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Faith, Culture & Common Sense

culture_faith_sense_graphicIt’s difficult to hate up close.”

As I work to refocus my blog (thank you for your patience), and hopefully provoke us all to think more deeply and even laugh at ourselves more regularly, I may push a few proverbial buttons. While I’ll admit to being a sucker for shock value from time to time, I’ll try to at least be an equal opportunity offender. My main goal, however, is to present topics and questions that cause us to think and grow especially in matters of faith and culture. Unfortunately, too many of us spend little time thinking on and shaping the things that matter most in life–mainly, the beliefs that are rooted within us and the context in which those beliefs are lived out.

Irene Butter said, “An enemy is someone whose story you haven’t heard or who’s face you’ve not seen.” I’m not so naive as to set out for some Kum-ba-ya utopia, but I am convinced that we miss out on a lot of growth largely because we haven’t heard the stories of those with whom we may disagree OR we misrepresent their stories based on our own biases. When we learn to listen we often earn the freedom to speak. You can win an argument or you can win someone’s heart, but rarely will you do both.

So with that said, I would like to create an environment that makes discussing these differences both safe and civil where we can share our stories and learn from one another. Whether you consider yourself a person of great faith, little faith or no faith at all, I want to hear from you. We all NEED to hear from you. We will create a richer culture and deepen our faith when we learn to both live and tell a better story.

What do you think are some of the least discussed ideas in faith and culture and why?

Thanks for the Journey

the_journey

A Better Question

question_cuffsEph 3:16-21  – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

“Why me?” — We’ve all asked the question. It’s a naturally human response to suffering, and even blessings, at times when we feel so underserving of either. It is not the most constructive question, but God in His grace allows us to grieve and this is a completely natural response. David did in most of his Psalms of Lament. It’s ok to ask the question and sometimes the best thing we can do is to feel the pain. However, I believe that Paul can teach us a better question from our Scripture passage above—one that eventually will help us to move on from the pains of life and to better see God’s purpose in times of both grief and blessings.

Reading the text of Ephesians chapter 3, you may forget that Paul is actually in prison as he writes this. Many scholars believe that this was most likely written during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. Take a moment and read the passage again. Does that sound like someone who is in prison? Paul, while well acquainted with suffering and inconvenience, knew a greater reality. Both Ephesus and Laodicea (which some scholars speculate may have been the target audience) were cities of great wealth. Paul is writing them here in a spirit of encouragement. You would think it would be the other way around—that Paul would seek or need encouragement from them—he IS in prison, after all!

See, this is where Paul knew of a greater glory—one that “surpasses knowledge”. It can only be experienced. Reading the context of this passage, I believe that his suffering led him to a different question—“What’s possible?”. If you find yourself in a difficult circumstance today, first of all, don’t be afraid to be human. Remember that God knows pain too. David experienced great tragedy and was not afraid to “let it out”. Grief is both necessary and healthy. No matter life’s circumstances, however, (whether mountain tops or valleys) there is still a greater joy. It can’t be known through knowledge or explained—only experienced in the context of a relationship with a loving, all-powerful God that wants to “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Will you let Him? Worry puts your worship on a tight leash (thanks Regi for this quote!), but experiencing a loving, omnipotent God in worship will eventually lead us all to a better question– “What’s possible?” Only God knows the answer to that, but we can be sure the answer is beyond anything we could ask or imagine. As you surrender to Him, who knows what your worship could make possible in your own life and the lives of those around you!  Lean in—He’s waiting for you.

When it Doesn’t Make Sense

 question_signI consider myself a fairly logical person. I enjoy seeing things that make sense come together and find harmony and unity even in the midst of diversity. I like to take an idea or concept and present it logically and see lightbulbs turn on in people’s lives. Sometimes, for fun, I even enjoy playing the “devil’s advocate” with friends in matters of theology, politics and life just to get a reaction and see if they can see the hole in their logic (at least in my view—evil, I know).

All of that is fun and all, but then there’s life. Life is messy. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. It is messy probably far more often than it’s neat and tidy. What do you do when life is messy and when it doesn’t make sense? Unfortunately the answer is not cookie-cutter, neat or easy—but there is an answer. Sometimes the answer is what you don’t do.

“Be still and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10

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