when someone chooses to drink and then drive. Then he ends up smashing into a car full of teens on their way home from a Friday night football game. They all die because of his sin.

>But then there’s evil that we’re the recipients of due to no one’s apparent choice.

For example, my son is had minor, but very painful, medical procedure a couple years ago. It will be one of several he has to have. He’s covered with strange bumps on his skin. It started as just one. Now there’s about a hundred.

One afternoon I had to reluctantly bring him to the doctor as, one by one, they’ll be scraped off. (Don’t worry; he got a chocolate milkshake on the way home.)

Why did my innocent little seven-year-old have to go through this? Why did he have to deal with a belly covered in scabs for days after? Why did he have to endure this whole process several times over? Why did he have to endure this pain? He didn’t choose it and fought off tears when just thinking about it.

It’s because of sin. Not his, of course, but an earlier one.

>This world is broken for the time being.

It’s a brokenness that entered just after the dawn of humanity. And it was a choice.

Most people know the story and the characters: Adam and Eve. God told them to enjoy all that he created. It was all good. He also told them to stay away from one tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That was the one thing they shouldn’t choose. But they did.

With this one choice, sin entered the world. With this one choice, the goodness of God would forever be questioned and doubted.

>Choice was the gateway for sin and the fuel for all future doubts.

We all suffer from sin, whether we choose it or not. It surrounds us. But there’s also good in the world that brings healing. It battles the brokenness of sins past. It fights against sins present. That goodness is in God and from God. And it’s best expressed and represented in the life and sacrifice of his son Jesus.

But you might be thinking I never answered the question:

If there’s a God and he’s good, why does he still let bad things happen?

It may sound outrageous and counterintuitive, but the existence of evil is actually evidence of God’s true goodness.

But I’ll explain that next week…

>>>

Read all these related posts in order here:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

God is Good, but…

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So why does God let bad stuff happen?

I’ve laid out a lot of emotions that I sift through to get back and eventually accept that God is good, and the consequences if I don’t (Anger ManagementGood & Mad…at God?Let’s Make A Deal, GodIf God Is Good, Then He Will…, Good, God &, Evil). And if all this doesn’t help me accept it, I try to keep in mind what will happen if I don’t. I may stop believing anything at all.

>Although we might be hurting, upset, let down, confused, frothing with frustration, questioning, doubting, scared of future pain, or filled with skepticism, we can learn to accept that God is good.

This is an essential survival skill for our faith.

Even though we might not be fully convinced or totally believe it while in our mess, we’re capable of accepting it.

This is, perhaps, the flipside of these emotions. It’s when they can be positive and a good thing. Specifically, passion can fuel you to pursue, achieve, and endure. It can fuel you to finish graduate school, stay committed to your entrepreneurial idea, and make a bad relationship better—or accept that God is good when times are tough. This passion for God, his nature, and his character can be the determination we need to get through.

>God is good, but sometimes you’ll wonder, and it’s okay.

You can still learn to accept the premise.

There’s evil in our world—that much is undeniable. It’s the source and reason for our pain. Why is it here? This cannot be left unanswered, since it’s actually what battles what is good. It always has.

But more on that next week…

>>>

Read all these related posts in order here:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

iPhone screenshot

So What About Gay Marriage?

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Did you know that Chick-Fil-A serves hate-chicken? That’s what some would have you believe since the owner was asked (at the very end of a long interview) about the long-established culture within the company. Here’s what CEO Dan Kathy said:

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives…” [online source]

AAAHHHHHHHH! THE HATE! DIE CHRISTIAN SCUM FROM YOUR FATTY HEART-ATTACK INDUCING FAST FOOD!!!!

Seriously though, have we come to a place that an opinion like this is considered hate-speech? Chick-Fil-A serves anyone who comes through the doors, and even hires homosexuals. If they didn’t that would be bigotry.

It’s gotten to the point where cities want to prevent Chick-Fil-A from opening shop in their city. This week New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn sent a letter to New York University president asking the school to immediately end their contract with the fast food restaurant. She said:

“I write as the Speaker of the NYC Council, and on behalf of my family. NYC is a place where we celebrate diversity.”

Unless, you have a Christian world-view I guess. In response, yesterday was an unofficial “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.” I talked to someone last night who ate there 3 times that day. It was freakin’ HUGE, which, ironically, has gotten basically no media attention. But if 10 stinky hippies protest in front of Chick-Fil-A it makes the news cycle all week. Craziness.

What is happening to us? Can we all discuss controversial issues, like same-sex marriage, without hanging each other on the gallows?

I want to try to. Don’t you?

This weekend while the kids were watching an episode of Good Luck Charlie I decided to see what people were saying. That’s when I saw one of my friends on Facebook post:

Hey Christians, please remind me why gay marriage is”wrong”? And there’s this little thing called “proof” that I expect for each and every one of your claims. : )

The questions didn’t make me mad. It didn’t even make me squeamish. And it was clearly in response to this Chick-Fil-A issue that’s been building.

>I actually think this is a fair question to pose to Christians.

But I also think we must all agree on the starting point for this discussion.

There were, as usual, dozens of comments posted very quickly. It is a discussion I don’t usually get into, but for some reason I posted a response. Why? Did I want to mix it up? Nope. I just think we all need to be able to talk about things–even heated ones.

>Curiously, I have found any time that someone has been discussing this issue, the premise is never established.

A few times I have tried to establish a premise to build this discussion (and issue) on. The interesting thing is that I have NEVER had a response. Not once.

What do I mean? What’s that premise? Well, let me explain by quoting the comment I posted in my friends thread. I simply said:

I accept the challenge. But first, define the term “marriage”.

Immediately, my Facebook friend ‘liked’ my question. And predictably, it has been a week with over 50 comments and no one has answered my question. And I have to wonder why?

>There’s no question that gay marriage is an issue worth discussing no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.

But if I, as a Christian, am going to answer this and get in to this discussion, then we need to establish the starting point. My point is, Christian, you do need to be able to answer this question in a way that is creditable and respectable.

>In fact, no matter what side you are on with regard to this issue, you need to answer it in a way that is creditable and respectful. 

That means for Christians (or any supporters of traditional marriage), we have to say more than, “Well, because the Bible says…”

And if you are a supporter of gay marriage, you’ve have to build on more than an emotional basis.

And it must be said, that just because someone has a different value system than you, doesn’t make them prejudice or a bigot.

>We’ve all got to develop enough strength of character to be able to take challenges to our beliefs and values. Let’s stop being so touchy.

Lastly, I share something that I think you will find very interesting, maybe shocking.

I was in my truck waiting in line to pick up my kids from camp on Monday. I was listening to the radio and decided to see what the dictionary had to say about all this. So I got out my iPhone.

I opened Google Chrome and searched for Dictionary.com.

I clicked on the link and typed in “marriage”.  And here’s what came up first:

Did you see that? The first definition, and don’t ask me why it all came up like this, was the definition for gay marriage. So where is the traditional definition of marriage? You know, the one that most cultures have held to for the past 4,000 years?

The traditional definition of marriage came up 10th. That’s dead last.

Just thought you should know.

XXXX

Good, God, & Evil

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This is a week that many people are wondering: Is God good? It’s natural when there is death and tragedy. It makes us ask:

If there is a God, and He is good, then what about all this evil in the world?

Makes sense. And besides the disappointment and pains of life, I don’t have everything I want. I’m not living in my dream house. I’m not as smart as I want to be. There’s so much, and so many ways, to wonder if God is good.

So how can we be convinced that God is good in the midst of our personal misery or frustrated desires?

We probably can’t.

>Actually, my purpose in raising this objection is not to convince the unsure to be certain that God is good.

Although I would love nothing more than to always be fully convinced of this, and to fully persuade others, I also recognize that my confidence will likely change with the next pain. I’m not trying to convince.

What’s possible is to learn to accept the premise even though we might question it, find it hard to believe, or aren’t fully convinced in the moment. This comes down to navigating the dangerous waters of emotions we go through in that gap—the Happiness Trap, depression, anger guilt, fear, etc. We can’t pretend they’re not there. We can’t ignore them. We must watch for warnings, mark the course, and weather through them. Only this way will they not consume us.

Thousands of years ago, the prophet Jeremiah warned his fellow Hebrews:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 tniv)

He knew that so much of where we end up in life hinges on how we process those risky emotions. After thousands of years, it’s still true. They can trick you into buying stock on a tip that’s obviously too-good-to-be-true. They can get you believing you don’t love someone anymore (since love is, of course, a choice).

>Even worse, feelings can even get us wondering if God is good.

In Gethsemane, Jesus’ flesh was weak. Part of him didn’t want to let him believe that God was still good. But his spirit knew it to be true, accepted it, and moved forward.

Can we do that? We have to learn to or our faith will not endure.

>>>

Read all these related posts in order here:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

 

Anger Management

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Last week I talked about getting Good & Mad at God. It’s not something to be proud of, but it’s not something to ignore. It happens so we have to deal with it. But there’s more to say…

>Often, when I get mad there is a pervasive thought and feeling that something isn’t right.

It’s true. Something isn’t right. The world is broken, and we all suffer the results. We’re made to live in it and navigate the consequences, even the ones that aren’t self-inflicted. It’s easy to get angry about it.

What’s dangerous is that when a person is mad, he or she tends to do things they wouldn’t normally do.

>Anger skews perspective, clouds judgment, and rattles self-control.

Ever known anyone who has let pain set them on a course that has completely changed them for the worse? It’s when a person can suspend principles, ethics, and standards of morality in order to indulge one’s self. No one just all-of-a-sudden ends up a good-for-nothing, a completely different person. Sometimes it begins with a simple happiness fix. But more often, underneath it all is the strange and misled vengeance of trying to get back at God, or to hurt God, for letting all this happen. The irony is that we end up hurting only ourselves and the people around us.

>Anger untamed and unresolved turns the heart bitter and cold.

A bitter person refuses to see anything good at all in life. Constant complaining and seeing the negative side of everything is the norm. What’s worse, it only perpetuates and amplifies the original pain. The best solution is to find a way to face the situation and deal with it rather than making deals, inebriating, or trying to get God back. Who knows, maybe even look at the bright side of life?

How do I deal with anger?

When I’m ready, I aggressively pray (honest and frustrated praying, that is). I talk to God, to friends, to my wife. I go to the movies and briefly get alone. I read a fiction book. I eventually also read the Bible and pray for wisdom and comfort. All this helps me change my normal way of thinking and makes room for better ideas and insight. Through small changes in my routine I’m able to change my perspective.

The point is, I don’t stay alone and fester, letting my mind stray and skew my view of reality. I’ve figured out the pattern by which I get to productive solutions. Everyone has to do that, because bitterness is just over the horizon.

>We can’t pretend we aren’t mad at God for not making things easier or better.

Sometimes it’s confusing and messy—all relationships are. The point is, at whatever cost and effort, work it through. That’s how relationships end up working out in the end, even a relationship with God.

Be honest, be mad, work it out, be done with it, and move on. That’s the best way to manage your anger. That’s the right way to manage your anger.

>>>

Read all these related posts in order here:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

Good & Mad…at God?

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There’s an old song I know called What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? It was one of the many songs my dad and his friends would belt out when sharing a pilsner and playing their guitars at parties. They’re Swedish, so they love boats. In fact, they leisurely sailed across the ocean for two years, visiting many parts of Europe, North Africa, the Canary Islands, and the Caribbean, before landing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (where I’m from). I even lived on a sailboat for the first couple years of my life.

It’s an old sea shanty song. Sailors would go round and round through the verses to help the time pass as they worked through their duties.

The song is about what to do in the event you discover a sailor drunk and passed out on the ship in the morning. All the remedies involve either teaching him a lesson or getting rid of him—like shave his belly with a rusty razor or tie him in knots and throw him over. Why? Because he’s either a complete reprobate or very angry.

Most people don’t know any drunken sailors. But we know someone who shares similar characteristics of one. Maybe we’ve acted like that a time or two in a rough patch ourselves.

>We all get mad at God.

I think it’s all part of the process of dealing with the deep pains of life while we’re living in the gap between the situation that has caused the pain and deciding if God is still good. The question is, what do you do from there?

My wife was recently sick, real sick. Laid up in bed and weak. I changed my work schedule to take care of her (and to keep the kids on the other end of the house). Mainly, I was just trying to leave her alone and let her relax. Actually, I had to force her to do nothing. She’s not very good at it. She’s a bit of a busybody. Rather than having her be sick for several days, I was trying a new strategy. I made her stay still to see if the sickness would go away sooner. And it did.

The kids started to miss her during the day. Dad is just not as patient, creative, or attentive with them as she is.

We were watching TV when my oldest son looked at me and reluctantly shared his thoughts. He said, “I know we’re supposed to think about God the most, but when Mommy’s sick I think about her more.” It was a connection he made on his own. So I told him, “I understand. I do the same thing. It’s okay, God understands.”

It scared me. Whether or not he understood it, he’s on the way to questioning the goodness of God. He’s also on his way to having to deal with anger. In his own way, he was caught up in the process I’ve been describing: Mom is sick (life’s hard and I’m disappointed), I want her to feel better (God, can you change this situation and bring a ray a sunshine?), she’s not getting better and I keep thinking about it (when will God do something about this?), I don’t know what to do. My son’s not old enough yet, but one day he’ll understand that something isn’t right, and it will evolve into getting mad.

>I only hope he’ll figure out how to work through it before it turns into bitterness.

And that’s the real challenge for all of us: How we view God’s goodness in the middle of our pain can be the determining factor in our faith and if it endures.

>>>

Read all these related posts in order here:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

Let’s Make A Deal, God

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*Last week I started this subject with part 1:If God Is Good, Then He Will…. Today is part 2 of 2.

I don’t know why. I just do.

>Every once in a while, I think God owes me one.

I negotiate in order to gain God’s favor, so he’ll deliver me bad moments as I talked about in part 1 last week.

My hope is that I can avoid the full weight of the pain. Perhaps God will even throw in a small measure of “happiness” to move me along the road to recovery and healing, so I can get back to my “normal.” Although this won’t mature me, I’ll settle for it.

I even make changes to sweeten the deal and convince God I mean business.

I’ll pretend to be better than I am. I might have a patch of real benevolence and send some money to help starving children or to build wells for tribes in Africa.

I’ll go to church more often and more regularly: Sunday, Wednesday, and a Bible study. I’ll read the Bible every day and pray several times a day.

I might turn into the best husband ever for a week, with kind words, flowers, cooking and doing dishes. I morph into father-of-the-year for a few days. I get home late but still play Candy Land and build forts in the living room with the kids. I comment positively on the littlest things the boys do and tell them how amazing, talented, and smart they are—that they can be and do anything they want to do in life (which is ironic, of course, since I’m struggling with the disappointments of life myself).

>Trying to make deals with God isn’t productive because it usually doesn’t work.

Essentially it’s not sincere and doesn’t yield long-term change. Therein lies the problem with deals. I think God knows what I’m trying to do, which is partly why it doesn’t work.

Making deals also makes pain worse, because I start to get mad that it’s not working. This too gives God the blame, even though I am the one making the deals in the first place. It’s all twisted. Plus, getting mad can turn into anger and evolve into bitterness, if we aren’t careful.

And this leads to the real problem: It leads me to start to doubt the goodness of God. Let’s not forget:

>Our understanding of the goodness of God will determine our journey.

>>>

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

5

Recently I’ve written God Isn’t Good and God Still Isn’t Good. In these I discuss the dilemma of understanding the goodness of God. Since this is such a HUGE topic, I’m continuing this theme.

>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:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

God Still Isn’t Good

5

*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.

Jesus wondered.

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:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

God Isn’t Good

5

*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:

God Isn’t Good.

God Still Isn’t Good.

If God Is Good, Then He Will…

Let’s Make A Deal, God.

Good & Mad…at God?

Anger Management.

Good, God &, Evil.

God is Good, But…

Reconciling God & Why Bad Stuff Happens.

The Existence Of Evil Is Actually Evidence Of God’s True Goodness.

Dear Christian, Don’t Be A ‘Christian’

1

*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.

>>>

Killing Babies No Biggie

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I will be discussing and posting some awesome stuff from our road trip this weekend. But now it’s time for a heavy Monday. Sorry.

Here is a truly disgusting development. According to this article:

Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.

Sounds made up doesn’t it? Or something in some pseudo-civilized futuristic movie where every aspect of everyone’s life is controlled by the elites (like in Gattaca). Unfortunately, this is true.

These ‘medical ethicists’ published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.

They call it an “after-birth abortion.” I suppose this makes them feel better, since it is nothing less than murder.

Regarding the most vocal objections, the journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said these are “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

So this is what a ‘liberal’ and ‘enlightened’ and ‘civilized’ society comes to? No, we don’t eat our young. We just kill them because they are a bit too inconvenient for the level of luxury we desire for our lives.

Disgusting. Lord forgive us for entertaining these ideas.

>>>

Wanna Get Mad At Some ‘Christians’? Then Watch This…

0

You know them well. It’s the group from the church that holds up those terrible signs at soldier funerals and other highly visible events. They are from Westboro Baptist Church. Most people hate them. They even mad it into my book.

In any event, here is a heartbreaking news segment from a young lady who they banished. It’s terrible. Most importantly, these people are awful representations of Jesus and I have nothing in common with them. Watch it:

Famous Atheist, Richard Dawkins, Not Sure If God Doesn’t Exist

1

Last week there was a big atheist coming out. It was called the Reason Rally. It was held in Washington and where thousands of Atheists gathered to, well, I don’t know…come out against religion I suppose. I other words, it is ‘unreasonable’ to believe in God.

According the the Reason Rally website:

  • The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it!
  • This will be a positive experience, focusing on all non-theists have achieved in the past several years (and beyond) and motivating those in attendance to become more active.

Now on to their own words…

There were many speakers. Several of the featured names were famous folks who sent in videos: Penn Jillette, Bill Maher and U.S. Rep. Pete Stark. Others, popular in the Internet niche of skeptics, free-thinkers and atheists, came to the microphone to address the soggy crowds in person. A sampling:

  • Friendly atheist blogger Hemant Mehta urged people to run for office, any post from school board to Congress to dogcatcher.
  • Greta Christina, author of Why Are You Atheists So Angry?,attacked every major faith, even the teachings of the Dalai Lama. In a long litany of what makes her angry, she got all the way back to Galileo (overlooking the modern Catholic Church’s restoration of his reputation). A bit ironic.
  • Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel, said there really is someone who loves and protects him and watches over his actions — “It’s me!” Christians do that too. It’s called responsibility and accountability.

David Silverman, Reason Rally organizer and American Atheists president, also spoke. His words were a thundering call for “zero tolerance” for anyone who disagrees with atheism.

Yummy!

Headlining was famous atheist, Richard Dawkins. So was he ‘reasonable’. You decide.

Dawkins called on the crowd not only to challenge religious people but to “ridicule and show contempt” for their doctrines and sacraments.

Mmmm good.

But now is a good time to poke a little back at Dawkins. Here is my favorite Richard Dawkins quote in which he says he cannot be sure God does not exist. Just thought you should see it. It’s very interesting, nonscientific, and unreasonable.

Or perhaps it’s the most reasonable thing he’s ever said. Watch it here:

What It Means To Be A Christian & What Andy Stanley Left Out About Anne Rice At Church

2

So yesterday Andy Stanley preached an amazing sermon at North Point Church (as usual). He is doing a series called “Christian” and what that term means. My wife is convinced Andy read my book because some points sound so similar. I even have a chapter called “Christians” in which I challenge the Christians to not call themselves a Christian for a short season. You can read excerpts in my post called “Lose Your Religion, Christian.” I assured my wife I probably stole my ideas from Andy or someone else.

In any event, yesterday (Part 2), as an illustration Andy spoke about the famed vampire novelist Anne Rice becoming a ‘Christian’ and then leaving ‘Christianity.’ Clarifying, Andy highlighted what Rice wrote:

“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian … It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

-and-

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me…But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”

Who could disagree? Being a Christian is different than being a follower, or disciple, of Christ. Rice is correct.

>But Andy Stanley left something out about Anne Rice in his sermon.

What? Yup.

Rice’s comments are nearly 2 years old and, subsequently, the core illustration is incomplete. Rice has since gone a step further.

Anne Rice is no longer even a follower of Christ as defined in the Bible. In a recent interview regarding her new book The Wolf Gift Rice admitted:

“Everyday, I’m asking myself that, because my faith in the Christian belief system totally collapsed. I realized a lot of what I believed about Jesus was rooted in lies and falsehoods. What I’ve tried to preserve is a love for and a trust in God. Jesus coming here is the most beautiful love story I’ve ever heard.

I know I feel a palpable God — with a human face. I can’t really tell another person what I believe that is. I believe that there is a maker of the universe that knows every hair on our head — and has made this entire universe and is very aware of us and I hope and pray this maker of the universe loves us and — and I think he does.”

She says she remains “committed to Christ.” While I respect her views I’m not sure what that means anymore. It sounds a bit more like the Christ consciousness that New Agers speak of. This all-roads-lead-to-heaven spiritual vanilla is not what Jesus lived, spoke of, or died for. Jesus spoke of following Him and a narrow path (or road), but I guess if you don’t believe the Bible anymore, it is irrelevant.

Although I would not judge Rice’s heart, based on her comments, I question if she is still a follower, or disciple, of Christ. No, that is not essential to the sermon illustration, but it is some information that is important to know.

>>>

 

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