Archives For faith

There have been many times when things in my life did not go the way I had planned.

Maybe you can say the same for your life.

And if you are anything like me, you became frustrated when that happened.

I might be able to say that more times than not, things have not gone according to my plans. If I were an investment manager, I’d probably be better off just letting the money go on auto-pilot.

My career did not go the way I had planned.

Starting a family did not go the way I planned.

And now that I have a kid, very few things go the way I plan.

I am convinced that as a species, we experience a lot of frustration. I think frustration is an emotion unique to humans. And the deepest sources of our frustration comes from our desire to control and to plan. We decide that things should go this way, at this time, according to these plans. We desire to control our destinies. We desire to control our surroundings. We desire to control other people. And few of those things ever work. Whether you are a pastor or a parent, you have probably discovered that you cannot control other people. Yes, it’s maddening.

But I have also become convinced that I have discovered the antidote for my need to control:

I have come to believe that all things truly do work for good.

I can look back on five frustrating years in my marriage and see how they worked for good. I can see how the low points in my life came full circle and bore fruit.

Now working for “good,” doesn’t mean that our plans come true. Working for “good” doesn’t mean it will always be pleasant. It doesn’t mean that things will work for good next week or next year. Sometimes, it takes longer than our short little lives for things to work for good.

But it means that, if we are willing, we will see the threads of grace in our lives, especially when our precious little plans are frustrated.

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The universe has not made us any promises. But God has promised that He works all things for good in the end.

 

Promises, Promises, Promises.

This guy is a complete gamble, not a promise.

This guy is a complete gamble, not a promise.

When things get tough, when life becomes especially uncertain, I have found that a lot of people look for promises that they can rely on.

What I mean is that people turn to the Bible and try to find out what God has promised. What has God guaranteed? What can I hang my hat on while my home is being foreclosed on, or my wife is sick or my career is in trouble or we are trying to conceive a child?

Over the last five years, I found that the infertility world is especially rife with this kind of talk, promise-talk, that is. There is no shortage of books, events or teachers who will make some kind of spiritual sounding promise, tailor-made for your exact situation.

The problem is that God doesn’t make a whole lot of promises, sad to say. And over time, all of the “promises” actually wore us down. They stopped encouraging us and actually made us lose hope. That’s the problem with false promises.

So, when times are difficult, how do we know when a promise is a promise that God has not made?

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Would you do like Abraham did?

Worst Father-Son picnic ever.

Worst Father-Son picnic ever.

There has been a little conversation bubbling up over the last week, at least in my corner of social media, the question being would you do as Abraham did?

Meaning, would you pass the “test” that Abraham passed when he placed his promised son, Isaac on the altar?

Predictably, there are a lot of people who say “Surely I would!” They announce their confidence that they would absolutely be willing to murder their children if God told them to. They proclaim their willingness as a sign of their faith. It’s just a good thing that God does not tell them to do so.

And on the other side are the people who say, “Surely I would not!” And from this side, the “faithful” are prodded about what kind of God would really ask them to do such a thing. What is faith worth if God is so evil as to ask something like that?

Now Cheri and I have not waited nearly as long for our son as Abraham and Sarah did. But we have learned a couple of things about what it means to be long-waiting parents.

And one thing that we have learned is that while God may never ask us to place our child on a literal altar, the same test that Abraham faced, the rest of us also face, whether we know it or not.

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Can I be honest?

Last week was an intense week of worry. Cheri and I had our first taste of the worry which all parents know. We know that we have signed on for a lifetime of worry.

Still, our first taste was extremely bitter.

Our week was filled with anxiety over the health of our unborn son. Not just ordinary health concerns. We were dealt revelations about the family’s genetics, premutations that pose threats to future generations. Visions of worst-case-scenarios filled our minds. My back even wrenched itself out of place on Wednesday. I still don’t have full mobility in my neck today after two chiropractic adjustments and a massage.

You know the doctors give you just enough information to worry, but not enough information to be able to give you guarantees. And so you do more tests, but the tests only do what the last tests did. They give you more worry.

By the end of the week, we had spoken to the right people who could give us the strongest reassurances that we could ever hope for. Our boy, in all likelihood, will be normal, healthy.

A week of agony, for nothing.

It’s true, ignorance is bliss. And people used to be a lot more ignorant. What did parents do before we know about all the ways our genetics can go haywire? They did not worry. What did people do before the nightly news broadcast stories of all the scary stuff around the world? They did not worry.

We suffer today, not just from information overload, but worry overload. Because much of the information we are exposed to causes us to react with anxiety, fear, worry, anger, and all of the other toxic, poisonous emotions that will slowly kill us like cancer.

Jesus knew the poison of worry. He told his disciples not to do it, and I don’t think he was being facetious. Today, many of us do not worry about the things the disciples concerned themselves with. But we have a whole lot of other worries. Tomorrow carries as many worries as it did 2,000 years ago. And the words of Jesus still hold true…

worry

Freeing our minds, our hearts and our bodies requires that we do this. That we not waste weeks on worthless worry. That we learn to trust that all things do in fact work for good.

What does Joel Osteen know that the rest of us don’t?joel-osteen-and-wife1

If you are not one of his fans, you would probably answer, “Nothing.”

There has been quite a little bit of chatter as of late about Victoria Osteen finally “outing” herself and her husband and the gospel they are really preaching. She summarized their philosophy by saying that when we obey God, we do not do it for God, but for ourselves. We do it because God’s greatest desire is for us to be “happy.” So this whole exercise of going to church, reading our Bibles, being Christians is not really for God, it’s for us.

Well those statements set off a little chain reaction among quite a bit of blog-land. “Finally,” we said, “at least we know what they really believe!” At least one mega-famous pastor is being honest about the false gospel he is preaching.

But wait a minute.

Take everything that you might believe about the Osteens, their church, their gospel, their wealth or their haircuts. Take all of that pent up frustration and wad it up into a big wet lump in your throat.

Because despite all of these things, as loathe as we may be to admit it, much of the evangelical church can learn something from the Osteens. We might even learn something about ourselves.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Peter getting out of the boat this weekend.

You know, the one where the disciples see Jesus walking on the water and they think he’s a ghost. And so Peter dares the “ghost” to tell him to come out on the water.

And before Peter can even think twice, he acts recklessly and steps out of the boat.

There are very few times in our lives when we actually get a chance to step out of the boat, to take a big step of faith, not knowing if we are going to sink. Peter took his chances.

I’ve also been thinking about something else.

The eleven guys who did not get out of the boat.

I wonder what they said to one another.

“What is Peter doing?”

“That’s a bad idea.”

“He is going to sink!”

“I’ve read a blog about these guys who try to walk on water. I don’t agree with it.”

See, every precious time we get the chance to step out of our boat, there is going to be eleven (or a lot more) people who stay in the boat, and tell us why we should stay put. They are the concerned friends who urge “discernment.” They are the experts who prophesy disaster at every turn. They are the barely-informed Christians who think they have well-reasoned moral objection.

I have been seriously struggling with this recently, knowing that I have made choices, I have gotten out of my boat. And there are plenty of people who have an opinion about that. Mob mentality is alive and well and it keeps us in fear of ever leaving the little boundaries of the boats we are in.

“We are all in the same boat,” they say. Maybe it’s because no one is allowed to leave the boat.

All of the people in the boat mean well. But the result is the same. The voices of fear, anxiety, safety, guilt or shame always try to crowd in and hold us back. They try to tell us that our faith is too reckless. They try to tell us that God wants us to stay safely in the boat. They try to convince us that we are doing something wrong by getting out of the boat.

boat

You know, the hardest part of getting out of the boat might not be seeing the wind and the waves that are about to crash into us, but shutting out the voices who try to hold us back, wondering what could have been.