Posts Tagged ‘christian’

What Am I Doing, and Why Am I Doing It?

I had some prayer time with God today while I went for a walk, and I was confessing some things to God, among them an addiction (I have tried not to call it that, but it is what it is) to gambling. I used to love going to the casino and playing/watching poker, largely because I was decent at it, and so didn’t lose the money that most do at a casino. God put a question on my heart today in trying to help me realize some various points He needed to hammer home. The question is this: “If you had $100 to do whatever you wanted with, no repercussions, what would you spend it on?” I wrestled with this. Would I go gambling? Would I spend it on my wife or daughter?

Ultimately I came to the realization that I wouldn’t gamble, which helped me draw the conclusion that God has helped me overcome that addiction. But what was worse was that God made it clear that in trying to choose between a small handful of things, I neglected to ask, “What would You have me do with that?” See, while I might have overcome my addiction, what I have yet to overcome is the selfish attitude that the casino touts as glorious and the word deifies as success. Not once until God made it clear to me did I think that maybe buying food for the homeless or donating it to missions might be a better use of that money than on myself. I didn’t think about what would bring Him the most glory.

Why does God ask us to do these things? It’s a question that I had to ask myself when an atheist recently asked me to put myself into Abraham’s shoes when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Though I tried to make myself appear humble by quoting Isaiah 55:9, it made me stop and ask myself what the purpose of going through these things is. I came to a couple of conclusions:

1) God’s ways are not our ways. In the Abraham/Isaac situation, we tend to base the morality of the situation on the action being performed. God’s morality is based on how we treat the request. Our way goes on the physical nature of the act; God’s way goes on the heart’s intent behind the act.

2) God would not ask anything of us that He’s not willing to do Himself. God asks for our sacrifice because He has sacrificed. God asks for us to set ourselves apart because He has set Himself apart. God asks us to go and pursue men because He has pursued us. God asks us to be obedient because He is always obedient to His own nature, since He is clear that He will never change.

I cannot possibly hope to understand everything God does in this world, and why He does it. I only know that He asks something of me, and I do it because there is no reason not to. God has demonstrated why He asks, what He is looking for. When I study, when I listen, He is clear. Perhaps there is so much moral ambiguity because we spend all of our time deciding what we think is right instead of listening for why His way is right.

My verse for this week I think sort of fits in this jumbled mess of a post, because it is about letting self go and understanding that God’s ways are not my ways, but His power is greater than any way I can possibly fathom to get it done:

    “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” — 1 Peter 4:11

Desperate

Many folks in our church are reading the book “Radical” by David Platt. In going through it, one thing stuck out to me in the chapter we read this week about relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a simple question posed right at the end. Platt asks the reader, “Is your life characterized by a desperation for the Holy Spirit to come and take control of your life? Is your church characterized by this desperation?”

This is a really powerful question. When we think about the work of the Holy Spirit, typically it is either in a sort of behind-the-scenes, “all works together for the good” type of way, or it is in the “when I really need the Spirit, then I’ll ask for it” kind of way. Neither way is Biblical!

God has never outlined in Scripture any context where it is perfectly acceptable to go it alone. The Holy Spirit isn’t a failsafe, something that will catch you when you can’t catch yourself. The Holy Spirit is supposed to be a Guide, the Instigator of the work in your life. God is not a background character, resigned to a bit part in the play that is your life. Rather, God should be the co-star, someone that you work alongside of, or maybe even shrink back and let Him get the curtain call. Isn’t that our purpose anyway? To make Him known and to bring Him glory?

So why don’t we do this? Is it forgetfulness? Is it laziness? Or is it a conscious decision not to surrender complete control to the One who made every rock that goes into every patch of asphalt you walk or drive across? Have we deliberately chosen not to give over our steps to the One that designed the feet that make them? Any person, Christian or not, who reads this paragraph and says, “You know, I really think I’ve given over everything to God. I can’t give any more or do any better,” has failed to grasp the nature of true holiness. There is but one Spirit that requires no extra work in order to be spotless and without need to be directed.

So why aren’t we more desperate, as churches and as people, to see this power envelop our lives? Is it because we’re afraid of what we’ll be asked to do and where we’ll be asked to go if His power is pre-eminent? Is it so we’d rather someone else be imbued with such power so we can remain comfortable? If we don’t understand what it means to be under God’s power, we cannot possibly wield it in our own defense, and we can too often take the credit for things that we cannot do without it.

So today, take the challenge to begin to be desperate for the power of the Holy Spirit. Doing so may not be comfortable, but it is respectable, and your Heavenly Father is glorified when you do so. Fulfill to the best of your ability the purpose for your creation, but never do it on your own strength. When you do that, you are not desperate in vain.

Suffering For Christ’s Sake

You know how many critics of the Bible talk about how dis-jointed or inconsistent it is? I wonder how many of these critics have turned to God’s Word when going through something in their lives. I mean when things get really tough, when you start to wonder if you’re doing things the right way, when you’re really beating yourself up over how you are living, where do you turn?

I have re-confirmed recently that the truth that is found in God’s Word is as potent today as it was to those reading in first-century AD (or CE, for you science lovers). When you need counsel or advice, the Bible is overflowing with encouragement, help, understanding and affirmation.

I commented to WIFE the other day that life seems to be getting harder and harder. I figured this was OK; I remember hearing the quote, “Life is hard, then you accept Jesus, then life gets harder and then you die.” So I assumed that suffering was a part of the Christian life, and I ought to learn to deal with it so that I could gain Christ. WIFE was not so easily convinced (in all sincerity, wives are awesome this way, aren’t they?).

She first asked how long I’ve felt this way, which upon realization has led me to some separate convictions that I’ll keep to myself for today. Then after the message we heard at church this week, she hit me with another conclusion that she gleaned from these verses. In Matthew 25 (the parable of the three servants, or the parable of the talents), the master responds to the good work from the first two servants this way, according to the NLT: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” Note what the reward is for being faithful. It’s not money, notoriety, success, comfort. It is more responsibility!

And it is this conclusion that is both interesting and challenging. God doesn’t reward our faithfulness with the easy path, as WIFE put it. He puts more things in front of you, expecting you to be faithful in those things as well. And He only places them there because He knows you are capable, given how you handled the few things you were given previously. In a position of leadership in some areas, this struck me as rather relevant.

But my wife went even one step further with the challenge, which I will now posit to you, the reader: knowing that the reward for faithfulness is more responsibility, more work, more suffering, do you still want to be faithful with what you are given? Think about this in some specific terms, like money for example. If you give to God a little, and He blesses you with an abundance, is this a reward for your good service, or a challenge to do even more with the extra money you’ve been given? And are you willing to answer that call?

To tie all of this up neatly, God pointed me to the podcast of Afshin Ziafat, a pastor from whom I heard a message while on vacation in Dallas, TX. Two weekends ago, the topic of the message was “Knowing God’s Will,” which I think we can all agree we would love to be able to do. I’m not even through with the podcast, but in listening and reading along I was so convicted that I stopped the recording and had to write this blog.

The verse he uses as a starting point for what I’m sure is going to be a great rest of the message is 1 Peter 4:1-2, which says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” So the suffering that I feel like I’m going through is part of seeing the will of God fulfilled, and He wouldn’t have me do it if He didn’t subject Christ to the same types of suffering! What reason do I have to feel like MY life is hard, to focus inward on myself? Rather, I am to “arm myself with the same attitude” as Christ, so that I can be a conqueror of sin and the “evil human desires.”

So Lord, today I accept the responsibility You have tasked me with, and I thank You for showing me that my suffering is not needless but also pales in comparison to knowing You and fulfilling Your plan. Help me have a desire to not care how hard my life gets, as long as it serves You and Your people. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray this, amen.

Evidence for God’s Existence – The Argument for Intangible Soul

As we wrap up the series of arguments, we get to my own argument. I haven’t really heard this one posited anywhere else, and so I tentatively step out on my own here. I am honest enough with myself to admit that there may be holes in this argument that could come to light. If any of the four arguments bears attack, this one is probably it.

Now that I’ve tipped off any skeptics to lick their chops, let me explain the main point of the argument, give the hypothetical syllogism for the logic of the argument, then give the supporting evidence.

The main point of the argument is this: intangible concepts, such as ideas, words, emotions, moral characteristics, etc. cannot be reasonably shown to have material origins. The intangible soul, described plainly by theists and more specifically Christian theists, is the best explanation for the origin of intangible concepts.

The logical argument is this:

1) If intangible concepts exist, then the best explanation for the origin of these concepts is the soul.
2) Intangible concepts exist.
3) Therefore, the best explanation for the origin of these concepts is the soul.

Now the only objections to the second condition in the argument might come from the New Age movement, where some believe that our entire existence is illusory. I can’t really respond to that objection without going into all of the fundamental flaws with an illusory existence, so I’m going to put that possible objection aside and focus on the biggest potential problem with the argument: that the best explanation for the origin of intangible concepts is the soul.

For our purposes, I’m only going to take the argument far enough as to suppose the inference to the best explanation of soul. I think the logic would follow that the best explanation for the existence of soul is that it is created by God and instilled in us from birth, but that is not the goal of this post. If there is an objection at this level, perhaps we will address it in the comments. But I tend to believe that the greater number of possible objections will come in the initial step, rather than this second level. So let’s stick to the top level and reason it out first, then work our way down if necessary.

Now, the basis for the argument is rooted in taxonomy and genetics, with the simple scientific belief that something that originates from something else must contain the markers of its predecessors. A baby deer, for instance, will gather its genetic code from its parents. And deer are classified with other animals that have similar features into one family or genus, or phylum, etc., so the taxonomy tree is completed.

Now if we apply the same scientific method to intangible concepts, they must be similar to the thing from which they originate, right? So when we look for where intangible concepts come from, ought not that thing also be intangible? For where else in science or nature do we see something tangible produce something intangible? There is no evidence of this anywhere in science, so if we apply the same scientific method used to explain taxonomy and genetics, which point to the furthering of species, it makes sense that the origin of intangible concepts is itself intangible.

Now this raises a dilemma for the materialist. The materialist would say that such things as soul do not exist, and that things like emotions, words, ideas, come from the brain. But how do you explain the origin of such concepts in the brain using the scientific basis we’ve already discussed? The second issue with the brain being responsible for these is that the brain is not a creating entity, but rather a processing entity.

From the National Institute of Health: “The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. It is the major information-processing center of the body. The spinal cord conducts sensory information (information from the body) from the peripheral nervous system to the brain. After processing its many sensory inputs, the brain initiates motor outputs (coordinated mechanical responses) that are appropriate to the sensory input it receives. The spinal cord then carries this motor information from the brain through the PNS to various locations in the body (such as muscles and glands).” (emphasis mine) So the only initiation done by the brain is in response to a sensory input; it does not create anything by itself. Think about it this way–the eye processes light and sends information to the brain to tell you what you are looking at. But the eye did not create the light, it merely processed and necessitated a response. The brain is the same way.

Now the materialist would say, “Well words evolved just like other natural things. Similar grunts were processed by the brain and became associated with things, and over time they developed into words and that’s how we got language.” While that is entirely possible, this explanation does nothing for other intangible things like morality and emotions. The evidence for this is fairly rational–think of an emotion like love. Say your kid wanders into traffic. As a parent, you rescue them and can either hug them tightly or give them a swat on the rear for doing that. Both things are done out of love, but it is expressed different ways. The brain shouldn’t by nature process two opposite reactions to the same instance and arrive at the same conclusion, because the output must be appropriate to the input (i.e. my parent is inflicting pain, therefore she does not love me, versus my parent holds me tight and kisses me, therefore she loves me).

So for these intangible concepts, we need an entity that creates and generates them, rather than a responsive entity like the brain. Based on the taxonomy and genetics explanation above, it makes most sense that this entity also be intangible. So what is an intangible creative entity? Well, supernaturalism (and more specifically theism) has long posited the existence of such an entity called soul, by which things are created innately in us and our brain initiates motor outputs in response to express these things. Existence of soul would also mean that things like language, morality and emotions have been ingrained in us since the beginning of time, and while they have adapted due to different natural environments, they have always been present in one form or another.

Again, this poses a huge problem for the materialist, and more specifically for the evolutionist, because it would then make evolution the least plausible explanation for the existence of life. If language has existed from the outset, then humanity has existed from the outset, and did not evolve from some other life form.

So I feel like there’s a compelling case here that the existence of soul is the best explanation for intangible concepts. To make a reasonable objection, one must first tear down all of the arguments I’ve made here and provide positive evidence for the best alternative. I welcome your questions and objections.

Creation: God Does It Best

I was sent this link to a video by a co-worker this morning. The subject is really quite astounding. A man has created PVC “creatures” that move on their own based solely on the wind. He is able to get them to move up and down beaches without any assistance. It truly is remarkable.

But it was a quote around the 1:55 mark that caught my attention. After trial and error and several generations of work, the architect finally had the machine that would move on its own, one that included a propellor and wings. The architect says, “I have found with all of these experiences the problems the real Creator must have had in creating this world.” It’s true that the kinds of variability needed in natural life appears that it would pose all sorts of problems. Some things need wings to survive; some don’t. And yet it all works together somewhat seamlessly.

The issue to me is this: God didn’t have any problems in creating this world. My favorite word recently has been “omnisapience”, which means “all-wise” or “knowing the best means to achieve an end result.” God alone possesses such omnisapience; He has always known exactly what each unique creature would need in order to survive. Don’t believe me? Look at Matthew 6:8, which says, “Do not be like them, for Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” God understands our needs, has always understood our needs. From the beginning of time God knew the parts and features we would need to not only survive, but also thrive in our environment.

Think about it for just a minute. How well would man do in the African plains against lions, gazelles, gorillas, etc. without unique intelligence and planning abilities? How well would geese do in alligator-infested waters without the ability to fly and lift off quickly? Evolution would tell you that it took millions of years of natural selection and genetic mutation to get to where we are today. I say it took one Mind having pure omnisapience and omnipotence to be able to carry out the needs of each species on this earth, carefully crafted and designed.

Staying true to expositional study, the verse right after Matthew 6:8, Matthew 6:9 (no duh, right?) is the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. Is it any wonder that the first part of the Lord’s Prayer is to “hallow” God’s name, after such an amazing promise in verse 8? I hope that when we take a look around at some of the workmanship that God so wonderfully created for us, we immediately seek to “hallow” His name. Amen.

God Is Love

Reading Francis’ Chan’s “Crazy Love” last night, there was a simple exercise that sort of pushed me hard in the chest. I took it a step further, and it taught me a great lesson. If you’re reading this, try doing the same thing.

The exercise is based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13, which says,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Ok, now take every instance of the word “love” or “it” and replace that with your own name (i.e. Adam is patient, Adam is kind). Now step back for a second and see how many of those phrases make you feel like a liar or that you’re stretching the truth to pigeonhole yourself in there. For me, things like “does not boast,” “is not proud,” “keeps no record of wrongs,” are areas that I have to say “Oops.”

That’s where the exercise ends in “Crazy Love.” But let’s go one step further. Now replace the same words “love” and “it” with “Christ.” Does He fit the mold? If our goal as Christians is to emulate Christ, then find the areas that Christ makes the phrase truthful and you don’t, and those are the areas you need to work on in your Christian walk. Go for it!

Stop Yapping!

Extroverts have it hard. Don’t laugh, even though I’m being partially facetious. What looks like on the exterior a great deal (better networking, more friends, maybe even easier to find romance) becomes harder when relationships get on a personal level. Think about it; when a one-on-one relationship occurs, who thrives? It’s the introverts! They are the ones who are best at communicating on an individual level. If you really stop and look around, the most meaningful and deepest relationships always involve at least one introvert.

And the truth is that it carries over into our relationships with God. WIFE is an introvert; I’m an extrovert. And I can’t tell you how often I marvel at how amazing her relationship is with God. He is teaching her so much on almost a daily basis, that I wish that I could get just one-tenth of the inspiration and love from God that she gets in her quiet times. Why is it so hard for me?

When I step back and look at myself rationally, I realize that it’s because I don’t thrive on quiet. I get my energy by feeding off of other people. I like to be in the middle of things, to have a conversation always going. Usually I’m the one keeping that conversation moving, because I love to hear myself talk. And yet, it seems like my relationship with WIFE grows most when I’m willing to sit back and listen. It’s a novel concept, this listening, and one that introverts have mastered. What are some of the cliches? “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” “Silence is golden.” There is value in listening, and it’s a skill that I still am years away from figuring out completely.

But it’s something worth figuring out. Because when things are quiet, God can speak. When I’m praying, I often turn it into a “Here’s what I’m feeling, God” session. But how many relationships work when only one person is talking and only one person is listening? Not many, that’s to be sure. But when I’m in my car, in my bed, on my couch, and I just say, “I’m going to let You speak, God,” I am always blown away by the fact that He actually does! It makes me sad to think about how often I’m closing my ears or drowning out His voice by my constant jabbering about MY feelings, MY desires, MY problems. God has answers, and I’m realizing more and more that if I actually let a quiet time be a quiet time, I may actually hear what some of those answers are.

So extroverts unite! Take a lesson from those around you, and stop yapping so much. God may not appear to you in the tornado, in the earthquake, or in the tempest. He may pass by all those things in front of you, and then speak in the whisper of the wind. My prayer for myself and for any of you is that we’re prepared to listen and be blown away.