Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pavlov's Dogs and My Bible

I have a confession to make.

I guess if you grew up with the American public education system, somewhere along the way you learned about Pavlov's dogs and conditioned response, how they eventually heard the bell and started salivating even when there was no food.

That's a little bit how I feel about my Bible, especially in the morning. I grew up spiritually in an environment where I was encouraged to have a 'quiet time' (sounds like a Christian version of 'time out') each morning. This 'quiet time' became my spiritual barometer. If I was having regular 'quiet times', I was doing good spiritually, regardless of what happened when I was quiet or whatever else was in my heart and my life. Some 'quiet times' I felt God's presence. Many times I read 5 chapters only to not have any idea what those 5 chapters contained 5 minutes after I read them. Many times it was so 'quiet' I fell asleep.

I've never been really good at it. I'm not terribly disciplined. Therefore, the 'quiet time' became my enemy, my constant reminder that I'm not good at being spiritual, that I am a hypocrite because I act good but don't have a 'quiet time', so I'm not really good. It came to be a bad experience even when it was good because I was never consistent enough.

The Bible has been more alive for me the past few years than ever. But the other morning, I woke up (without my kids waking up at the same time... rare) and started towards my Bible... and I got this churning in my stomach telling me 'You're not a good Christian because you don't do this often enough'. Hence the comparison to Pavlov's dogs. I realize it's not my spiritual barometer anymore, but I still am conditioned to feel like it is. Something of a breakthrough for me because realizing it helps me get past it, but still kind of saddening nonetheless, and my guess is that I'm not alone in feeling like this.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Wrapping up our Genesis series...

Thanks for all who were there tonight... I wish we had kept going there at the end for a while longer.

For those who couldn't be there, we wrapped up the Genesis:Go series with by weaving together the previous messages into a bigger story and then talking about how Jesus resolves much of the story. A few thoughts on that:
The violation that Adam and Eve committed was one of trust, and the thing that Jesus asks us for is our faith, our trust in Him.
The penalty for their (and our) violation was death, and after thousands of years of God demonstrating substitutionary atonement through the OT Law, Jesus died in our place on a cross.
The problem with Adam and Eve was the type of people they had become as a result of the fall, alienated from God, and Jesus didn't just die for us, He conquered death, rose from the grave, and offers new life through Him.
And then He demonstrates this new life for us and asks us to trust and follow...

Then we gave people a chance to respond and share what God had spoken to them during the series. Those responses are below (sorry for any misspellings). The coolest thing about typing them in was your fingerprints, a visible reminder that everyone is unique and that we are all in a different place in our journey with God. Thanks so much for sharing your hearts.

I saw the relevance of God's Word. Human nature hasn't changed a bit - this makes the Gospel as important now as ever.

A better understanding of God's gravity.

The love I see in others is a reflection of God's love.

I need to accept the comfort Christ lives. His plan is perfect and my plans are not according to His will. I want to find peace in Him. I want the full joy He gives. I need to stop fighting Him. Let go... Let God.

To be a better person.

God is calling me to rely upon Him in all things and more importantly, to recognize Him as the one, true, authentic source of self-esteem.

God shows passion and love for His people through sending His Son. Without passion and love for one another and without listening to God, we cannot share Christ's love.
Adam and Eve brought free will and evil into the world. God uses free will to allow people to be more devoted followers. Christ saved us from evil.

God did chase me down to know about Him - just like my circular thumbprint. I was running around and He did not let me go. He was always there. Thanks for preaching.

I've been searching for security in everything that fails. I now realize my insecurities are not mine but Satan's. Christ loved me so much and I am accepted.

God is showing me everyday that my identity is found in Him. That He has given me the heart and mind of Christ. Also that everything I do should be in loving response to the work of Christ in me. Praise God!

Can't do it on my own - Thank you God for fellowship.

Do I love my neighbor? Do I truly care for my neighbor?

Satan whispers to me that I am doomed because of my constant sin. God's written word tells me to trust Him and Him alone. I AM SAVED!

HE is everywhere. I know that through everything it will always be okay for He is closer than I ever imagined.

God has shown me grace in a very real way and allowed me to look outside myself and do away with my pride.

This is my 1st time here... got a big 'sign' wake-up call, whatever. God has shown Himself in my life in many little ways I've ignored... this week my roommate tried to commit suicide and I found him. God wanted me there and that happened for a reason and has made me want to draw Him close again and have Him in my life.

God has shown me how He can bring me full circle and use my mistakes and goofs to make our communion stronger.

Just as we choose Christ daily - we also choose to stay on our journey's in our marriage daily. With God's help we will celebrate 28 years soon!

Trust God in all areas of my life.

I am spiritually lazy. I need to listen to what God is telling me and DO it!

Compelled to serve and love in a whole new way... God's love for me and the grace I experience through Him motivates my actions.

My life isn't mine and it's for Your glory to spread Your word.

I think it is a miracle we can sing.

I want faith like Abraham. I have been working on giving up control and trusting God that He will fill my life with blessings in a way I could never fathom.

God is teaching me to accept all situations. Especially difficult ones as He has put them in my life for a reason - sometimes only He knows why.

God has been teaching me to receive so others may know the joy of giving - It is hard to do!

This helped me realize just how God has a plan for me and my life.

We cannot put our expectations in anyone else except God. No one else is ever going to fill and meet that void in our heart.

God is teaching me to trust Him completely. There are things in life I don't fully understand, but God has good plans for my life.

I am thankful that I have found hungry. I has been a true blessing. I am new here but have been praying for something like this to come into my life.

I am her to worship and follow God and to more than anything realize that my life was empty when I didn't ask God to be a part.

I sacrifice nothing for a God who gave everything. I don't want any kids to see God through my marriage.

After the message of Noah's Ark, I began to seek out more moments of discomfort because it is here when I learn to truly follow/depend/trust God.

God has brought me to a point in my life where I see a need for Him in my life - I feel loved, beautiful, and valuable!

God has reminded me over and over again during this series that it was Him that created me to be exactly who I am and that I should embrace that. By doing so, I'm released from the pain in my own life and am better equipped to show others than Christ can do the same for them.

Without God's gravity in my life, I would live in chaos...

A friend for ever.

God is teaching me that a relationship doesn't have to be perfect all the time and to just love Him through my times of wavering faith - it's ok to question faith.

As a biology major, it has been encouraging to hear this series because the more I learn about the science of life, the more I have to believe that only God could create it, unlike what all my professors expect me to believe.

I've learned how easily I look to the right and left looking/comparing myself to others to find my worth, when all God wants me to do is look up and let Him tell me my worth.

God is teaching me to feel helpless so that I rely on Him and His grace instead of always trying to do things on my own. I need to stop relying on my own strength.

My story is what God has given me and if I continue to follow and trust Him I will forever be rewarded. Thank You Father!

There was one more written in French, but I couldn't quite make out the handwriting...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Coach Class Blues

I was on an airplane the other day and saw something that communicated a message I couldn't put in words.

I've only flown first class one time. My wife and I were going to Vegas for our anniversary and a friend at the airline upgraded our tickets. I didn't think it would be that much better than coach, but first class rocks! I get why people want to sit up there. What I don't get is the little curtain between first class and coach. It serves no purpose except for us commoners to not be able to see the party that's going on up there. It doesn't block out any sound and it doesn't block any light.

Then the other day I'm on an airplane and realize that the curtain on this particular plane was mesh... you could see right through it. I might start carrying my digital camera with me because I needed a shot of that (I found the above image on the internet). Am I missing it, or is the message simply, "There's a difference between you and me, and we're much more important?"

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


be interested to hear anybody's thoughts on sunday night. as i thought more about it, it made me think of a theological conversation about God's transcendence and God's immanence. it's been a long time since i've taken a theology course, but the concept of God's transcendence would suggest that God is way up there and we are way down here and we don't have tons of contact with Him. the concept of immanence suggests that God is present and makes Himself known among us. the stuff i went through the other night - about the things God uses to draw people to Himself - makes me think He can be both at the same time. setting up our conscience and creation and beauty and sacrifice as things that draw us to Himself kind of makes it both. it seems transcendent because He set these things up and they are routine, consistent, and dependable, but they play to His immanence because they draw us into His desire a daily relationship with Him.

a friend also made an observation the other day that i had never thought of. he was talking about fertile soil for the gospel and how Christ approached people with the gospel. it fits in this discussion because the other night i talked about the pharisees having created this intricate set of rules they could follow and Jesus blowing up their little system and presenting a concept of the law that blew away their system and was impossible for a human being to accomplish. well, my friend said that if you analyze Jesus' interactions with people, when He came upon 'hard soil', a person whose soul was proud, He always gave those people the law, because they still needed it to lead them to Christ. He did it with the pharisees and He did it with the rich young ruler. He told them to try harder until they realized their sin and their need for Christ. when He came upon fertile soil, those who had been humbled, He gave them grace. best example would probably be the woman caught in adultery. she knew she was a sinner, she didn't need someone to point out her need, she needed a solution, and He gave her grace. that could transform how i think about talking to people about the gospel.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

my kids

I was fixing the dresser in my son Michael's room the other day and I had out the tool box that has all the random screws you save thinking someday you'll need them (everyone has one of these). So I'm digging through it looking for the right screws and I've got all my screwdriver attachments out too and my boys, a 2 and a half year old and a 1 and a quarter year old, are digging through all of it. And I keep telling them to stop and they're not getting that message, especially the younger one. So as I'm getting more frustrated my older one turns to me and says, "Daddy, you have to share with Matthew. Daddy has to share his toys with Matthew." Smart aleck little kids...

Monday, November 07, 2005

a few thoughts on last night...

Here's hoping someone is out there...

Most times I speak I end up thinking about things I didn't say or things that could have been misinterpreted, so let me start by clearing up a thing or two. When I said religion is a dry list of things to believe and rules to follow, I certainly didn't mean that being a Christian doesn't involve a list of things to believe. I have a list of things I believe to be true. I think, however, that too often in my life my relationship with Christ has devolved into dry religion because it's easier for me to check stuff off my list that to really engage God.

The other thing I wondered about was the whole, "Then Abraham believed...". I wonder if this was the moment that he "became a Christian", or was it when he began to follow God a few chapters earlier. I like the idea that we know when we decided to follow Christ, I just don't think it's that clean and simple for a lot of people. I think a lot of people follow God for a while before they know if they believe or not. I think this is part of the message of the parable of the sower when Christ says the seed started to sprout a plant, that looks like a follower of Christ, but the plant gets snuffed out. Not a very simple thing to understand or label.

Here's what I wish would change about me because of last night. I think that the degree to which I relate to God through my list is the degree to which I make others relate to me through a list. I wish I understood how much my personal relationships are dependent upon me receiving the grace of God daily. And I wish this would help me desire my time with God more instead of feeling guilty because I haven't done enough for Him to warrant Him wanting to spend time with me.

One last thought... the essence of Abraham's relationship with God, and ours, is trust. It's the basis for everything. And it's the same thing that was compromised in chapter 3 at the fall. They didn't trust God, and that's what God requires in order for that relationship to be restored. I was thinking the a lot the other day about the fall... about how the penalty for eating from the tree was death, so Christ's death was required as payment.... about how the violation was of trust, and trust is required to restore the relationship... and about how Adam and Eve and you and I are fundamentally flawed after that decision because knowledge changes everything and about how we really need to become new people and that's what the New Testament promises, that we would be new creations in Him... and how chapter 3 makes the rest of the story make more sense.

Sorry this is so long... I'll shut up now.