doubt

Fear and Faith

When I search my heart and find my faith lacking lately, it is less about doubt than it is about fear. My lacking faith is really my increasing fear. I fear a great many things, and I wonder how or if certain things will happen. I am afraid of certain outcomes happening and other outcomes not happening. I am confident in who God is. I am confident in what He is able to do. My lacking faith is not so much about any doubts I have. It is about the fears and worries my mind and heart feel at particular points in life.

Lately I have been wondering whether faith has more to do with lacking fear than it does with lacking doubt.

Allow for struggle

Some of the best thoughts come through struggle. God honors our struggle and despises our tepid, lukewarm droning.  We are not preschoolers who walk straight lines attached to a rope.  God honors the honest struggler.  There are too many Christians trying to find life through soothing their soul, but true passion is brought forth in honest struggle.  Our wrestling match with God is pregnant with passion and confidence. Because God will ENFOLD AN HONEST STRUGGLER IN LOVING ARMS.  The good news is that hatred of God and others decreases as Christ takes the heart inch by inch, but it comes only through honest and passionate struggle with God.  We may be a new creation, but we are not a perfect creation.  The war over hatred and sin may be won ultimately, but the battle to replace hatred with love will be over only when we see Jesus in flesh.  We can and will be angry with God, but have to be honest without reserve.  We must understand the Holy Spirit will not allow a bottomless cup of anger to exist, and most often the heart will be engulfed in love when we are honest with God.

Listen in

When was the last time someone said to you, "Let me tell you about those Christians--they are fantastic listeners!  I have never seen a group of people more interested to know my world, curious, asking questions--listening to me!"

What a great question that we all know the answer to!  We know Christians have a bad rap when it comes to the way they treat people.  But the real bad news is that, if we are honest, we know that most of the things are true.

So what will it take for us to be better lovers of people; Christians and non-Christians alike?  We have to learn how to enter into peoples' world.  We have to learn how to really listen.

I have a degree, and I had so many classes in five years that, at some point, stressed listening skills.  I don't know that I can count how many role-playing exercises I have done in classes and student leadership training.  I don't know how many times I have done these things yet still listen so poorly.

As listeners, we are taught to enter their story and never be thinking of your own agenda or reply.  To truly enter into their skin and situation we are taught these things tirelessly.  Most of the time we enter their world long enough to attempt fixing them.  Never mind loving them!

Think of the moments you wanted to be listened to most. A lot of those times were when I struggled through my faith.  I would talk to friends I respected, and I was rarely listened to.  How did I remember those times?  I read about a girl in the book I just finished, and Scazzero writes about this girl: "But she wasn't asking for advice.  She longed for me to join her and see how hard the world looks when I put on her shoes."

I can remember feeling just like this on several occasions.  I can remember wanting someone to just enter my shoes for a little bit.  I didn't want advice at that moment.  In fact, I was a religious studies major too.  I knew a lot of the answers they were giving me.  I just remember wanting to talk and for someone to come alongside me.  I wasn't looking for advice.  But I often got advice.  The reason is because we as Christians are not very good listeners.  I especially think that the further you get into leadership, the worse we can get at being good listeners.  The main reason is because the further I get in Christian leadership, the more I learn and thus the more advice I can give.

The problem with that is that our titles and furthering in ministry and leadership maturity is not an automatic maturing in other areas.  In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul makes it pretty clear that we can acquire all kinds of spiritual gifts and maturity and still be babies.

I think we have to dive into ourselves and know more and more about who we are, but we also must be willing to enter into others' skin...not to fix but to love.

That is how we love well.

Question God

I came across an old friend from the homeland (Muncie,IN) through Facebook. It was great to hear from this guy, how he's been doing lately, his daughter...all that stuff. It was also great to hear that, he too, had "found Jesus", but he still had a lot of questions. He mentioned that he is always looking for proof and asking questions of this whole faith thing. Questions are a part of faith. They have to be. The moment you think you have all all the answers, you have sorely mistaken yourself. Truth of the matter is that questions are essential to faith. If you do not have questions you would then make the assumption that you know it all. If you knew it all, there would be no reason for faith. There would be no reason for there to be an "all-knowing" God.

Questions are a strong driving force behind faith. Questions absolutely need to be accepted in the Christian faith. I think, further, that questions need to be celebrated in the Christian faith. For its the questions that allow us to realize something very important to Christianity: we do not know it all.

God and his ways will never make sense to me. I still cannot get past the whole concept that God can know me inside and out and love me tenderly and unconditionally. Never mind all the other dimensions of God, theology and Christianity; I still cannot figure this one out.

But that is the point! God will always be crazy to me. He will never make sense, but for that reason, I GET TO ask questions and pursue Him for the rest of my life.

Sovereignty is sovereignty

I continue to hold that one of the most amazing theology books of our time regarding the sovereignty of God is Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss.

I love the perspective reminder. A God who is completely outside of, beyond, and other than our realm of perspective is always going to seem unreal.

I love the reminder that we are exponentially smaller than the God who holds us.

I love the reminder of a God who though his people are carried away by lesser things, he still cries out our names.

I love the reminder that the god people doubt is not big enough.

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What other unlikely books would you place on the greatest theology books...and why?

Cornel West Week: faith

"There is a difference between 'rational certainty' and 'blessed assurance'; blessed assurance is stepping out on nothing and landing on something."

This week I will be highlighting a few quotes from Dr. Cornel West; one of today's most provocative thinkers. He is a champion for racial justice as well as a strong advocate for the poor and marginalized.

The quote above is a favorite of mine as it truly strikes at the core of faith. It is a reminder that one of the absolute ingredients of faith is risk. Faith is a trust, and to trust anything or anyone there must be a risk you are willing to take. You have to step out on something. If you have not taken some sort of risk, it is not trust. It is not faith. You have to step out on nothing to land on something, and once you land on something you get the assurance and affirmation of that trust. But it does not happen in the opposite order.

Dr West also said,"There is always an element of doubt in your faith because it is not always all about you. You are acknowledging something greater than you."

Jesus said the greatest commandment before us is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Wonder and awe are love languages of the soul. To have faith is to acknowledge that God is bigger and beyond you. It is to acknowledge that he does not fit into the constraints of your ability to comprehend with your left brain logic. It is to step out with our right brain imagination and wonder.