The Weakness of Supernatural Experiences

Apr 06

The Weakness of Supernatural Experiences

Have you ever had this thought, “How could the Israelites grumble against God after they saw Him part the Red Sea?” Or, “Why was Elijah fearing for his life after he witnessed God pour down fire from heaven at his command?” There is something inside of us that is convinced that if we just experience some kind of amazing experience with God, that it would really change our life. However, I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think experience sticks with us like we’d like to think! Even if it’s a genuine God-moment. When I went on a few missions trips to Mexico, I had some profound experiences. How long did that last? I’ve had several unique experiences while in God’s presence, and how long did the effects of those last? I’m thinking that while experience can be profound while it is happening, its significance quickly wears off in our heads, given enough time. Even some of the deepest feelings fade away: When a close loved one passes away, we find that over time, our feelings aren’t so strong, and we even try to muster up those old feelings, afraid that we are loving them less if we don’t feel the same way about them now as we did then. I grew up in a Pentecostal denomination that highly valued special experiences with God. I don’t want to take away from the value of experience, but I’m not sure it really has a lot of long-term effect. In order for experience to be powerful, it must be a day-to-day thing. How long really can I live on yesterday’s experience with God? You can’t make God “show up” supernaturally everyday. If we are looking for some kind of spiritual thrill each time we open our Bible or pray, we will quickly give up. That doesn’t happen all-too-often. (At least for me.) It seems to me that the person who is always looking to experience God is someone who is reluctant to walk by faith. Walking by faith can indeed be a challenge, but perhaps it is more sustainable for the long haul? Perhaps if you walk by faith, you are more surprised as you look back on life–you see...

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Can Harboring Unforgiveness Be A Good Thing?

Apr 04

Can Harboring Unforgiveness Be A Good Thing?

I read an article in Sports Illustrated a few months back about Michael Jordan’s coach in high school who supposedly cut him from the basketball team. I learned from the article that Michael Jordan basically kept a chip on his shoulder about the whole ordeal, resenting his coach and the player who beat him out. Of course, I’d say that harboring such destructive feelings is wrong and should be resolved for the health of the individual holding in those negative feelings. Yet the argument can be made that the reason why Michael Jordan was so good at his sport is because he kept those feelings at the forefront of his mind, giving him that extra edge to out-perform everyone, and achieving more than he would have if he had let it go. Is it fair to say that bitterness actually helped Michael Jordan become a better player? I’ve heard it said before that the great geniuses/successes in life are anything but balanced on the inside. While the rest of us are trying to attain some level of inner nirvana, it seems that many great writers, thinkers, musicians, actors–apparently even athletes, actually feed on imbalance, hurt, rejection, pain, and don’t worry about healing. Do you think this is unhealthy? Yet how is it that such great books, poetry, music, performances come seemingly from such unhealthiness? Would Michael Jordan have been the greatest basketball player of all time (IMO) if he had handled his feelings of rejection in a healthy...

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Pastoral Self-Indulgence

Apr 03

Pastoral Self-Indulgence

I’ve heard it said that one of the gifts of marriage is that it makes you into a better person (iron sharpens iron, etc.). I think this is true of being a pastor as well. Part of the job of a pastor is to think of other people more than yourself, which is the call of every Christian, of course. I think it’s a little more “obligatory” when you’re a pastor, though. I think that’s a good thing–it is helping me become more of that kind of person (slowly, over time). A few days ago, as I was driving down the interstate, I had an interesting thought: What if that’s the real reason God has made me a pastor? Not so much for other people’s benefit, but for my own. That’s a little uncomfortable for me to think about, since I see my “job” as being there for other people. But what if there’s a bigger reason for me being a pastor? Well, is there really any reason to be a pastor that is more important than helping others draw near to Christ? At first, I would say no. But what if the bigger reason isn’t for other people, but for me? Does that sound selfish or self-indulgent? On one level, it does. But on another level, maybe not. The Apostle Paul seemed to indicate his own walk with the Lord was just as, or even more, important than helping other people in their walk with the Lord. What use is it, he asks, if he helps others qualify for the prize, but he himself becomes disqualified? What if the reason why God made me a pastor is more than just helping people in my congregation know God, more than helping to establish a strong vibrant church in our community, even more than seeing this community come to know Christ? What if, just like marriage, God has placed this calling on me in order to mold me into something/someone that He wants me to be for all eternity? Is there something specific God has for me in eternity that He is preparing me for while I am here on earth? I mean…What if no one in my church ever...

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Holy Week Thoughts, Part 2

Apr 02

Holy Week Thoughts, Part 2

Last year during Holy Week, I shared a story about my daughter, Naomi, who reminded me of the other time Jesus cried (I had already remembered Him crying at Lazarus’ grave, but forgot about when He cried in the garden before being arrested.) This year, God brought to my mind another instance where Scripture says that Jesus cried. Yep, that’s right–Jesus cried three times in the Gospels! (At least, my tally is now up to three!) When Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem, Luke 19:41 says He wept over the city, because they didn’t understand who He was or the significance of what He was about to do on the cross. I often get frustrated when it seems like people don’t “get it.” When they don’t get who Jesus is, what He did on the cross, what it means for Jesus to be Savior, what it means for Him to be Lord, what it means that He offers us His Holy Spirit and eternal life. Yet, I have to ask myself, have I EVER cried over someone who doesn’t “get it”? With this supposed passion of mine, where is my compassion? I think that without compassion for people, my frustration will only increase, because people don’t respond to frustration, but rather to compassion. Of course, just because I have compassion, that doesn’t mean they will respond. Jesus clearly had compassion, and yet many didn’t respond to Him. Even so, for my own spiritual health and spiritual health of others, I am praying that I will be able to literally (not figuratively) cry for those who have yet to “get...

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All In

Mar 29

All In

We are all into so many different things: sports, music, hobbies, money, career, family, video games, TV shows, education, politics, gadgets, celebrities, food–you name it! I’ve been wondering today why so few of us “church people” are all into Jesus. It seems to me that by definition, faith in a god is an all-or-nothing thing. Out of all the things one should be “all in” to, if there is a god, shouldn’t we be “all in” to Him? There is nothing greater outside of God himself to be seriously involved with. Yet so many of us who profess faith in Jesus seem to think it perfectly acceptable to be uninvolved. All our other obligations or facets of life take priority over Him. And we see nothing wrong with that. To me, it makes no sense. It’s like going up to someone and saying, “Hey, just received word your house is on fire.” And then they reply, “Wow, that’s nuts. Let me finish taking care of this project at work, pick up the dry cleaning, sneak in a weekend away, and hopefully, if I have enough time, I’ll get around to seeing what I can do for that situation.” If that really was someone’s response, I’d come to one of two conclusions: the guy really doesn’t believe me, or his house really isn’t that important to him. I am forced to conclude that this how it is with so many “people of faith”: either we really don’t believe in Jesus, or He is not that important to us. And how much difference really is there between those two possibilities? Can we really say that we believe that Jesus really is who the Bible says He is? How can this at all be acceptable? I am challenged today, and hope to challenge you today, to become “all in” with...

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Why Do We Fear The Gifts Of The Spirit?

Oct 27

I think the short answer to that question is that we fear the supernatural. We fear having to confront the possibility that God actually does something. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a church prayer meeting where people pray for someone who is sick or in the hospital, etc. We all pray that God would “heal” them. We all pray that God would guide the hands of the doctors, etc. We are comfortable with those kinds of prayers. And we are comfortable to attribute to God the success of the surgery: He answered our prayers–He guided that surgeon’s hands! The problem with the gifts of the Spirit, or anything else that is supernatural, is that it removes a comfortable, ambiguous faith in God. For example, when surgery is successful, some attribute the success to the doctor, but we “believers” attribute it to God. Those who believe in God see the situation differently than those who don’t. Yet, nothing circumstantially can be attributed as a miracle. The surgery was anticipated by doctors to be successful. The matter is convoluted more, however, when the surgery has 50/50 chance of success. If the person comes through, we say it’s because of a miracle of God! Was it? For a believer, yes. For a non-believer, no. After all, things turn out favorably 50% of the time. If they don’t pull through, however, we believers still affirm God was working there just the same. In other words, with all of these things, it’s all very muddy. To what extent was God actively involved in the process? It is very hard to tell, and we are comfortable in such ambiguity. Whether God was working in the situation is a matter of personal interpretation. It makes us believers comfortable to believe God was involved when He couldn’t be seen. But what about believing God to do something more demonstrative? Many Christians believe that praying for such things is inappropriate. God should remain in the shadows. He should be a matter of interpretation. The idea of God revealing specific information to someone, or healing someone instantaneously, or causing someone to speak in a language they do not understand…now we get nervous. “God doesn’t work...

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Why Fear Speaking In Tongues?

Oct 20

When you start talking about the gifts of the Spirit, many people start to freak out. And if they’re honest, it’s mostly because they are afraid of the gift of tongues. But why fear the gift of tongues? I know the standard reasons given, but for fun, I want to offer five reasons why you should fear the gift of teaching more than the gift of tongues. The gift of teaching requires public speaking. That’s the second biggest fear for many people (death is #1, perhaps taxes is #3). On the other hand, the gift of tongues is primarily meant for your own personal prayer time, and the Apostle Paul even discourages its use in public (1 Corinthians 14:19). The gift of teaching requires a person to extensively study Scripture in order to be effective. Tongues, on the other hand, can be spoken regardless if you’ve been reading your Bible or not. According to James, you should be afraid of becoming a teacher, because teachers will be judged more strictly by God (James 3:1). Jesus even says that it would be better for you to have a millstone hung around your neck and to be cast into the sea than to lead a little one in the faith astray (Mark 9:42). There are no such warnings for those who possess the gift of tongues. When you teach, you must continually strive to ensure your audience understands what you’re trying to say–praying that the “light bulb” inside their head flashes on. Even if you do end up speaking in tongues publicly, the whole point is that no one understands. No pressure at all! You can totally fake speaking in tongues and no one will ever know. Just speak some gibberish and put a little passion behind it in your voice. People will be unable to prove whether you have the gift or not. Even if you’ve duped yourself into believing that you have the gift of tongues, no one will be the wiser. (That is, unless they have the gift of discernment…but that’s another blog post…) It’s a lot harder than that to fake people into believing that you have the gift of teaching! So there you have it. Five...

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