Recently in Spiritual Formation Category

Have you ever thought about your relationships with others? And, for that matter, with God? Do you have truly mature relationships, or are you just running in place, stuck as a relational preadolescent?

And let's not talk only about the easy stuff, like if you are growing. Let's consider things like why so many Christians have such a poor prayer life, or why most Christians who seldom touch their Bible. Why they are not growing. "What" is easy. "Why" is not.

Even though the why is far more difficult, it's also much more important.

Have you ever thought about your relationships with others? And, for that matter, with God? Do you have truly mature relationships, or are you just running in place, stuck as a relational preadolescent?

And let's not talk only about the easy stuff, like if you are growing. Let's consider things like why so many Christians have such a poor prayer life, or why most Christians who seldom touch their Bible. Why they are not growing. "What" is easy. "Why" is not.

Even though the why is far more difficult, it's also much more important.


I grew up in a "Christian" home. We attended church twice every Sunday and once every Wednesday. I was also there many other times for activities involving kids my age. The church was the center of our life.

Mom was deeply in love with Jesus. The real deal. Dad died when I was 10, and my stepdad was something of an enigma. He professed to be a Christian, but in his daily words and actions, it was hard to tell. Nevertheless, we were seen by those who knew us as a family of Christians.

I am the first of seven brothers, boys who grew up in the church. And as we came to adulthood and made our own choices, three of seven chose to live as followers of Jesus. The other four walked away from what they grew up in, seeing it as empty and a fraud, or at least unworthy of consideration. Three of seven is appalling, and a failing score by nearly any measure. But it could be far worse, I suppose.

I have been reading recently in Daniel, a great Old Testament book. In the third chapter is an account that most Sunday School children have heard of, the story of some young Israelite men, Daniel, Hananiah, Mischael, and Azariah, who were captured by the Babylonian army and taken from Israel back to Babylon.

You might know the last three better by the names given to them by the Babylonians: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You may have heard of them and their adventure with a large fire in a furnace.

Uniquely Christian

Recently, I had the privilege of leading a conversation at a retreat for leaders of a business. My topic was vision and mission.

In the conversation, many questions arose, a few of them mine. One of them, which had been gnawing at me for some time, had to do with their business name, which contained the word "Christian."

My question was, "What is it about what you do that makes it 'Christian'? How is what you do different from some 'secular' competitor down the street? Or is calling yourself Christian merely a marketing tool?"

Older but wiser?

I've long been fascinated by the saying, older but wiser. It suggests that getting older means getting wiser.

But I have concluded that age and wisdom are not necessarily linked. There are many cases where age does equal wisdom, certainly, but there are also many folks of advanced (or advancing) age who are no wiser than when they were children. Perhaps that's why there's another saying: There's no fool like an old fool.

As I have gotten older, I have thought about this a good deal, and about the "accomplishments" in my life. "Accomplishments" is in quotes because, while a few are positive and praiseworthy, many are not. Perhaps you understand.

Camping ... in the wilderness?

Some years ago, in an Old Testament class, I decided to write a paper on a theology of wilderness. The professor asked me to explain my reasoning.

I decided to write, I said, because it seems to me that we spend a lot of our time in a wilderness. The place may be spiritual, mental, emotional or relational, but in some important aspect of our lives, we often feel lost. We're wandering who knows where. Perhaps you know what I'm talking about.

Innies and Outies? Which are you?

Remember the thing about innies and outies? Sure you do. It's about whether your belly button protrudes outward, or is indented inward. I suspect every kid has compared with others.

Did you know there's another kind of innie and outie? Unlike belly buttons, this one is important. It's about how you read the Bible, whether you try to draw truth out of the text (outie) or read your own attitudes and beliefs into the text (innie).

Which are you? Outie is better, but innie is more common by far.

A Fine and Pleasant Misery

A strange title, isn't it? I have been thinking about some unhappy situations while reading Necessary Endings, an excellent book by Dr. Henry Cloud, and the title above popped into my mind. I think it was the name of something I read back when I was a boy. It's a strange title. How can something be pleasant and miserable at the same time? Seems impossible. But it isn't. Consider:

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt miserable? Of course. Everyone has. But did you know not all misery is created equal? Some misery is temporary and moves us toward a goal. That's good. But other misery goes nowhere. It just sits there letting us hurt. Sometimes in this misery, we get into this kind of swamp where we only hurt, and worse, we don't do anything about it. We sit there, suffering, and becoming convinced there's nothing we can do about it. We learn to be helpless.

"It's obvious that God wants me in this business, and I'm going to put everything I have into it. After all, it's growing, so God is blessing it."

"I know we're going to move away from our friends and faith community, but I'm certain it's God's will, since he opened the door on such a good deal on a house and property in the country."

These are quotes from people who have explained to me why they were doing something that I thought was detrimental to their spiritual welfare. "The door is open, so it must be God's will that I walk through it."

"I thank God for the day he saved me from a life of sin and degradation, when I was five years old."

A little funny, right? My mother, however, with seven boys, might not have seen the humor. In fact, it's the actual testimony of a young man, given at a church.

While it's admittedly a little extreme - degradation at age five? - it reflects something of a concept of "salvation" that's very common in American churches. It's the "when I die I'm going to heaven but meanwhile just live like everyone else and hope heaven doesn't come too soon" syndrome. It's the idea that the focus of the gospel and our salvation is that some day we will go to "heaven," wherever and whatever that is. And there, we will ... do what? No idea. Our thinking doesn't go that far.

Science fiction made real

Do you ever wonder where heaven is? Not the sky kind of heaven, but the place where God lives. Where is it? We often speak of it being "up" there. Somewhere. But of course that's not possible, since "up" is different from any point on the globe. Many people say they expect to be with God when they die. But where is that and what does it look like? Hard to say, it seems.

Besides the logical problems with the common answers, another concern with the 'up there' or 'out there' concept is that it makes God distant and separated from us and our world, our reality.

I have written before of the movie "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." I consider it one of the most profoundly thought-provoking films I have seen. In a compelling true story, it raises questions about the quality and purpose of life.

Lately, I have been thinking - again - about the basic question it raises: What constitutes a quality life? It's not an easy question, but it's one I think is worth consideration now and again.

The Core Issue

Regular physical exercise has long been an important part of my life. But only in recent times have I seen the similarities between caring for my body and caring for my spirit.

As I have gotten older, I have noticed physical changes occurring in myself and others, some of which are disturbing. I have read and observed that the elderly - not that I'm there yet - have a much higher incidence of falling, They often seem to have balance issues and are somewhat stiff and rigid.

I think there are similar issues with the life of the spirit.

Circumstantial evidence

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you wake up in the morning and think of the day at hand, and all you can say is, "Life sucks"?

Been there. Done that. No fun. You know you're in a tough spot when your prayer in the morning is, "God, please don't let me screw things up so badly today that you can't fix them."

I was reading recently - which for me is like saying I was breathing recently: stating the obvious - and came across the account of Paul's "Damascus Road experience" recorded in Acts 9. It's interesting reading, for sure, and marks the beginning of one of the most historically significant lives ever.

But Paul is well known, the subject of myriad books and sermons. My attention didn't fall on Paul, but on Ananias. Mr. Nobody. The guy who came from nowhere and apparently returned there. While he was in the spotlight, Ananias, a Jewish follower of Jesus in Damascus, was told by God to go to Paul and deliver a thirty-second message. No big deal. Sort of like Jesus to Peter: "Hey Pete, can I borrow your boat for a few minutes?"

Except...

Me? Forgive?

Did you ever read a portion of the Bible, maybe even something you have read many times before, and been stopped in your tracks by it? That happened to me this morning.

While waiting for my breakfast partner to arrive for our customary Sunday morning meeting, I was reading in my Spanish Bible, which makes me think a little differently. I was in John 20, a place I chose because, well, my Bible fell open there.

You might recall the passage. Jesus has risen from the dead, his followers are huddling together in fear behind locked doors, and Jesus just pops in among them. Apparently, he came through the wall or something. But that's for another conversation.

There used to be a saying, in some of the more "folksy" parts of the church, that was used as a common greeting: "You got the victory, Brother?" It was a sort of baptized version of, "How's it going?"

A pastor in one of these churches decided the question assumed too much, and modified it: "You got the victory, Brother, or are things just going your way?"

A different matter entirely.

...the desires of my heart

Have you ever been puzzled by a scripture verse, wondering what it means, and if God is really true to his word? I mean, there seem to be cases where the Bible makes a promise or a statement of cause and effect, but it doesn't seem to work very well in life.

I have made a career of wondering and asking God what's up with this. One of my favorite hang-ups used to be from Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart." You, too?

In my library, I have several books from the business world, mostly best-sellers. Generally, they are about how to achieve excellence in business. How to be the best.

I am not in the business world and have little interest in being there, but I believe there are principles that apply anywhere: business, life, and church. And that's my interest: How do we live and act with excellence, especially as followers of Jesus?

It just sneaks up on me

This morning, I read the short New Testament book of Jude, about disruptive and destructive people coming "unawares" into the church. In other words, they sort of sneak in, not revealing their true nature. And as I read, I was struck by some thoughts.

Recently, I have spoken with more than one friend, and heard the same thing: My prayer life is lifeless, and has become a matter of routine, and I am not enjoying the intimacy with God that I want and need.

The hardest thing

I have thought a lot about the challenges of following Jesus. I have taught for some 35 years, and have listened to uncounted men and women telling of their struggles. And I have reached some conclusions.

One of the most common issues is maintaining a regular, quality prayer life. Most Christians don't pray regularly, and the idea is unattractive. I don't know the reason for all, but it occurs to me that many of us think God doesn't like us much, and so why would we want to sit and chat with someone who is just humoring us? Not me.

A lesson from antiquity

When I ask people what is their favorite portion of scripture, I usually get an answer that has to do with individual salvation, such as John 3:16 or some other verse that reassures us of God's love for us.

When I am asked for my favorite, I have a hard time choosing. I love the interaction between God and Moses at the burning bush in Exodus, and I think the accounts of the conversations between Moses and God on Sinai are fascinating, sometimes very funny. Hard to pick just one.

Be followers of...me?

Paul wrote it: "Be imitators of me as I am of Christ Jesus." Can I say the same? What am I asking others to imitate, or to become? Is it one growing in the likeness of Jesus? One who is balanced? One who is passionate? A representative of Jesus? Or some sort of self-centered, distorted parody of a Christian?

There's a question that bothers me a lot. I have struggled with it for years. It's about sufficiency. It's about what I think is enough for my life to be satisfying, for me to say I have lived a life that has meant something. What's enough?

It's not as easy a question as I once thought. At one time, I would have answered that if I could only know God, to be in his presence and enjoy him, it would be enough. Nothing else would matter. After all, what more could I ask after that?

Lies, fears, and hope

A while back, I was reading something that gave me the idea to make a list. More precisely, four lists. I would look back at my life and think of four categories of things that have been factors in shaping my life and how I have lived it. I did that, and I want to share something of what I learned.

The first group contains regrets. That contained far too many items. It included my desires, both that many were and remain unmet, and the idea that I thought I could make things happen to satisfy these deepest longings. The result was a wreck. Also included are injuries, both those inflicted on me and those I have inflicted on others. There has been much pain, some mine and some caused by me in others, acting out of my own pain into their lives.

Options: A blessing or...

I was praying and thinking about a friend recently. This is not an uncommon activity for me, but as I prayed and thought, something came to mind that I want to share, because I think it has wide application.

There are many blessings and advantages to living in America. We are a privileged people, and have myriad options in life. We're the envy of much of the world. I am glad to have been born an American.

But...

Keys to Health

We've all heard them, and a few of us even do them. You know: Eat right, exercise, watch your weight, and all that. Unless you live under a rock, you can't miss hearing this message in America. The message is a good one, especially for Christians. Being a follower of Jesus includes being a good steward of the things He gives us, including our bodies.

But what about the other parts that make up "me"? We all have a spiritual aspect, and an intellectual one, as well. And we have our individual lives and corporate lives, too. BOth spiritually and intellectually, we are made to be with each other. So what about the church? What if we look at "we" rather than "me"? Are there things the church should be doing to promote health, as well? I think so, and they are badly needed.

Poor me? Or cherished by God?

You know, sometimes nothing seems as appropriate as a good old, wallow-in-the-muck pity party. Know what I mean? Like, once in a while, someone needs to remember Me, that there are things I want in life, a lifestyle that I deserve. That's only reasonable, right?

But it seems like the life I want and deserve isn't happening, and I don't like it. After all, it's my life, and it's only reasonable that I have just a bit of what I was made for.

Don't misunderstand me: I don't mean luxury. A modest house, a pickup truck, and perhaps a smallish sailboat, and I'm a happy man.

Or not.

God is good. Always.

God is good. God is always good. God is good in every situation. In our blessing, He is good. In our unfaithfulness, He is yet good. In whatever comes upon us, God is good. Whether our trials are the making of others or of our own bad choices, God is good.

So, because He is good, He can be trusted. He can be trusted absolutely. He never fails, and will never fail us. God never forsakes us, though we are found faithless.

Some Roman nuggets

For years, Paul's letter to the Romans has been a puzzle. Paul would never have passed a freshman composition course. It's hard to read his long, meandering sentences and follow his often convoluted thoughts. I suspect I'm not the only one with that sort of story about Paul, but I'm willing to cut him some slack. He is, after all, more than any other person, responsible for the shape of Christianity.

One of the portions that made me crazy was Chapter 5. There's so much to say about this chapter, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's start by talking about this idea of exulting in tribulations.

Eric recently posted a comment to one of my "articles," asking what he should do to prepare for vocational ministry. He sparked some thoughts in my mind, and I want to share them.

First, I think there are some things that are obvious for anyone in leadership in the Church or any other Christian organization. One is a measure of theological understanding. By that I mean the leader should understand and live by the basic teachings of Christianity, and have a good measure of knowledge and understanding of the nature and purposes of God. This seems evident to me, but isn't evident in many churches.

There are others that come to mind, but I want to pass over them for now and talk about one of the central principles of effective "ministry" or Christian leadership. And as I write this, it occurs to me that these things apply to anyone who would serve God and know him, not only those in formal leadership positions.

I'm referring to a person's relationship with God, and I want to briefly discuss five points that I think are fundamental to a successful spiritual life.

Desperate evangelicals?

From the cover of Christianity Today magazine, October 2009:

"Evangelicals desperately need moral and spiritual renewal -- on that everyone agrees. But what do we do about it?"

Indeed, what do we do about it? Are we really desperate?

Over recent years, I have been disturbed as I have noticed myself becoming increasingly impatient with churches I have belonged to. I have been frustrated for a couple reasons. First, I have felt like I was becoming anemic, trying to live and grow to maturity on spiritual and intellectual baby food. Then, second and perhaps worse, I felt like I was the only one, that there was nobody else who felt as I did.

I am not one who enjoys going about criticizing and stirring up trouble. I try not to be a "professional gadfly." I respect the importance of the biblical principle of not attacking those in authority, since all authority comes from God. So I have gone privately, talking with pastors and church leaders with whom I had an established relationship, telling them of my desire for more depth and meat in teaching.

The response has been discouraging.

The question of the presence of God - is he here or not - has long been a fascinating topic for me. I think it's a very important question. We often assume God's presence and approval of our worship and ministries, and I wonder if that's wise. Is there evidence to support our assumption?

On the one hand, we have to say of course God is present. God is present everywhere and at all times. He can't not be present with us. Scripture is clear on the belief in God's omnipresence (Psalm 139, for example).

And yet...

I can't begin to count the times I have heard or been in conversations about the Law. That's the Law of Moses, as in the Ten Commandments - and a lot more.

Some say the Law is no longer valid. But then others respond, "So, you mean it's okay to murder, steal and chase your neighbor's wife?" Well, no, comes the reply. Of course not.

Others say the Law is still in effect, and we are obligated to keep it. But then some respond, "So, you mean we're supposed go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices?" Well, no, is the reply. Of course not.

As you received...

One of the things I miss, living in the Midwest, is time with my brother. We're from Colorado, and he stayed there. We used to have good - sometimes good and intense - conversations whenever we were together. Being separated by several states has left a hole in my life.

One conversation I remember was while driving through the mountains on our way home from a visit to our Dad, on the other side of the hill.

If you've read this blog much, you have likely read his statement before: "Christians talk about how we are saved by grace, but after that, they live their lives like it's all about works. No grace to it."

What life is good enough?

I know who I'm not, but who am I?

Periodically, I find myself wanting to watch a movie. Not just any movie. I'm not really a film buff, and don't watch many. But this is for a specific movie, a relatively old one that I originally thought had a pretty stupid story line. The movie is "The Kid," starring Bruce Willis. It's about a 40-year-old man meeting his 8-year-old self and learning who he really is.

Am I dead? Or am I alive?

Have you ever been reading somewhere and come to a place that just rivets your attention? You can't get past it, and keep coming back, over and over?

That happens to me now and then. This time, I have been reading in Paul's small letter to the Colossians. I find it amazing that there can be so much to digest in so short a letter. If I read Colossians every day for a year, I think I would still not fully understand all there is in it.

In this particular instance, I am struck by two words, each of which occurs two times: since and therefore.

The Leadership Imperative

Last night was our house church meeting. It's a night I normally look forward to, but this time the events of the evening left me deeply disturbed. What happened raised in my mind questions of what things characterize Christians. How are Christians - the people of God - different?

There was some discussion about living as a Christian - mostly things Christians do not do. And it's evident, I think, that socially and personally destructive practices should have no place in the life of God's people.

But I have been concerned that "Christians" very often define themselves by what they do not do, or do not believe. The world sees Christians as people who are against everything fun, interesting, or pleasurable. Christians often come across as colorless, bland and boring people who have little or nothing positive to say about anything.

I've been in a rather unusual pattern of Bible reading lately. I read straight through Jeremiah and then Obadiah. After those, I moved to Revelation. I just finished - a quick, non-analytical read, to get a new sense of the larger picture and flow of events. And, of course, to better understand what happens at the end of the story. It's a fascinating read, and I recommend it to you.

Now, I'm starting John's gospel. I figure as long as I'm in the neighborhood, I might as well spend some more time with John. I've read all his stuff before, several times, but an occasional refresher is a good thing. Like coming back to see an old friend.

Jesus likes me! Really!

If there was ever a question with a predictable answer - at least among Christians - here it is: "Does God love me?" Of course He does. God loves everyone, doesn't He? I mean, we all know there's only one acceptable answer to the question. Even if we don't really believe the answer.

A more interesting question might be, "Does God like me?" That, as they say, is "a whole 'nother matter."

As I have asked people these two questions, invariably they answer, without hesitation, yes, God loves me. But very often, when I ask the second question, they get a distant look, sort of a sad expression, and shaking their head, they say, "No, I don't think so."

"...I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'but the righteous man shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:16-17).


A few days ago, I wrote about the secularization of America, and the powerless American church. While I believe everything I wrote is true, it's incomplete. I have long subscribed to the philosophy that anyone can complain and point out problems, but unless the complainer also brings potential solutions, he's part of the problem.

So, here's part two of my take on the state of the American church.

Hurting? Discouraged?

I had breakfast with a good friend this morning, as is my Sunday habit. Pleasant conversation. My friend, as it happens, is a professional counselor, and we sometimes talk about how we live and grow.

This week, we talked about medication for depression, and I expressed my concern that Americans might be medicating ourselves out of some good things. We don't like to be in pain or discomfort, physically or emotionally. As soon as we become depressed or unhappy, we reach for a pill. It's very similar to the too-common practice for unruly children. Medication.

To live or to die

I was listening to a sermon Sunday, and suddenly the phrase "grain of wheat" struck me and wouldn't go away. I have been struggling with the adjustment from employment to retirement. It's the hardest adjustment I have ever faced. Going from a lifetime of challenging jobs, supervising people, solving problems, having a purpose and goal every day, to...what?

Now nobody cares if I get up in the morning. Nobody cares how I spend my day. And from my perspective, the matter of my own significance is undecided. I want to be significant. I want my life to matter, to make a difference. It's too hard not to have something important as the outcome.

Reality or imagination?

Sometimes I struggle with reality. Know what I mean? It's not that I'm hallucinating or anything like that. And I have never used mind-altering substances, even without inhaling. Yet I struggle. It's not that reality is hard to take, though the shape the world's in isn't very encouraging. The problem is in knowing what is reality: What's really real?

My problem is wondering if my idea of what it means to know God and follow Jesus is all just wishful thinking. Am I just off in Loonieland, all by myself?

The best, or just good?

II like reading the Bible, and I do a lot of it. But I don't like it when people ask me what my favorite story is. There are so many, it's hard to name just one. But if I'm forced to do it, I guess the account of Elijah and Elisha, in II Kings 1, would be a good contender. You may know it, about the fiery chariot. It's the basis for the song, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," a nice song and understandable coming out of slavery - but not really what the story says.

My interest, however, is not fiery chariots. As fascinating as that is, there are two other things that grab my attention. First, I notice a characteristic displayed by Elisha throughout: He is an amazingly determined, focused man. It seems like nothing can sway him from his goal. And then there is the progression of places where the two traveled: Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho, and then on across the Jordan River.

God's silence revisited

Back in October, I posted an article about God's silence. I want to revisit the subject, because I think it's a badly misunderstood topic for most modern western Christians. Here's some of what I wrote originally:

"Where is God? I mean, if God is everywhere, as theologians teach, and if God loves me deeply and wants a relationship of intimacy with me, as theologians also teach, where is he? I talk, talk, talk to him, and he is ... where? He says nothing. The conversation is decidedly one-sided."

A while back I posted a piece on the question, "If all that is permitted to you in this life is to truly know God, is that enough?" The question came out of watching the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."I have struggled mightily with the question since.

I would like to say, of course, that knowing God is central in my life and there is nothing to compare with it. Of course my answer would be yes. But I had trouble saying it without feeling like I wasn't really being honest.

And yet, the longing of my heart is to truly know God and to serve him. What's the problem?

Lent: Just more Catholic stuff?

Well, it's Lent. At least I think it is. Seems like I read it somewhere. Or... No, wait, I think it begins tomorrow. I never know about that Catholic stuff, you know? Seems like not many other Christians care too much about it, either.

I grew up in a Fundamentalist church, one that encouraged me to cross the street if I saw a priest or nun walking toward me. And I did just that. I was an arrogant bigot, and all I can say in my defense is that I was young and didn't know better. But I thank God that he freed me from that sort of nonsense a long time ago. And yet, there's this Lent business. Isn't that as Catholic as priests and nuns?

Would I say yes?

Last night at our house church meeting, there was a discussion about Abraham following God's astonishing call, and what things we have in our lives that might prevent us from following Abraham's example.

It's a hard question to consider. There were a number of answers - family, job and more - but I wonder if they really hit the core problem.

A thought for reflection

I am one who is purpose driven, mission oriented, and not good at sitting around. But lately, there has been no evident purpose or mission in my life, a situation I pray is temporary. It's very difficult, but this question occurred to me:

"If all I am permitted in this life is to know God, is that enough?"

Surely, nothing could be better and nothing supplant knowing Him, and I am finding my mind quickly says yes. But my actions and the longings of my heart seem to disagree.

Have you seen the film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"?

Healthy? Or slowly dying?

How do we know if we're healthy? How do we know if our bodies are well and can be expected to serve us in good fashion?

I suggest that the mark of both health and illness is change. For example, if our body temperature suddenly rises, we know that our body is under attack and defending itself. If there is sudden pain, it's a signal that something is amiss. And even on the good side, we experience change, though more subtle. A healthy body is in a constant state of restoring and renewing itself. We are less aware of these changes, but when they stop, we know. When the changes in our body stop, we are dying, and it's only a matter of time before our bodies have no life remaining.

How do you spell success?

Perhaps it's a sign of age, but I keep coming back to this topic: What is a successful life? Put another way, what do we have to do now to be certain of two things: First, that it will be a good day when we stand before God and give an account; and, second, that the sort of legacy we leave to our children is one we are happy with. How do we want to be remembered?

When we stand before God, will we hear, "Well done. I'm proud of you." Or will he shake his head, with a deep sigh? When our grandkids talk about us, will they do so with pride, or with amazement at the mess we made of things?

That old song always struck me as a little sad, but not too interesting. After all, I wasn't in either category: tired or scared. But it comes to mind today, as I am thinking about someone I know.

He's an old man, in his 90s, who has been utterly miserable for years. It started when his wife died. He used to make her life miserable, and then she up and died on him. Now, maybe he's feeling like he has no purpose in life. I don't know. But over the past several years, he has been the loneliest, most unhappy man I have ever known. He wants to die, and - I know, this sounds cold - he really needs to die. But he's terrified of it. He's terrified of what might await him after he leaves here.

Is God done with me? Part 2

Continuing with the problem of why God would "pull us from the game" and, despite our gifts, training and desire, not let us do that for which we have prepared.

I wrote in part one of building character as one possible reason. And I am assuming in all this that there is no willful sin, which, of course, changes everything. Such sin is in fact a demonstration of a lack of character. But there's another reason, one that I think is also very important, and perhaps more common than we realize.

That's to bring us into a deeper relationship with God.

Is God done with me? Part 1

I had a conversation recently with a friend, someone who is very bright and is by any definition an achiever. My friend - a scientist - is now more than fully occupied with the non-science demands of raising a family. And my friend - while understanding the importance and privilege of shaping young lives - struggles with missing the mental challenges and the sense of fulfillment that comes from using a very good mind in one's chosen field.

I well understand the situation. As they say, "Been there, done that." And I don't like it. I struggle with it.

Paul revisited

If indeed you call yourselves Christians, and rest on grace, and make your confidence in God; if you say you know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the Word; if you are confident that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in your mind, you, therefore, who would teach others, do you not teach yourselves? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob God, even worshipping yourselves as idols? You who make your boast in grace, do you dishonor God through making His grace a small thing? Know this: "The name of God is blasphemed among the people because of you." (Romans 2:17-24, paraphrased)

Knowing God and knowing we know

Knowing God is an interesting subject. So is knowing about God. But the two are clearly not the same. My guess is that a large majority of people who claim to know God would, on careful consideration, be found to know about God, but not to know God to any significant degree. And probably a large majority of self-identified Christians would say they do not "know" God. They would likely be correct.

The silent God

Where is God? I mean, if God is everywhere, as theologians teach, and if God loves me deeply and wants a relationship of intimacy with me, as theologians also teach, where is he? I talk, talk, talk to him, and he is ... where? He says nothing. The conversation is decidedly one-sided.

What have you been doing?

What have you done lately?

No, I'm not talking about getting the latest technotoy or buying a new car. Nothing like that.

What have you done lately that matters? What have you done that changes the world, helps others, and lives on after you?

Anything?

One of the saddest things I ever read was from the Greek philosopher Aristotle: "The masses choose the lives of grazing animals." Utter insignificance. Profoundly disheartening, and the most depressing part: "choose." People choose insignificance.

Friendship with God

"It was right here," he said. "Right on this spot."

Hank was telling me about a recent dream. We were walking on a gravel bank on the edge of a beautiful Ozark river.

"We were right on this bank, Jesus and me, when I picked up a stone and skipped it out over the water," he continued.

"After I threw it, Jesus stopped and looked at me, smiling. Actually, I thought it was a bit of a smirk, and it hurt my feelings just a little. He said, 'Let me show you something,' and he picked up a stone of his own and fired it out over the water. It skipped way on out there.

Moses, God, and Me

The passage in Exodus 3 and 4, a conversation between Moses and God, is fascinating. There is enough here to write several books, and indeed, many have been written. As I read this portion, at least three things jump out at me.

Graces to You

God has chosen us to represent him, to act like him, speak like him, learn to think like him, and be like him. We are called to be good, to reflect the character of our Jesus. As we do that in gratitude for his grace to us, we demonstrate his love through our lives, and we pass his gracious forgiveness--grace we experienced first--on to others who need to experience it next.

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  • Larry Baden said:
      Poonam, My apologies for the long delay in replying to your comments....
  • Poonam Rai said:
      I just wonder why the man with whom the woman was caught up in the ac...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Hello Johanes, I'm not certain I understand your comment, but it seem...
  • yohanes wonde said:
      hi LARRY BADEN i am fond in a big problem I belief am not in choice o...
  • Larry Baden said:
      George, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As for your 'humor,' well......
  • Larry Baden said:
      Truth, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I especially like the last se...
  • Truth Told said:
      Looking into the account of the adulterous woman it is easy to see tha...
  • George Fowler said:
       Jesus said: “He who is without sin, cast the first stone”. A rock ca...
  • Martin Rudd said:
      Remember what our Lord and Saviour said. "Its not my will that any sho...
  • Thomas Hatfield said:
       I realize that a humain being has to make difficult decisions in ther...

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