That Was Easy?

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How is it that I serve a God that:

Is all knowing, and yet wants me to share everything about me with him.

Is all powerful, yet asks for permission to work in and through me.

Is all loving, and yet desires to use me to love those around me.

It seems to me that having faith in God and seeing Him work around the world is not so much about what he can do, it is in what he does not do.  Further it is not about what he does in spite of of us, it is what he desires to do in and through us.  God’s sovereignty as it is perceived by those that don’t follow him looks kind of cruel.  Lets be honest, God’s sovereignty as perceived by many of those that say they follow him looks about the same.

Here is why I follow God even when I don’t see the fairness issue playing out the way I want it to. There is so much that is going on around the world and so many people that are being allowed to be free-agents.  That means that in a world full of people that are allowed to determine their own destiny based on their own choices God still desires to do His work through His creation and not despite it.

I will not pretend to be God, only to tell you about how I would struggle if put into that role.  I have created a world full of people that I have allowed to choose to follow me, which means they can choose not to.  I have created people that I desire to have a relationship with me, not because I need it, but because they do.  For me it would be hard not to hit that button, you know the one I am talking about right?  Its that huge red button with the white lettering that say “fix everything”, because if I was God I could in an instant.

Yet because I love my creation I allow them to walk away from me because the upside is that they might follow me, and not because they have to.  Yet because I have a plan to fix it all that takes into consideration that I gave free will and I am relational.  Yet because I can see what no one else can see, and not because I want to hide it but because it is not possible for my creation to understand it.  Because of all of these things, I would like to think that I would not push the button.  But I am after all human, and therefore not God.  I would probably want to push the button because I want the easy fix that causes the least amount of pain.

I am not saying this to justify the enormous pain that people around the world have felt, because I cannot comprehend the evil that some have experienced.  However I cannot imagine the pain and hurt that God feels about seeing what he has created go so inconceivably bad.  I also cannot imagine the amount of infinite energy that He spends on comforting those that are the victims of someone else’s permission to do “as they please”.

Straddling Hurts

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I was once on the fence over an issue in my life, and that issue was that I was stuck on a fence.  My parents had guests over and my brother and I decided to go check out the horse pasture in front of my house.  The reason we did this was because these guests did not have kids so staying in the house was deemed boring.  When it started to get dark my brother and I decided that even if the house was boring my parents would be a little angry if we did not go home.  When people picture horse pastures they might think of whitewashed wood rail fences, but in Wyoming everything is surrounded by barbed wire.

My brother decided to crawl over the fence using the proper barbed wire technique, stay close to the post and use it like a ladder.  I however decided that I would crawl through because the wire was a bit old and stretched making climbing a bit more difficult than on a newer fence.  That is when the trouble began.  My brother was already half way to the house when he realized that I was stuck on the fence.  The crotch of my pants had been hooked and I did not have the best perspective in order to solve the problem.  By perspective I mean that i could not see where it was caught, and by perspective I also mean that I was an 8 year old boy with his crotch stuck on a piece of rusty wire.  Eventually my brother helped me out and I went home with a pair of pants that needed to be patched.  Thankfully that is all that had to be patched.

People don’t like to admit that life is lived in tension, we can’t just accept one idea and call it a day.  I have to on one hand keep control of my children and start to let them go at the same time.  I have to work on my faith and work out my faith at the same time.  I have to realize that sometimes I will know best and sometimes my wife will know best.  In all of these problems I could choose to simply take one side and think that I am okay.  People love to do this, by the way, not because it is right but because it is seemingly easy.  If I decide to keep control of my children until they are gone I may, if I have a compliant child, have peace in my house but ultimately that child will be stunted.  If I have a rebellious child I would be lucky to ever see them again.  If I simply worked out my faith I would be spiritually empty of any power in which to do so.  If I decided that I am the “Pater Familia” and what I say goes, that certainly simplifies the decision making process, but ultimately leaves out the wisdom of an equal partner and creates a relational barrier.

People don’t like tension it is akin to trying to live life walking on the top of a fence.  If I decide to walk on one side of the fence I am extremely comfortable and I can be oblivious to the perspective on the other.  If I love life on the other side of the fence I am always giving into the forces that determine my life for me.  However if we learn to walk on the fence it eventually becomes easier and we realize that living up there provides the best perspective in order to live life.

Once the Invasion is Complete, Life will be Much Better.

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I have been asked a few times over the last year why my blog is not more about Christianity or about faith.  Obviously a guy that is a pastor will make his blog about Christianity, that is his job right?  If you have read the blog consistently you have realized that I don’t shy away from the topic.  I just don’t make it part of every blog and there is a good reason for that.  My faith is supposed to invade every aspect of my life.

I have always had a hard time believing that being totally invested in my faith would come with a high level of Jesus speak.  I do however believed that if I pursue my faith diligently, meaning that I pursue a relationship with God with my whole life, that everything in my life would speak to the message of that which is most important to me.  I believe that God enjoys the things that I find funny, even if they don’t fall broadly under the category of “Christian Funny”.  I believe that God wants to share my entire life with me, and therefore takes joy in seeing how it all plays out.  I know that he doesn’t enjoy seeing me go my own way, but takes joy in seeing me learn from it.

All that is to say that if God is the most important part of my life than I am going to talk about Him.  But also if he is the most important part of my life I have the confidence that when I write He has the ability to be seen even when I am not blatantly speaking about Him.  Being authentic is something that I believe speaks volumes.  I hope that I am.

Oh, He Makes Me So Angry!

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I once (actually more than once) joked that if I ever wanted someone to come to a parent meeting as a pastor or a parent teacher conference when I was a teach all I had to do was say or do something controversial right before the meeting was to take place.  Then when the meeting starts I would get up and say “oh by the way I was just kidding, sorry for the misunderstanding.  Now I would like to talk to you about the exciting things that are going on here at church/school”.  Then there are the times that I truly did upset people by what I said or did and I did not want them to show up or call to set up a meeting.  I cannot tell you how many times that something good has happened and I thought that surely people would want to come and hear about the good new.  Nope, good news does not draw a crowd.

I once had a long bus trip with my middle school ministry and one the way out we watch (well not me, I was driving) “Pirates of the Caribbean” (The first one, because the rest of them were not near as good).  On the way back from the trip we watched “The Lord of the Rings, Return of the King (it took the entire trip, thank you very much Tolkien and Jackson).  The next week I had parents in my office to talk to me about my movie selection.  They thought that “The Lord of the Rings” was acceptable, but “Pirates of the Caribbean” was not.  Both movies were PG13 but one of them was not written by Tolkien, never mind that Peter Jackson was the director of the movie.  I listened and told them that I would simply not show PG13 movies on trips again and that seemed to suffice.  The next time you pul those movies out to watch consecutively in one day (it will take you roughly 6.5 hours) send me a message and let me know which movie is scarier or gorier.

The point is that when we want to share good news people don’t show, but when there is bad news it is like blood in the water.  I am not sure if it is the fact that the media likes sharing bad news and that has conditioned us, or if people want to believe that all is going well until it doesn’t.  As a pastor and teacher I always thought that it was a time issue in which people simply did not want to be bothered unless there was trouble.  I have actually been tempted to get myself in trouble on this blog repeatedly just to drive my readership up, but I am not sure if I want that one reader that I had from ecuador having to come all that way just to meet with me about my bad behavior.

Faith, Off of the Power Grid

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Please read this one all the way to the end so that I am not misunderstood.

I want to live in a country that is guided by a sound, static, biblical based moral code.  I will vote for people that I see as upholding not only morality but social justice, unfortunately that does not exist in one person very often.  If I do see a person that upholds both of those principles I will vote for them as often as I can provided that their position on morality is not compromised by their own personal integrity.  I am enough of a student of history to know that a country that does “does what is right in their own eyes” is a country that will justify genocide among other atrocities. However…..

I also want to live in a country in which my faith is not encumbered by the influence of those that hold power and use that power to drive our beliefs, not by truth but by agenda.  History has shown that theology as well as state policy has been driven not by truth many times but by those that would desire to use faith as a means of controlling the populace.  We have seen this played out as people have used their view of who God is to justify things like oppression, slavery, war, and the like.

We are at an interesting crossroads in America right now, a crossroads that we have been at for a long time but some of us are just now becoming keenly aware of.  Christianity is no longer the prevailing religion of the western world, it hasn’t been for awhile.  Sometimes in life we are forced to uphold two ideas that seem to heavy to hold in each hand.  The problem is we can’t put down the one idea in order to hold the other with both.  Here are the two idea that may cause some discomfort for those reading this:  Living in a society dominated by our faith can drive values in the right direction while at the same time confuse the central message of the faith through its domination.  Christianity is no longer in power, but Christianity was never about being in power.

While I will work to try to keep our country holding to a standard that upholds Christian values because society needs a strong biblical value system in order to survive.  As a parent I have a great deal of concern for my children growing up in a hostile environment.  However I will also look forward to seeing what God can do when Christianity does not seem to be the mandate of the day.  People will come to Christ because they understand their need for Him, not because it is expected.  The problem is that when Christianity does not dominate the culture it becomes harder to find people and places where it exists.  It also becomes harder to survive in a society that does not uphold your faith above others.  If only faith were an easy task right?

But we know that Jesus came and Christianity exploded in an environment that was oppressive toward this new faith.  Many Christians are surprised when they find out that Christianity was born out of oppression and is based on the life,death, and resurrection of an enemy of the state.

Expect the Unexpected…or Just Drop Your Expectations

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What part does expectations play in our psychological health?  For children it seems healthy for a child to be able to trust a person to provide for their needs.  From that trust is built an expectation that our needs will be met.  In a perfect world a child would never have to questions those expectations being met.  Children sometimes have poor expectations based on the fact that they are extremely egocentric.  Parents conversely can set poor expectations whether through neglect or a poor perceptions of their role.  For children a healthy expectation in a perfect world seems acceptable, what about unhealthy expectations in a broken world?

I remember when I get married meeting this problem head on.  I could not ask for a more wonderful, beautiful wife.  She continually surprises me with how she is able show Christ to people through her vulnerability and her conviction.  When we got married it was a process of both of us trying to get the other one to become the person that we expected them to be.  I wanted to fix all issues that I perceived at the start of the marriage.  If I was going to be in this for the long haul there are a few things that she needed to know (you can imagine how that worked).

I also remember the day that I realized that my son was not going to live up to my expectations.  Saying that sounds like I have given up on my son, I most definitely have not.  I had been operating on this 12 year plan in which my son was going to graduate at 18 just like everyone else.  I finally sat down with my wife one night and we talked about not being as concerned about my son graduating as having him know and love God.  He may end up living with us longer than I expected, but I want my son to understand love the right way from the right source, and that may take more work but I believe the direction will produce a much better result.

There is a story in the Bible about a guy named Peter that believed that Jesus was going to be Israel’s conquering king.  When Jesus was arrested and it looked like he was not going to fulfill Peter’s expectations, Peter decided to take matters into his own hands.  He lopped off the ear of on of the guards.  Jesus, even in that moment, corrected Peter and told him that he could call down thousands of angels if he chose to.  Peter and Jesus had different expectations, Peter’s were just too small.  Later on after Jesus was killed and came back from the dead, conquering death not just the Roman’s, Jesus helped Peter to see the bigger picture.

Jesus didn’t use warrior language, the language of a lion;  he used pastoral language, the language of a shepherd.  Peter thought this was about a physical battle and Jesus told him to “feed his sheep”.  Peter had to give up his small expectations in order to be able to  work for God’s bigger plan.  In the same way I had to give up on my expectations in order to fulfill the bigger picture of our marriage, which has been much greater than I could have expected.  In the same way also I had to give up my expectations of my son in order to see God do what has been truly miraculous in his life.