The Infallible Word

The infallibility of scripture is the cornerstone of Christian Theology, but it’s an increasingly difficult pill for modern society to swallow. Modern man doesn’t grasp that anything is absolutely true. He’s been trained to think that truth is dependent on situation, culture and person. At first blush there’s much freedom in that kind of thinking, but it’s the top of a very slippery slope. Life in a gray, versus black and white, world is scary. There is no peace in never knowing whether our actions are right or wrong. There is joy in being on the right path and not wandering lost in a dark forest.

One of the challenges of promoting scripture is that it outlines a way of living that with each generation seems more outdated. How can this generation be convinced that scripture has answers as applicable today as ever?

We need to accurately portray the bible for what it is, cover-to-cover, the story of Jesus. God reveals Himself to man through His son. It is part history, part song book, part prophecy, part guidebook, and part theological exposition. We make things hard on ourselves by focusing on the less significant and more difficult to prove parts of the Bible. We get involved in arguments over the seven days of creation. the roles of women or the prohibitions and requirements of the pre-Jesus law.

We should always begin with the provable promises of scripture.  The Word is full of conditional promises: do this and that will happen. We prove the truth of the promises by fulfilling the conditions. It’s like the trust exercise, scary at first but after satisfying experiences our faith and trust grow. We can move from a realization that God loves us to the recognition that His rules for living aren’t arbitrary,  but are really a better way to live. We can slowly take ourselves off the throne and put our God there. We can learn that joy is in mission oriented and not riches acquisition living.

It seems faithful to say “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” It is so much more effective to live out Biblical truths. You can be not the only Bible some folks will ever read, just the first one.

Be blessed.

Our Beliefs

I just finished reviewing the “Our Beliefs” page on my church’s website. It has nothing unusual for a mainline Christian church. I didn’t find anything to which I couldn’t give a hearty “Amen.” Each statement is backed up by bible verses. Yet, upon a complete reading of the page I didn’t come away with a good sense of what Christianity really is. I guess that’s because Christianity isn’t really a set of beliefs. We make a mistake, I believe, when we cut our faith to a list of beliefs and then dare the world to disagree.

I’m not saying our beliefs are not important. They surely are. What I’m saying is that you can’t give someone the list of beliefs and tell them, “If you believe these, you are a Christian.”  I believe Christianity is much more like a trust exercise. You know the ones. Someone falls backward and “trusts” that a group behind him will catch him before he hits the ground.

We become a Christian after we decide that what we are doing isn’t working. We put our trust in Jesus and stop trusting ourselves. It’s like the trust exercise. We probably become willing to do it because we saw someone else do it first. The first time it’s scary, but with practice we gain confidence and, eventually, we realize it’s the only way to go.

For many, it’s a lot easier to study a set of principles. It’s a study that can become a life-time exercise. There’s always more to learn. There’s always a fine point to debate. Simply letting go and letting God is much simpler, but a lot scarier. If you know someone  you would like to see “saved” (and you know you do) maybe it’s time to stop lecturing and teaching. Pointing out how they fall short and don’t measure up isn’t getting the job done. Besides, they already know that.

What they need is to see someone let go, with a calm smile on their face, and let God catch them. It’s a demonstration without argument or rebuttal. It’s faith expressed in action that speaks so much louder than words.

Be blessed.

 

Do His Will to Know His Will

god will not show

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1

 

The glorious totality of a life in Christ begins with knowledge of his will. We read in the bible of men hearing directly from God with clear specific instructions and directions. We are envious. The will of God seems so mysterious. When things are dark and confusing, we look desperately for the will of God, at least some hint, some nudge in the right direction.

Most of the time, the sense of being lost and confused isn’t caused by not hearing from God, but from not following his last direction. If things seem to be going well, we don’t want to hear about a change of direction. If all seems fine, we don’t think we need to hear from God. Being in tune with the voice of God is a matter of practice. We learn to hear and do and then listen for the next step. We ignore circumstance. We aren’t guiding by our feelings.

The will of God is usually uncomfortable, particularly at first. It just isn’t natural. It’s counter to what the world, our families, our friends and our guts tell us we should do. What at first seems comfortable, eventually becomes obviously wrong.

What’s the last thing God told us to do? Doesn’t matter how long ago it was. All that matters was that we did it. If we didn’t we need to, we won’t get further instructions until we do.

Blessings,

 

 

Shut up and Listen

We all have a leadership role. We have spheres of influence. We impact the lives of others. We may feel unimportant if our spheres of influence are small. We may feel ineffective if we don’t seem to be impacting those with whom we come into contact. We need to act differently if we are to fulfill our roles.

Here are some tips.

Spend at least 15 minutes listening. Every day, spend at least 15 minutes listening. One of our great frustrations, especially as we age, is that the ones we love don’t seem to listen to us. We don’t want others to learn lessons the hard way. They don’t seem to believe we have anything to give to the issues that they face. The only way to turn this around is to stop talking and start listening. Listening is a fantastic gift. Almost everyone feels that no one listens to them. The person who is willing to listen suddenly becomes a very important person to someone else.

If you know you’ve not a very good listener,  here are some great tips.

Say, “Tell me more.”  When the person you are listening to stops talking, don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “It’s my turn.” While you are listening, don’t sit there planning what  you are going to say and looking for an opportunity to say it. Since most of us are not used to being listened to, we tend to stop talking after a very short time. We expect the other person to want to get their “two cents” in. This is your opportunity to really impress. Instead of diving in with all the wisdom you have about this situation, say “Tell me more.” Chances are the person you are listening to has just covered the surface. A willingness to listen for as long as it takes, gives the much need opportunity to talk about the deeper issues that are really causing problems.

Allow some doubt. Especially when listening to younger folks, we tend to think “that will never work” or “that’s not what I would do.” Things are a lot different these days. Truth doesn’t change but challenges and perceptions really do. Be VERY prayerful before offering advice. Often the person talking will work their way into a solution or a better perspective, just by being allowed to vent.

Go to lunch. Or, grab some coffee, dinner or breakfast at least once a week with someone. Go with no agenda  but to listen. Don’t go with preconceived ideas of what that person is facing or how you can help them. We really don’t know most of the people in our lives because we just don’t listen. At least once a week, give someone a chance to be listened to. You will be amazed at how quickly you will be thought of as loving and wise, even though you didn’t say a thing.

Expand your circles. You will be surprised at how much impact you can have by listening. Start close to home, but soon you’ll realize that there are many others who need to have someone listen. Be creative and make an every expanding circle of impact.

Listen and be blessed.

 

Something Going Around

Are you suffering from indigestion or insomnia or back pain? You are not alone. It’s going around. It’s not a virus. It’s stress. It’s a spiritual thing that manifests itself in our emotional and physical life.

There are some preventive measures you can take.

  1. Reflect. I find when I walk into a room, I turn on the television. When I climb into my  truck, I turn on the radio. We live in a busy and noisy world that will suck the life out of us if we let it. How about some quiet to pause and reflect.
  2. Rest. Some of us never seem to stop. We need rest. We need time when we are not struggling with the problems of life or dashing about to do all we feel we need to get done. Sometimes a better use of our time is to stop and, for a brief period, just do nothing. Catch a breath. You will come back with new focus and enthusiasm. Rest can be time well spent.
  3. Recreate. One of our problems is that much of what we do, doesn’t produce anything satisfying. Do something that creates in a way that’s a bit different and totally satisfying for  you. For some, it might involve painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument. For others, it might even involve rebuilding an engine or baking a cake. These activities never seem urgent, but they are vitally important.
  4. Relate. Sometimes our stress is tied up with being all wound up within our selves. We need others. We need the perspective that it’s not all about us. We are not alone. Our struggles and stresses are not unique. We discover that when we spend time relating.

For most of us it’s a “snow” day. Might be a good time to reflect, rest, recreate and relate. Maybe we will wake up tomorrow with less stress and more perspective and excitement about all  that we really need to do.

Be blessed.

Wintry Mix

Tonight and early tomorrow we could be experiencing a “wintry mix.”

I guess that means we could have freezing rain, sleet or snow, or nothing.

I remember my first “snow.” I was in elementary school and our mom and dad woke us up saying there was a “surprise” outside. There had been about a two-inch snowfall. It was wonderfully unexpected. Instead of school we had a fun day playing in the snow.

I remember my grand daughter’s first snow. We had taken the train to Chicago. We walked around downtown Chicago. There was snow everywhere. We stopped in a park and she played in the snow. The folks from Chicago passed with strange smiles on their faces. They had become so use to snow that it was no longer a delight, but an inconvenience.

Tomorrow may end up being just another winter day, but could very different for us. We may have ice or snow. Traveling might be difficult. We should all act in a safe way. Maybe more importantly we should act a bit like kids. Let’s not get to the point that God’s little surprises don’t delight us. That would be really sad.

Be delighted and be blessed, no matter what the day brings.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

every weakness

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

There has been much written about the “wonderfully made” part of this verse. The human is certainly a “wonderful” creation. From microscopic cells to complex connected systems, we are miracles of God’s hand.

But what is “fearfully made” all about? As wonderfully we are created, we are not created perfectly. Our bodies have a limited life. They are subject to deterioration and disease. Each person has flaws. We have skin imperfections, character flaws, and emotional traps. We are spiritual imperfect and incomplete as well.

It seems our perfect Creator chose to make us with imperfections, built-in weaknesses. Why?

I believe we are created to be in relationship with God. Our relationship with Him completes us. Every weakness is an opportunity for God to show His strength in our lives.  It’s a favorite ploy of interviewers to ask about weaknesses. These questions tend to trip us up. We are not used to considering our weaknesses to be positive things.

If the power of God is made perfect in our weaknesses, should we not focus on these weaknesses? Should we not glory in our weaknesses and look with hope on the opportunities they present to show God’s power?

It’s no accident that Jesus often greeted His disciples with “Fear not.” Those who are “fearfully” made need fear no longer. The one who  completes us, to show His power in our weaknesses has arrived. It’s now possible for us to be complete, to be perfected.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Be blessed.

Quarterbacks

I spent much of Sunday afternoon and evening watching NFL’s Championship Sunday. The winners of Sunday’s two games will compete in a couple of weeks in the Superbowl. It was Manning versus Brady and Kaepernick versus Wilson. Those weren’t the teams that were playing, just the quarterbacks. There are over fifty players on each NFL team plus coaches and staff, but if you listened to the sport’s press there were only four players that matter – the quarterbacks. The winning or losing all was up to them. Deep inside we know that just isn’t so, but it doesn’t stop us from talking that way. Those guys get the big bucks, the glory or the blame.

It’s kind of like that in church. Ask someone about their church and you will probably mostly hear about the pastor.  If  you ask someone why they left a church, same story. . . it was all about the pastor.  Except for the big bucks, he’s a lot like the quarterback. We seem to believe that the success or failure of a church rests on the pastor, the quarterback. It’s just not so.

Just like a football team, if we expect the quarterback to do all that’s necessary, we will be disappointed. No one person has all the skills necessary to preach, pastor, counsel, administrate, and pick up the trash. A church needs folks to work with the kids, act as ushers, clean the place, welcome the guests, offer prayer support and a dozen other things. A pastor needs a strong offensive line to protect him from getting sacked. He needs players he can hand off to or throw a long pass to. When the enemy is on the move, he needs a defense to hold the other team back and give the pastor some time off the field to rest up.

Look around your church, there are things that need to be done or that could be done better. Someone is dropping the ball. It’s not the pastor. It’s someone like you who isn’t stepping up and doing a job.

Church is much more than a game, but it often seems awfully like one.

Time to play and be blessed.