Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sparrows and Lillies, Insurance and Silverchair - A question on living out our trust in God.

The 90's had better radio rock than any other decade in America. I'll suffer no discussion on this. It's just the plain truth. I love 90's radio rock so much that I've told my wife I'd like to name a daughter Seattle.

But who would have known, who could have known, one of the best 90's radio rock albums would come from a trio of 15-year-old kids in the middle-of-no-place Australia? That's right. I'm talking about Silverchair and their hurricane debut album Frogstomp. Even if the rest of the album sounded like a dry fart, you have to love the song Tomorrow.

Now, I bring this up for one tiny, seemingly unconnected reason. The opening line in the second verse says, "You say money isn't everything. Well I'd like to see you live without it." And there I see a point of tension with a lot of people in the church.

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells people not to worry about stuff like food and clothing. Several people walk away from Him disheartened by the cost of following Him (as in Mark 10:17-22 and Luke 9:22-24). But does that mean we really give away everything? Give up the security of money, family, and career? Consider the possibility of homelessness, persecution, and death?

If not, why not? Where does Jesus tell us to hedge our bets?

Yes, Proverbs does tell people to make plans, and Paul does tell Timothy how men should work to provide for their families. My problem comes from the attitude culture fosters in us. "God provides, but just in case, there's UnitedHealth."

While writing this, a guy at my wife's coffee shop asked me to talk with him about God. Within two minutes he tells me how he needs to pay his landlord a certain amount of money by 9:00pm or else she would throw him out. As I'm talking with this guy, I tell him what I can do for him. Then I say, "But I really think we should pray. I've seen God answer prayer over and over again when it comes to this sort of thing." And then the guy got mad. He says, "I don't need prayer, I need to pay my rent!"

Before you or I go tsk-tsking this guy, let's be honest. We've all felt that way in very desperate moments. Haven't we all at one point reacted just like him? We know we need God, but in the middle of a crisis we want the material means to alleviate the situation first.

Just so you know, the man did let me pray for him. Within twenty minutes, I worked out a solution with his landlord and the guy got two phone calls for odd jobs. Without looking me in the eye, the guy mumbled, "Maybe that prayer did work." Ha.

Maybe you don't think you would react like that guy. If so, let me ask you this: What if you somehow lost your health insurance? What if you had an emergency that your insurance wouldn't cover? What if it affected your wife or kids? Would you pray, trusting God to take care of you? Or would you honestly wonder if a good God could allow such a thing to happen to you and your loved ones? How would you feel if someone said, "Let me pray for you" when you had 24 hours before the end of your known universe? Is it wrong to say we worship what or who we trust most?

I'm not saying insurance itself is evil (although I can't give the same confidence to insurance companies), but I do think we should consider our heart in light of what we find in the Bible.

What kind of attitude do you think Christians should have?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Purpose Of Doctrine Is Not Doctrine Itself.

For those of you who read Stark Raving Obedience or maybe the first post in the Press, you may remember how I compared my relationship with God to joining the Rachel Leigh Cook fan club.

This morning, I heard pastor John Privett say something similar in his message. "It's one thing to know about a person but another to actually know them. Some people try to substitute the Bible for a dynamic, active relationship with Jesus."

At one point in time, I felt like I knew quite a lot about Rachel Leigh Cook, but I didn't know her. In fact, I sometimes think of how I could have only hung out with her if she initiated it. It's sort of like how Jesus told His disciples, "You didn't choose me, I chose you." But that's beside my point here.

I realize that I've put a lot of focus on the Bible lately. I've done so because people seem to have a lot of questions and want to talk about it. A Charles Spurgeon quote comes to mind today, "Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a lion. Just turn the Bible loose. It will defend itself." Like Spurgeon, I don't feel like I need to defend the Bible. If you want to wrestle with it, you'll find it hard to overpower.

I mentioned having a point earlier, so here it is. I wrote about this stuff because I want to encourage you to have a dynamic relationship with Jesus. I think knowing doctrine allows this, which may explain why Paul told both Timothy to be nourished on sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:6) and Titus to hold fast to the Word so he can teach sound doctrine. Now, the purpose of doctrine is not doctrine itself, but to explain how a person can know, love, and have a relationship with God in the way He wants. But it's the very fact of God wanting things on His terms which (I think) scares people most. G.K. Chesterton once wrote "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

What do you think? Would you rather know and love God on His terms? How would a person even know such a thing?

Does Jesus, or even the mention of Jesus, make you nervous?

Does the Holy Spirit scare you, even though He's offering gifts?

How important is your control to you?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

One Possible Reason Why People Don't Want To Believe in Scriptural Authority and Inerrancy.

God bless my parents for reading books. Not just because it fostered in me a love for the written word, not just because reading leads to understanding more of how people behave, feel, and think, but because reading made my parents good teachers. Both of my parents teach inside and outside of the church, so throughout my life I would hear them quote from the books piled up on the sofa end table. I made this connection early, "Reading makes you smart. Smart enough to tell other people stuff they don't know. Stuff they want to know. And when you know stuff they want to know, they'll listen to you. They'll like you." And of course, most of our lives are spent trying to get people to like us...

But really, I'm glad my parents read because I could never buy all of those books on my own. Every time I visit Michigan, some of their books vanish while others mysteriously reappear where mom kept looking all those months. During one visit, I thumbed through a book called "A Third Testament" by Malcolm Muggeridge. He covered writings from several respected Christian authors and gave it this hilariously exaggerated title. I wonder what Lewis or Bonhoeffer would have thought about it...

But I'm getting off topic, and Sarah won't read anything too long on here. The point is, I think my mom bought the book because it contained selected writings of Soren Kierkegaard. That guy wrote more in his life than most people read, so I can understand why mom wanted bite-sized portions. Admittedly, the only Kierkegaard I know I first heard from a Swedish girl commenting on Jon Acuff's Blog. But seriously guys, read this slowly, openly, and questioningly:

"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obligated to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except  pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?

"Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close."

It's almost disheartening to think about how true those words are, isn't it? So I wonder, does the underlying motivation of Christians to deny Biblical authority and inerrancy come from the fear Kierkegaard describes? What does that say about us as Christians if we tell people, "Read the Bible, but don't take it too seriously"?