Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Compass is Broke!

It is pretty weird when I go to Chicago. That city is the only place I have ever been where I get completely turned around. No matter which way I think I should go, it ends up the opposite of the correct route. Seriously, even when I look at Google Maps, or better yet, Bing Maps and see the path highlighted for me, I STILL end up going the wrong way. Again, ONLY IN CHICAGO. Anywhere else and my bearings are right on.
Well, I had another one of those times in Chicago this week. I now KNOW the right way to get from the hotel to the office. It still felt totally wrong though. Everything in me was screaming I was headed the wrong way, but I just pushed on and continued down the street that experience had taught was correct. Then I reached my destination. Whew! Fortunately, after that I just needed to hail a cab to get to the airport and return home to Atlanta where my sense of direction miraculously returns to normal.
Then, on the airplane I got back into my current book, “The Christian Atheist” by Craig Groeschel. I read the chapter that talks about “believing God, but pursue happiness at any cost.” I have already spent a ton of brain time on this thought myself. I already came to similar conclusions as Mr. Groeschel too. But, just having the real world feelings I just had in Chicago, the idea really took hold. Then, I read the Proverbs Craig points to, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Pr. 14:12 and 16:25 too). Now I’m not saying my out of kilter sense of direction in Chi-town could have led me to die, but that awkward feeling…it’s just something to look out for.
See, we are in a world that isn’t our home. We are out of place here on earth waiting for a time when we will be in our true home with God. Until then, we are outsiders (happens to be one of my favorite songs by Need to Breathe) in this world, and we should feel awkward here. When we feel at home, when we feel comfortable, when we feel happy, it’s time to be a little more cautious. Hmm, did I just say “we shouldn’t be happy?” Sort of, but not really. It’s fine to be happy, but what is it that is making us happy? Am I happy because I am within God’s will and serving Him? Or am I happy because of what I can accumulate, build, create on my own? Or even worse, am I happy because I think God is serving me?
See, to be pursue happiness, is to pursue something other than God and always leads us into prideful sin. I think this is why Proverbs 16:18-19 correctly warns against pride and aligning with people who are filled with pride. It always takes us away from God.
I guess I can boil these thoughts down to this: I should not be comfortable here. I should never feel like I have this world figured out. I should always feel just as I do in Chicago – backwards and upside down. If the world says I should go left, there is a really good chance I ought to go right if I want to get to my Godly destination. It will often feel wrong, but our feelings aren’t what should be leading us. God, through His Word and His Spirit is what leads us. Our feelings listen to the world; our prayers and submission to the Spirit help us to listen to God and His will.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Feeling a Bit Torn

It's not often that I feel the need to justify my feelings/beliefs prior to laying out an issue, but I feel this one demands it. I know at least a few of the people who read what I write on here, and I KNOW you will mostly be offended by what I say this time. Truth is, this is not an easy issue for me to take a stand on either side of it. I truly am torn here, but I find myself siding with hope in a Big God who can do HUGE things.

I also need to say another thing as far as how I read the Bible. I indeed believe in the 100% truth of the Bible as God's Word. That includes both the old and new testaments. That said, I believe the New Testament supersedes the Old Testament as our foundation for living. If you want to argue that, fine. Just know I take Jesus at His words when he says "you heard it was said…but I tell you…" Seems like to me Jesus intended to supersede the Law. Paul also indicates this all through Romans, as does the author of Hebrews.

Last point of justification before getting to it: I am first a Christian, second a husband, third a father, and then (maybe fourth) an American. The interesting thing in that list is the only one that is NOT by my own choice is my nationality. That comes simply due to the fact that my parents lived here when I was born. So, my national pride (which is actually pretty darn strong) is a far cry from being as important as those other three items in the list of what/who I am. Over and above all of those things in that list is this: I am a human being, created in God's image just the same as all other human beings.

Ok, enough with all of that. Here it is. I am literally sad and depressed right now watching and listening to the reactions to the news that Bin Laden has been killed. I am thrilled for the people who lost friends and family on 9/11 and for all of the military who have sacrificed their lives (not just those who have died, but all of them) that they have some closure and a feeling of justice perhaps. But to celebrate this event, the death of a human being, I just cannot join in with that. I go back to something a said a while ago, as a Christian, I am supposed to love even my enemies. You can't tell me that if I love my enemy that I will jump for joy and sing songs when I hear they have been killed.

And what types of things does the Bible say about this? Well, in the Old Testament (hmm, odd I should start there), I think we hear God say vengeance is His (Deut. 32:35). Then listen to what Paul says about that exact verse in Romans 12:19-21, "Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead leave room for His wrath." Really, the last verse in that Romans text is even better, "Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good." As always, when you read verse 21 in context, it clearly promotes a loving, grace-filled response to those who do us wrong. Sadly, I think our current celebratory reaction, and I am sure the justifications for that response are also going to be rooted in this same verse taken OUT of context where it can be altered to seem that the "good people should destroy the evil people." This just isn't what the text says.

As hard as this is to hear, or believe, every single person on this earth is created with the image of God in them. Even those people on whom we ascribe evil, even they possess that image. I believe that God can and does call the worst of people to Him. The apostle Paul is probably the best example of that. Paul himself points out how evil he was before God got a hold of him. And now, we consider him as one of, if not the greatest Christian in history. So, even if you find yourself happy and celebrator about the killing of another human being made in God's image, think of how much better you would feel if that same person miraculously fell in love with our creator God through the love of Christians, of Christ. We have taken that hope of another lost soul being found and reunited with the creator and killed it with this action. My belief is that in a Christian view, this killing of hope, this taking of vengeance on our own is not in line with a Christ follower's calling. For this reason, I am glad only in this: I am much more saddened by lost hope for another saved soul than I am happy in the death of a terrorist.