You can live (pretty well) even without God…sorta

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I think you can live pretty well without believing in God.  I said yesterday during the Q&A: …that although a big part of a believer’s life is learning to rely on God, and lean on Him for things like healing, wisdom, guidance, gifts, help… many of you are smart enough and capable enough to live on your own apart from Him.  Sometimes Christians say, “I don’t know how I could get by without God!”  And non-believing friends think: that’s why you need God, “because you’re psychologically weak and the idea of God is your coping mechanism…”  But that’s DEEPLY mistaken.

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What to do with tragedy

I was working on a passage to preach on Sunday, but on Friday night I bailed out and did another (related) passage instead.  The passage I was planning to preach on had to do with a sociopathic governor named Herod who killed all the baby boys in the region of Bethlehem: Jesus’ birth didn’t take place in an idyllic village with soft snow and soothing hymns; it took place in a violent time in a broken world amidst chaos, fear, loss, poverty, injustice, and all those things people think they can fix.  Little has changed in two thousand years.  Yes we have better technology: news of Herod’s slaughter was by word of mouth, we get our news of tragedies over the internet.  We have better government: and I think our recent tragedy will help push toward national gun control (even though gun control laws would not have changed what happened a few days ago).  Also, I think we have better culture: more people are interested in helping, volunteering, working for humanitarian causes and non-profits.  And yet…the core problems of violence, injustice, and powerlessness among the poor – these things haven’t changed.  So what do we do with tragedy?  Here’s what I think… Continue reading

entitlement is a spiritual problem…

I’ve met a few young people (mostly men) who have said: “I believe in Jesus, go to church, I’ve done x-y-z, and still I haven’t heard God’s voice or felt the Spirit or seen the gifts/power that comes with it.”  And the question is often, “so what’s God’s problem?”  Sometimes the implication is, “why should I believe God is even real if God won’t do this for me?”  Other times it’s, “why should I seek Him or fast or pray or sacrifice, if God is going to be silent like this?”  Now it doesn’t take much to figure out what’s wrong with these statements… Part of the problem is pride; part of the problem is a sense of entitlement.  They feel special, and feel like God owes them at least this.  They don’t think of themselves as sinners in the presence of a Holy God.  They don’t see anything wrong with the way they treat God, or use Him, or try to use Him to serve their real wants (which are their functional gods).  Although Jesus taught that those who ask receive, and those who seek will find, they don’t really do either instead they wait and pout.  Now are you still with me? Can you understand what’s wrong with the attitude of these people with this position?  Can you see how their sense of entitlement and overly developed sense of worth is blocking them from really knowing God?  Well…here’s the thing, I think this is you…and I think this is me. Continue reading

Why Jesus has a problem with good people…

There are lots of things people do to prove (to themselves and others) they’re “good” people (here are five): [You can read the list, or skip to the point first…]

1. Make sacrifices of time and money, volunteer for soup kitchens and non-profit organizations.  Or better yet go work for a non-profit full time.  Because the best way to prove one’s goodness is to not make (too much) money doing it – even if it’s the organization not making money, and not the individual.

2. Act really nice and not get mad (outwardly) at people…  Everyone thinks a nice person is a good person, so if I’m nice, then I must be good!

3. Put up with difficult people.  Those who do this even seek out the difficult people so they can put up with them!  Many mild mannered men or women wind up in relationships with difficult personalities, because it nurtures this sense of “I’m good.”

4. Read about politics and discern the “righteous” point of view.  You don’t have to be “nice” if you’re “righteous.  And to be outraged at gender discrimination, or the situation in the Middle East, or at domestic policies, or the war(s) overseas… might make you difficult to be around, but by being difficult you are proving how “good” you are…

5. Hang around people who think exactly the way you do – so that you never have to explain your point of view (or understand anyone else’s), you can just assume one another’s goodness.

[Here’s the point…]

The problem with these things is that the Bible is out to prove that we’re BROKEN people: People with issues, contradictions, flaws, with a long history of these things…  And as a result, all the things we do to try to prove we’re “good” – even when we’re doing (some) good – wind up taking us further from God. Continue reading

The habit of judging…

“Judgmental people suck.  I mean, who do they think they are?  We should just take all the judgmental people and send them to a colony in Antarctica.  No, that’s too good for them.  They’re too stupid to realize how judgmental they are anyway!”  <– there are lots of smart people who understand that being judgmental is a bad thing, but get stuck doing it anyway.  I’ve been there too.  Being judgmental is like driving on a road with a ditch along side of it, and it’s really easy to fall in if you’re not careful, and there’s no way to avoid going near it – we just have to try and be careful not to fall in…and when we do fall in, get out quickly before it knocks us off course.  So how do you know what you’re being judgmental?  You’d think we’d know, but we often don’t, so here’s a quick guide:

1. ‘Pointing out someone’s mistakes to others for no practical reason’ is probably coming from a spirit of judgment.  It’s delighting in gossip about someone’s flaws.

2. Criticizing someone who is not present is probably coming from a spirit of judgment.  It’s implying they are bad, and you are not.

3. Giving advice to someone about something in a manner that implies you would never need such advice is probably coming from a spirit of judgment.  That kind of advice elevates you, and puts others down…that’s what judgment is.

4. Ranting about how “stupid” someone or some people are, even if it’s no one you know, is probably coming from a spirit of judgment.

5. Being happy about someone failing in something because they deserved it, is probably coming from a spirit of judgment. Continue reading

Would you like a Jesus cushion?

I brought this up a couple of weeks ago… the Jesus cushion.  Jesus says “take up your cross and follow me,” and we have somehow translated that into “grab a cushion while God massages your back for a while.”  Now I know we need times of healing and nourishment – but the healing and nourishment (in Jesus’ camp) comes WHILE we’re carrying crosses, and not cushions.  The main reason why people in well-meaning churches get so far distanced from their Savior God is that we confuse cushions with the crosses…if you get what I mean.  Anyway, so that’s what we talked about: now here’s an excerpt from a book by C. John Miller, and some questions at the end… Continue reading

the secret to effective evangelism…

…is: One, you have to get Jesus’ Message straight.  No matter how clear you think you are, what people hear is: “you should be a good person.”  So you have to be super clear as to what you mean when you tell people they can know God.  Two, you have to trust in God’s work in evangelism…  Just the way Moses parted the sea, but it wasn’t really Moses, it was God… In the same way, it is really God who changes hearts and minds, so your role is often as silly as standing there boldly while God does the real work.  Three, and this is the real SECRET, I think: you have to be willing to fail boldly.   Continue reading

The thing about Evangelism…

I’d love to recap some of the stuff we’ve been talking about the past few weeks for a couple of reasons.  One, we’re all done (as the picture suggests).  Two, because it’s AMAZING.  Three, because my presentation isn’t very amazing, so it takes a few tries to get the message across.  [But I’m having trouble finding time at the computer…so let’s see how fast I can type!]  The root point is that God is amazing, and knowing Him means wanting other people to know Him too.  Even more than that, the Message Jesus commands disciples to spread is that God is our Father, who loves us…  And as anyone who’s had a mother or father or have been either one of these for a few hours knows: parents don’t always give you what you *think* you need to be happy, but they’ll do ANYTHING for your well being…  At least (with human parents) while you’re young and still cute…   Continue reading

the heart of a servant-hero

I’m convinced that people who have the Jesus-servant (superhero…or servant-hero) attitude are wired differently than regular people.  Regular people see something that’s wrong and complain about it… No, scratch that, regular people in New York don’t even outright complain, they get passive aggressive about it.  Other people try to be helpful but only as long as everyone in the vicinity knows that they are being helpful.  They get really excited about helping, but their commitment to it only goes as deep as human eyes can see.  But people who have servant attitudes just go and pick up the slack.  They often do it without anyone noticing… they just happen to be there when they’re needed.  So what could a regular person do to make the switch to becoming a superhero? Continue reading