Tag Archives: God

us

Where is God in all of this?

How many times have you heard this?  Let’s be honest, how many times have w questioned it ourselves?

Go ahead and fill in the blank:  where is God when ______________?  Why did God allow ____________?  Is God responsible for _______________?

It is not evil to question, to wonder, to beg for answers to our deepest hurts, to the world’s shameful deeds; to wonder why God did not put an end to this hurricane or that war; why children and women are still sold as slaves into the sex trade, why good people get cancer, lose spouses, children, houses.  After all, we are given good precedent:  David and others cries out in the Psalms – our sacred scriptures!  He is unafraid of questioning, of showing his weakness in attempting to rely on God in the middle of turbulent circumstances.  Look at Psalm 5 and 6 and Psalm 10, on and on through these songs.  We have a rich history of tears, frustration, fear and hope, beggars of God’s mercy for salvation from oppression and illness, questions without answers.

And yet someone comes to me with such questions, I’m tempted to offer answers.  I want to relieve burdens, to bandage wounds, to heal deep hurts.  I want to defend God against accusations of distance and disinterest, to give God an “out” and try to reason the world and other un-understandable things.  Then, when I watch a special on Children for Sale and see the young children around the world who are in slavery to those who pimp them out for a few dollars, I can’t help but wonder where God is in the middle of this.  So I try to rationalize Him yet again, and make excuses for the perceived absence.

But we don’t need to defend God.  God is God and big enough to handle Himself. Does He need our defense?  Perhaps in all our asking, we’ll find God in our questions; if we listen closely, maybe we will hear him tell us the answer: 

You: you’re the answer to your prayer.  I am at work within you.  I will always work through my people.  The fields are white for harvest, the needs are huge and the risks real, so pray that I will send workers to the fields.  In the meanwhile, you go.  Remember, I am working through you.

Maybe we are the answer to our own prayers.

Maybe God is stirring us to act.

What will we say?

(for more info on the child sex industry and what you can do to help oppose this and save children’s lives, please see International Justice Mission)

they like jesus

but not the church...

but not the church...

I’m disturbed.

Ask anyone on the street:  What do you think about God?  What do you think about Jesus?  What do you think about Spirituality?

Then ask them:  What do you think about Christians?  The Church?  Christianity?

I’ll bet we’d find that people – from all walks of life, religious and irreligious (with the exception of Bill Maher, perhaps) – have a positive reaction to God, immensely respect Jesus, even practice some sort of Spirituality.

But Christian changes everything.  Descriptives emerge:  bigotted, intolerant, homophobic, subculture, controlling, hate.

How in the world did we change the world to the point that the world likes Jesus (at least in their limited understanding, but like him nonetheless they do) but can’t stand His followers?  Certainly there are wrong perceptions, but the fact remains that perceptions shape people’s realities.  And as Christians, we’ve given more than enough fodder for people’s negative perceptions to become reality.

The question for us is not necessarily how to change their perceptions, but how to change how we shape those perceptions.

In other words, regardless of what narrow (and I mean this positively, not negatively) beliefs we have, how can we communicate love to our world.

More importantly, how can we communicate God’s love to God’s world.

Because as much as people may like Jesus…

…Jesus likes them more.

in god we trust?

MSNBC.com recently ran an article and online vote inquiring whether or not to keep the motto, “In God We Trust” on our national currency.  Michael Newdow, an athiest, has embroiled himself in a lawsuit to remove this motto because it carries overt religious overtones – because it prefers religion to non-religion.

You can imagine the stir this provokes in the “Christian” community.

Fury.  Outrage.  Disbelief.

Fear.

It is as if removing “In God We Trust” implies that our country, the United States of America, has abandoned its Christian and religious roots.  No wonder this provokes fear.

On the other hand, it seems to me that placing “God” on “Money” can too easily blur the distinction between the two.  It can lead us to delude ourselves, believing that God approves of our religious nationalism, that God somehow feels better about Himself because His name is splashed across Benjamin Franklin’s bust.  Rather than reminding us that we should put our trust in God (and not in financial security), the motto on the money slyly implies that God is quite okay with our reliance on something other than Him.

He stamps His approval on our consumerism.

His name validates our ambition.

Worse, it gives the false impression that ours is a “Christian” nation (as if writing something about God on money proves that we really seek to follow Jesus).

I have a better idea.  Instead of indignantly asserting that “this is one more step towards secularism”, let’s acknowledge that we Christians have often done a poor job of revealing who Jesus is in a way such that all can be drawn to Him (John 12:32).  Let’s decide to show our friends, community – even our nation – that we trust in God by what we do more than what words on paper read.

prayer failure

prayer-2.jpgIn reading Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust, I was particularly drawn to a quote from Trappist Monk, Thomas Keating:  “the only way to fail in prayer is not to show up.” (p.130)

I often struggle to pray, especially for extended amounts of time.  I struggle to “listen” to God as I do not consider myself a great discerning person.  Sure, I pray often, but in attempts to avoid platitudes and triteness, I trip over my words, have long and sometimes awkward pauses (I imagine what others listening must be thinking, “Is he finished yet?  Should I pray now?  Is he ever going to start?“).

Which brings me to another flaw that Manning exposes:  the tyranny of the approval and disapproval of others.” (p.132)  This is completely me.  Too often I find myself catering to other’s supposed thoughts.  In my stillness I create conversations in their heads.  Of course, this removes my focus from God, from being quiet, from listening and onto what others must be thinking about who I am, what I’m doing, how I’m praying.  It’s a vicious cycle.

But according to Thomas Keating, I’m not a failure!  Trying to pray and getting nowhere isn’t the point.  It isn’t failed prayer.  If he’s right, then there is no failure in prayer.  Or at least not in attempting to pray.  The only way to failure is to refuse to show up.

So, I’ll show up.  I’ll be there.

Thank you, God, for being so gracious.

entering

enter.jpgWe’ve been studying personal transformation – what it is, how it happens – in one of our classes at George Fox Seminary this week. Mary Kate Morse developed what has often been the spiritual development model embraced by the church. It works in a linear fashion something like this:

1. The entrance to Christianity is first through Evangelism: someone outside Christianity is confronted with the good news

2. After making a decision to follow Jesus, discipleship (learning to follow) commences

3. After one begins following Jesus, the inner process of spiritual transformation begins – being transformed into Christ’s image

4. Finally, through all this, a relationship with God deepens.

In a nutshell, the process begins with making a decision (praying a prayer) and culminates in relationship with God; it starts with a decision and progresses into discipleship, resulting in a transformational relationship with God.

But more and more people are entering “the faith” through the inverse of the above process – experiencing spiritual transformation as a result of relationships with missionally-focused Christians: Christians who are not blinded to others because of an unhealthy emphasis on sealing the deal or making the sale to get a quick conversion; Christians who are willing to walk the long road of transformation alongside a seeker; Christians who trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in their friends lives more than their own attempts at persuasive speech.

More people are meeting God through relationships with His people. They are experiencing transformation which leads them to a decision to trust Jesus. It turns the model on it’s head! Yet God is intimately involved in this process, quietly drawing people to him, transforming them even without their knowledge, bringing them carefully to the place at which they can trust Him.

That’s beautiful. That’s God.