Archive | April, 2011

Our First Response?

30 Apr

A scenario is presented that offers a unique opportunity.

Dreamers think of the “wonders and excitement of the opportunity.”

Doubters begin to mount a list of “Why I can’t,” quickly dashing the notion.

People of Faith weigh both, sometimes over-analyze, make a decision, and then thank God for the direction.

When situations arise that present the unique opportunities in life, are we stuck in the “I just can’t” mode, or have our past choices sunk us too deeply into a hole that we cannot even consider a choice by faith?  We only go around once in this lifetime.  I wonder how many opportunities I have left to seize those unique moments.  What is YOUR first response to opportunities that come your way?

I would like to go on record as saying we should never make decisions based in fear, or doubt.  Neither should decisions be made by faith only, without using the God-given reason with which we were born.  Here are a few things to remember about decision-making:

Making a decision by faith is not accomplished by a strong feeling.  

Stepping out in faith is seldom blind.

There are promptings, assurances, confirmations, and building affirmations for us to take another step, then another, and so on.

Never in my life has God said, “Go ahead jump off that cliff unprepared, and I’ll bail you out.”  He has bailed me out of some dumb decisions I have made, but He never encouraged me to make a dumb decision.  He has led to some unconventional decisions and, in retrospect, I see clearly the reasons why.  Jumping off a cliff with a parachute is a bold move, but it is also a move that incorporates the common sense with which God graced us.

When it comes to the really big decisions in life, the life or career-changing decisions, I have found that direction and leading had been underway in my life, long before the big decisions occurred.  The decision is just the mechanism to move things along–the “yes button” that, when pushed, sets God’s will and our will in alignment.

God allows us to choose, and He is often gracious to allow us second and third opportunities.  He knows us well.  Yet, there comes a time when a window of opportunity closes.  It is at those times I ask myself whether I missed the opportunity, did something wrong to forfeit the opportunity, or whether it was simply not meant for me.

There are times when we knock on the will of God and He replies “No,” or “Not now!”  I have been there before.  Have you?

We Baby Boomers feel way too young to be sedentary and irrelevant.  We are just a bit old enough to think about retirement, but we still have lots of zest and vigor left to both work and play.  Yet, many of us have thought about those big life-altering dreams–the “WHAT-IFS!”

Dare I say, many of us are stuck in the ruts of life’s routines and comforts.  Another issue is the economy, where most of us are settling for what we already have, versus the unknown and what we would give up.  So where does this leave us?  Where does the conclusion, already drawn in our minds, place us in the grander scheme of our lives?

For some of us we are left with unmet lifelong dreams and goals.  Some of these have been voided do to unexpected health and family concerns.  For others, it is just too late to start over.  Still, others, are fearful of branching out, and find all sorts of excuses to stay put.

There is some truth that we are becoming more like our parents everyday.  The really disappointing part is that they have regrets about life and so will we, it seems.  Maybe regrets are simply a realistic part of life.  Could it be that we humans dream things into reality in our thoughts, and are disappointed that our thoughts weren’t as powerful as we “thought”?

Possibly, a few of us will escape yet and reach that pinnacle of life’s experiences by faith.  Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and other Old Testament saints–including Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Our children have their futures ahead of them.  They look to us for guidance.  Where is it that “we” look?  And what do they see in us when they peer in our direction?  I am still working out these issues, and I am probably not alone.

When it is all said and done, I think most of our dreams are youthful and unrealistic desires–some even bordering on the lusty things of life, hence material and fleshly objects.  We all grow up and our dreams and goals change.  They also shift from “self” to “others,” which is probably not a bad thing at all.  After all, love does change throughout the years, and so too do priorities.

Instead of thinking, “If I had it to do all over again, I would do this or that.”  Why not band together and state, “While I am still alive and able, I will choose to do this, or that.”  Than make a realistic plan and go for it.  Goals do not have to be life-changing.  They can be just as fun if they are routine-changing.

So, Boomers, what are we waiting for?  It has been said about our generation that we have given this nation a lot for which to be thankful.  It has also be said about us that we stumbled along in life, at times, seemingly aimless, self-absorbed, and fearful of getting old.

We have been accused of plowing through relationships, burying ourselves in work, and after the kids are raised we ask “What’s left for me?”  At the end of the day, what I have found is that it is quite difficult to stumble through life if we are spending time on our knees seeking direction.

Care to join me?

Change

28 Apr

Things change.  People change.  Life moves onward within the marking of days, weeks, and so on.  Philosophically, there are a few things that will never change–and one of these things is change, itself.

As creatures of habit, we all seek to find our routines and establish some sort of normalcy within the context of our daily regimen.  We all do this, as we seek order to our lives.  Yet as we do, we glance in the mirror, or we watch our own children and grandchildren, and we come “face-to-face” with reality.  We are made aware that change is a constant.  Some of this change is celebrated and some is not.

Are you ready for the oxymoron of the day?  Here it is:  Change never changes; Change remains constant. 

Having said that, we must add, also, that since nothing ever stays the same, we can conclude that change indeed changes everything by its very nature.  It even changes itself, by not changing.  Are you still with me?

As humans, we can either succumb to the universal law of change, or choose to work within it.  I like to call this universal march of time by the term “our path toward decay.”  I am smiling over that phrase because I know the changes my body and mind have undergone these past few years.

The acceleration toward the big “event” seems to be picking up speed.  Yet in all of this reality mixed with humor, we humans are creatures of choice.  We can choose to battle forward, directly in the middle of this change.  Or we can sit back and allow change to maintain its exponential impact, right squarely in the middle of our supposed routines.

We only live one life.  We enjoy our sense of stability, with family, friends, and even with work.  But do we have regrets about things unchosen?  I mean, look . . . we can’t undo past choices.  But we can certainly make new ones.  Do we regret not having made a choice to do something differently in life?  That choice not to choose is really a choice, too!  I don’t like living with regrets, do you?

We can choose by faith.  We can choose by sight.  We can choose by both.  We are not dead yet and, for many of us, making a choice to cause change in our routines might very well be what is best for us at this time of our lives.  There are as many reasons why we should do so.  There are some good ones why we cannot, as well.  But I have to be honest.  I am both fearful of, and apathetic to some changes.  I am probably not alone.

People of the Baby Boom Generation have given so much to this current generation.  Those of us in our 50s and 60s need to ask ourselves, “What now?”

So let me offer this challenge right from within this short blog on this lovely morning.  Do you have a passion that still drives your soul?  Is there an area in life whereby you can imagine yourself making a difference somewhere?

In order for change to occur in our lives, we first have to choose to allow this to occur.  As a Christian man, I choose to walk by faith into that arena.  I know in my spirit that “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

It has been said that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Hebrews 13:8 puts somewhat differently:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, yes, and forever.”

As for me, watch out change!

The Bible is Dead; Long Live the Bible

20 Apr

Colleges and universities are supposed to be places of enlightenment and growth–growth of the whole person.  However, the moral-free campus environment, coupled with the abject spiritual poverty and outright ridicule of things Christian, is enough to see the real threat our own children face in schools of higher learning.  There is a war over “faith” that many of our own children face.

Students are subject to ridicule, and fear standing up, or else their grades may be affected. Standing for truth and absolutes is difficult today, but not impossible.  Every generation has some challenges. One of these challenges is found in the following.  A recent Chronicle of Higher Education issue contained a piece titled:  “The Bible is Dead; Long live the Bible.”

The Chronicle Review published the piece from a book written by a professor at Case Western Reserve University, Timothy Beal.  In his recent book titled, The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book, Timothy Beal questions the integrity and veracity of the Bible. Take note: “Did no one notice all the glaring discrepancies? Could all those many, many people involved in the development of biblical literature and the canon of Scriptures have been so blind, so stupid?” Just what exactly where they blinded to, so stupid, regarding?

Beal writes: “The Bible can atheist any book under the table on some pages.  It presumes faith in God, yet it also often gives voice to the most profound and menacing doubts about the security of that faith.  The Bible is not a book of answers, but a library of questions. How rare such places have become in a society addicted to quick fixes, executive summaries, and idiot’s guides. The canon of the Bible is that kind of place.”

Apparently, placing trust in the Bible as God’s Word and a guide for life equates to being blind, or stupid. Yet, with that assumption on my part, Beal leaves unaddressed that the major questions of life are indeed answered in the Scriptures. These include the purpose and meaning of life, love, marriage, children, as well as life after death–and a host of others.  Yes, there are questions, but unlike other religions, there are very direct assurances in the Scriptures, based on Jesus Christ.

The author attempts to argue that “There is no faith without doubt.  Doubt is faith’s other side, its dark night. People of faith know the reasons to doubt their faith more deeply and more personally than any outside critic ever can.” Notice the appeal to Eastern religion here? What Beal does not address is the relationship aspects that are clearly developed in the Scripture. He dichotomizes faith and doubt, as if opposite sides of the same coin.

Faith, like doubt, has to be placed in or on someone or something. Doubting one’s faith, as a thing owned, is very different from doubting the One into Whom faith is placed.  If one doubts his or her own faith, then no wonder there are issues. Such a faith is merely human and emerges from a psychological base, not a spiritual, or relational one.  If a person can doubt his faith, can he have faith in his doubt?  Now that raises some very interesting questions.  I think the reader sees the point.

Beal tries to cozy up to the Bible, but his best efforts fall short. Having rejected the authoritativeness of the Scriptures, he then writes:  “Scriptures have a tendency to exceed the boundaries of orthodoxy and resist closure.  The Bible keeps reopening theological cans of worms.  It resists its own impoverishment by univocality.  In so doing, it fails to give answers, leaving readers biblically ungrounded.”

By stating there is no univocality, Beal strikes at the heart of the Bible as God’s Word.  After all, if the Bible is God’s Word, then there is a vocality to which we ought to listen. The Bible claims that “all Scripture is inspired by God . . . ” That sounds quite univocal to me!

The author stresses a supposed inadequacy of the written text. One can only question whether he is open to books written by one man, such as the Book of Mormon, or the Qur’an, or other religious books, in terms of their univocality?

He seems open to quoting Buddha and others to make his points, hence an appeal to truth through the avenue of human faith in self. Here is another area where Beal sorely misses the point.  The Bible is inspired by one voice, written through the voices and styles of many, and points to One and only One Person, overall.  Faith is unidirectionally. Faith is placed in Jesus Christ, who is the “way, the truth, and the life.” No one comes to the Father, except through Him, according the Scriptures. (John 14:6) But if the Scriptures are not God’s Word, then even these attributed words of Jesus are suspect.

As people, moreover as believers, we can place our faith in doubt, or we can doubt our faith.  Whatever the case, both miss the mark.  Faith in the Person of Jesus Christ and his exclusive claims as God comprise the object of faith placement.  Show me more univocality than Christ’s exclusivity, and that’s where I would doubt that faith as merely human.  God in the flesh is quite exclusive.  Dead men’s bones in tombs make their religious claims neither true, nor exclusive.

In closing, one does not need Kant, Buddha, or even Dostoyevsky to make a point about faith. If a person does not believe the Bible to be God’s Word, then what it says about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, life, death, and many things in-between are also suspect. Either faith in self exists, or faith in God exists. Having faith in faith is mere gimmickry. It is from God’s Word where we derive our moral compasses and absolute truth. Faith and doubt are not truth. Faith in truth does not make it so.

Truth changes not, in the face of the worst doubt, or extreme faith.  What else is unchanging in this world, regardless of views that attack the Scripture?  It is Jesus Christ. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and yes, forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  Did not the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus answer the ultimate questions of life?

Timothy Beal. “The Bible is Dead; Long Live the Bible.” The Chronicle Review. April 22, 2011, B6-8.

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