Cru @ Sru : Ask Anything Night (Part 4)

You can visit Pages One, Two, or Three in the series, or just scroll down on the home page.

 

I am graduating soon and am very unsure of what I’m going to do with my life. How do some people find it so easy to put all their stress on God and not on themselves? 

They’re faking. Haha.

If I would spend any considerable amount of time pondering the reality that God can (and often does) bring about unexpected change,I’d curl up in the fetal position in the middle of the road for fear of coming upon a fork in the road or a tunnel. (that’s a metaphor) When I arrived at Grove City College in 1997, I was a pre-med atheist. When I graduated, I was a Christian biz management major. I worked in sales & management with building materials, installing windows & mirrors, laser engraving (which then became the first business I started on my own), considered grad school (I was going to get a PhD to teach business until I was rejected), started a graphic design business, and then answered the call to ministry, which has been the most steady period of my life by far.

All that to say, I had no clue what life was going to look like. But I found an amazing wife along the way, some great friends, started a family, and lived.  We’ve moved our family. I’ve walked away from one job with no other job on the horizon. You just don’t know. But there is a contentment at knowing whose hands are forming the clay (see Post #3 and Philippians 4:13)

Everyone handles stress differently. There is no fast-track to surrender and contentment. I promise, though, that the closer you walk with Jesus, you’ll find peace there… not necessarily calm or quiet, but real peace. Peace is not tied to circumstance, nor is contentment or joy. They are in a glorious, divine, saving Person. Seek first his kingdom! They are cliched and overused statements, but they are true. It will look different for you than it did for me, but the great news is that the object of our affection is consistent, and so the result for both of us will be glory.

 

Is smoking weed a sin? 

I’m sorry to provide a redirect, but I’ve appreciated this article, and so I feel it’s a great share for a perspective on marijuana.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/don-t-let-your-mind-go-to-pot

 

Why does God not perform any more of the big miracles he did in the Bible? 

You’ll get two answers here, depending on who you ask. Some would say he still does. Some would say he has stopped. Interesting, isn’t it?

I believe God is still God, unchanging and ever present. As such, I believe he still, at times, does the same things… I would also argue, though, that he does them for the same reasons. In the New Testament, particularly the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is the “main character,” taking center stage through the spread of the gospel, validating the ministry of the early church through repeated acts of power. In other words, as the gospel extended further and further from Jerusalem, the good news was accompanied by testimonial acts of God’s power as a form of validation. These acts were extraordinary and “proved” the gospel to an increasingly hostile world. I’ve spent enough time with missionaries to believe that God still works in power to validate the truth of the gospel as needed. However, salvation comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. In other words, it’s not the “sign” that saves, it’s the gospel. God has given us all that we need to experience the greatest miracle of all.

Reaching back even further to the Old Testament, which in many cases included a different set of miracles, I would present an additional thought. The many acts of deliverance by God in the form of extraordinary manifestations (the Exodus as a huge example) served to reveal God’s character and nature, all the while preparing the world for the ultimate expression of the miraculous – the incarnation. God in flesh, walking the earth in perfection. People could touch and speak to the Creator of the universe in the person of the Son. Amazing! Not a moment, but decades with the God-man. The miracles of the Old Testament prefigured a great many details of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The miracles were shadows, hints at a greater reality, whereas Christ was – and is – the full representation. It’s funny, most think parting the Red Sea was a big deal, but dismiss the unthinkable – that God would not only take on a human nature, but sacrifice it in an act of supreme love. How glorious!

Likewise, in modern terms, the regeneration of a human heart from a state of enmity with God to one of eternal life is a miracle we cannot fully comprehend… yet we ask to see something else, because “seeing is believing.” We’ve been asked to take hold of a spiritual reality – the most concrete truth – without sight. Our definition of miraculous (mine included – there are days I just want to see amazing things!) is short sighted, because we are limited by our five senses. The Scriptures promise that one day faith will be made sight… then the stories of old will seem as miniscule compared to the fully revealed glory of God in the salvation he provided.

 

Why should people believe God is real?

There are folks who dedicate their whole lives to coming at God from a purely rational perspective. The field is called Christian Apologetics. Some are great in this field. Ravi Zacharias is probably the best if you’re into the YouTube. However, one thing cannot be underestimated, and that is the biblical reality that apart from Christ, our understanding is darkened. Grace awakens in us the capacity to understand things that our sinful hearts are not inclined to acknowledge. I bring this up to say, there is – and until Christ returns there will always be – a critical element of faith to this question.

However, to give an overly simplistic answer in the form of a question and a statement – I would encourage you to give these some thought… If there is a sovereign God who is responsible for creating everything out of nothing, then is it fair to say that he is entitled to establish the rules and judge the outcomes? As an unfortunately combative side thought, but one that speaks into your question, I’ll share this. If Christians are wrong, then they’ve wasted their lives pursuing faith, hope, and love. If the atheist is wrong, they’ve wasted their eternity. Again, harsh, but intended to further raise the idea of consequence. I find the matter of consequence to be a significant motivation to consider the biblical narrative.

 

Are there requirements to get into heaven?

According to Scripture, only perfect righteousness is worthy of heaven. No mere human has ever attained righteousness. Due to our sin nature it is impossible. Christ was born in order to live a perfectly righteous life, which accomplishes two things… first, his perfection enabled him to bear the weight of sin as the perfect sacrifice – sin deserves death… in order for God to be just, death is required. So as Jesus died, he was bearing a penalty that he did not deserve, a feat only possible for one who is without sin. Second, his perfection is then credited to the believer in what is traditionally called the great exchange… Christ takes sin, the believer takes righteousness. With this righteousness in our accounts (so to speak, for there is far more than a mere transaction), we are free to approach God. This imputed (gifted) righteousness, then, satisfies the requirement. This is why salvation, for the Christian, is the gift of God, given by grace (unmerited favor) through faith.

 

 Is there only one God? 

According to the Bible, yes. The doctrine of the Trinity is mysterious… that we have one God, eternally existing as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are not three manifestations of one God, or three representations of one big idea of God. Three distinct persons, yet one God. The Father is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit. The Son is God, but the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, but he is not the Father or the Son. The only word to describe this is a mystery, but it is the revealed truth of God’s word. If the Bible is true, then yes – there is only one God.

 

Is believing in God possibly just ignorance for us not knowing where we started from? 

One of the arguments in favor of God, proposed by Anselm, is the Ontological argument. Oversimplified, the argument states that the idea of God is evidence for the existence of God. There is something inherent in the concept of a supreme being that suggests his existence. I believe it unconvincing that man could invent such a being. Moreso, I find it even less convincing in light of the reality that the concept of God has not only be sustained, but increased in time, even if not every expression of deity is in line with the truth. The pursuit of deity is a human norm… far beyond any simple ignorance.

The irony of Scripture is that the word makes clear the fact that our unbelief is a result of not knowing where we started from.

 

 

This was a longer post, but I’m still working through questions! Please keep checking back for additional food for thought!

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Cru @ SRU : Ask Anything Night (Part 3)

My apologies for the delays in responding. My preaching weeks become scattered. Back to the joyful grind! (It’s probably healthy at this point to remind folks that I’m not on staff with Cru, so these positions are not meant to reflect the organization! I’m just a pastor guy asked to participate – if you have a beef… it’s with me!)

 

Have you struggled or do you struggle to sit still and listen for God? If you can hear God during quiet time how does that happen for you and what can I do? 

There are a couple things going on in this question. I’ll take them in order. I have always struggled to find the mythical “quiet time” that some folks describe. That does not mean I do not have meaningful time with God – it simply means that my meaningful time works in ways that fit my life and personality. For example, one of my favorite things to do is to walk with my Bible. I’m always the first awake in my family. In the seasons when the sun is up early, I’ll grab my devotional passages for the morning and walk the streets/sidewalks of town with my Bible. I find that walking is helpful for me to carry on conversation with the Word. I love to ride my bike in the summer. I try to take a verse or passage with me to consider while I pedal. In the months where I can’t walk, I miss it. Walking inside is not as fruitful. But still I’ll spend time at the dining room table (my “office”) or elsewhere with the Word. Walking is my preference, though.

I believe the calling on each individual is to meet with the Lord in a way and at a time that is fruitful. If I were to wake up early and then close my eyes to seek the mythical & magical quiet time, I would be asleep in two seconds. Likewise at night… or any other time. Life can be exhausting. But I’ve found a way that I am able to dial in (so to speak) and enjoy the Lord’s presence through his Word. If I were to offer advice in this matter, it would sound like this:

  1. Give the Lord your most fruitful mental hour. If your mind and heart are strongest in the morning, then devote time in the morning.  If it is evening, then evening. There is no prescribed time.
  2. Include the Word. The only way to know 100% that you’re hearing the voice of God is to hear his revealed Word in the Scripture. We so often take for granted the fact that the Word is living and active. It cuts. It heals. It is true and abiding. Whatever you do, do it with the Word… written, digital, memorized. Do it all.
  3. Explore until you find fruit. Some people can withdraw and be in a literal prayer closet. Some have places that allow for focus. Some walk 😉 Some talk aloud. Some journal. Some draw. There are lots of ways to interact with the Word that speak from your heart as a reflection on what God has revealed to be true. Pursue. Pursue. Pursue. Don’t be discouraged if something isn’t “working.” It just means you’ve found another way that, in this season of life, is not fruitful for you. But there is a way. I guarantee it.
  4. I am often discouraged by hearing how others do it “differently” (which my heart unfortunately believes is “better”). This is a poison on our devotional life. I’ve spent years whittling away the methods at which I fail. But in that I’ve had great times and seasons, and I’ve found things that encourage my soul. Listen to others (including me) for ideas and encouragement, but don’t believe my answers are better… they’re better for me.

 

What does Philippians 4:13 mean to you? 

Philippians 4:13 is unfortunately mishandled by the body. It does not mean if you put your mind to Jesus you can do whatever you want, which is most often how people understand it. We live in a sound clip culture that wants one sentence (preferably with 140 characters or less) to fix our lives. This approach does not work with Scripture. Bible verses do not exist in a vacuum. They require context.

The context of Philippians 4:13 is so beautiful and relevant that it is doubly tragic to see it abused. I encourage folks to read the whole letter! That’s the way it was written. It has a flow. But even the few verses surrounding 4:13 serve to debunk the way it is mistreated:

… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret
of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 

Incorrect understanding: I can do anything if I put my mind to it (and keep Jesus in my pocket)
Correct understanding: Life will have highs and lows, but I can endure with Jesus.

Philippians 4:13 is a verse about contentment, the satisfaction that Jesus provides a satisfaction that extends beyond circumstance. Whether in joy or suffering, Jesus is enough. And because Jesus is enough, he provides the strength to abound with humility and to suffer with dignity.

 

What is your view on gay marriage? Also, what do you think of people who are Christian but support gay marriage? Do you think it’s a bad thing? 

My view on marriage begins with God, because God created marriage.
My view on marriage comes from the Bible – the WHOLE Bible – because it is the Word of God.

God created marriage in Genesis 2. Adam, though enjoying the full fellowship of God, was lonely. God exists eternally in relationship as three Persons – Father, Son, and Spirit. Because we are created in his image, it stands to reason that we, too, would desire relationship with others. In the garden, before the fall, God provided for Adam more than just a mate. He provided woman as a friend and companion who filled a very specific void, who would serve alongside him to fulfill the commission of Genesis 1. Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. Have dominion. God created humanity to bring him glory by extending this commission. This has not changed. This is true today.

Marriage was not created to give us the warm fuzzies and make us feel good about who we believe ourselves to be. It was created to glorify God by living in line with his commission. Obviously sin screwed everything up. We still seek to fill the earth and to exercise dominion, but not to glorify God. This is the heart condition of all humanity. As such, it makes sense that we would distort what God has revealed to be true about everything, which would include marriage and sexuality. As such, any perversion of God’s intended design for humanity, marriage, and sexuality would stand as sin. This is ONE reason why sexual sin is so extensively dealt with in the Bible.

The other reason, just as important, is the gospel. From the beginning, God has used language depicting himself as a husband and his people as a bride. Most often, his people have played the role of the harlot – idolatrous and unfaithful, giving ourselves to any alternative that tickles our fancy. The ultimate expression of this marriage metaphor is the gospel. Jesus died to save his bride, the church. Paul says in Ephesians 5 that marriage is a picture of the gospel – a faithful husband dying to himself to present his bride pure to God… a bride loving her husband above herself. God, in his sovereign omniscience, gave us marriage to prepare us for what would be necessary in Christ – a plan which was laid forth before the foundation of the world. There is more at stake in the marriage question than a human relationship… it is the picture of the divine-human relationship that is compromised.

All that being said, I do not see homosexual marriage as honoring to our God, who created us for his purposes (not our own – that’s where the whole sin problem came from), and who created marriage as an active and widespread demonstration of the kind of love he has extended in Jesus Christ. The heart of sinful humanity is to do what we want, not what God wants. Every human faces this struggle. I face this struggle. The struggle will manifest differently in different people. As such, I believe in compassion. I cannot endorse the marriage, but that does not mean I cannot love the individual.

To answer that part of your question, I believe love is key, but love involves truth. The church is a hospital for sinners, and so I do not believe in casting down any one person for any one particular sin. But there must also be an understanding that certain sins have a far reaching impact. This means we stand on delicate ground. May God have compassion and help us! May he be glorified by the love that is indicative of his sacrifice for us! May we humbly approach him!

One final consideration (because this is a looooong dialogue these days) is with regard to identity, because the argument is very often made that sexual preference is a matter of identity – that it runs at the core of who we are. Human sexuality, by nature, involves another human. In fact, it requires another human. Sexuality involves the identification of an object of desire… but there has to be an object to desire, or it’s not human (we’re not asexual?!?). As such, I think sexuality is disqualified from providing true identity. True identity is in our souls. Regardless of the label, if we place our identity on something that is not intrinsic, we’re actually abdicating identity in favor of letting something outside of self define us.

The biblical assumption is that the image of God is intrinsic, stamped on our souls. That is how we were made. Obviously, folks can make the argument that God is outside of self, and so it’s the same thing. But I would also argue that if there is a transcendent God capable of speaking the universe into existence, then he is best qualified to tell us what we’re made of and why. (I know that sounds harsh, but I am brought low by this truth with regularity!)

The good news of the gospel is that, in Jesus, there is hope. The good news of the gospel that we cannot – in our sinful flesh – understand is that surrender to Jesus will involve surrender of those things which we have heretofore believed to be defining qualities. That last line might have sounded like bad news, but I assure you it’s not. Surrender to Jesus is to rightly acknowledge and agree with God that our basest desires are eternally flawed (and I’m not just referring to sexuality here. EVERY desire is broken and in need of new life). No matter who you are, what you do, or what you believe prior to meeting Jesus,  you must necessarily give it ALL to him and let him tell you what is right and true. The Christian life is a long sequence of finding out that he has better things for us… but most of those better things involve laying down sinful things that we are convinced will provide us happiness. That is the lie of the garden, the poison on God’s commission. There are numerous qualities that I would have used to define myself prior to meeting Christ. I am never happy to find that they are sinful. But I am ever grateful that he has shown me a better way.

There is hope.
And in our hope, there should be love.

 

How do I overcome judging myself and others? I know it is not my place to think negative thoughts about others and I do my best not to act on those judgments, but is there anything I can do to overcome judging as if I was God? 

Strangely, the answer is simple. But the outworking is lifelong and humbling. The gospel is the key. The good news of the life, death, resurrection, and reign of Jesus is not a get out of hell free card. It is not a ticket to be punched, a doctrine we adopt in a moment and then tuck in our back pocket. It is a truth into which we immerse ourselves, letting it shape us – heart, soul, and actions.

Why do I start there?

Because we are in desperate need to be reminded of the sin from which we’ve been rescued. We are in continual need of being reminded of his sacrifice. We live at the foot of the cross because his blood is an ever-present reminder of the vileness of our own hearts, and his willing compassion to die for us anyway. As we dwell on this truth, we find ourselves able to believe two truths:

  1. Jesus loves me.
  2. Jesus loves them.

As we come to understand that we’ve been loved, we are able to see ourselves through the eyes of God – flawed, yes. But loved. Oh, we are so loved! While we were enemies, God died for us! If you are in Christ, you are an adopted son or daughter of God, given by Christ the right to call him Abba! Father! Daddy! God draws so near, not because you’re perfect, but because he is good. The revelation of his goodness will change you. Get in the habit of preaching the gospel to yourself – in good days and in bad. In the good days, the gospel will humble you. In the bad days, the gospel will pick you up. The truth never changes, so live there.

As we come to understand the vast love of God, we are able to see others through his eyes as well – flawed, yes. But loved. They are so loved! Whether his enemies or his children, the sacrifice of Christ stands as hope for them, the hope of adoption stands for them! Just imagine what it would be like to call them brother or sister! Not because we chose them, but because God’s love is bigger than our choices. I might suggest you get in the habit of praying for the people you are prone to judge. Asking the Lord to smile upon them despite their flaws will change you.

The gospel will also, in time (and in relationship!) impart to you the kind of love that enables you to be honest with another person about a matter of the soul. In other words, it is possible to judge rightly without condemnation, with an eye towards restoration (Galatians 6!). While there may be times to address matters of sin in a broad forum (like an “Ask Anything Night”, or in expositionally preaching the Word of God), I believe the  intention of biblical community is that sin would be addressed in relationship with other people, where healthy fellowship allows for compassionate conversation, prayer, and accountability. My final suggestion would be to seek community, kindred souls tethered to the gospel of Jesus Christ, who can help you live an honest and humbly surrendered life!

 

 

I’m still letting these churn. If you have questions, or would like to pursue additional conversation (in person… I’ve never seen a fruitful extended online conversation), contact me!