Questions, Doubts and Faith

April 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

I don’t know it all. Hell, I don’t know what I don’t know; I am not aware of what I am not aware of.

It seems like I am not the only one though. For instance, too many people think that they can play basketball– when in fact they can’t. (Insert Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character from ‘Along Came Polly’ here.) I am in existing company.

For the past couple weeks, I have been chewing on the nature of faith and how…incomplete it seems. No doubt, the Bible decrees that ‘the righteous shall live by faith’ (Rom 1:16-18; Gal 3:10-12; Hab 2:4). But this decree needs to be wrestled with for notable reasons. Why is faith called for in the Scriptures? Are we to have faith for faith’s sake? What or whom do I place my faith in? Is the object of my faith worthy of me trusting in? What quality of faith must I have for it to be called ‘good ’nuff?’

And for many folks that have been in the faith for a few years or more, they would be scared to ask these questions out loud even though they ask them quietly at night in their beds or all alone in the darkness of despair. I was most certainly scared to ask questions like these again. After all, I asked them prior to becoming a Christian. Did asking these questions mean that ‘the conversion didn’t take?’

Then my pastor made mention of something especially powerful on Easter Sunday- ‘There is nothing wrong with doubts that lead you to asking questions.’

‘I should already know this.’

‘See, you really don’t believe all this stuff you preach to people about…’

‘What good are you now if you can’t be honest about your doubts?

And a ton of other doubts crept in on top of other doubts. Gripping. Tightly. I just want to bear my heart a bit. This is a war that I have fought for almost ten years. I really don’t have all of the answers like I pretend that I do. I stopped asking good questions for a long time. Instead, I got wrapped up in how things work over the reality that God is mysterious. I thought I was already climbing Everest when I found that I was pitching my tent a few feet up, reading the instruction manual with joy. ‘Let it rain…’

There is comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this though. The disciples were rebuked by Jesus for not trusting in Him and what He is doing (Mark 4:35-41; Luke 12:27-29; Matt 14:22-33). This was common. If they doubted God’s provision in their lives (How would they feed thousands?), His mercy (Would He let Peter be taken out by the waves that toppled his infant-like faith?) and might (Is that boat going to capsize?) as God Incarnate walked in front of them, performed countless miracles, and encouraged them all the more to believe and not doubt, but still did indeed doubt…does that not speak of His patience & mercy and my need for a constant reminder as to why I need to believe what He says and take it as truth?

The nature of faith seems incomplete? Powerless? Feeble? It only seems that way. When in fact it is the opposite. It only seems feeble because I am feeble. The nature of faith is powerful because it is graced to us by One who shows our feebleness and His strength, mercy and love.

And just like the disciples, I’m sure that there is one person that will read this (because only one person aside from myself will read this post) who is wrestling with doubts that they have never disclosed to anyone else aside from the person in their mirror. I’d ask you to trek with me to walk a hard road to explore just what it means to walk by faith. What is it that you just simply have to fight to believe? Or what truths has God communicated to you that you’ve stopped fighting to believe? I ask you today..right now…not to doubt any longer. But instead…make your doubts known and ask the hard questions.

*Image above is ‘The Doubt’ by Domingo Millán

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Fulfilled

November 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

‘I feel empty, Tim. I feel cold and empty…’

That is what a friend of mine just tonight shared with me.

We don’t have the greatest relationship. This is actually the first time in several years that we’ve really reconnected. And though I am excited to have an old comrade back, my heart breaks because of the circumstance that brought us together again. Our conversation lead us to the reality that emptiness exists. We try to fit square pegs into round holes; we search for things to fill our empty, porous hearts that simply do not satisfy. The reality is sinking in deeply- my friend is not the only person that does this.

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His situation, though different in specifics, is no different from everyone else on earth. People are made for purpose. We grope around, looking for things that promise the thrill of satisfaction…but they fail the Pepsi challenge. These things lie. But we continue to go to them, expecting it to be better next time. It’s like a woman in an abusive relationship; ‘It’ll be different this time, honey. I promise.’ Reese Roper, of Five Iron Frenzy, wrote, ”From machines that I have made, I’ve become the slave.’

This is where Jesus’ words become a feast for those that lived in a fallowed world. ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled’ (Matthew 5:6). It’s so good because it does not say that we do not have appetites that need to be sated. It’s obviously the opposite! The promise is that we can be filled, sated, satisfied. The question that enters my mind though is this: If this is the way that man’s innermost person can be fulfilled, why then do we continue to go to things that hurt us, consume us, and leave us cold?

Our lives, our souls were made to enjoy and rejoice in the fact that there is something far greater, far superior to the base things of this place. The God of the universe is what is righteous, or good, or satisfying in this sense. We fail to see him as good though. We fail to see him as satisfying. This is why we continue to go back to damaging things like a dog returning to its vomit.

For me, Jesus’ words could not be more true. How I need help to believe Him though. Real satisfaction in life is found in him…not in friendships, romantic relationships, jobs, toys, etc. Nowhere else.

Power

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

I am in a peculiar place in my life.

‘I feel like I am better than you, friend. In many meaningful ways. What I lack in (whatever I may lack in this context), I make up for in wit, charm, humor, character, awareness and intelligence. You simply need to know this.’

I am an emotional wreck right now. I feel somber and weighed down. I want to…feel the need to communicate the statement above to a couple folks. To show my superiority in some way. Putting whatever I have out on display to beguile/belittle. Puffing my chest in victory. Showing that I am worthy of respect, worthy to be desired, etc. And I know that I wield the power to spread all of this out in a fashion that displays my superiority. It is because of these things that I share what is going on in life because I have run aground against some stony portions of my heart. It is in my arrogance that I that I want to flex my power.

It is not, as if, power is such a bad thing. In fact, power in the right quantities, and for the right purposes, is a beautifully poetic and redeeming thing. From the sculpting of David, by Michelangelo, to wrestling with little kids, power, controlled power, is an awesome thing. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ And here I sit, typing this little post. Thinking that I am capable of far too little or far too much than what I really can push out, wielding it carelessly and boastfully.

I feel compelled to evaluate who I am- my gifts, talents, skills, etc- anew. I feel compelled to seek a way to align my desires with not what will make me look the best, but what is the best for me. I feel compelled to also evaluate the relationships that I have with people. Every person I know, figuring if I do try to force myself into a better light/situation. It’s only out of love that this can happen though.  So as someone who is powerless to change hearts, including my own, I will feast my eyes on someone who is, indeed, omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

With loving power, a certain grip, He forms the hearts of people who trust in Him.

Hurt

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

We, by nature, are prone to hurt and sadness. It’s just something that comes with the human condition. Vulnerability. Weakness. There is no way to escape it.

And there are lots of things that prick our hearts, regardless of how hard they may be. Whether your heart was moved by the devastation in Haiti, or moved by the heinous homelessness in America, or by the tragic death of thousands…of millions by curable diseases across the world abroad, it happens.

It even happens in home. I can’t count the times, while I was growing up, where I was let down by a number of people. Mom broke my heart. My sister. Other relatives. Friends. Pain is not just out there, away from you and I- without a face or a name, a situation or tragedy. It exists her and now.

How often though are we broken, even in mourning, about what we have done? While I was heading home on from class today, I had a scary thought: ‘The more mature I become, the more mature, and cunning, my sinful heart becomes. It’s a painful reminder of how much help I need.’ I am an evil person indeed. And for the first time in a long time…I really am broken in half about me- my thoughts, actions, dispositions.

Jesus breaks the silence, as his disciples follow him up a mountainside, with the Beatitudes. And He speaks about our own feelings of mourning and sadness. ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

I want to be clear. Jesus isn’t talking about just any kind of sadness. Feeling bad about other’s situations is alright. It’s a good thing! Just because we are depraved does not mean we lack dignity. He is speaking of something else.

His train of thought is about our emotional state towards our sinful crisis. Not merely feeling bad about stealing money from both your mommy and grandma when you were six. Or stealing money from the offering plate. Or only asking someone for a glass of water…only to spit it in their face. Not feeling bad for feeling bad’s sake, or rather, how it hurt me, but how it affects relationships on both the horizontal (relationships with people) and the vertical (our relationship with God) perspectives.

Fighting through this journey, I’ve come back to a place where I see just how much hurt I dish out to both God and man. And it’s awful. Oftentimes, my selfishness gets the best of me. And my pride seeks out opportunities to grow.

And as tragic as this is, there lies a promise. If I am sorrowful, if I am mourning because of my sin, I will be comforted. Another way to say it is, if I hate my sin (wanting me to be the star of the show, looking for satisfaction from some other person/some other thing, etc), and cling to him in passionate trust…He takes my burden (sin) and gives me His (right standing with God). And His burden is good.

I pray that you would consider reflecting on Christ’s sufferings and what that means for you. I also pray that, upon reading this, you would be broken about your actions and thoughts that are contrary to who King Jesus is and what He has called you and I to.

Poverty

October 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

About 42% of the world’s poor live in India. 42%! That is a scary statistic! And poverty will continue to incline as population grows, food becomes more expensive, and the caste system stays in place.

It’s so clear to me concerning the why Jesus would be so eager to herald the Good News to the poor! What do they have? The impoverished are not like the rich who have more than they need. They scrape by, clinging to their jobs as if it were the source of being. What is it that they have to look forward to though? Because, at the end of the day (or, life), all of the things that we cherish and hold so dear in life…will fade from our fingertips as we go from here to eternity.

And this is the state that all man is in. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ The power in this statement is, I think, not that we are poor in spirit and that we already have a promise of eternal life. We are poor in spirit, by nature, and lack, by nature, the promise of enjoying Joy forever. I think it is in the push is for us to see ourselves as poor in spirit. This is hard for people to see who think that they have it all together, who have more than they need, or think that the next life will be just like this one for them.

Continuing on in my 40 day journey, I’m encouraged by Jesus’ statement to see myself as poor and without hope by myself, in my natural attributes and nature. And I need to see how I can have more than I need, have Joy, and how I can be healed (spiritually/emotionally/physically/mentally). It’s only found in the pierced arms of the resurrected Jesus who traded places with me- He became poor so that I could have more than I need, He died so that I could live, He took my sin & gave His righteousness so that I can enjoy God forever.

Leaving

October 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

So, I’ve just completed day four of this 40 day journey, this quest to seek and savor Jesus. With that in mind, I thought it was fitting to share with you a passage that I read today.

What I find interesting is not Jesus commanding the disciples to repent of sin. It was Jesus simply inviting his soon-to-be disciples to ‘follow him.’ Their response is even more remarkable! They left their nets (which is their livelihood) and their family… This is an astounding thing.

So, without being too verbose, I would love to ask you something. What is it that you have given up in the service of Jesus? And I’m not talking about sin. It’s not sinful to be rich necessarily. Nor is it sinful, necessarily, to live comfortably. However, love marked by sacrifice does seem to be the seal of serious Jesus followers throughout history (read Foxe’s Book of Martyr’s). I would invite you today to take a risk with your life. Your job, living situation, and even family. Follow Jesus…and see where He leads. I guarantee that your story will be weaved into the lives of others.

Decision

October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

I want to develop something a bit further.

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to share a bit on ‘Authentic Worship.’ My text was concerning a suffering Jesus within Gethsemane’s garden (Matthew 26:36-46). While preparing for the deal, I began reflecting on Gethsemane, Jesus’ Gethsemane, from a different perspective than that which I am used to. The place that I came to was quite astounding- If Gethsemane did not happen, the cross would not have happened. I am not making this statement merely because of the parallels between the First Adam and Second Adam [it was in the garden of pleasure that Adam fell, but it was in the garden of suffering that the second Adam, Jesus,  was shown to be better (Romans 5:13-15)]. It’s also speaking from the human experience.

We maintain that Jesus was not just 100% God. He is 100% man as well. That truth is what comforts us in the midst of pain as we read that Jesus is able ‘…to sympathize with our weaknesses…yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:14, 15). This is a marvel to me. Because if we look at Gethsemane as simply a speed bump on the way to Jesus becoming man’s sin-bearer, then we do a grievous thing to the humanity of Jesus. Namely, we negate it. In other words, if Jesus really did not mean that his soul was heavy with grief and pain, and that He did not really mean ‘take this cup from me,’ then this cheapens the cross. It is in both natures that coexist within Jesus that brings value to Him being separated from God, on our behalf, that we might have a right relationship with God (Colossians 1:15-20).

It was this thought…that if there was no time of grief prior to the reality of the cross (What it meant. Who would be affected. Who could care less. Etc.)…that has been driving me to an appreciation for my nature. Being man. Though dirty in my own strength and merit, I am still made in the image of God- A builder, cultivator, and artist. And it made me think hard on how I run away from what God has called me to.

Skipping a lot of detail, I want you to join me in a 40 day challenge. I want you to join me in running harder after King Jesus than you have ever done before. This means evaluating who you are and square it up to what He has called you to. Are you living a life of holiness that is saturated in love? This means looking at the things that you value most in life and consider whether or not they are worth your time. Are there things in your life that you value more than King Jesus? I do not know what, this quest, looks like for you. But I nonetheless invite you to give up food, sugar, technology during this time. I invite you to study hard- study your Bible, listen to sick preaching, read books from dead guys. And meditate on our God’s suffering- from Gethsemane to the grave.

(Without sounding like some ancient mystic who is all about flagellating themselves (don’t get cute, I gave you a definition), I want it to be understood that I am not a masochist. I do want you to acknowledge a hard truth though- God uses pain as a vehicle to bring us to a place in life that we are homesick for him. Because Augustine was right. “Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.”)