Faith vs. Certainty

We all have our ways of making sense of the world. We look around at the way things are: the beauty of the creation, the goodness and love in some people, the evil and violence in others. The fact that goodness, evil, love and violence exist simultaneously in every one of us. We see how death is right there with us every day we live, just a heartbeat away. We look at all that and more, and we develop a worldview. Maybe you have spent serious effort thinking it through.  Maybe, for you, it gradually crept up on you as lived your life.

Either way, you have a world view. Something that explains most of what you see, experience, and know to be true about life.

Most, but not all.

I’m sure this is true. You have unanswered questions. There are things that still don’t really make sense.

I’ve committed my life to the belief that the Bible is true. That we humans were created in God’s image. That we have blurred that image by our own selfish rebellion from our Maker. And that, through Jesus, our Creator has lovingly offered a way of redemption. These simple but profound statements, and the rest of scripture, make sense of the way the world is. It explains most of what I see, experience, and know to be true about life.

However, I still have questions that I can’t answer.

But I’m learning to be more comfortable with uncertainty.

Certainty is ridiculously arrogant, isn’t it?

Don’t misunderstand me. I have faith. Deep faith. I trust that there is an explanation, even though I may not know what it is, or even understand it if I did know.

This has been on my mind since I read the following passage of scripture last week for my #GodQuestions devotional:

Luke 20:27-40
27 There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man[f] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons[g] of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him any question.

The Sadducees have a world view. We’re told they don’t believe in the resurrection. In other words, they think this life is all there is. (Consequently, they are “sad, you see.”) Their argument here seems to be something like, “If there were a resurrection and people lived again after death there would be all kinds of problems that don’t make any sense to us. For example, there were seven brothers…etc.”

I find it fascinating that on this one occasion Jesus simply gives them a straight answer.  No riddles. No stories.

Jesus does two things: first, he tells them something about the next life that they didn’t know. New information not included in their scriptures. Then he passes by their specific spoken question and addresses the heart of their issue by explaining something to them that they thought they already knew. But apparently, not well enough.

So, what are your questions?

Maybe you don’t believe scripture at all. You think it’s all just some kind of fairy tale. You might think the same thing of any religion.  People ask questions about all kinds of stuff in the Bible. Stuff they think simply can’t be true. Because, like the Sadducees, if it were true it would raise all kinds of issues for them that don’t make any sense.

But, is it possible that Jesus would answer you the same way he answered the Sadducees? Is it possible that Jesus has access to some information you do not? Information that would radically alter your world view? Is it possible that Jesus could see right past your spoken objection into your heart? Is it possible that there is an explanation for your objections that is beyond you?

Maybe you do believe scripture and do your best to follow Jesus, but can’t quite swallow everything the bible teaches about some things. Things like morality, for example. You read what scripture says, but figure it must mean something else. Because if it were really all completely true it would raise all kinds of issues for you that just don’t make any sense.

Maybe you love Jesus but you can’t seem to make sense of the challenges this life has brought your way. You wonder how God, who has promised to meet your every need, has somehow allowed you to suffer in ways you had never imagined.

I have no answer for you. Certainty eludes me.

But, isn’t it possible that Jesus would answer you much like he answered the Sadducees? Is it possible that Jesus has access to some information you do not? Information that would radically alter your world view? Is it possible that Jesus could see right past your spoken questions into your heart? Is it possible that there is an explanation for your objections and situation that is simply beyond you?

Yes, I believe it’s possible.

In fact, I believe it is so.

Lloyd

 

Thursday Picks ~ 6-8-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well..

In addition to this article by Joe Carter you should read what David French and Samuel James wrote about this. Also, Russell Moore has a comment in a press release from the ERLC. All are worth your time. This is important…

Two U.S. Senators Apply an Anti-Christian Religious Test for Government OfficialsJoe Carter
https://tgc-cache.s3.amazonaws.com/images/remote/http_s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-ee2/articles/sanders-vanhollen.jpgWithin the span of six minutes, two U.S. Senators—Sanders and Van Hollen—shamed the people of Vermont, Maryland, and the rest of the United States by establishing a new religious test for government officials…

We should not be suprised when such anti-Christian bias is expressed by groups like the ACLU. That organization has spent decades undermining the liberties of religious Americans. But it’s unacceptable to have our own representatives in the Senate claim that Christians “violate the public trust” when we make the true claim that in rejecting Jesus “those of other faiths stand condemned.”

This display of anti-Christian bias for partisan political purposes has the potential to set a dangerous precedent and must not be allowed to stand. The remarks made by Sanders and Van Hollen should be repudiated by every American who values religious freedom and opposes religious tests for government office.


Listening To God Without Getting All Weird About It
David Appelt
http://theblazingcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/pexels-photo-220197-1700x1133.jpegWhen Christians talk about listening to God, we often rely on cliches instead of really drilling down to the truth. Scripture gets pulled out of context; we end up saying (or doing) really weird things in the hopes of “hearing from God.”

To be honest, most of what Christians say in this category isn’t overly useful or biblical. As a disclaimer, everything in this article is written by me, a man who struggled to answer this question for years.

It kept me living in uncertainty and passivity as a result. Hopefully, I can help us get to an answer that is more faithful and helpful…

You don’t need magic tricks, fleeces, perfect faith, or supernatural hearing. When it comes to listening to God, you have everything you need already.


Seth has a way of saying a lot with only a few words…

No Way OutSeth Godin
That’s why we burn the boats when we land on the beach.

Because the only way out is through.

It’s pretty easy to bail out of a course (especially a free online course that no one even knows you signed up for). Easy to quit your job, fire a client or give up on a relationship.

In the moment, walking out is precisely the best short-term strategy. Sometimes this place is too hard, too unpleasant, too much…

The thing is, though, that the long-term strategy might be the opposite. The best long-term approach might be to learn something, to tough it out, to engage with the challenge. Because once you get through this, you’ll be different. Better.

We always have a choice, but often, it’s a good idea to act as if we don’t.


We Need Revelation, Not SpeculationMichael Kelley
Here we find the great irony all around us. That though revelation is at our fingertips, we still choose to live in speculation. Or, to return to the metaphor, though the object has been uncovered, we put our hands over our eyes so that we cannot see. And why might we do this?

Perhaps it’s because we are infatuated with mystery. Or maybe it’s because we are so prideful to think that we have to find something for ourselves. But I believe it’s far more base and selfish than either of those reasons – we opt for speculation when there is revelation because we know that revelation brings accountability.


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Bizarro

Luke 21:20-28

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 21:20-28
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Has any of this already happened?
Imagine being there, listening to these words for the first time…
What is your reaction?
Does his meaning seem different when you do that?
Do you find these verses troubling, or encouraging?
Honestly, it’s a pretty bleak picture he paints, isn’t it?
But after this horrific description, what does he expect you to do?
Why not start now?
Straighten up.
Raise your head.
Your redemption is drawing near.


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Luke 21:10-19

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 21:10-19
10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers[a] and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Has any of this already happened?
Didn’t some of it happen for the disciples?
Isn’t much of it happening to Christians around the world now?
Is any of it happening to you?
Do you find these verses troubling, or encouraging?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Tuesday Picks ~ 6-6-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well..

Our First JobDarryl Dash
Reading BibleWe tend to focus on roles, skills, and techniques. They’re important, but they’re not our first job. Our first job is to cultivate a heart that’s seeking after God…

Every morning we begin the process of waking up again. We wipe the sleep from our eyes, splash water on our faces, and move from grogginess to engagement at our own particular speed. The same is true of our souls. Every morning we need to wake up our souls again to the grandeur and beauty of God, and make it our pursuit to follow him…

Our first job is the one we often forget: to cultivate a heart that’s seeking after God. Everything else flows from that.


Serial Killer Released After Explaining Murder Was Only 3% Of What He Did -Babylon Bee
“My client’s opponents are determined to label him a ruthless killer, as if that’s all he does. In actuality, homicide was really only 3% of his daily activities during the decade in question…”

“He even held a job during the entire time in question, providing valuable services to society, which his accusers completely overlooked,” the attorney added.


Six Attitudes That Kill Evangelism in the Church
Thom Rainer
…why are our churches less evangelistic today?

That question could be answered from a number of perspectives. But one of the key explanations is simply an attitude problem. There are several dangerous and debilitating attitudes in churches that are killing evangelism. Here are six of them…

I have seen churches make dramatic turnarounds when just one person decided to be radically obedient to the Great Commission.

The question should not be: “What about them?”

The question should be: “What about me?”


Why C. S. Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’ Received Bad ReviewsTrevin Wax
LewisBBCtalks-firstprintingLooking back at these reviews, there is a delicious irony in the fact that Lewis and Mere Christianity are still read today, while most of his critics who charged him of being “out of date” are forgotten. Those who believed they were at the vanguard of newest biblical scholarship and modernist trends in theology have now been surpassed by other movements and are largely ignored by most churches throughout the world.

Meanwhile, Lewis’s legacy lives on. Why? Because Lewis had learned to see through the “chronological snobbery” that overtakes so many scholars…

True to form, the chronological snobs sneered at Mere Christianity, just like their descendants sneer at traditional Christian beliefs today–everything from our belief in miracles to our reaffirmation of Christianity’s distinctive sexual ethic. But, as Dean Inge has said, those who marry the spirit of one age are always widowed in the next.

That’s why we, like Lewis, don’t have to “dig in.” We can simply stand, smiling, trusting in the power of truths that have stood the test of time, knowing the gospel will go forward in faith while the heresies will go out of fashion.


Do as I say, not as I did…
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Zits – Click image for a larger view.

Luke 21:5-9

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 21:5-9
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Do you think the end is near?
Why?
How much longer, would you say?
How will you know you’re not being “led astray”? (v. 8)
Has there ever been a time when there weren’t “wars and tumults”?
“The end will not be at once.” What do you think that means?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Monday Picks ~ 6-5-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well..

This was written in January. Don’t know how I missed it…

6 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2017
Carey Nieuwhof
church trendsIf your church is still defined by what you ‘offer’ members to satisfy them, and isn’t defined by how you love each other and the world around you, the clock is ticking faster than ever…

I promise you, if you think you can speak to a group of believers and non-believers the way you would speak to believers alone, you’re wrong.

You certainly don’t need to alter the foundational message, but you do need to rethink your approach.


I thought this photo was a fake. I’m sure there’s a sermon illustration here somewhere…

Man who mowed lawn with tornado behind him says he ‘was keeping an eye on it.’
https://images-cdn.9gag.com/photo/aVqAR6n_700b.jpg
Cecilia Wessels snapped the picture of her husband, Theunis, on Friday evening as the twister passed near their home in Three Hills.

She said cutting the grass was on her husband’s to-do list, and as he started the task, she went for a nap…

“It looks much closer if you look in the photo, but it was really far away. Well, not really far, far away, but it was far away from us,” he said.

“I was keeping an eye on it.”


Prioritize Your ChurchTim Challies
No ministry can outshine it, no program can replace it, no power can topple it. The local church is God’s plan, and he has no backup.

God means for each Christian to be involved in a local church, and his Word knows nothing of Christians who will not be part of one…

If the local church is central to God’s plan for his world, it is equally central to God’s plan for your life. And for that reason I must ask: What is your relationship with the local church? Are you part of a church? Are you involved in it? Are you contributing to it in meaningful ways? You cannot expect to thrive or even to survive without it.

This may be hard for us to admit. We are men! We are strong and fierce and independent! But God means to teach us that we are not as strong as we might think. In fact, we are so weak that we desperately need the help of others. We need to be strengthened by the elderly, we need to be taught by the disabled, we need to be encouraged by the children, we need to be stirred by the unloved, we need to be humbled by the feeble. It is in the local church that we learn to run well.


Greatest hits are exhaustingSeth Godin
The web has pushed us to read what everyone else is reading, the hit of the day. But popular isn’t the same as important. Popular isn’t the same as profound. Popular isn’t even the same as useful.

To make something popular, the creator leaves out the hard parts and amps up the crowd-pleasing riffs. To make something popular, the creator knows that she’s dumbing things down in exchange for attention.

The songs you love the most, the soundtrack of your life–almost none of them were #1 on the Billboard charts. And the same goes for the books that changed the way you see the world or the lessons that have transformed your life.


Oops…
Off the Mark

Luke 21:1-4

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 21:1-4
Jesus[a] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.[b] And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Are you rich or poor?
Do you give “out of your abundance” or “out of your poverty”?
Have you ever used your “poverty” as an excuse not to give?
Can you even imagine giving all you have to live on?
Why would you think that sounds foolhardy?
Don’t you know me?


Is God asking you anything more, or anything different?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.