Is it true that smart people disregard the Bible and believe God isn’t real?

Is the Bible valid

“Dear Pastor Mike,

Aren’t there a bunch of really smart people who don’t believe God and think the Bible is just a collection of made up stories?”

Yep, you are right.

There are some really intelligent people who don’t believe in God.  

Instead of offering a definitive defense or apologetic on God or the Bible at this time, let me simply say this:  There are also really smart people who do believe in God.  If you dig deep into philosophy and the differing fields of science you will find that some of the world’s leading scientists and philosophers alive today believe in God and also stand with the collection of writings we call the Bible, including biologist Dr. Francis Collins, astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross, and even analytic philosopher and epistemologist Dr. Alvin Plantinga, just to name a few.

Check out the message below as we talk about the Bible, rather than just speak out of the of the Bible.

 

Our hyper-individualism is making everyone miserable.

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Our hyper-individualism is making everyone miserable.

Hyper-Individualism: A tendency for people to act in a highly individual way, without regard to others around them.

Different cultures have different core values.

If you travel much you already know this. Visit parts of Africa or China on a business trip or a short-term missions trip and you may see nothing more than a few odd differences in how they do life.  Live there as a long-term resident and you will begin to see the different underlying values behind these odd cultural differences.

For example…

Some cultures value honor, where respect is the prime directive.  Some cultures value community.  The health of the “tribe” is vastly more important than one person.  Individuals in other cultures may see it as noble and honorable to sacrifice time, talent, treasure, and even desired pleasures for the health of the community or honor of the family.

Here in America we have an underlying growing value that stands out like the Dubai Tower. Individualism.

When ESPN celebrated Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner after undergoing a sex change, the message was clear, laid out for the Western world to see:  Courage is being true to you, whatever that might be, at any cost.

From the pop culture perspective, his courage to follow his heart into this transition was vastly more important than any potential lateral issues that may come because of it.  ENews’s video of Kris (Bruce’s ex-wife) grieving the loss of Bruce as they knew him is really interesting as you watch values collide and individualism painfully win the day.

Someone’s heart is fulfilled for the moment, but another heart becomes broken.

Even in my own personal experience I have seen many people deeply hurt others while trying to follow their own heart.

What about the husband who chooses another lover and leaves behind a devastated spouse and children?  Do I tell the kids and their mom, “Be proud! Your dad followed his heart!”  Or the young adult I counseled with a few years back who basically said, “All I want to do is smoke weed with my friends and live off of welfare.” Should we be proud of him?  I can assure you, he was passionately following his heart. I have so many examples…

Here is what I see.

  • The heart is erratic and inconsistent.
  • The heart is most often driven by appetites, that change.
  • The heart can be really selfish one day and amazingly selfless the next.
  • Hyper-individualism hurts others and ultimately leaves people more lost and lonely.

Remember, most “be true to oneself” actions come with a cost. What, or who, is in the chopped-up wake of you pursuing your heart?  Moreover, the very joy you thought you would achieve often ends up being the doorway to deeper pain. Not only others, but yours.  I believe Jesus is a better guide than your heart.  I also believe Jesus can lead you to a vastly superior joy than you could ever find following your own appetites. Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost. (Luke 19:10) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Here is the truth.  Humanity is lost and some of the most lost of our race love to pretend that they know the way all while leading people into more loneliness and darkness.  The Bible literally says that the truest us is found in following the ways of Jesus (John 3:16).  The Bible isn’t a cage to keep you from fun, it is a map that shows you the way to the deepest and truest joys. (Romans 6:23; John 10:10; Revelation 21:4-8)

I say your heart isn’t the best compass, the one who made it is.  I believe your truest joys don’t end up coming from, “What do I want?” but “What does Christ want for me?”

It may be time to try a new, Christ-centered, compass.

 

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hyperindividualism

http://www.espn.com/espys/2015/story/_/id/13264599/caitlyn-jenner-accepts-arthur-ashe-courage-award-espys-ashe2015

http://www.eonline.com/shows/keeping_up_with_the_kardashians/news/700055/kris-jenner-cries-going-through-bruce-s-old-clothes-it-s-just-crazy-that-he-s-gone-watch-the-emotional-kuwtk-clip

 

4 Reasons I LOVE Millennials

 

4ReasonsILoveMillennials

Most of the time when I read or watch a video about generation Y, the Millennials, they are being picked on.  The emotionally soft result of helicopter parenting, everybody gets a trophy, and everyone has a college degree because professors aren’t allowed to give bad grades anymore generation.

I think people are looking at this all wrong. I see incredible potential.

I was born in 1979 and my wife was born in ’81, so I am not officially in but my wife is and we both love Millennials.  I have spent most of my adult life working with them. As a pastor I am excited to see this generation light the world on fire.  Are they perfect?  No, none of us are.  Yet, I think there is something great in them. 

As a pastor here is what I see:

1.       They love bridging gaps.  Earlier generations love clubs – country clubs, church denominations, even corporate loyalty.  The earlier generations like to focus on what separates them out from others.  Patches, badges, bumper stickers, and club cards.  Millennials push against this.  Here is what I see: They are reaching across generational, cultural, even denominational lines.  They are very interested in what unites, not what separates. Yes, they need to be willing to wrestle with what is true and truth by nature is exclusive, but as they lock into what is uniquely true this generation’s values will provide a powerful anchor to unite many people.

 

2.       The Millennials have a passion for community. Building off the previous observation, this bleeds into what they believe is actually authentic. Previous generations see things as more valuable the bigger they get.  The “best” is the biggest. They believe this is true from the size of a country’s army to the size of the church you attend. Don’t hear me wrong, bigger probably does mean stronger or more likely to control others, but to the Millennial this isn’t better. Better to them is about knowing and being known, understanding and being understood. Oh, how so many bloggers have made fun of this, but I see huge potential in it.  Hear me clearly, they want to understand others and want others to take the time to understand them.  Who is most likely to get to know the immigrant in my church?  Who is most likely to take their atheist friend out for coffee?  The list goes on.  They aren’t afraid of getting to know “different” people. They prefer smaller organizations, including churches, precisely because of the type of community they offer. I see incredible potential in this! 

 

3.       They are highly educated skeptics who like to hang out.  Okay, fine, so the college degree your grandpa got was way more difficult than the degrees offered today.  Even if that is so, more of the populous is educated than before. I think the overall rising base line of education is a good thing. Moreover, the skepticism that they have is clearly the result of the culture they have been raised in. False marketing, empty promises, and organizations that demand obedience with little clarity on why have left them scratching their heads and questioning nearly everything.  This is even true in churches.  They bring hard questions or see really bad things happen in the world and the church responds with, “Be quiet and don’t drink.” No wonder they have left the church.  Real historical (and Biblical) Christianity deals with messy, broken situations in very forward ways.  As these Millennials come to faith I believe they won’t be afraid to take the good news of Christ into places many in earlier generations just wouldn’t go.  I don’t mean geographically around the world, I mean across the street into their neighbor’s house.  You may pick on Millennials for being soft, but I think that is false. They just view strength in a different way. To them it’s not overcoming someone else, it’s bridging the gap to them. They will get to know their neighbors and aren’t afraid of the hard questions they ask. Moreover, they love deep theology and are well read. I love that! Come on, you must see the potential in this?!

 

4.      They are our future. Like it or not, they are who we have. I commit now to love them, coach them, pastor them and prepare them to be handed the world. They will eventually get it and all of us born before them will die away. Instead of standing at a distance and throwing stones, get to know them. They are amazing people! Lastly, if you are a Millennial and live in the Indianapolis area we want you in our church. I promise I will challenge you and you won’t like everything I say, but I believe in you and I can’t wait to see what God will do with your generation. 

So, to the Millennials…let’s change the world. 

Very few people have real friends.

In almost 20 years of ministry I have found very few people have real friendships.

Let me define “real.”

If friendship to you is merely a shared goal or common annoyance then yes, you have lots of friends. Nearly the whole of the Indianapolis Colts stadium are my friends as we cheer or bemoan the progress of a game. Yet they don’t really know me and I don’t know them.

Maybe you are blessed to have friendships that go far beyond this. You have moved to the level of shared significant experiences, like a soldier or someone who faces serious illness. You have bonded with those who have joined you in something intense, even dangerous.

These are much better, but still not necessarily the level that brilliant authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or C.S. Lewis have described.

Don’t hear me wrong – your real friendships can include the experiences mentioned above, but those don’t necessarily make someone a true friend.

Let me offer two things drawn from the works of the aforementioned authors.

  • Do you TRULY share in your friends’ personal victories and hurt in their personal failures? When you walk into a friend’s nice new house do you feel resentment and jealousy or do you truly take joy in their success? If you find your heart and mind working to protect your pride or justify away their success, you aren’t actually for them. A way C.S. Lewis deals with this is by asking these types of questions: Can you be transparently you with them, or must you exaggerate, play a role, or wear some mask while you are with the person?

 

  • Does your connection with this person go beyond a single experience or type of experience? In my youth it didn’t take long to realize some of my friendships were only because of a sport we played or parties we went to.  Remove the sport or the beer and there wasn’t anything really there.  The more transcendent the bonding agent, the truer the friendship can become. Bonhoeffer calls for spiritual connections.  Brothers and sisters that share in an eternal purpose can bond in a way that transcends many temporary things. Take time to identify the bonding agent you have with your friends.

Many have acquaintances but few have friends. Job 16:20, My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God. Oh how beautiful and dangerous when we move from observing the lives of others to deeply participating in them.

Honesty, I only have 6 people I would place in this category.  We have been friends since childhood, they know every part of my life, and we are all followers of Christ.  Though we live hundreds of miles apart we have a bonding agent in Christ that keeps us in communication weekly.  They are my brothers, my friends.  Any need, any time, any place we commit to be there for each other.  These friendships are worth the work.  If you have someone who is this for you send this to them and thank them for their real friendship.

 

How activists against racism may be reinforcing it deeper into our culture.

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I watched a video the other day of a passionate young adult working to prove that racism is a very real problem that must be dealt with.  By the time it appeared on my Facebook feed it had been watched hundreds of thousands of times. 

Actually, he did a good job identifying problems that do exist and areas in our culture that need to be improved.  The problem is HOW he was making his viewers aware.  He basically said repeatedly in different ways, “You’re a racist!”  He was bold and passionate. 

Before we proceed let’s assume his information was 100% accurate and his heart was in the right place.

I still think he, along with many others, are making things worse. 

Here is why.

There is an important piece to the maturation process psychologically – identity.  Professional counselors and educators have been aware of this for a long time.

If an alcoholic is trying to improve, it’s one thing for him to admit he has a problem.  It’s something else to have him come home night after night to a spouse that calls him a “worthless drunk.”  Counselors long ago realized that berating and name calling doesn’t help.  In fact, it makes it worse.  Being made aware of a problem is very different than being told your problem is your identity… repeatedly. The wife may hate that he is an alcoholic– and at the same time reinforcing it IS his identity more deeply into his heart and soul! 

In education, it’s the same way.  If you have a young child who struggles with math, it’s one thing to identify there are places he needs extra attention; it’s another to remind him repeatedly he is “stupid.” You can absolutely point out an area in which he needs to improve, but ratifying in him that being “stupid” is a part of his identity will do more damage than good.  He may even actually come to believe it is who he is, accepting it even deeper into his identity. 

Moreover, social uniqueness (identity) is formed by what you are for AND by what you are against, from religion, politics, national identities, even artistic preferences.  Identity IS divisive and being unique is a basic human desire.  What’s important is HOW we approach uniqueness.  Racism (used broadly), by practice, is not only preferring a unique trait, but also believing the PEOPLE who have or prefer other unique traits are somehow less valuable or even worthless.  Our culture has ignorantly tried to throw out both sides of this by pretending to be blind to differences in general.  Trying to say there is no gender, color, intellectual or athletic gifting and the like is silly and limits the beautiful diversity of humanity.  For example:

People need to stop saying things like “kids don’t see color.”  Yes, they do.  They just aren’t bothered by the difference.  In fact, they can openly talk about it because a difference in skin color is a vastly inferior issue to the friendship they have.  What needs to be elevated is the priority of love.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We don’t want to live blind to the complex beauty that is humanity, or be afraid to see differences in each other. However, the binding agent of this uniqueness is love. 

Lastly, abhorrent name calling, violent marches, and belittling trigger the primal fight or flight instinct.  There are countless articles and research papers showing that people struggle to learn when they are deeply angry or afraid.  Every well-intentioned video or article that provokes the primal fight or flight may be highly effective click-bait (meaning a lot of people see it) but will not help move hearts toward love and respect.  In most cases as your blood pressure goes up, your ability to reason goes way down. 

So, what do we do?

In my home: I will not label my kids as a racist, idiot, bully or the like. Even if I think their values are wrong. That’s not their identity and not who they have to become.  That said they are unique and absolutely can improve themselves in many ways.  Not everything they like or dislike will be right, but that has no bearing on their value as a person.  In Christianity, human value is not subjective but objective. I will teach them there is space to love people deeply and talk about differences, even debate them. As a Christian, I tell them all humans are made in the image of God and have immeasurable value– from the unborn baby to the elderly dementia patient, from those born in the heart of India to those born in the heart of Kansas– and we should treat all as Christ sees them over how we may feel about them.  So, in our home we may challenge each other’s ideas and prefer different music styles, but love remains.

Identity: People are eternally valuable creations of God. 

Objective: Teach my children to approach a complex world the way Jesus did. You can challenge people, wrestle with ideas and ideals, but you cannot take away their transcendent value.  You don’t have that power.

In our culture: The battle is won by education and in relationships. I decided to do a little “research” and spent an evening watching interview after interview on YouTube of people who overcame racism.  I couldn’t find one that overcame racism with more physical or emotional violence.  The victory was always won through relationships and education.  If the objective is to win HEARTS– tangible forgiveness, mercy, and love are far more powerful than taking up arms and stone-throwing. If you want to change hearts, don’t work to prove there is hate without also working to demonstrate how it can be overcome. Don’t divide people further, build a bridge to speak into their life.

There are a lot of people in this world I disagree with and I actually enjoy a well-mannered debate.  Yet, I do not have any power to remove someone’s value. Even if I disagree with them. In my opinion their value is assigned by the Creator. 

He loved people so much that he sent what was dearest to him, his son, to die, so that they may be rescued.  The very people he knew had wrong affections and values.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’ll let pastor King be my final thought…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

picture: https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-dark-black-and-white-eyes-12087/

 

An innocent little girl and a God asleep at the wheel.

Prayer

A few thoughts on what extraordinary prayer is.

This last Christmas as 6-Year-old Ashlynd was playing on her mom’s phone, advertisements started popping up.  Naturally, she clicked on what she liked.  After accumulating about $250.00 of various Pokémon toys, she was prompted to confirm the order. She walked over to her sleeping mother and put the fingerprint scanner on the phone against her finger. 

Brilliant!

When her parents noticed the order confirmation email, they assumed foul play.  As little Ashlynd overheard her parents she said, “No, Mommy, I was shopping. But don’t worry — everything that I ordered is coming straight to the house.”

This illustrates well the way many of us treat faith.  We pray for whatever we want and bring our list in for the big Guy-in-the-Sky’s stamp of approval.  Moreover, most professing Christians live like God is disengaged and that their actions go unnoticed. Somehow many still believe if they show up to church and offer a prayer in just the right way, they can still get their order through. 

Doesn’t the Bible say faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains? (Matthew 17:20) What I want isn’t nearly as difficult as tossing a mountain into the sea! (Matthew 21:21) Come on, doesn’t the Bible also say God wants to give us the desires of our heart? (Psalm 37:4)

This is a good example of how Scripture applied out of context creates heresy. The flaw is pursuing what we want without submission to what may objectively be needed.

God wants to show Himself to us as the greatest source of transcendent wholeness, not because He needs it, but because we do.  Our life is like one period on a page in a library full of books. Your prayers for things that diminish the clarity of needing God only appear good from your tiny perspective, but in the end, might dilute the embracing of the greatest good – becoming metaphysically whole.

C. S. Lewis says it well:  “For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” 

What the old Oxford scholar meant is embracing “your will be done” is vastly more important than chasing “my will be done.”

Phillips Brooks takes it further: “Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of God’s willingness.”

Real prayer begins with awareness of how finite we are, followed by submission and trust in Him. Christians don’t follow God because they “get it,” they follow God because they realize they don’t. 

In Christianity, ordinary people become extraordinary not by mighty natural gifts or by controlling the power of God but by humility, trust and obedience before Him. 

Ashlynd: https://www.yahoo.com/news/brilliant-devious-child-used-her-194246787.html

Prayer Picture: https://static.pexels.com/photos/213316/pexels-photo-213316.jpeg

 

I decided to interview actual immigrants about immigration

ellis-island-immagration

I decided to interview actual immigrants about immigration. 

What I learned was…interesting. 

If you watch the news and read through social media the general idea being propagated is this:  all immigrants want the borders wide open, and angry conservatives dislike immigrants and want the borders closed.  Like many, my trust of the news is dwindling fast, and social media is predominantly full of reactionary people who just want to be heard.  If I really wanted to learn about immigrants who live in the Indianapolis area, I had one option left.  Meet them. So, I did and it changed my perspective completely.

Over the last year I have sat down with about a dozen immigrants from different parts of the world who now reside in Indianapolis. 

I ought to offer a disclaimer.  Obviously, this isn’t “real” research.  I wasn’t out to collect statistics for a research paper, but to understand people.  I wanted to hear their stories and understand their hearts, not collect data points.  This wasn’t a double-blind research project, but an open-eyed beginning and honest start to what I hope will become real and lasting friendships.

If you are one of the people I met with, I am so grateful for your willingness to meet with me and to teach me.  Because of the time we spent together, I am a better person.

So, let’s jump into what I found.

Do all immigrants want open borders?  

It’s complicated.  It really seems to depend on what part of the world they are from.  There were some refugees I met with who want the borders tighter for reasons I probably shouldn’t share in a blog.  No one seemed to want totally open borders.  What people want is clarity.  What emerged from these conversations is something I didn’t expect, something we haven’t heard from the media or considered – cultural preservation, both theirs and ours.  They are most interested in what it means to BE American.  This led to new questions I didn’t expect to ask.

Do immigrants want to change American culture?  

Again, it’s complicated, but mostly NO, they don’t.  In fact, they have come here BECAUSE of the culture.  They don’t want to lose their roots, but mostly they DO NOT want America to become like the country they came from.  What was most interesting here is the stark contrast between what disgruntled Americans say immigrants want, and what the ones I talked to actually want.  My guess is there are some angry Americans using immigrants to push a personal agenda.

Are immigrants politically liberal or conservative?  

I went ahead and asked about hot topics in most of the conversations.  Abortion, sexual identity, etc.  Again, I was surprised.  Even non-Christian immigrants were mostly politically conservative.  In some cases VERY conservative. Though the liberal camp has claimed immigrants as theirs, they absolutely do not represent them on most fronts. Even some of the non-Christian immigrants seem to align more on the political conservative side on most issues. Honestly, this surprised me. National news led me to believe this would not be true.

What amazed me most was a few of them said if they could have voted, they would have voted for Trump over Clinton.

You may need to read that last sentence again; when I heard it I was shocked. I was so surprised, I asked for clarity.

There were three things that emerged. First, they really are politically conservative on most fronts. Moral obligations, like abortion, are a big deal.  Second, those in the process of naturalization have worked hard to honor the law.  Some felt it unfair for others to be granted that status without some level of “reasonable” effort, while others felt the process was impossible and too expensive.  Third, refugees are a subset of the immigration situation.  We can’t lump them in with other immigrants.  Their needs are very different. Some truly are fleeing persecution and need asylum and protection.

The bottom line is this:  it’s really complicated.  Postings on social media like “open the borders” or “close the borders” show ignorance.

There is so much more to say, but overall I found the conversation truly enlightening.  There are some amazing people right here in our own communities. Like the immigrants who have lived in America for a few generations (most of us) they came to the U.S. for similar reasons like religious freedom and/or a better standard of living.

What should our government do?  I am not sure.  It truly is complicated.  What should I do as a pastor, and what should my church do?  Some things are clear. We will love the sojourner (Exodus 22:21).  We will help those in need (Matthew 25:35). We will treat all people as valued children of God (Matthew 25:40) created in His image (Gen 1:27).  I am proud to say our church employs immigrants and is working hard to help them.  We are not afraid.  We are honored to love all of God’s people.

I purposefully don’t offer any “real” research in this blog. My intent is to re-humanize rhetoric and flawed stats because it’s not an abstract issue – it’s about real people and complicated situations.

I don’t have easy answers and I don’t know your context or city.

I do know that people matter. I am doing life differently as a result of making new friends. I am going forward by building relationships with the amazing people that have come from all around the world.  When I was younger I wanted to go be a missionary.  It appears God has brought the mission field to our doorstep.  I am choosing to engage.

Will you join me?

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The real reason angry marches, shame filled social media posts, and relentlessly beating someone with “research” doesn’t work.

The real reason angry marches, shame filled social media posts, and relentlessly beating someone with “research” doesn’t work.

“From the first moment a man meets another person he is looking for a strategic position he can assume and hold over him.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

He goes on to say that this alone is enough to destroy any hope of real fellowship.

So what is the answer?  Bonhoeffer says that we must look at others as they truly are – people deeply loved by God.  So loved that in their (our) rebellious sinful state God sent His Son to suffer and die that they (we) might have a way to be rightly reunited with God again. 

If your interactions with people continually lead them to feel belittled and attacked there is a good chance you don’t see them through the right lens. 

If someone you deeply love is in danger you most likely wouldn’t chase them down with a closed fist ready to strike.  You chase them down with open arms.  Equally, if someone you love is about to jump off a bridge you don’t stand aside and wait to clean up the mess, you desperately and lovingly work to win them over.  To talk them down.  Yes, we should stand for truth, but we should do it the way God modeled.  In this age he sent Jesus not an army of angels to level Rome.  Love your neighbor, speak for those that have little voice, give to the poor, offer a helping hand to the elderly person who lives on your block, and absolutely let them know why!  Because you see them as God sees them.  Loved and desired by God.  I fully support standing for what you believe in, but the package, the means, the way that you deliver the truth may in fact destroy any hope of fellowship.  Please Christian, share endlessly about your satisfaction in Christ and gratitude in what He has done for you! Why? Because…

Real victory is seen in your brother standing beside you, not in you standing over him.

We are absolutely called to be his witnesses.  Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Yet, how we go about elevating Christ is very important. 

Do you see people as Christ sees them?  Do you want the same end result for their life as Christ wants?

To my friends that don’t believe in Christ, here is what I say.  I have placed my wholeness in Christ and I am beyond grateful.  My commitment to Christ, though imperfectly lived out, continually grants an ever deepening purpose and meaning that fills me with such wonder.  I don’t want to win you to my perspective so I can win a debate.  I want to win you over because I want you to taste and see how good it is to bask in the grace of Christ.  I want you with me.

Romans 5:8

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Colossians 4:5-6

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

1 Timothy 2:3-4

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Matthew 28:19-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

Don’t give it away!

dont-give-it-away

Don’t give it away

By Cathy Howie

This weekend a president becomes a former POTUS, and a president-elect takes office. Very few Americans have an ambivalent opinion about the change. Hysteria reigns on both sides.

There is, however, a massive group of people who won’t be affected by this changing-of-the-guard, even if people in it have strong feelings. These are America’s ordinary folks.

None of them runs in the circles that control much of anything in their lives. They can work hard, but nothing changes much, not really. They hold strong opinions, yet have few opportunities for their voices to be heard in ways that make a difference. It’s not that they don’t care—they care deeply—it’s just that the influence they have is less than the microbe on the mite on the flea on the feather… where the green grass grows.

You may be in this group, in fact, statistically, there is an incredibly high chance you are. Whether it’s the Illuminati, the Bilderberg Group, or the World Economic Forum, you can hope, wait, and plan, but your golden ticket is never going to arrive. Upward mobility is a myth; the Inauguration will come and go; and very little will change in your, and my, life.

Blame destiny, and put your hands up, and throw in the towel. The round is over; nothing to see here.

A good-sized bunch of ordinary folks live this way.

But some don’t.

Some know this is the way it works, but their towels are firmly tied around their waists. They would sooner give away their American dream than their influence and power. A hand reaches through burning ire to welcome a cousin to the table, and both attend to the scalded flesh so it will heal. A word crosses lines landing like a grenade, but ten are returned covering the crater with spring growth– beauty for ashes.

The real secret is that secret societies actually control very little in most of our lives. Attitudes have more power than national elections; kindness outshines all prestige; and charity’s fortune surpasses the greatest net worth.

The former and new president have no power over me. Unless I give it away, unless I abdicate; unless we devolve into a complaining mass of Jell-O that blames and justifies our inaction and unwillingness to initiate and to do what’s right in a thousand little interactions.

Nobody has that kind of power over us. Just ask Corrie ten Boom, Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Nelson Mandela.

Who the president is doesn’t matter.

Don’t give it away.

Do justice.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with our God.

There is no power or law that can come against these, or the greatest, which is…

Love.

Used with permission.  Cathy Howie blogs at www.cathyhowie.wordpress.com.  Check out her work and follow her.

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Does God want you to suffer?

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Does God want you to suffer?

Pardon the lurid title.  I know it sounds like a mean thing to say.

Especially since one of the most common arguments I hear against God is pain.  Why would a good God allow pain?

The implication is pain is evil.  I am convinced that not ALL pain produces evil.

You find often in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, this teeter-totter of realizing how painful life is and how satisfying and good God is.  Why is this?  The flow of much poetic scripture goes like this: Life is awful, everything is empty and wasting away.  God is so satisfying, like drinking from a deep, pure mountain stream.

This teeter-totter of awareness is really important.  Not just the awareness, but the rhythms of how the Biblical authors become aware.

Imagine with me…

We live life surrounded by a cloak, a veil, of the temporal.  We place our security in it.  From our health to our money.  We place our joy in it, from influence and reputation to temporary quick pleasures.  Inevitably these things don’t last.  Our bodies fail, the striving for positive influence and reputation turns to regret, things can’t take care of us, and quick pleasures don’t last.  When these temporary veils tear apart and let us down it does two things.  It shows us how frail this life really is and also let’s us see through the transient to the imperishable. If you keep your gaze on what is torn, your health, your reputation, your things, your failed pleasures, your heart will be left in perpetual devastation.  You’re looking at the tear.  The flow of scriptures asks the reader to look THROUGH the tear.  If you discipline yourself to look through it, through the very holes that are torn, you will begin to see what is everlasting.

Some of the most whole people I have met have a shredded temporary life fabric.  Their wholeness doesn’t come from what is passing away, it comes from setting their hearts on what isn’t.  For them temporary pain is the window through which they embrace what is everlasting. This type of pain became the very vehicle that brought them face to face with “… an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven…” for them (1 Peter 1:4).

Oh, the depth of joy that comes when people see this!  This is how the martyrs of the past in prison awaiting execution had more joy than the “free” soldiers that stood guard over them.  In the end an untorn veil makes you more frail than a torn one.

Oh that God would allow you to set your heart on what can truly satisfy! Maybe saying God wants you to suffer is more like implying that a good surgeon’s greatest joy is the first incision and not the removal of the cancerous tumor or that the end objective of stitches is the needle piercing the skin.  There is a much deeper healing and much healthier you that comes from shifting your gaze.

The best is yet to come.

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis

*blog photo provided by pexels

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