Thursday, November 25, 2010

it's not about you

Sorry for not updating for a while. I kept debating about what my next post would be about instead of just doing it and then, poof, two weeks or so had gone by.

About a week or two ago I finished "Radical" by David Platt. I highly recommend the book. I think one of the biggest messages I took from the text (although I learned a lot) is that nothing is about you.

Here was a passage from the book that really spoke out to me:

If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of "The message of Christianity is that God loves me." Or someone might say, "The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his son, Jesus, to die for me."

As wonderful as this sentiment sounds, is it biblical? Isn't it incomplete, based on what we have seen in the Bible? "God loves me" is not the essence of biblical Christianity. Because if "God loves me" is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?

God loves me.
Christianity's object is me.

Therefore, when I look for a church, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family. When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best for me and my family. When I consider the house I will live in, the car I will drive, the clothes I will wear, the way I will live, I will choose according to what is best for me. This is the version of Christianity that largely prevails in our culture.

But it is not biblical Christianity.

The message of biblical Christianity is not "God loves me, period," as if we were the object of our own faith. The message of biblical Christianity is "God loves me so that I might make him- his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness- known among all nations." Now God is the object of our faith, and Christianity centers around him. We are not the end of the gospel, God is.

What do you take from that?

I am amazed at the amount of options you can put on automobiles these days. Nearly every car has seemingly 10,000 choices from cloth to leather seats, from XM radio to TVs, to paint, to moonroofs, etc. And everyone wants something different. At times, we can get so caught up in what’s in/on a car that we forget that its only real purpose is to move us from one place to another.

I find myself, and maybe you do to, so caught up in the “options” in not only my faith, but also my life, that I forget the purpose. We are here to worship God and spread his name and glory across the globe. Nothing else matters. I am challenging myself to strip my faith down to what/where God is calling me. My goal is to focus less about how comfortable I am on the ride and to focus more on the destination.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A recovering Christian Atheist

I'm beginning this blog after trying numerous times in the past and failing to keep it up. However, in full disclosure, my prior attempts were based on nothing more than a desire to add one more type of social networking to my repertoire. That stops now. I promise to update this one with some type of regularity. Ok, well, I kind of promise. Sort of. Not really. But I have good intentions here. Honest.

My first post is going to be a little bit revealing. It will be intimate and somewhat uncomfortable.

Truth is, as of this summer, I hadn't been very happy in a long time. Not just days or months but years. I didn't wake up each day hating my life, although there were a few like that. But I certainly didn't wake up loving each and every day either.

I was going through the motions day after day after day and not really getting a lot from it. My loving wife wasn't the issue. She is great and was one of the only strongholds I had. My job that is wonderful wasn't the issue. I couldn't pinpoint it, but I knew something in my life just wasn't right. I had a nice house, nice vehicles, a loving family, and a good job with a salary that allowed us to take the vacations that we wanted and buy the things we wanted. But deep down, I was unhappy. Every once in a while I would think about switching jobs or buying something extravagent because I felt that such a drastic change in my day to day would point me the right direction. I quickly realized that wasn't the answer. In my darkest days, I even considered that maybe I just wasn't meant for this world. How depressing to look back on that now and realize how blind I had been.

The dawn broke when my wife suggested we buy a book. A book of all things. For the record, I'm not typically a big reader. I catch a whim here and again and will read, but I'm notoriously bad about buying books, reading half of them, and then never picking them up again. But I skimmed this book she had heard about and it was captivating. So I bought it this past summer and, very uncharacteristically, read it really quickly. Had all 233 pages (or so) read within about 7 days I'd guess. (I wasn't counting at the time.) And through this book, God changed my life. Go read 'Christian Atheist' by Craig Groeschel. There was nothing in those pages that I hadn't heard before. But I did discover my lack of faith and my lack of a relationship that had long been a low priority.

See, I was a Christian Atheist. I believed in God but I wasn't living a Christian life. I prayed, but it was a formality. I went to church but only because it was the "right thing to do." I sang in worship but it wasn't for God. I carried enormous guilt for past transgressions convinced that they would define me for the rest of my life. I pursued material things truly believing that if I only had a little more, then I would be complete. In short, I was doing everything wrong. Most importantly, I realized that I was a million miles away from having a true relationship with God.

Where are you in your relationship with God? I'll go ahead and quote something from Craig's book that may give you some help in answering that question:

"For many people, the very idea that you could know God on a relational level seems unlikely, unrealistic, unattainable.

Part of the confusion stems from failure to recognize the different levels of intimacy when it comes to knowing God.

Some of us know God by reputation, as when we hear about a certain girl or guy from a close friend. We may know a bit about God- perhaps we've been to church a few times, heard some Bible stories, or we have a favorite Bible verse on a refridgerator magnet. But it's only secondhand.

Some of us know God in our memories. We've truly experienced his goodness, grace, and love in the past. Like when I recently bumped into an old college buddy. Twenty years ago, we were inseperable. We took classes together, played sports together, and met Christ together. After we graduated, we lost touch. I knew him years ago, but I can't say I know him now.

And some of us know God intimately. Right here, right now.

This is the kind of loving knowledge God promises when we seek him. When we are thirsty for God, God will satisfy that longing. And as we continue to seek God, we'll grow to know him more and more intimately.

Maybe you're thinking, I believe in God. Isn't that enough? I mean, a lot of people don't believe in God, but I do. Isn't that what he wants from me? Those are fair questions. But believing in God isn't all he wants from us. The book of James says even the demons believe in God, and yet they tremble because they know that they're relationally seperated from him. Obviously, there is more to the whole Christian thing than just believing in God."

I know what you are thinking. This is getting pretty deep for a first blog post. And you're right, it is. So I'm going to stop for the night and let that quote marinade a bit in your head. How do you know God? Is it secondhand? Or is it really, truly intimate? Have you been trying to grow or are you just asking God for a quick fix? (If you are even talking to him at all?)

I know that I'm growing and have been since the summer. I've had my setbacks to be sure, but these types of things aren't built (or rebuilt) in a day. I fully expect it to be messy and full of questions (how, why, etc). My hope is that this opening blog defines the starting point of this new journey and that it will inform you of any answers and solutions to the inevitable questions and issues that will arise as a result. Who knows, maybe I'll just spark something in someone, somewhere.