Archives For faith

The world today sure seems like a frightening place…

The very act of painting a sign and protesting would get these people killed in much of the world. My guess is these people are protesting on their own behalf, not for the tormented minorities of Iraq, persecuted by ISIS.

The very act of painting a sign and protesting would get these people killed in much of the world. My guess is these people are protesting on their own behalf, not for the tormented minorities of Iraq, persecuted by ISIS.

…especially if you consider yourself a Christian.

Everywhere I look, as I click through my news feed, it becomes apparent that Christians’ freedom of religion is under attack. If there is one subject that I can find constant anecdotal evidence, it is that Christians’ freedom of expression, conscience and speech is being halted left and right. There are protests and demonstrations everywhere, as a cultural majority feels itself becoming a minority. It makes the future a frightening prospect, as even Franklin Graham predicts that persecution against Christians will increase in America.

No doubt, American culture is more hostile toward Christianity than it used to be.

I have come to another conclusion, however.

Our love and passion for our freedom of religion will be our undoing.

It has become our sacred cow…

…our freedom is our idol.

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I used to think that self-righteousness was a Christian thing.

You know, it’s us Christians who are always pointing the finger, placing the blame on others, belittling and marginalizing. And really, that reputation is deserved to a degree.

Self-righteousness gets misdefined though.

It’s not just a holier than thou attitude. It’s not a belief that I’m right and you’re not. It’s much more than that.

Self-righteousness is the belief that I can do it myself. I don’t need other people. I am self-reliant.

Self-righteousness is the belief that I can do what I want. It does not matter that I am a created being with a purpose. I don’t have to be bound by those purposes. I can make myself whatever I want. Therefore, self-righteousness is a denial that we are creatures that are made to be a certain way.

And because self-righteousness is the belief that I can do it myself and I can do what I want, then self-righteousness is the belief that I can save myself. I don’t need a savior or a redeemer. I am good the way I am. I am perfect. I will save myself, either through religion or diet or sex or something else.

I started believing I could do it myself when I was two. And I’ve never quit since then. At times over the last four months of fatherhood, the only thing I could do was let go of my precious self-righteousness and say, “I’m really bad at this.” 

Self-righteousness is not a Christian thing or a atheist thing. It’s not a gay or straight thing. It doesn’t belong to a race or class. It’s a human thing. We are all doing it. We shallowly believe that self-righteousness is merely judging other people. In fact, it is the belief that we have no judge. 

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Perhaps that is the greatest threat to our culture today. And that’s where we can start. As Christians find themselves further away from the culture, relinquishing our self-righteousness might be the only thing we can do. We can’t act humble for a couple of weeks, though, expecting people to suddenly think we are great. That’s not how it works. It might take a generation, or two, or ten, of Christians actually relinquishing their self-righteousness, of actually preaching Jesus’ righteousness and not our own, before people will listen again.

I’m going to do something I never thought I would do.

Her life is pretty awesome, but she thinks you and I are going to hell.

Her life is pretty awesome, but she thinks you and I are going to hell.

Last Saturday morning, as I sipped my coffee and scanned my news feed, wiling away the couple of hours before the baby awoke, I was accosted by a story just a couple of days old.

Jessa Seewald, one of the children of the super-fundie reality TV Duggar family, thinks I am going to hell.

I didn’t even know I missed the hubbub over her pink wedding dress, and yet here she is, with the audacity that I am going to hell.

To be more specific, Jessa recently said that “liberal” Christians, i.e. those who don’t believe in hell, are in fact, going to hell just the same as all the other sinners out there. Her remarks were met with prompt cries of “intolerance” and “wouldn’t it be nice if she used her platform to proclaim a message of ‘acceptance.’”

She thinks I am going to hell…

And probably you, and you, and you too. We are all probably too liberal for a Duggar.

But I am going to do something I never thought I would do.

I’m going to come to the defense of Jessa and the rest of the Duggar family.

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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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