I have retired from College Campus Ministry and I am now a full time Chaplain at a drug and alcohol treatment center. It is an intense change of pace in ministry and is challenging me to grow and have greater faith. I'll write more later.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes in life, the right attitude, the right confession, the right belief doesn't always produce the desired affect. I have "grown up" spiritually under the Word of God, and have been privileged to be tutored by excellent mentors with a great degree of Biblical training. Our words have power, we have to manage our thought life, we need to replace our thoughts with God's thoughts through confession of the Word and so on and so forth. We have spiritual authority, covenant rights, and are loved by a healing Abba Father. All these things are true to the "N'th" degree. All very Biblical and accurate. I want to address a very unpopular topic for second. Have you ever heard the horror stories about a Pastor or well meaning Christian that was involved in a prayer or counseling scenario where they told they counseled that the reason they had cancer or whatever the issue might be, was because they had a "lack of faith?" I have, it's not pretty and it's not scriptural. It's saying, more or less, "you have cancer, because you don't have enough faith to prevent it." I have many horror stories that I can personally draw from, where well meaning, but spiritually ignorant or biblically illiterate believers heap up condemnation and guilt on the shoulders of someone who desperately needs love, grace, and support from their fellow believers. Then to add insult to injury, if a person does die (gaining Heaven), those left behind attribute the supposed failure of their prayers and faith confessions on the back of the deceased by saying, "Oh, if they would've had faith." A great and powerful man of God used to say, "that's ignorance gone to seed." I sure agree.
Here's where I get honest. Have you ever hit a wall? Have you ever prayed like you were repeating the Word, or praying as if it were an empty religious mantra? Do you your words ever feel like empty vessels, drifting nowhere? Did it get you through the adversity or did it seem shallow or insincere. Has life ever put you into conflict with your personal theology or doctrinal beliefs? I think it happens, and I think God understands. I think where our response to tragedy and adversity comes in is to be sensitive to the needs of others, even if what their going through is in conflict with our fresh out of Bible School ideas about God. We need to become believers that are not a mile wide and an inch deep. Life gets messy. There's not always a cut, copy and paste answer to every thing. Sometimes the greatest ministry we can give another person is to stop judging them, stop speaking and just listen. Smith Wigglesworth said, "we carry with us, all the impossibility when we judge God by the limitations of our unbelief." To take that a step further, I posit, that we judge others by the limitations of our unbelief, and because of that all we see is impossibility. I think it's time to get back to the Biblical, Christ-centered model of ministering to those that are hurting and stop trying to pretend were something were not.
~“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.”~ A. Golden
Psalm 77:3-5 (New International Version)
3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. Selah
4 You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days, the years of long ago;
I can say to another person that I don't have all the answers. I have become that honest, but I always say," let's go to the Word and see what its says about your situation." God always answers prayer, but if were looking at it through the filter of our unbelief, then we don't always see the answer. Why? Because it wasn't the one we were looking for. I have found that God doesn't always answer my prayer the way I have demanded Him to, go figure, he's God! God is always faithful and never disappoints. So, here a few a few my thoughts for tonight.
In the course of life, all human beings face issues that challenge them to the very core. I often ask myself what does it mean to be human, and what does it mean to be a Christian. For me, to be fully human means to live out my faith to its full potential each moment of each and every single day.
I work with college age people, that is the core of my ministry. The style and structure of ministry has changed dramatically in the years since I first began. Years ago, social networking was face to face, now its on Facebook . There are so many social networking sites and forums that I can not keep up. There appears to be many emerging technologies and networking interfaces, and the way people connect with each other is facing a real paradigm shift. While I enjoy technology and the benefits it brings, I think there are some latent consequences starting to appear in the lives of people. Ask yourself how long you can go without Myspace or Facebook . Does it eat at you to not be able to check it for new messages? I know sometimes I get that itch to check when I should be doing other things.
Moving on, I 've been thinking about spiritual apathy. It's the kind of apathy that only a person who has been a Christian for awhile could understand. It's the kind of apathy that sets in when you become lazy, living beneath your life's calling and separated from your purpose. Spiritually apathetic people are the ones that complain about everything and anything related to their faith. For example, they can not find a church that is as mature or on fire as they are. Or perhaps the preacher is an idiot and couldn't preach their way out of a cul-de-sac. In my own experience, spiritually apathetic people are like the character from the old SNL skit called Debbi Downer. They always have a bleak prognosis, no church or Christian is ever good enough. The funny thing is, I fail to see where they get their negotiating power. Is negativity and apathy some sort of license that gives a lethargic Christian entitlement to grumble and complain? I personally do not think so. Yet it does not stop them.
How does a Christian become spiritually apathetic? It's so easy to point out, that it's almost cliche! Much of it stems from a battery of bad habits and personal choices. Stop reading the Bible, stop praying, stop living by faith, stop fellowshipping with mature believers. All these things should guarantee that a Christian who is vulnerable to apathy, achieves it.
In my work with college students and young adults I have seen spiritual apathy, but its the kind of thing that creeps in as if they were unaware. Soon the evidence of a crime scene becomes apparent. The student is burned out on God, the church and the Christian life. I have been over this so many times in my mind and then I finally submitted it to God in prayer. While I can't say I wrestled with God or saw a burning bush I did get a real impression that it may not be God whom people are rejecting, but the church itself. How is that you may ask. Well, it's like Gandhi said, "I like your Christ, but your Christians look nothing like him." Do Christian's look like Christ any longer? It's a good question that we need to ask ourselves. Self examination is much better than public examination, no one likes to be seen naked, especially, publicly. But I do think its important to tear away the layers of religiosity and false holiness that we put on when we go to church.
Part of the appeal of social networking sites and online forums is that it gives the appearance of anonymity. That is as far from the truth as it gets, and I'm not talking about postmodern truth either. Part of the latent consequence of technology that I wrote about earlier is the isolative tendencies and the disconnection from each other that is encroaching upon our relationships with another as human beings. I could be alarmist, but I could be prophetic to. The way we relate to each often reflects the way we relate to God as well. We superimpose the relational social skills we have grown accustomed to and try to interact with divine in the same way. I have not yet seen God on Facebook. Now I'm not saying that Facebook or technology is bad, far from it. But, perhaps the next time your looking at Christians and judging God through them, take a look at yourself and extend the same judgment in equal measure.
So now that I am done preaching to myself, the message that I need to hear, does this message resonate with you?
I spent the New Years Eve at church in worship with my family. What a great time! It got me thinking about new beginnings and the importance of fresh experiences with God. Being in His presence is so rewarding. Engaging in worship that permeates so deeply has morphic effect on our faith and in our lives as a whole.
Thank god for the new year.
This is a picture of my daughter Ellie w/ her Nana (Linde)! Aren't they beautiful together!