Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is it gone yet?




 I still ponder a lot about how I should be handling certain grief in my life.  What is the right thing to say to a person when they ask me that dreaded question?  [“When are you getting married”]  If you have recently asked me that question, I’m sorry if I reacted badly, or didn’t react at all, because honestly I don’t know how to react.  I know there might be some standard answer where I can pull out a note card and read a line or two that sums everything up and the other nods and says, “Well, it’s for the best.”
            I also could break down and tell it all too, where the listener would get so uncomfortable they would just walk away.  But, how do we deal with grief in our life?  If you follow my writing you will see that I will talk about grief continuously.  I feel like God is calling me to a life of grief.  This summer I will be a pastoral care intern and I plan on going to law school to be a family attorney who truly counsels, not just clocks up the billable hours.  (I understand I have a very naive approach to family law).
            But, the question of how are we doing?  Or, what you are not getting married?  How do we respond to those questions?  How do we ask those questions?  How can we truly empathize with people?
            The question of how are you?  In fact, is no more a question than the sky is blue today.  How are you is simply answered with a how are you?  Take time to empathize with someone to be there for someone when they need you.  People are hurting everywhere around us.  We need each other with the grace of Jesus Christ to make it through this life because I don’t think it gets much better.  I truly am starting to believe grief is around every corner, but it is how we handle the grief and how we react to rough times.


 Like Dr. King once said:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

            When I was making my decision this summer on what job I was going to accept I had a professor, Randy Harris, tell me that the grief I was going through was preparing me to do work at Lifeline, to be able to relate more and more with those I talk to in the hospitals.  If I get the privilege to practice law, I do not want to forget about the people I am working for I want to be there for them in any way possible.  I want to be a genuine follower of Christ who helps those by being genuine and authentic in faith and in life.  God has given me a gift of grief, of setbacks that I with the Lord am overcoming to be the person God wants me to be.

God mold me in your image to be a better servant to those around me.  To remember not only those far away, but my neighbors next door.  To know that we are all broken, in need of a savior, saved by grace, that your Son showed us.

Amen


Thursday, January 12, 2012

What I like about the video, "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus."


The video “Why I hate Religion, but love Jesus” by Jeff Bethke is getting some attention.  Yesterday it was mostly good.  Today, people are starting to question the video a bit more.  The video gets you, it’s catchy and let’s be honest he looks just like Drake.  So, for me it was like a Christian addition to the album “Take Care” with God added.  I like the video, and I like the article by Zack Hunt (http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=4970). 

Drake
                     

Jeff Bethke
                                                                               

This is my response to the video about what I like about the Drake look alike.    
           
            I’m not giving a theology lesson, I’m just giving my insights for sharing
            The reason why I’m caring about a four minute video that is causin’ a stirrin’

I’m trying to be relevant with the video, but moving on.

1.  Coming to church for two occasions

            This is one of those things that grinds my gears, people who come to church for two occasions, 1. To get married and 2.  To die.  I believe this is what he meant when he said,
“Cant fix their problems, so they try to mask it,
Not realizing that’s just like sprayin perfume on a casket”

I do love the church and I believe people need the church, but when we only use the church for two times in our life and throw in a few Easter’s and December 25th’s we miss a lot in between and in a sense are just throwing perfume in our lives.  We need church and religion more, not less. 

2.  Facebook Christians

            You know who this group is.  They post the great God loving statuses and then post something that all of our mommas would be ashamed to see.   Jeff Bethke hits on this point in his poem here:

            “Now I ain’t judging I’m just saying be careful of putting on a fake look,
Because there’s a problem if people only know that you’re a Christian by that little section on your facebook
In every other aspect of life you know that logics unworthy
Its like saying you play for the lakers just because you bought a jersey”

I love this point and it is true, that we are ambassadors of Christ and whatever we do people look to us and we should be examples to others.  Brennan Manning’s quote here sums it all up:

“The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable”

3.  Churches should not just be beautiful people

            If you know my background you know where my passions are in ministry.  Some of the work and counseling I love doing is with addicts and in the prisons.  We are all broken people and are all in bondage set free by God’s grace.  When ex-cons and ex-addicts of any kind get out rehabs or jail are they going to church?  Are we reaching besides once a year with our ‘annual give back to the community event?’  I love going to Impact where the poor, broken, homeless, addicts are fed by the word and physically.  Hey!  I’m a part of that group!  Jeff hits on this here:

            “Cuz its not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.”

4.  Republican….


            “Because republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian,”



            I love the video and I love the article.  But, I understand that the video lacks theology, that the video doesn’t do justice to all the great things that churches truly do.  But, it points out some of the problems that we experience with people in churches.  Religion isn’t bad and without religion I wouldn’t know anything about God.  I think his message is ‘well intentioned’ and I once again will say I love the video, but we can’t take all the criticism without remembering all the good that the church does.  God loves us, God loves the church.  We just need to work on loving everyone better and stop making excuses for why we resent something as beautiful as the church.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

God’s Problem by Bart D. Ehrman


     I have experienced suffering, you have experienced suffering, we all have experiencedsuffering.  Suffering comes in manyforms, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual, the list goes on andon.  We all struggle with suffering insome form or fashion and again we continually ask why do we suffer?  Whether it is us personally, a loved one, ora baby that we barely know that is killed for no apparent reason.  Suffering hits us and breaks our heart inevery way.
            Bart Ehrman explores the idea of suffering in his 2008 bestseller God’s Problem.  The problem is: How the Bible fails to answerour most important question – why we suffer? Ehrman offers several theories as to why we suffer and for this post Iwill sum them up quickly from his book on page 200
           
            1.  “Suffering comes from God as a punishment forsin”
                        (Thisview comes from primarily the prophets)

            2.“Suffering is created by human beings who abuse and oppress others”
                        (Prophetsagain)

            3.  “God works in suffering to achieve hisredemptive purposes
                        (TheJoseph Story and Jesus Story)

            4.  “Suffering come as a test from God to see ifhis people will remain faithful to him even when it does not pay to do so.”
                        (Storyof Job)

            5.  “We simply can’t know why there is sufferingin the world –either because God the Almighty chooses not to reveal this kindof information to us.”
                        (Job’spoetry)

            6.  “Or because it is information beyond the kenof mere mortals.”
                        (Ecclesiastes)

            7.  “The apocalyptic answer is that God is indeedcompletely sovereign, and that he will reassert his sovereignty in the futurewhen he overthrows the forces of evil and vindicates everyone who has sidedwith him.”
                        (Revelation)

These are the seven primary explanations Ehrman gives forthe problem of suffering.  Ehrman also isan agnostic which he describes saying, “I don’t know if there is a God; but Ithink that if there is one, he certainly isn’t the one proclaimed by theJudeo-Christian tradition” (Ehrman 4). 
            Istruggle mightily with why we suffer as Christians, or just as people ingeneral. For the purpose of this blog let us assume there are two types ofpeople, the wicked and the righteous.  Isee the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer and the wicked suffer andrighteous prosper.  So many times when I readthe Wisdom Books, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, & Job, I see that therighteous will prosper and the wicked will fall.  But, in our world suffering is rampantthroughout both groups, and I cannot distinguish which is which?  I understand that suffering happens, that welive in a broken world, that we have free will. To be honest, I can explain a lot of the suffering that has gone on inmy life.  I tent to side with the thirdbullet point that there is redemptive suffering going on in my life just likewith Joseph in Genesis.  I see thecharacter building in me and that I would not be who I was today unless Itraveled on a bumpy road.
            Theproblem I have with suffering is who suffers in times of mass suffering.  When a plane goes down and there is asurvivor and they thank God for being with them, they thank God for allowingthem to survive!  What about those whoperish?  Was God not with them? 
            Thechildren suffering day in and day out that do not have clean water, a place tosleep, anything to eat.  What good doesthat suffering do?  I love the story ofJob, but I have many problems with the ending. In Job 42:13 the Word says, “And he also had seven sons and three daughters.”  Here God is literally replacing Job’schildren that were killed in the beginning of the book.  But, what about his previous ten children andthe death they suffered?  Why did theyhave to suffer for God to make a point to the Devil?  Are children things that can bereplaceable?  Does God murder to make apoint?
            This isjust a portion of where I struggle with suffering.  I’m content knowing I will never know theanswers and I do trust that God is sovereign and that He is in control.  I just have a hard time explaining his powerand control. 

I think the author, Ehrman, said it best in trying toexplain faith,
           
            “Faithis a mystery and an experience of the divine in the world, not a solution to aset of problems.”
           
            I havenever read a book by an agnostic before, and I do not believe this will be mylast.  The book never strayed me from myfaith, but motivated me to find answers even more to look to God and try toknow Him even more.  I do not think Iwill ever know all the answers, but I do believe with all this suffering itwill continually show me that this place is not my home that my Father ispreparing a place for where there truly there is no more pain.