Have you ever been afraid to try something because you might fail?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fought this battle. As far back as I can remember, I’ve hesitated to attempt something that I’m not confident about. Let me give you an example.
I was a senior in high school. My grades were excellent and I had applied to a “selective” university that I really wanted to attend. I’d completed all the college track classes I needed—English, math, science, etc., but I still lacked a “fine or practical art.” I really wanted to take photography. I had been given my first SLR camera for Christmas and I wanted to take magnificent photos. However, academically, this was new territory. I knew I could do classwork, and I have a knack for taking exams, but photography was creative. Could I do that too? What if I couldn’t?
I’d been feeling pretty good about myself. I haven’t been committing adultery, I wasn’t coveting my neighbor’s wife or donkey, nor had I murdered anyone, at least lately. I figured that God must be pretty pleased with how well I was obeying His instructions.
I was a bit less self-assured when I got to the part where Jesus takes the Ten Commandments and expounds on them. No, I hadn’t murdered anyone, but there was that time when that driver cut me off…. But calling him a fool was justified! Did you see what he did? Er, God?
So I was still fairly confident—until I came to Matthew 5:48. This is the verse where Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Perfect? You’ve got to be kidding! Nobody’s perfect!
And that, of course, was the point. God is perfect. We are not.
You may remember my post last summer when I directed you to read an insightful article on the blog, Beliefs of the Heart. The article, by Samuel C. Williamson, was called “I wonder if Sunday school is destroying our kids?”
Since that time, this one article has grown into a book—one that should be on every person’s reading list. Seriously, this is the best book I’ve read in a long time (and I read a lot of books). If you read Williamson’s original post, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Little by little the Black Forest fire is being put out. Hot spots continue to smolder under the pine needles carpeting the forest floor, and teams have to check every square foot of ground before residents are allowed back into an area, so it’s a slow process.
Our little neighborhood remained upwind of the flames and never burned, although there are blackened trees only a few blocks away. Yesterday the mandatory evacuation for our address was lifted. Even though we were warned that both natural gas and electricity (which also powers the pump in our well) were turned off, Pete and I couldn’t wait to get back into our house. We just wanted to be home!
“How can you be a Christian? There’s no way I’d worship a God who is that mean!”
How often have we heard God described as angry, bloodthirsty, or just plain mean? I know several people who refuse to consider Christianity because of God’s unsavory reputation. Is he really that vengeful and vindictive? I think it depends on one’s perspective.
We’re all familiar with the stories of God wiping out pagan tribes. I’ve always assumed that these peoples were so awful, so evil, that the world was better without them. They practiced human sacrifice and worshipped demons disguised as idols. God could have eliminated them by himself (as with Sodom and Gomorrah), but he used the Israelites to cleanse the land so they would understand just how bad sin is. Perhaps I’m missing something, but this is an explanation I can live with.
I had already written something for today, a continuation of my series on what to give God for Christmas. Then I heard the news about the school shooting in Connecticut. And like you, I was shaken to the core. It was all too easy to remember our daughters at that age, or to consider that our granddaughter will be going to school in a few short years. I honestly don’t know how the families involved are going to survive this. It’s only by the grace of God.
You’re standing there, awkward, embarrassed. Someone you know—a friend, an acquaintance—has surprised you with a Christmas present. And you didn’t get them anything.
Maybe they view your relationship differently, or maybe they’re just generous. It doesn’t really matter at this point. Our culture tells us we should have bought them something too.
I grew up with this mentality. If someone invited my parents to dinner, they felt pressured to invite them back. This was a huge source of stress, since my mom didn’t exactly practice hospitality, she entertained. It was a big production and everything had to be perfect. I got the sense that she was more concerned with the ham, o’gratin potatoes, and peas coming out exactly right than with our friends having an enjoyable evening.
All that didn’t matter, though. The important thing was to reciprocate.
As I mentioned in my post last week on “Hate the sin…”, there seems to be a backlash among Christian writers. Everyone is up in arms over survey results showing that the church is primarily known for its judgmentalism and hypocrisy. In an effort to repair the damage and improve our image—and hopefully move closer to the truth—a number of noted authors are coming out with books proclaiming God’s grace and acceptance of everyone and everything. The problem is many of them are ignoring the reality and consequences of sin. Here are my thoughts on three recent reads:
I screwed up, and now I’ve got to suffer the consequences.
How often do we think that?
Even as believers, we sometimes view God as a strict disciplinarian, making sure we “learn our lesson” each time we fail. But is this an accurate view of God? Is He really the angry and wrathful person we imagine Him to be?
A close friend recently called me, upset and worried about a lack of finances. As a full-time student, he doesn’t have a job, and a long-awaited check was smaller than expected. Car insurance, gas to get to school, and other expenses aren’t going away, and there just won’t be enough money to see him through the end of the term.
His immediate reaction was one I’m very familiar with—where did I go wrong? Did I spend too much money over the summer? Should I have looked harder to get a job? (He’s moving out of state as soon as the semester ends, and has been unable to find a temporary, part-time position.) Is God letting me suffer the consequences of missing His will?
Why would you want to read a book on spirituality written by someone who admits he’s really bad at it?
Right up front, Michael Yaconelli explains that his life is a mess. He describes his Christian walk—“The best I can do is a stumbling, bumbling, clumsy kind of following”—and then asks, “So how can someone unspiritual presume to talk about spirituality? How can someone unholy presume to talk about holiness? It makes no sense.”