Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

questions

Posted: October 26, 2010 in faith, God, my thoughts

some questions I’ve been working through, pondering, dealing with recently…

How is it that I’ve forgotten so much of Eli’s childhood already? We’ve never had a video camera, and for his first two years, we didn’t have a digital camera either, so his baby years aren’t extremely well documented.  But even now as I try to think back to his first crawl, walk, words, etc…it’s all so fuzzy.

How can I love God so much, yet at times be such a wretched person? And knowing that David, Jacob, Solomon, and the like did bad things doesn’t help.  There are times when I can’t believe the mean, selfish, thoughtless things I do, and question my true love for God.

Do people REALLY get sent to hell? I worked for a couple of years with a guy (he was 50 yrs old at the time) who was a man of faith, and truly believed that all mankind would be in heaven, that God was a God of such deep, fierce, unimaginable love, that He would bring all peoples, past, present and future, to live for eternity with Him.  He didn’t share this thought much, because other people would break into arguments with him.  But when he and I talked about it a couple of times, I have to say he made a convincing argument.

At what point will scientific breakthroughs and discoveries cease? Is it possible, that at some point, we will have discovered and invented and researched all there is in the world of science?

God, can you please help me fathom the reaches and intricacies and awe of the universe?

Is God actually still active in the lives of humans today…..or does life just happen as it happens, and we sometimes attribute things to the hand of God?

What will my son be like when’s he’s 20 years old? Will he still believe, and have his own faith?  Will he be a good person or a bad person, and how much of that will have to do with my fathering?

Why is my left foot about 1/3 of a size larger than my right foot? It’s not cool, because it makes finding a good fitting pair of shoes more difficult.

Is it possible to do anything in life without some type of selfish motivation involved?

I’d really, really love to know if it was 7 literal days, 7 geological eras, 7 “God” days, or maybe even a big bang.

How old would Michael Jordan have to be before I could beat him in a game of 21?

What were some of Jesus’ favorites? Favorite food?  Color?  Time of day?  Season of the year?  Old Testament story?

Will my questions really be answered in heaven, or will I really not give a crap once I’m there?

an evil trick

Posted: October 19, 2010 in faith, sin

My small group is reading / discussing the Donald Miller book Blue Like Jazz on Monday nights.  I realize that this is by no means the new must-read in the world of Christian faith….it’s been out for several years, and I’m not sure if there’s  a pastor on earth who hasn’t read it.

But only 2 of us in small group had ever read it, and for me it was nearly 3 or so years ago, so I’ve forgotten most of it.  And whether you like the content or not, it makes for great discussion.

In chapter 2 – which we discussed last night – Miller writes…

“I believe the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man’s mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.”

Reading this again impacted me profoundly.

By my estimation, I am awake approximately 120 hours each week, give or take an hour.  I spend about 9 of those hours driving to and from places, including work.  I spend most of those hours listening to sport talk radio.  I spend 45 – 50 of those hours actually at work.  About 6 of those hours are spent cooking, cleaning, doing chores around the house.  Typically about 9 – 10 hours each week are spent at Crossings and/or at small group.

At this point, there are at least 45 hours leftover.  Let’s safely assume that at least 10 of those hours are spent watching television….some weeks as many as 18 hours.  A couple of hours each week to travel to Walmart and do grocery shopping, and we’re still left with 20-25 hours remaining.

Now let’s ask the tough questions. How many hours each week do I spend engaging God – including time at church and small group?  (Answer – maybe 3 hours?)

How many hours do I spend truly engaging my son, reading books with him, playing with toys, taking him to ride his bike?  (Answer – probably another 3 hours?)

How many hours do I spend engaging my wife, talking, turning off the tv, and just being attentive to her as a husband and friend?  (Answer – another 2 – 3 hours?)

This sh*t has to stop.  The truth is, each week I probably spend more time driving in my car, listening to sports talk, than I spend in authentic relationship with God, my wife, and my son COMBINED.  I spend 5 times more time watching television than I do reading a book.  I’ve spent nearly as much time drafting this blog post as I have in one-on-one prayer with the Father in the last few days.

The devil has had an evil trick up his sleeve, and he’s caught me hook, line and sinker.

God help me.

Spiritually Unbalanced

Posted: August 6, 2010 in faith

(Does one post a month qualify as blogging?  It will have to for now.)

It has occurred to me recently that Christian Spirituality (to quote Don Miller) has become more and more difficult for me to flesh out on a daily basis.  By this, I am not referring to things like daily devotions, extended prayer times, and listening to worship music every time I’m in my car.

The greater struggle has been more foundational.  Things like….Taking small moments to remember God throughout the day.  Being a more loving, accepting person.  Desiring to spend time with close friends, being in community.  Looking forward to opportunities to help others.  Intentionally inviting God’s presence into my family’s life.  Remembering the big picture, of who God is and who I am and how I fit in this world.

It feels a lot like I just need my life to slow down, but I’m not at the wheel and can’t make it happen.  Problem is, God isn’t at the wheel half the time either, because I’ve shoved Him in the trunk, thinking we’ll just have to have a talk when the car finally stops for a bit.

I have the occasional “high”, sometimes during worship on a Sunday, or maybe in a random moment with Eli.  But they are temporary, and pass quickly.

It’s been easy to make excuses like “I leave home each day at 7:00am to go to work, and usually don’t get home until 6:00pm (exhausted and stressed), and by the time we have dinner, do some laundry or dishes, get Eli cleaned up and ready for bed, there just isn’t time for anything else, just busy-ness.”

There are times when I wish we lived out in the country somewhere, worked at a bank or office or grocery store in a nearby small town, and could simply get away from the urban sprawl that seems to suck time right out of my life, and sit on a porch with glasses of lemonade and simply enjoy God’s beauty.  It sucks to feel like we have to drive 90 minutes through ridiculous traffic to enter the mountains and enjoy it now.

The thing is, God is here, now, in everyone and everything.  He’s there to meet, to enjoy, to converse, to know.  I just have trouble seeing it, and my vision keeps getting more blurred.  I have expectations about life or friendship or balance or spirituality that come from a selfish place but feel real and justified.  In short, I feel out of balance.

Do Christian bookstores sell tightrope poles?

The Shoreline

Posted: November 9, 2009 in culture, faith, money

Over the last 8 years of my life, debt has been a constant reminder of my terrible actions and stupid decisions.  The terrible actions and stupid decisions, well, I won’t get into those today.  As for the debt…

It feels much like jumping off of a sinking about about a mile from shore.  You’ve got on a life jacket, so you’re staying alive, but you’re a mediocre swimmer, and the current proves too strong.  You swim hard, kick, fight, make progress, and can see the shoreline.  The shoreline full of debt-free people who enjoy less stress, take vacations, save for the future, and drive paid-for cars.

Then you stop to catch your breath, and the current does its thing.  And 8 years later, instead of being a mile from the shoreline, you’re now .85 miles away.  Closer, but a long ways away and struggling.

I know the situation is about 97% my fault, but it’s so much easier to be mad at the system, the credit card companies, ridiculous health care premiums, and the untimeliness of certain costly events.

Dave Ramsey has been a good guide and a reasonable voice, but his methods alone can only take you so far.  Selling every unessential item you own, taking on three jobs, and never spending a dime on anything unnecessary sounds inspiring when you read it.  Until, of course, you realize every unessential item you own is probably worth about $100 total, you care more about the sanity of your family than about working three jobs, and that never spending a dime on anything leads to hermitism, social depression, and never doing anything with friends.

So you make an airtight budget that pays your bills, gives you a small weekly allowance that gives you at least some freedom to grab an occasional lunch or see a movie once a month, and then hope to God that the car doesn’t break down, that a bone doesn’t get broken, and that you’re lucky enough to keep your job.

And, then, squeezed somewhere into there, you give back to God.  You tighten the small weekly allowance, just to make it possible.  And you go through a mental battle that wages a war on whether or not that God-money is optional.  “Bought too many groceries this week?  Just take it out of the God money.”  (no, no, no)  “Donated money to a third party cause of some sort?  No problem, just take that out of the God money.”  (ahhhh, can’t do that)  “Have to buy a pair of shoes this week, because yours are 2 years old and falling apart.  You gotta do it, gotta have shoes.  Just take it out of the God money.”  (crap! stop!)

And so you swim.  And hope.  And pray.  And say thanks for forgiveness for stupid decisions.  And you give.  And work hard to accept what you have as a blessing from the Giver.  And you squint even harder, trying to see the light in the tunnel.  You dig harder, trying to see that ray of sunlight coming through the dirt.  You swim faster, seeking the joy of the shoreline.  And you enjoy family and friends.  You worship.  You trust.  You live.

Come On In, The Water’s Fine!

Posted: October 5, 2009 in crossings, faith

For me, one of the nice things about growing older – both in age and in my faith – has been the opportunity to wrestle with faith questions in my life.  Over the years, one of the most important of these questions has been the role of baptism in salvation.

Background – I grew up in a church tradition, and went to a Christian college, that both viewed and taught baptism as being a necessary, final step to being saved.  There was a specific salvation process – you believe, you repent, you confess, and you are baptized.  All four of these steps were necessary, and the omission of any, at the very least, put your salvation at risk.  It was looked at sort of like changing the tire on your car, but forgetting to tighten the lug nuts on the spare.  Yeah, the tire is there, but it’s probably going to fall off as soon as your drive away.  Then you wreck and die.

I had often questioned this view of baptism, but had neither the depth of faith nor the moxy to dig into it further.  I had asked myself questions like, “If you saved a person in the deserts of Africa, and the nearest “dunkable” water source was 5 miles away, and this person simply could not make it to the water source, would they really die and go to hell?”  Scriptural references aside, this simply did not make sense to me.  It was contrary to the loving and relational nature of God.

A turning point began for me around 1997, when I heard Bob Russell, senior minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky, do a sermon series on these 4 steps of salvation.  Long story short, he spoke of baptism in this way…..baptism isn’t necessarily required for salvation, but it is required for the “assurance” of salvation.  God is not a legalistic God, so it’s not in his nature to make us do things to earn his love.  But read the New Testament, especially Acts – Jesus was baptized, and everyone who came to know and believe in Christ was baptized.  If it was good enough for Jesus and the first Christians, shouldn’t we naturally follow that example?

This made sense.  It left open the possibility that a person was saved upon belief and repentance, even if they couldn’t immediately get to a baptistry, creek, or lake.  It helped me see baptism as a celebration of salavation, rather than the final exam.  Since that time, I’ve viewed baptism as a wedding ceremony to Christ….when you fall in love and commit your life to your future spouse, you don’t have to just run out and immediately get married.  At the same time, it’s not necessary to have a full blown wedding with 100’s of people and a fancy ceremony.  Yet couples like to do this, because it’s a celebration.  It’s a way to celebrate their love with others, to make it public, to create a memory that will last forever.

You don’t have to get baptized immediately….accordingly, nor should you wait 2 years to do it.  You can be baptized in front of 2 people or 10,000.  The point is, it’s a celebration of your love for Christ.  It’s your wedding to him.  Maybe – MAYBE – you don’t have to marry Christ.  Maybe God’s love reaches wide and long enough to hold you in, even if you ignore this important step.

But why would you?  Why ignore the example of Christ and the early believers?  Why explain away its importance?  Why sprinkle when Christ was immersed?  Why baptize babies when people in the Scriptures made this decision on their own?  Why roll the dice and take the chance?  In this way, baptism as the “assurance” of salvation has always made great sense to me.

Yesterday, we had another Crossings baptism celebration.  As always, it was great.  At Crossings, we have baptism celebrations every 3-5 months.  In most cases in our community, new believers in Christ are not baptized immediately.  I have old friends who would have a great deal of issue with this, so much so that they would probably not attend our church because of it.  I can understand this, I just don’t agree with it.  You just can’t imagine how special it is when we plan these celebrations, invite the entire community, have dozens – even hundreds – of people show up, and all celebrate wildly together when each person is raised from the water.  As a result, our baptisms are less of a hurried requirement (and even sometimes annoying to those who are ready to leave church and get to lunch before the crowd arrives)….and more of an anticipated party.

I’m so grateful for the depth of God’s love.  And I’m thankful that the waters of baptism are not a hoop, a jump rope, a high bar, or a 3 point line.  Rather, they are 2 open arms, a kiss on the cheek, a thousand hugs, and enough “woo hoo’s!” to last a lifetime.

Over the last 19 months, I’ve had to redefine my own perception of community.  I had always perceived a community as a simple gathering of things … a gathering of homes on a street, a gathering of people in a square mile radius, a gathering of believers in a church, etc.  But that’s really it.  A gathering.  A group.  A number of things grouped together.

Any notions of this word that went deeper than a just a gathering bordered on the weird – hippies, cult-like religious fanatics (Branch Davidians, Jesus Juice), nudists.  The thought of “joining” a community brought to mind images of a Lion’s Club, Mason’s, or being on the community activist planning committee.

Part of my reservation in understanding true community stems from my natural desire to be sort of reclusive.  I’m great at being outgoing, funny, witty, and comfortable in front of groups of people, but only when there’s no real investment involved.  It’s easy for me to be a likable, humorous, engaging version of myself when I know those around me won’t really have the opportunity to know the real me.

But, ultimately, when it comes to true friendships, I’ve always been a real one-on-one, very small group of 3 or 4 friends type of guy.  As much as I hate cliques, I enjoy them in my own reality.  I like fitting into a small group of like minded people, loving others but keeping them at a distance, enjoying inside jokes, exclusive experiences, “you had to be there” moments.  Even 11 years removed from college, I sometimes long deeply for those days, when I had 4 really great friends who were always around.  They knew me.  I knew them.  Except for the cute girls I had crushes on, I could have cared less about the other 600 students.

Crossings, slowly but surely, has begun to change all that.  In this place, I have witnessed, heard about, seen, and experienced community in a new way.  A way I wasn’t sure existed.  A way that is magnetic, authentic, passionate, and deep.  I’ve had the opportunity to engage in a guys-only small group that has grown, changed, grown again, served together, studied, laughed, prayed, and opened ourselves up to one another.

I’ve seen everyday needs being met by others.  Heard stories of community-provision that brought tears to my eyes.  Even now, our neighbor (a family of 3) is about to be without a home….and families within the Crossings community, without even having met these people, have opened their homes and offered them a place to live.

I’ve seen a community truly engaged in the Sunday morning teachings.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a church where people could actually recall what had been taught 2 or 3 months earlier.  I’ve seen people of ALL ages engage fully in worship.  In a setting where you might expect only 20-somethings to be comfortable….there are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70-somethings enjoying themselves every week.

I’ve seen people give of themselves week after week, hours upon hours, to own this community and make it a special place.  I’ve seen people really examine their lifelong beliefs and traditions – not because we expect them to “conform” – but because they’re finally taking steps to make their faith THEIR faith, and not the one that was handed to them.  And even when their beliefs or traditions don’t match up exactly with what we do at Crossings, they are tolerant and accepting, realizing that we are all on the same journey together, and that what really matters is not communion rules, alter calls, or song styles, but the lifelong struggle of finding your way back to God.

God is still working on me.  I can tell there’s more to this community-thing than I have yet to experience.  I’m still working on just being me, on being transparent and authentic.  I’m still struggling with how to let-in all 8 guys in my small group, rather than just 3 or 4.  And I’ve been in a months-long dilemma with understanding and responding to God’s call in my life.

But everyday is an amazing adventure.  Every Sunday is life-change just waiting to happen.  Every Thursday night is an opportunity for friendship, growth, and honesty.  Every evening at home is a chance to live out God’s love with my family.  And through it all, community happens.

Funny thing.  I rarely call Crossings a church anymore.  Not to myself, to my friends, to my co-workers.  Not that church is a bad word.  It’s just somehow not sufficient in today’s vernacular.  We are a faith community.  We do community, live community, share community,   flesh community, cry community, and teach community.

It’s like there are 1000 meanings of the word community, and for the first 31 years of my life, I only knew 2 of them.  But God does what God does, and now I know about 30 meanings.  And there are 970 more that He’s just waiting to reveal to me, in His own time, as I’m ready to understand them myself.  Almost like He’s smiling, nervous, anticipating, excited for me to learn the next meaning.  I know just how He feels.

The two awesomest people in my life:

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We recently visited Cumberland Falls, off I-75 exit 25 just north of the border in Kentucky.  Notice the beautiful falls in the background….and, if you can see it, the large collection of trash beside the bolder in the middle of the photo. 

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Also (with no picture needed), I’m not making resolutions this year.  I know the things I need to do to be a better person, to feel better, to be healthier, and to live out the calling of God in my life.  Writing them down specifically and then somehow not fulfilling them is a bummer, and one “goal” of mine this year is to simply be a more optimistic, positive person.  Let me just say this…I’m praying about (not for) redirection in my life.  I’m experiencing a great struggle regarding the unfulfilled calling of God in my life, and I’m just not sure what to do with it.  I’d love to just turn my face to the wind, leave everything to His providence, and spend my days serving and ministering to people in need.  But I’m also quite logical and rational (whether these are Godly traits, I have yet to discover).  I realize that I have a sort-of secure job, a paycheck, debts, a family to care for, and (still) some legal limitations on what I’m able to do.  That leaves me where I’ve been many times before….just wishing God would miraculously make everything happen the way I think it needs to for debts to be paid, histories to be wiped clean, and doors to be opened.  I have a great desire to serve the community, but do little to seek out opportunities to do so, almost scared of what God may do to my heart, and what He may ask of me.

So maybe my real resolution for this year is to learn how to open myself up completely to God’s will for my life, and trust where it leads.  Maybe it keeps me right where I’m sitting.  Maybe it turns my world upside down.  Maybe it does both…or neither.  Either way, if 2009 can include more of Him and less of me, it will ultimately be a great year.