Offline

It’s been nearly two years since I last wrote a post for this blog. The traffic it generates doesn’t seem to have changed at all. Go figure. I stopped writing when the goals I had in mind when I began were fulfilled. I wanted to clearly lay out what I believe are the essentials of Christian faith, in a way that cuts through the forest of ill-informed messages out in the world, and testify to my own experience that bears it out. All in all, I didn’t really have much else left to say. But that’s not really why I stopped. I stopped writing when my personal life became so painful that I lost my sense of things ever getting better.

I believe in the eternal hope we have in Christ. I’d like to think life won’t always hurt so deeply, but I can’t point to a promise God made about that. I think of Jesus telling the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus died in the street. It was irrelevant to his eternal destiny, but certainly painful for him in this world. I’ve experienced more than half of my life at this point. God has done some amazing things for me, but allowed some pretty awful stuff too. Gut punches. Things I don’t understand and don’t expect to understand. God doesn’t explain himself.

The best I’ve got right now is the will to bow to God’s sovereignty and endure the things I cannot change. I’m sure there’s a truckload of advice out there, but its not advice I need. Suffering is suffering. If you’ve got it, you live with it. You do what you can can about the things you can, but the rest is just fate. In my current position, I don’t have the inner strength to lead spiritual discussion.

If inspiration hits me, I’ll be back here writing about it. For now, I think its just a time for me to pause and listen for directions.  🙂

UPDATE: August 31, 2016 – Well, it’s three years later. My how time flies. Things are better than they were when I wrote this last post. I was deeply grieved by a situation my children were living in when they weren’t with me. God finally gave grace to relieve that. He also delivered me from severe financial troubles. There’s still some deep spiritual issues that I have to contend with. In time, maybe I’ll receive relieve from those too.

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2012 Predictions

Well, another year has passed. Like 2010, none of my 2011 Predictions came to fruition. One of these days, I’ll get one right. 😉

Here are my predictions for 2012:

1. NASA’s next rover Curiosity will become self-aware before reaching Mars and discover it has a knack for puns and knock knock jokes, much to the chagrin of scientists.

2. The Apple TV will be released, however, all programming must meet Apple’s rigorous media guidelines and be delivered through their new Media Store.

3. The U.S. will hold a second election in December 2012 after no one is satisfied with the results of the November election.

4. The sun will finally shine in that place where it doesn’t.

5. Camel racing will be introduced at the 2012 summer olympic games in London.

6. Iran will figure out how to fully control the drone they captured, only to have it destroyed on take-off by the Stuxnet virus.

7. To go with pizza as a vegetable, the U.S. Congress will declare beer a serving of grains.

8. Ignoring complaints by Canadians, Canada will officially be named the 51st state.

9. Someone will invent a tape dispenser that only requires one hand to use.

10. Peter Jackson will begin post Hobbit work on King Kong 2.

I sure hope number 9 happens.

Happy New Year!


The Night That Changed The World

So here we are… the night before Christmas. In a few minutes, it’ll be after midnight here in California, Christmas day 2011.

People all over the world find joy in giving at Christmas. It’s a wonderful thing. In my family, we exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. That tradition started when I was maybe 12 or so. We enjoyed it so much, it transferred to my own family and kids. We’ve never done Santa. I don’t object to Santa, we just have a whole other tradition. I’ve asked my kids if they feel like we should have done Santa. Getting to open presents on Christmas Eve makes their answers an universal “No.” 🙂

There is really something special about the time after opening presents is done. It’s like we now focus on the night ahead leading towards Christmas morning, as if this was the actual night of Jesus birth before the dawn. It’s beautiful. We can picture the angels off in the distance appearing to the shepherds and singing, “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

It’s hard to imagine a world without Christmas. I’m glad I don’t have to. Some do. That’s not for me. Even a non-believing Jewish friend told me, “I’m a Christmas Jew.” He appreciates the meaning, even if he hasn’t come to believe God actually did come into the world that night so long ago.

Christmas is still breathtaking to me in its beauty, aside from the commercialism and such. Just a quiet night, lights, love, and hope. Nothing else like it. Though Easter is the greater victory, it comes with the Good Friday reminder before it. It makes me wish the gift in Jesus didn’t require his death for my sin. At Christmas, there’s no pain. It’s just the joyous celebration of God’s love. Emmanuel. God here, with us. That’s so comforting. Some day it will be other way. Us there, with God.


It’s Christmas


Sharing Christ Series

Sharing Christ

I wrote a serious of posts on Sharing Christ, created while leading a class based on the book Becoming A Contagious Christian (BACC) by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg. The class was very beneficial to myself and those attending. It’s a great book and I tried to write posts that helped apply the points raised.  The book is not required to follow. They stand on their own.

This is a complete listing of the series for those who are interested.

  1. Costs and Benefits
  2. Salt and Light
  3. Get Real
  4. Compassion
  5. Give It Up
  6. Get Personal
  7. Step Out of the Box
  8. Find Your Voice
  9. Speak Up
  10. Make It Clear
  11. Overcoming Objections

School’s Out

Over the last year I wrote many posts based on work I was doing to lead classes at my church. The Christian Essentials series and Sharing Christ posts were all within that scope. I’m done teaching for awhile, so I imagine my posts are going to be a little more mundane. It’s good to take a break. It will help me recharge and give me time to focus on the practice end of preaching. 🙂

It’s been a tough year. I would say I spent a lot more effort overcoming landslides than climbing up. You never know what hand you’ll be dealt. I’d like to think things will improve and these momentary troubles will all be forgotten. No doubt, someday they will. For now, I just hope the seed sown will produce good things.

I don’t know if I’ll be quiet for a bit or if things will pop up that I’m motivated to write about. I’m changing my focus in the short term to work on a personal software project I want to complete. I’m certain that will be time consuming.

Thanks to those of you who follow my blog. I hope I’ve given you some interesting insights and food for thought. Stick around. I’ll come back and write again.

 


Sharing Christ: Overcoming Objections

Three Little Words

The Bible doesn’t shine on how difficult it is to put your faith in Christ. So many things cause doubt and unbelief. Layer upon layer, those doubts can build a hard shell around our hearts and minds, leading us away from God. But what is there to be gained in turning from him? God is good. If only we could accept those three little words, we’d never be the same. As believers in Christ, the core of our faith is centered in that tenet, established by testimony of a three-word event: Jesus is alive. And a three-word promise: Salvation is here.

The Mechanics of Doubt

In English class, we learned the phrase “you understood” referring to the subject of a command: “(You) Duck!” Doubts about God also come with an unspoken prefix:

“If God is good, why…?”

“If Jesus is alive, how…?”

“If Salvation is here, what…?”

These are the machines of doubt that work night and day on all of us. Christ can pull us out of this abyss if we are willing. Not everyone is willing. Some hold back because of sinful desires, others out of fear. These too go back to what we believe about those three little words. If God is good, we have no reason to reject him unless we reject what is good. If God is good, we have no reason to fear him, even though we are not good by his standard, because love is good and:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

When we came to Christ and asked him to be our Savior and Lord, we had to deal with all these objections ourselves. Objections are not the exception, they are the norm. Even in him, we wrestle with these same questions. They are universal. If not for the Holy Spirit who pulls us back on track, we would all fall away. That’s the sad state of fallen humanity. But this is also the beauty of the gospel. Christ is God reaching out to save us. It’s how he displays just how great his love for us is.

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:10

So, as people to whom God’s grace has lavishly come in Christ, we must patiently help others work through the same kinds of objections we work through to overcome our unbelief, unwillingness, and fear, so they can realize the goodness of God and receive salvation.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:10-16

As we consider the objections people raise, no matter how complicated they are, or from what condition of the heart they come, we must remember that after all is said and done, salvation comes down to three little words and all that they mean.

Answers We Need

Objections lead us to the real issues people need help with. There will always be mystery, but the questions we require answers to are not beyond us. The Bible has answers and history has evidence. “It’s in there.” as the Prego spaghetti sauce commercial used to say. What we have to sort out is the difference between symptoms and problems. It helps us navigate past needless arguments and get to treating the heart.

These are some common problems people have coming to faith in Christ:

We can’t see God
We misperceive him
We’re turned off by bad examples from people claiming to serve God
We are confused by bad teaching
We’re afraid of expectations and change
We have intellectual roadblocks we think cannot be resolved
We have philosophical roadblocks due to our perception of morality

To help others get past these obstacles, we must, to some extent, work through them as well. It’s a part of growing a healthy faith based in reality, not just what we desire truth to be. There are a lot of claims made in this world and we’re not perfect either. If we blindly accept whatever we’re sold, we’re sure to end up in a world of hurt. Neither do we want to push out junk, lest we become part of the problem.

In each of these objections there is Biblical, historical, and practical truth to be found that corrects errors and leads people to faith. It is hard work to dig it out sometimes. There is always one more question, one more thought we haven’t heard. Learning how to respond is not about pride or prowess. No one comes away the winner from a spiritual argument except the one who finds hope in Christ. Everything else is dross. It’s always about the soul.

The direction we want to lead is towards faith in Christ. In every category of objection, we must consider how these obstacles were overcome by others who have overcome them.

We can’t see God– but we can see what he’s done in the testimony of our own lives and the lives of others he’s changed.

We misperceive God– because we have so many false ideas about him. We need to learn what scripture says versus what we’ve been taught or always thought.

We’re turned off by bad examples from people claiming to serve God– we need to look at good examples and discern the difference. People are sinful, but God is good. Where do you really see him at work?

We are confused by bad teaching– so we should be cautious about who we listen to and make sure we question what we’re taught until we discover truth that stands up to those three little words.

We are afraid of expectations and change– which is only natural. We may have changes to make and God expects us to live right lives, but ultimately, he made us and loves us they way we were designed. Others may have expectations and desire to change us in ways that God has no part in. It’s important to make a distinction.

We have intellectual roadblocks we think cannot be resolved– only because we haven’t really pushed them hard enough to see. It’s simply a matter of digging.

We have philosophical roadblocks due to our perception of morality– which may be difficult to sort through. If we can somehow start with the premise that God is good and work from there, he can help us work through the hard to grasp problems and reckon with our differences baby steps at a time.

All of this leads to a call for a decision. One day, some stop objecting and decide to commit. God is good. Jesus is alive. Salvation is here.

This post is derived from the book Becoming A Contagious Christian (BACC) by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg.

Previous in this series: Make It Clear