FAITH AND DOUBT

Are you convinced that Christianity is true?  Do you ever doubt your belief?  Does God really exist?  Is my belief in vain?  Do these questions of doubt haunt you at times?  They do me.  During these times of doubt I have two processes that I follow, reason and experience.  Reason alone cannot restore faith, but it can help.    Walking back through my life and remembering my experiences with God seals the breach in my faith, and I am restored.

These nagging questions that challenge my faith cause me to return to the process of reasoning. I start with the basic question of where did I and all I know come from.  There are only two possible answers.  It all came about by some accidental occurrence of events over millions and billions of years, or an intelligent force designed it.  The complexity of the universe and the existence of life itself lead me to believe that an intelligent force designed it.  And if this is so, what do I know about this intelligent force.  I have concluded that the Bible is the most reliable source of information about this intelligent force.  This process, to remind myself of the logic of my belief, gets me started.  But the most interesting truth about this reasoning process is that it all came about after I believed.  My belief in God is therefore founded in something other than reason.

I next reminisce on my experiences with God.  God has spoken to me at key moments in my life, and he drew me to himself.  He answered prayers and provided miracles all to build a relationship of trust.   My faith is rooted in a relationship with God that he has built over many years.  Then I remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  Ah, my faith is based not on my ability to reason, but on my relationship with God.  Experience trumps reason.  The questioning of my faith is entrenched in my reasoning skills.  My reasoning is faulty, but my experience is sound.  There is no argument against what I have experienced.

I feel that faith is even more deeply based on a spiritual foundation.  When I first believed reason played a small part, experience barely existed, yet I was drawn to God.  Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …” (John 6:44).   My reason and my experience came because God drew me.  I simply said yes to him.  I believe because I was predestined to believe.  God is sovereign over all his creation, even me.

Repost from July 2015

NOT MY WILL BUT YOUR WILL

Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

There are two wills at work here in creation, God’s will and man’s will.  God’s will is that there would be harmony in his creation, that we would love one another.  Man’s will has brought about what we experience daily.  We are subject to man’s will because God gave us free will.  We each one get to choose.  The ultimate goal is that we would, of our own free will, choose God’s will. 

In Matthew 23:37 Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” 

I am in tears as I hear the heart of God in these words.  How much the words, “but you were not willing,” sting my heart.

DECEITFULNESS OF WEALTH (REPOST)

When Jesus was explaining the parable of the sower to his disciples (Matthew 13:18-23) he used this phrase, the deceitfulness of wealth, when speaking of those who represent the seeds falling among the thorns.  In Matthew 13:22 Jesus said, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word making it unfruitful.”  This phrase caught my attention as I read through the passage, and I thought it worth a more in-depth look. 

I frequently like to refer to The Message to expand a passage.  Here’s how verse 22 reads, “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.”  (I love The Message.)  The words deceitfulness and illusions both give indication of something that is not really there.  We are lead to think there’s something there, but it is a deception.  Here in America, I believe the deceitfulness of wealth hinders us from fully participating in God’s kingdom.  Perhaps it is our greatest deception.

I remember, when my youngest daughter returned from a mission’s trip to Mexico, she was deeply impressed by how happy the people were in the village where she stayed.  She said to me, “Dad they live in shacks and have nothing, yet they are always cheerful and happy.”  It was a great experience for her.  She had the opportunity to realize that possessions don’t bring happiness.  It’s a deception.

 

This is a repost from December of 2015.  I hope you enjoy it.

GOD ANSWERS THE LORD’S PRAYER

Last night, as I lay on my bed awaiting the curtain of sleep to envelop me, I began to reflect on those times in my early years when I escaped being caught up in evil.  The stimulation of these memories caused me to raise prayers of thanksgiving.  God was in my life protecting me even before I fully recognized him.  As I thought about this, I realized that God was answering the Lord’s Prayer.  He was delivering me from evil.

I tend to trivialize the Lord’s Prayer because I memorized it many years ago as a child.  The repetition of this familiar prayer has washed over its implications.  In my meditations, I encounter a highlighted view of these meaningful words.  I recognized that God has indeed delivered me from evil and kept me from temptation.  He has provided my daily bread, forgiven me, and taught me to forgive others.

Jesus gave this prayer to his disciples saying “this is how you should pray.”  I found myself saying “yes” this is how I should pray.  Jesus starts his prayer by setting a proper placement between man and God, and then he gives us a few words to deal with daily life.  He covers it all.  Of course, I did know this before, but isn’t it wonderful how you can come to a deeper revelation of a familiar passage of scripture?  The words of the Lord’s Prayer have taken on new significance for me. 

I’d like Jesus’ prayer to be continually with me both as I speak it, and as I experience its impact in my heart.  I desire to offer it to God my Father with an expression of love and thanksgiving for his continual answers.

A DAY OF HUMBLING

Yesterday was a day of humbling.  I made a big mistake at work, had to fudged a little on a recorded time, and to top it off, when the left turn lane started to move on the turn arrow, I started forward from my straight lane.  Catching my error, I slammed on the brake.  There I sat in the middle of the cross walk in my driver’s instruction car for all to see my error.  The haunting realization came over me that even under my scrupulous vigilance I can’t attain perfection.  The illusion of perfection was no longer possible to maintain.

I’m a perfectionist!  I live under that faulty idea that I need to do all things perfectly.  How imperfect is the pursuit of perfection?  To think that I can do anything perfectly is ridiculous -not to mention it’s hard work.  I’m reminded of the guy on the Ed Sullivan show twirling plates on top of poles.  He had to run from plate to plate to keep them spinning so they wouldn’t fall.   In my yesterday’s experience, plates fell.  One fell then another.  It was a disaster.

So here I am, in the aftermath of humiliation, trying to make sense of it all.  I ask myself,” What causes me to be a perfectionist”?  My answer is twofold.  First, I am created in the image of God, who is perfect.  It’s inherent in my nature to want things perfect.  Secondly, I have a sinful nature, so I’m full of pride.  I inherently want to be better than the next guy.  I also don’t want to be criticized by the next guy.  Perfectionism can also set me in a place where I judge others as less than me.  How ugly is that?

I now rejoice in my day of humbling.  It brings me down from the throne of superiority and places me right back where I belong.  I will continue to give my best effort at work and in all my endeavors because it is the right thing to do, but I will also make every attempt to keep a humble place and avoid letting my desire to do good work tempt me into a prideful place.  I will trust God to give me days of humbling when I need them.  After all, I am a sinner in need of a savior.

LOVE IN THE WORLD

While reading and meditating on Matthew chapter 24, a memory from my early twenties came to mind.  I was at a party sitting on a couch hovering on the inebriated side of too much wine. Gathered at my feet was a group of teenagers.  I was sharing with them how love was the answer to all the world’s problems, and that God was the source of love.  Ah, the gifts and callings were there even in the early years.  So why am I sharing this?  To my surprise, the message in my heart hasn’t changed. 

Jesus in Matthew 24, when telling his disciples about the end times, made this statement. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”  Can you imagine what it will be like when the love of most has grown cold?  I see a lack of love every day, but I also see a lot of love being displayed.  What will happen when most of it is gone?  Love is the stabilizing factor that keeps our world in balance.

The good news is that we who know love are encouraged to stand firm.  Keep on loving.  Jesus said that during this time, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world…”  In the darkest of times, love will still exist in the hearts of those who believe.  Love will still be the answer to the world’s problems.

I pray for love to ever increase in my heart and for all of us who believe.  As wickedness increases, let us counter with a greater expression of God’s love by the power of his Holy Spirit in us.

HE IS THERE FOR US

I have been reading through the book of Matthew in “The Message”.    Matthew has always been a compelling book for me, but I must confess that Jesus’ teachings and parables are frequently disturbing to me.  In chapter 19 verse 25 the disciples ask a question that frequently reverberates in my mind, “Then who has any chance at all?”  The question was in response to what Jesus had just said to them, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom?  Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.” 

I, like the rich young man in Jesus’ teaching, find it impossible to qualify for God’s kingdom.  I can’t keep the entire list.  I fall short every day.  What can be done?

Jesus’ answer to the disciples question shocked me from my self-imposed state of worry.  He replied, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself.  Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”  As I thought through this passage, I realized that Jesus, ever aware of the sacrifice he was about to make, was drawing us to himself.  His teachings and parables all point to our need for him, our need for a savior.  His teachings aren’t meant to condemn us, but to show us that though we can’t do it on our own he is there for us.