May 2005

“Doubt. It’s like a spiritual drought, a starless night of the soul, a low tide when faith seems to have retreated forever. Nearly all of us experience these dry, dark, difficult times when God doesn’t seem real and it’s hard to keep going, much less growing. Sometimes these low tides of faith are connected with events…the death of a loved one, a broken relationship, the loss of a job, a prolonged illness, questions raised by a book or professor. But sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere; it’s sunny and bright outside, but inside you feel dark , cloudy, gray, empty.”

So begins an article by Brian McLaren on, that’s right, doubt. We all have them. We all fight with them. We all keep them hidden away like that really ugly shirt in the back of your closet. We don’t want to deal with them. And we certainly don’t share them with anyone for fear of being thought “less than.” Less than perfect, less than Christian, less than “holy.” But McLaren makes a great point in his article when he talks about doubt as not only being “not bad,” but sometimes as “essential” to our Christian growth and walk. He compares it to pain in our body, telling us something is not quite right and requires our immediate attention. Doubt is telling us that something we’ve been taught to believe as truth just doesn’t ring as true as it once did, and we need to deal with it so that our faith, our beliefs, will “be more fine-tuned, more tested, more balanced, more examined.” We will know what we believe and why because we have searched for the answers ourselves, and not just because some dogma, creed, or Statement of Faith tells us this is the truth.

Check out the article if you have time. Click here to read the article.


John Maxwell wrote of change:
“When it comes to change, there are three seasons of timing: People change when they hurt enough that they have to, when they learn enough that they want to, and when they receive enough that they are able to.”

Why is it we are so opposed to change? Change is a difficult thing but something we can’t avoid. The fact is, aside from God, the only thing that never changes is the fact that there will always be change. It often screws with our comfort zone and we hate when things make us uncomfortable. Change is coming into my life, and it is one of those changes that you know is coming but can’t do anything about, like growing older. My 18 year old daughter, and only child, is graduating from high school and will soon be leaving for college 5 1/2 hours away. A lot of changes I can deal with, even accept. Change I can’t control is something I have a tough time with. She can’t be growing up, she can’t be getting her own life apart from her mother and me, and she can’t be leaving. But she is and I have to live with it. Either that or have her live with us the rest of our lives. And none of us really want that.

Change is a natural part of living. And those changes that take us by surprise, or we can’t control, are the ones that eat at us the most, cause us to worry and fret and forget that God is suppose to be in control. We forget that this life we now live is only temporary and that one day we will be in a place that never changes. Steve Brown of Key Life Radio put it this way:

“Our problem is that we keep trying to pretend that our transient city is a permanent one, and when the facts show us otherwise, we feel uncomfortable. We continue to claim promises that were meant for our final home as if they were given for our temporary abode. The fact is that we aren’t home yet. The writer of Hebrews says it better than anybody: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11: 13).

How do you deal with change? My guess is you hate it as much as me. And chances are you and I will be facing many more changes before we reach our final, unchangeable, destination. Just remember, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, AND tomorrow. He is unchanging in a world of change. And that’s solid.

His unchanging peace be on you.

Ken Newberger, over on Todd Rhoade’s blog, asks a question that has, from him anyway, no pat answers:

For most of us, the idea of someone coming to Christ and confessing a self-gratifying lifestyle is a happy occasion and well received. The repentant person freely acknowledges the error of his or her way. The community of faith welcomes that individual into their fellowship. Indeed, past actions become part of one’s testimony and are called upon to demonstrate the marvelous grace of Jesus which is greater than all our sins – a truth which we must never lose sight of.

However, a change of attitude typically occurs regarding the confession of a sin committed after a person comes to Christ, especially as it pertains to church leaders. Public confession becomes very hard, if seemingly impossible, to do. How can a leader acknowledge any but the most superficial of sins or misdeeds without threatening his or her position? For pastors, it’s a matter of their livelihood.

So what is a church leader to do who privately realizes he or she is falling far short of the mark?

It is a question that is about professional ministerial staff, but I think it goes beyond the church staff and is a question that everyone who professes to be a Christ follower deals with constantly. Before I came to Christ I lived however I wanted and really didn’t think anything about it as long as I wasn’t hurting anybody else. But once I became a Christ follower, I was expected to live a certain way with certain boundaries and criteria. And I find it very difficult to live up to everyone’s standards and goals. If I’m a Christian WHY do I constantly fall short of the mark? And how do I deal with it? I can’t confess my sin(s), my doubts, and my darkness, in front of anyone because then they will know that I am not perfect, that I struggle. Christians aren’t suppose to have problems, we are suppose to live in the light as He is in the light.

The problem is, as my friend T talked about on her blog, that we live in a fallen world. Perfection is impossible to achieve. We are all sinners in need of grace. Don’t shoot me because I’m wounded, help me to heal. We’ve got to feel safe in our relationships, not in our religions. Webster defines relationship as “the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship: as a : KINSHIP (like sons and daughters of God – vertical relationship, brothers and sisters in Christ – horizontal relationship). It defines religion as “commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance, 2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” When we are focused on our “institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices,” we will surely fail, all the time. But when we are focused on our relationships, with God and others, we will finish the race as He intended for us, victorious and perfect. We know this for a fact “because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2).

His peace be on you.

“Worship cannot be about my feelings or personal moorings based on what I think God is mystically communicating to me in a supernatural way. Worship must be based on truth and our response to truth; His truth–solely upon the truth of God’s Word.”
– Steve Camp

Martin Luther said, “the highest form of worship is hearing God’s Word with an obedient life and then living in submission to its truth.”

Click the picture to see the trailer. Posted by Hello

At the college where I work, there is an enclosed patio that isn’t used anymore. There was an addition added onto the basement of the library many years ago, and certain departments worked from this underground facility. This patio is in the center of the addition and is the only place where you can see the sky. Its walls are made up of the windows that look out onto the patio from what used to be offices and classrooms. I say used to be because several years ago mold was discovered (since the area was all underground it leaked something fierce), so they moved almost everyone out and tore down all the inside walls, leaving a big, empty shell with this neglected patio in the middle. I’m responsible for the video production for the college district and my editing equipment is still located in a useable part of the complex, so I’m down there quite a bit.

Occasionally, birds get down in the patio and can’t figure out how to escape. What they see is the reflection of the patio in the windows and they think there is a lot more to their prison than really exists. They fly off to the image they see thinking there is more and then BAM! they fly right into the window knocking themselves a little loopy. You would think they would learn, but nope, they keeping flying into the windows and they can’t understand how to get out. All they would have to do is fly up and out, flying free of that very small confined space. But they see freedom just ahead of them not realizing it’s just a mirage, a reflection that has no real worth. You can almost see the panic on their little faces after banging their heads a few times. And rescuing them is no easy task. I grab the net we keep around for just such a purpose, and go out into the patio to set them free, something they just can’t seem to do on their own. And they are so afraid of me. They don’t know me, don’t understand my intentions, can’t get their little birdbrains around my vast intelligence and understand that all I want is the best for them. And so they take off for, you guessed it, the window. They still think that is their way to escape, and they are going to get free on their own. BAM! BAM! BAM! Eventually they are dazed enough that I can capture them, take them outside and set them free. Of course they are probably still so dazed the cats that live around the campus probably get them, but that’s another post.

Draw your own conclusions and make your own analogy about this story, but I think about all the mirages, the reflections, that I think will set me free from whatever prison I happened to be in at the moment. I need help to escape; but I just know, beyond a doubt, that one of those reflections I see is real and I can get out. So I keep trying on my own. Credit cards. BAM! Legalistic righteousness. BAM! Unrealistic expectations. BAM!

I’ve got such a headache.

Shrek – For your information, there’s a lot more to orges than people think.
Donkey – Example?
Shrek – Example? Okay, um, orges are like onions.
Donkey – {Sniffs} They stink?
Shrek – Yes – – No!
Donkey – They make you cry?
Shrek – No!
Donkey – You leave them in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.
Shrek – No! Layers! Onions have layers. Orges have layers! Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers. {Sighs}
Donkey – Oh, you both have layers. Oh. {Sniffs} You know, not everybody likes onions. Cake! Everybody loves cakes! Cakes have layers.
Shrek – I don’t care… what everyone likes. Orges are not like cakes.
Donkey – You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “No, I don’t like no parfait”? Parfaits are delicious.
Shrek – No! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Orges are like onions! End of story. Bye-bye. See ya later.
Donkey – Parfaits may be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet.
Shrek – You know, I think I preferred your humming.
Donkey – Do you have a tissue or something? I’m making a mess. Just the word parfait makes me start slobbering.

Orges aren’t alone; we all have “layers.” It’s what makes us who we are. And we all have similar layers. There is the “work” layer, the “this is what I do for fun” layer, the “social” layer, the “family” layer, and if you go to church, the “church” layer. And each layer may be made up of several different parts. But who are you really? When you start peeling away the layers and get down to the core of who you are, your heart and soul, what do you find? Are the layers all we allow others, including ourselves, to see?

In Philippians 3, Paul shows us what stripping away the layers can do. He had everything his world said was needed to be a success, to be powerful, to have “it made.” But once he stripped away all of his education, his “religiosity,” his dogmas and legalism, he saw that all the external stuff (the layers) were worthless. All of the layers added nothing to his goal and purpose in life: “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…”(v. 10).

Stripping away the layers, especially the “church” layer, can be a very painful and scary thing. What will we find when we remove everything that makes us who we think we are and start seeing ourselves as we really are? When we strip away all of the “church” layer (all the legalism and rules we follow – everything we’ve been “taught” to believe including going to church), what will we find? Will we like what we see, or be saddened (and perhaps motivated) by who we really are? It is a very scary process, but until everyone of us get past the layers we will never know for sure who we are, and what is our true relationship with the God of the ages.

Now, pass me a spoon, I’ve got a parfait to dig into.

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