God Enabling in Self-Disabling

In faith circles there are two popular sayings. “The Lord helps those who help themselves” and “God will never give you more than you can handle”. Both focus on self and our abilities. There is a vast difference between religious cliches and a living Savior, between our own supposed merits and the undeserved favor of God. While these statements make us feel good to quote, they reach as far as superficial difficulties and no more. The rock bottom of the darkest valleys and our own brokenness prove them wrong.

Rather than the Lord helping those who help themselves, He helps those who are helpless. We build entire systems of thought to avoid facing the reality of helplessness, it is the universal human experience. The remedy is not wishful thinking to an abstract symbol or vague Higher Power. A personal God reaches out in grace, through Jesus Christ, to those at an end of themselves. Freedom comes in surrender and giving up the illusion of our own performance. In addition, there are tim…

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

What I am exploring today may at first strike the reader as cold and unfeeling. If you bear with me, you will see the direction I am going.

Why do bad things happen to good people? It is debated in every generation. The question, and the manifold experiences evoked, is a heavy topic. Some who ask are deeply suffering, with genuine confusion. Others find it a ready argument to dismiss any consideration of faith. When I hear the question, I have a counterintuitive response. Through the challenges God has allowed in my life, my answer has become another question. I ask myself, why not? I do not mean this as a cynical attitude. It is quite the opposite. The why not can be a door into the deeper meaning of our existence and profound purpose in our difficulties. Rather than thrusting the why not as a weapon toward others, it is something I must first ask myself.

Living in a fallen world full of sin, evil, imperfection, and consequences to so many circumstances, hardship is inevitable. The …

Failure or Success?

An interesting question to consider: If the failure of dreams or goals we long for or work so hard toward is used by God to show us more of Him (and ourselves) is it His will to choose failure or success for us? On the one hand, God is more interested in our sanctification than our comfort. Though we avoid pain, it can be the most effective tool God uses to shape us. Drawing us ever closer to Him in obedience is His goal. On the other, God is gracious, full of lovingkindness, and nothing is impossible for Him.

Perhaps He brings a measure of both? What is true success as we walk with Christ? What is failure? Does God care about the details of our lives in vocation? These are questions unique to each of us.

As we set our minds on the preeminence of God in Christ, He is the source of our joy and meaning. Is this priority really enough for us in our successes or failures? Each circumstance can cloud our view if we do not keep our eyes on Jesus.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have…

"God Light", our Superficial View of God

People in our day have a trivial view of God. If relevant at all, we mold a God in our own image. He is a bearded grandfather smiling in the sky and overlooking our peccadilloes. Our God is much like Santa Claus, giving what we ask when called for and needed. A vague, superficial notion of love is seen in this, a "love light” from a remote, disinterested deity with which we possess no wish to devote our lives. With awe of God reduced, our esteeming of ourselves as independent and self-sufficient captains of our own ship elevates.

The view of God in our culture is so low we reversed roles. It is as if we are the masters and unless He answers to us, we have no need of Him. If we knew of God's holiness, there would be trembling at such presumption. In the secular world, a bare understanding that God is a supreme being is lacking, let alone His awesome righteousness and glory. Yet, in the liberalizing minds of the church, holiness is also subverted. With the failure to recognize…

Looking for Comfort in an Uncomfortable World

Our hearts cry out against difficulty. Yet, the reality that there will be some kind of adversity is inherent to human existence. There will be difficult, even painful experiences. We may encounter this every day in some manner, or go through periods which are overwhelming.

Americans, perhaps more than any other society, resist any form of discomfort. We are raised to understand our rights and what we can demand. With abundant material convenience, easements become needs rather than wants. The noble idea of the pursuit of happiness has transformed in our psyche into a desire to shield ourselves from any trouble in life.

Perhaps the most universal reaction to displeasure is complaining. Grousing has become a right, while defining much of our conversation. We complain about our bills, our health, our bad breaks, our marriages, how people treat us. If our things break or don't work like we want them to, griping is quick to our lips. Complaints about our government and institutions f…

Truth and/or Love?

Are truth and love in conflict with each other? In our postmodern culture, they are. As worldviews they are in divisive disagreement. On an interpersonal level, people usually fall into a predominance of one of the two. The disproportion reflects groups, churches, and organizations in an unbalanced view of these vital standards.

If we hold to truths of any kind, we often find severity or belligerence in defense of them. It can be any truth assertion, whether spiritual, philosophical, or political. Enmity and antagonism is the driving energy of our society. They do not call it a culture “war” for nothing. There are times we encounter those infected with a cold, judgmental attitude, using convictions as an excuse to be this way.

On the other hand, a major preoccupation in our day is love. Not sacrificial, virtuous love as once understood by the term. What we have is an “I’m OK, You’re OK, every evil under the sun is OK” love. Let’s just love. We are not sure what this means, it is a su…

What Characterizes Being a Man, Part 2

The Headlines

If you follow the media, the behavior of men in high places is a major topic. Headlines abound with shameful examples. It seems something is very wrong in the male culture of power, celebrity, and politics.

Compared to ourselves, public figures appear exaggerated to extremes in their conduct. We are rightly outraged. Yet, considering how known they are, their failure is more visible. Our own lives are not splashed across the media for all to see. These personalities are used as objects of scorn when they fall, but we may well ask, does our culture bear the same marks? Though most of us do not have the money or position to go to scandalous excesses, these examples rise out of the society in which they are formed. Do we need fallen figures to assuage our own personal failures and make us feel we are at least better than they? The general morality of people has soured. Sadly, our land is a self-exalting nation that serves its own pleasures.

The Presidential Example

There is …