Depression happens when you acknowledge the difference between your ideal and real life. Continue reading
Category Archives: Faith
(Note: This was a rant-turned-ramble-turned-kindafreeverseything I wrote at 4 in the morning. Just to warn you.)
This is a very inconvenient fact, and we Christians have been doing our level best to work around this for years. In America, we’ve built up a whole defense system around the idea, feeling quite under attack by it.
Does He speak? Is the question. And Christian Americans try not to answer.
We hem and haw in a pattern that sounds like this:
Does He speak? After a fashion.
He speaks, yes, but not in the way that you’re thinking.
What am I thinking? You know, speaking aloud. Actually saying words, in fact. Continue reading
This is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s something I’ve been asked about enough times I though it’d be worthwhile to go ahead and post here. I’ve mentioned before that one of the main reasons I decided to follow Yeshua (Jesus) is that in college, I sat down and figured out logically that that was the best option for life, and the one that made the most sense to me.
How did I do this? I asked myself a series of questions, going from general to specific, and researched and studied each one until I came up with an answer that satisfied me. I based each question past the first on my answer to the previous question, until I got to the point where my conclusions forced me to make a decision concerning my life’s path.
I’m not going to post my full thought process because frankly, that would take a book-length post, so I’m just putting up the questions themselves here. They’re not magic bullets, but they helped me think through the issues and break things down logically. If that’s helpful for you, feel free to use ’em.
I struggled a bit with the title of this post, and I’m still not sure it’s exactly what I meant to say. I mean, I don’t really ever think that depression itself is a good thing. Speaking from experience here, it’s miserable. It’s free-falling in an endless black hole. But I do think that good things can come out of it, and that’s what I wanted to ramble on a little today. Continue reading
There’s been a lot of publicity lately for vocal opponents of God in general and Christianity in particular. With the popularity of Angels and Demons and other fictional books/movies also comes a curiosity about non-fiction anti-God or religion books, such as The God Delusion or God is Not Good. That’s normal, but for some people it’s a scary concept. Why? (excuse me as I ramble a bit about this)
The thing I find interesting (as does the media, as I keep seeing these stories everywhere) is that so many of the anti-God crowd used to call themselves Christians. Some of them seem to feel that this gives them more credibility, as they’ve now “seen through the lies” and they’re now better, happier people, free from the chains of organized religion. But almost all of them left Christianity because of a person or group of people within the Christian community who failed in some way. Continue reading
Every once in a while I get to do a devotional for work. This is one I did last October, which really means a lot to me so I thought I’d share it here. — Sarah
There’s a scene in the movie The Incredibles that always strikes me. The movie is about superheroes hidden among us, and at one point the main character, Mr. Incredible, is coming home from a really, really bad day at work. He pulls in the driveway of his house, and there’s this little kid, his next-door neighbor, sitting on a tricycle waiting for him. Now, this kid has reason to believe that Mr. Incredible is actually a superhero in disguise, so he’s just sitting there, watching him. Mr. Incredible turns his tired eyes to the kid and asks, “What are you waiting for?” And the kid goes “I dunno. Something amazing! I guess.”
Something amazing. Like flying or lifting a car over your head. That’s the kind of life I’ve always wanted to have. But God has a different concept of what it takes to be amazing, and lately I’ve been struck by several Amazing Things Jesus talked about, and how we can really live an Amazing Life. Continue reading
I was just reading the passage in Matthew where Jesus tries yet again to explain to his disciples just what life following Him is really all about. They don’t get it, which is easy to look at and laugh nowadays. (I’ve been keeping a mental tally of the number of times Jesus predicted His death and resurrection — and yet the disciples were surprised when it happened! Talk about deluding yourself out of the truth!)
But on the other hand, I don’t think we really get it most of time, either.
I’m in chapter 20, and I’m talking about Servant Leadership. I capitalized that because the term is really overused in protestant Christian circles, to the point where we forget what it really means.
So in this story, James, John and their mom have this plan. They want to be reigning with Christ in His kingdom. Now really, this isn’t as audacious a request as it seems at first glance, because just a few chapters ago Jesus already told them that they’d be judging the twelve tribes of Israel — with the other disciples. What’s got the others so upset about this request is that J&J have asked to be put over the other disciples, on top of ruling everybody else!
Is it me, or does this sound really familiar?
Of course Jesus defuses the situation and says something totally crazy — a) that in order to lead, you have to serve and b) that even Jesus has to give Himself up to the point of giving up His life. (chalk another one up on the board, please)
If I were a disciple, I bet I’d be focusing a lot more on that last part. They probably didn’t learn this lesson, at least not right away.
This blog is only nominally anonymous, so there’s a good chance that some of you know I have had experiences with several Christian organizations, both church and para-church. And I can tell you first hand that we have still not learned this lesson. I know for sure that I haven’t.
Get any group of people together, Christians or not, and there will be politics. People will talk behind each other’s backs. Middle management will be in and out of favor with the Big Bosses, and the peons will be used, leaned on or even totally ignored. If you’ve never worked for a Christian company you may not believe that a group of Christians, who are there to serve God, could be capable of this. But trust me, it happens.
Christians just use different wording.
When you want to gossip, you say “can I ask you to pray about this?” When you’re presenting your favorite idea you say “God can do the impossible” if anyone tells you it must fail. And when you want to rise in the ranks, you call yourself a “Servant Leader” and talk about how God is really at the top of the company.
That’s not to be down on Christian companies, or to say that all of the above is always bad. But Christians are still people. And very few have learned what Matthew 20 means.
What is a Servant Leader? It’s someone who doesn’t demand that their projects and ideas always come first. It’s someone who knows everyone — not because of what they can do for them, but because they want to know them. It’s someone who loves God so much that they can’t help but love people, just because God loves people. It’s someone who thinks what your heart looks like is more important than what label suit you wear. It’s someone who cares more about the project than who’s in charge of it. It’s someone who gives up their rights. It’s someone who doesn’t name drop. It’s someone who steps in whenever and wherever they can help.
There’s a lot to it. But mostly, I think it’s someone who wouldn’t think to capitalize Servant Leader and make it a title. They’re just too busy being one.
I’ve always felt a sort of disconnect from my name. My last name is ugly. That’s about as plain as I can put it. It’s hard to spell, hard to pronounce, and hard for other people to read. Sometime that’s funny, like when telemarketers try to call. But it can wear on you after having to explain it to say, all the employees of your new workplace.
I’ve never felt that my name was indicative of who I am.
Do most people feel that way? Maybe I’m the only one, but to me my name, the one I was born with, is nothing more than an odd-sounding identification number, that I’ve trained myself to answer to when needed.
I’d heard about Native American tribes where people got to basically choose a name that fit them when they became an adult. I thought that kind of thing would really help me when I was younger. And there’s plenty of people who “go by” something other than their legal name — a nickname, initials, or a middle name.
But recently, I changed my name. I finally rid myself of the last name that’s been bothering me for so long, and picked one that I really loved, that had special meaning behind it. And you know what? It still doesn’t mesh with my idea of me, of who I am.
Because that’s what this is really all about. We change our names or nicknames because we want something that we identify with, that says who we really are, or at least who we want other people to think we are. When people think of my name, they think of me, so I want it to represent me as well as it can. Which leads me to what I think the problem is:
I don’t really know who I am.
Well, I have a pretty good idea, I think. But I’m not sure it’s possible to truly, totally know yourself, at least not on Earth. And that’s why I can’t find my true name.
But guess what? (And this is why I’m rambling about all this.) God already named me. I was looking at some of the rewards mentioned in the beginning of Revelation (where Jesus is talking to the churches), and one is a white rock with your name on it — your real, true name that God gave you when you were first created. People have thought of all kinds of reasons why this might matter — magicians have talked about the power of someone’s true name, etc — but to me, the point is simple and clear.
God knows you. And what’s great is, He’ll help you know yourself, as you really are. How cool is that?
I was reading an unrelated commentary by David Stern the other day and I came across this thought-provoking aside: “pride, and the reverse-sin of embarrassment”.
Is embarrassment a sin?
I’ve not yet seen it specifically mentioned in a biblical sin-list — “Thou shalt not be embarrassed” for example, or “Those evil-doers who are embarrassed”. A quick check of the NIV doesn’t pull up any results for “embarrass” at all.
But then again, if I switch to The Message, I see Luke 9:26 – (Jesus speaking) “If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by.” (also see Mark 8:38)
Ok, so the pie in the sky bit is a little strange, but I’m interested to see what other versions do with this verse. NIV and NASB both say “ashamed of me” (and no, no mention of pie). Aha! A search for “ashamed” brings up all kinds of verses, most notably 2 Timothy 1:7-9 :
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. [Paul is speaking] But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”
(btw, awesome passage talking about the gift of God given to Timothy and what he should do with it now – go read it, it’s great!)
I think I had a wrong image in my head of sin. After all, you put pride on the list (something I know I constantly struggle with) and I start thinking of the 7 deadlys and, obviously, Brad Pitt. Hard to remember sometimes what sin actually is – not just bad things you do, but good things you don’t do, and perhaps even more importantly, your heart’s attitude when you them.
I’ve certainly been too embarrassed of being called a Christian to “testify about our Lord” before, especially in situations where my faith was being mocked. And I’ve been ashamed to be called a Christian because of other Christians too, although I think that’s not all my fault sometimes. (but that’s another discussion)
When my heart isn’t identifying as a follower of Jesus, then there’s something wrong with my heart. Even if I’m afraid, or if I know that the result would be persecution, it doesn’t give me an excuse to lay low and pretend I’m not who I am. That’s denying Him just as much as if I had said it aloud. And therefore, sin.
So is embarrassment sin? In and of itself, I don’t see any biblical backup for that. But when it comes to God, Jesus and other true followers of Jesus – we can’t be ashamed to be identified. Our hearts belong to Him, and as such should always be willing to declare it.
I have never understood why, when someone is looking at the life of Yeshua and wanting to know more, Christians tend to say “Read John.” In my mind, John is the worst way to see the gospel for the first time. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most compelling to me is simply the first few verses:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Well that sounds pretty and enlightening and all, but what is it supposed to mean? If you grew up in the church, chances are good that you know that somehow, the “Word” mentioned means “Jesus”, and this passage establishes that He is God and at the same time God is more than one part, as He was also “with God”.
But why the Word? Why not just come out and say, “Jesus is God”? If it were my first time reading this I’d probably stop right here. If I don’t understand the first few verses, what luck will I have with the rest of the book?
My explanation when I was younger was pretty much “Well, John wrote Revelations too. He’s just used to acting all mystical.” and I wrote it off at that. But that’s not really a satisfying answer. After all, the book of John settles down a lot after that point and if you plug along, things do start to make sense.
So here’s my take on it now: John knew his audience. A lot better than we do now. Remember, he’s writing to Jews of that era, who would look at the language and at once realize what he was referencing. It’s basically a culture thing — if I was describing someone and said he laughed with a “Ho ho ho!” most Americans would start thinking about Santa and of the person I was describing in terms of Santa.
It’s the same way here. When John said “In the beginning…”, the Jews started thinking about Genesis 1:1:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now for the cool part. In the creation story at Genesis 1, God makes Earth and everything in it. How? Through His word. Or I should say, Word. He speaks and creates. John is trying to show how, even from the very beginning, Jesus was with God and creating — He was God!
Why go to all the trouble? Jews in that culture knew that one of the fundamental parts of God is that He is one — it’s the first Commandment in the Ten Commandments. So the whole idea of Jesus being fully God and fully man (and being called therefore the “Son of God”) was difficult to get across — it sounded to them as if God was being split in two, which wasn’t possible because, like I said, God is one. But John shows here that even in the very first verse of the scriptures God talks about Himself in parts – His Word accomplishes His will. It’s still God creating, but now you have a separate part of God that is still Him. (it’s a really neat study to look at how the Trinity is represented in the Tanakh, I highly recommend it!)
Still think that’s a stretch? Well actually, God talks about himself and His Word as being separate yet one very specifically in Isaiah 55:11:
…so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in that for which I sent it.
With the background we just talked about, that verse becomes a clear description of the Messiah, who, as we discover if we read more of John (1:14), eventually became the Word made flesh — that is, Jesus.
So, I still think John is a bad book to start with (I usually say Mark as it’s quick and to the point, then maybe Romans to lay it all on the line), but I like the first chapter of it a whole lot more now that I understand it better. It’s actually a really neat thought.