Archive for June, 2012

What Can We Control?

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One thing that is pretty consistent among people is the need to be in control. No one wants to feel as though they are on a burning stage coach, with no reigns, as it goes barreling down the open road. So we do our best to try and control the course of our lives. The problem is, we live with the illusion that we can control more than we actually are able to. We feel as though we are in control of our health. While we are able to make good choices, we have no guarantee how long we will live. One of us could have a terminal disease right now without being aware of it. I hope it is you and not me (just kidding, okay, maybe I am not, or am I? Who knows?). We think we are in control of our careers. We believe we have financial security and can control our future. We think we are in control of our families. At times, we even think we are in control of other people. But in reality, much of what we think we are in control of is illusion. We like to think we are in control because it makes us feel comfortable.

So the question is, what can we control? We are in command of very little actually. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Yea, me too. The good news is, while much of our life is beyond our capacity to control, there are two very significant aspects of our lives that we can control. Just as a caveat, if you think one of these two things is other people, then you are deceived. We cannot control or change other people. The sooner we learn this lesson the better our lives will be.

The first thing in our lives we can control is our thinking. Some feel that we are subject to the whims of our thought life, but in all actuality we control what we think about. When thoughts come into our minds that are problematic, negative, destructive, sinful, or damaging we can choose to change the channel in our minds. The more we address our thought life and practice changing our thoughts, the easier it is to command what is going on between our ears. We can choose how to perceive things. We can challenge our own assumptions. We can see the glass half full instead of half empty. We can fly our attitudes at higher altitudes. Yes, we have control over our thought life.

The second thing that we have full control over is our behavior. This is closely linked with our thought life, because thoughts often lead to behavior. The longer we entertain an idea the more apt we are to act on that idea. The easiest way to change our behavior is to change our thoughts. So many people blame others or their circumstances for their actions. The truth is, we have no excuse for how we behave. Now certainly our history, environment, and other people can influence us, but only we are responsible for what we do. When we act as fools we have no one to blame but ourselves.

When we try and control the world around us we are met with frustration. We simply cannot change things outside of what we think and what we do. At times, we even use worry as an attempt to control things. We may not be aware of it, but we worry about things because it feels that somehow it keeps us in some form of control in situations that seem ominous.

What if instead of worrying, trying to control others, and fruitlessly trying to bridle the world around us we focused on the only things we can control, our thoughts and behaviors. I think this would be a much better use of our time.

Viktor Frankl recounts in his memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, about his time spent in several Nazi death camps. He was a prominent Jewish Psychiatrist and Neurologist who had everything in life stripped from him. Everything one might be tempted to think they have control of was taken from him. Yet, when all seemed lost, he realized he could still control his thoughts and his behaviors. Listen to the way Frankl elegantly expresses this idea. “Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Jesus also reminds us in the book of Matthew, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Let’s forget trying to control the things we can’t. He would prefer we put our energy into changing what we think about and who we are becoming.

While we are limited to these two things that we have control of, God is in control. We can work on our thoughts and behaviors and allow God to handle the rest. He reminds us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Those things that we attempt to control with no avail, what if we just let God deal with those? He has got it covered.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

What things in your life do you try to control?

Apologetic Wednesday: Who Does God Think He Is?

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Can it be said that God is prideful? Is He a high and mighty cosmic narcissist that demands we worship Him? Is He on an eternal ego trip in demanding that we seek His face, pray to Him, and devote our lives to Him? Is God the omnipotent equivalent of an adolescent boy flexing his muscles in the mirror and “ooohing” and “ahhhing” at what He sees?

It should first be noted that there are two forms of pride. The negative aspect of pride, which people find off putting and rightly so, is where we exaggerate our importance. Pride in its gross form exists when we look down on people with condescension. This form of pride is a lie about who we are. It is an attempt to cover up the bad, exaggerate the good, and present self in a positive light.

On the converse, there can be a healthy sense of pride. There are many things in my life that I am proud of. I am extremely proud of my wife for being the woman that she is. The day my son was born, I beamed with pride. I find pride in an honest, hard day’s work.  2 Corinthians 10:17 even says, “So the one who boasts must boast in the Lord.” We can brag about what God has done, both in the world and our own personal lives. This form of pride can be healthy, as long as we don’t let it evolve into the aforementioned unhealthy sense of self promotion.

The opposite of pride would be humility. Again, there are two divergent aspects of humility. We tend to admire people that exhibit real humility. We can define true humility as giving an honest assessment of who we are, what we are capable of, and what our shortcomings are. Yet, there is also false humility. We have all experienced situations where we give someone a compliment and they bat it away by saying something like, “Oh that was no big deal.” False humility is a denial of that which we are skilled at, usually in order to elicit more praise.

Everyone has their talents, strengths, shortcomings, and areas that need improvement. The key is being honest and truthful about who one is. Had Steve Jobs downplayed his business sense and marketing abilities this would have been a lie. It would be a deception for Josh Hamilton to state that he is not good at playing baseball. It would be untruthful for Zakk Wylde to admit that he is only an amateur guitarist. True humility is admitting our strengths, and giving God the glory for our abilities and accomplishments.

So this brings us back to our original question: Is God prideful? Is God honest about His abilities and truthful about who He is? Absolutely! He is the greatest conceivable being and is thus worthy of our worship and admiration. For God to say He is less than what He actually is, or that He is unworthy of our worship would be a blatant lie, which is immoral. Instead, God tells us the truth about His character, which is perfect, Holy, all good, omniscient, omnipotent, and all loving. A being like this is worthy of worship, devotion, and service.

God has chosen us to be in a relationship with Him. Genesis 1:26 reminds us that we are even created in His image. He shares with us some of his very own attributes, though in a limited way. He is not selfish, instead He gives of Himself, even though He is under no obligation to do so.

God is good. He is not self-inflated. He is honest about who He is, and He is worthy of our worship.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Stamp Collecting

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I can vaguely remember as a kid, people collecting green stamps. Does anyone remember those? When you shopped at certain supermarkets (or grocery stores, who actually says supermarkets anyway) or specific retailers, you would get these green stamps (aptly named because they were green and they were stamps). They would also give you these books to collect the stamps in, and you could bring them in to the green stamp center and trade them for a various assortment of goodies. The more stamps you collected, the more elaborate the item you could go home with. Some people would save their stamps for years and go home with televisions.

Nowadays, people still use the same gimmick, but the payoff is greatly reduced. Now, collecting stamps might get you a free ice cream at marble slab on your 8th visit or a free sweet tea from Mcalister’s Deli on your 10th trip. But hey, free is still free. So you might as well collect your stamps and cash them in.

While collecting stamps is great when you get free swag (I just love to say swaaag), it isn’t so great in marriage. What is that you say? You have been missing out? Your spouse doesn’t give you stamps to redeem for a free car wash, massage, or a night of dish duty? That isn’t the kind of stamp collecting I am referring to.

Stamp collecting occurs in marriage when our spouse messes up, and instead of letting them know, we put a “stamp” in our book. The next time they fall short, BAM, there goes another stamp in the book. We keep collecting stamp after stamp every time they don’t meet our expectations, let us down, or hurt our feelings.

Then one day, they make a mistake and we cash in every “stamp” we have been accumulating and unleash a fiery wrath down upon their head. Bewildered, they wonder why drinking out of the milk carton or putting the toilet paper on the roll backward is such a huge deal. They have no idea that we have been collecting stamps over the last weeks, months, or years.

Stamp collecting is a bad idea. If our spouses are doing something that bothers us then we must tell them. There is no way for them to fix it unless they are made aware of the situation.  Our spouses will lose every time if we expect them to read our minds.

When we collect stamps it also leaves room for bitterness to take root in our hearts. We stay upset with our spouse for things that are not likely to be fixed. Let’s do ourselves and our spouses a favor and have conversations as they are needed.

Keep collecting stamps and enjoy the free sweet teas and ice creams, but in your marriage just deal with things as they arise.

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. –Ephesians 4:26

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

How to Wreck Your Life

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I have never heard a child say, “When I grow up, I want to be miserable.” No one ever sets out to have problems.  We don’t list heartache as an ambition. Our bucket lists don’t contain ways to elevate our lives to a greater state of misery. Unhappiness works its way into our lives one step at a time. Feeling disillusioned with life is often a slow fade. When we wake up and realize our lives are not what we had in mind it is usually the cumulative result of bad choices that we have made.

But maybe there are exceptions to the rule. So, if you would like a fast track to wreck your life, then just follow these steps:

  • Make life all about you.
  • Choose money over relationships.
  • Hold grudges.
  • Let fear control your life.
  • Ignore the fact that you are a spiritual being.
  • Play it safe. Never dare to chase your dreams.
  • Keep things you struggle with a secret.
  • Allow emotion to always override your judgment.
  • Don’t seek the wisdom that others offer.
  • Let other people think for you.
  • Choose lust over love.
  • Believe everything the media tells you to believe.
  • Be quick to point out the mistakes of others.
  • Just seek to know instead of applying what you know.
  • Run from your problems.
  • Don’t set goals or plan for the future.
  • Maintain the idea that you are better than others.
  • Deny you even have problems.
  • Believe that love is just an idea.
  • Be faithless.
  • Believe the solution to marital problems is finding a new partner.
  • Think that your sin only affects you.
  • Do the exact same thing over and over and expect something different to happen.
  • Never say you are sorry.
  • Be lazy.
  • Indulge yourself in any way that you desire.
  • Always keep a closed mind.
  • Make work drudgery.
  • Lie.
  • Be greedy.
  • Make sure that you are right in every argument.
  • Look for the negative.
  • Make excuses for your flaws.
  • Insist that you can always fix your problems and don’t need anyone’s help.
  • Spend your life trying to make every single person happy.
  • Repeatedly lose your cool in public.
  • Sacrifice your morals for personal gain.
  • Be unfaithful.
  • Try to control everything.
  • Make life all work and no play.
  • Be suspicious of everything and everyone.
  • Bury your head in the sand instead of staying informed.
  • Live as though you don’t need God.
  • Don’t ever change.
  • Ignore the fact that relationships require maintenance.
  • Blame other people for your problems.

I hope that we are all monitoring our hearts. It is so easy for certain attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs to pull us off task and lead us to a place we never intended to go. None of us ever intend to wreck our lives, but we have to be vigilant and live purposeful.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed
Josh

If you were going to give someone advice on how to wreck their life, what would it be?

Apologetic Wednesday: Three Big Questions

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When it comes to making sense of life, we want answers. We want answers to every question that we have. Why does life play out in certain ways? Why do things seem unfair at times? What do we make of suffering and pain? Thousands of questions have been posed in regards to human existence.

Often, a finger is wagged at Christianity for not being able to completely answer every question with full satisfaction. “If Christianity cannot answer every question down to the finest details, it must not be true” is a stance often taken by those skeptical of the claims Christianity makes. The truth is, no worldview is able to answer every question with complete confidence. We need to be cognizant of this fact, before unfairly demanding that Christianity answer every question while giving other worldviews a free pass.

It is my firm conviction, that Christianity has answered most of the big questions with great satisfaction. Some questions about life are incredibly complex, and we simply do not have the means to give an air tight explanation. We have to be content with not having all the answers for a season.

Christianity does answer the three big questions about life. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we headed? These three questions frame what it means to be human. We have here questions of origins, identity, and destiny.

Let us turn first to the question of origins? Where did we come from? Genesis 1:26 asserts, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” We are the result of a loving Being that chose to bring us into existence. We are not the result of blind, purposeless forces. We were created to be in relationship with God. We even bear His image. In a limited way, we possess some of His very characteristics.

Next, we must focus on our identity. Where does one find purpose in life? Jesus answers this question for us explicitly. We find in Mark 12, that a group of religious leaders seek to trap Jesus with a question that places him in a double bind. They ask, “Teacher, we know You are truthful and defer to no one, for You don’t show partialitybut teach truthfully the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxesto Caesar or not? Should we pay, or should we not pay?” The hope was that if Jesus said pay taxes, then the Jews would be extremely upset with Him, for they hated the overpowering Roman government. But, if Jesus said do not pay taxes; this would be viewed as an act of sedition against the Roman government. So in typical Jesus fashion, he answers their question with a question of His own.  He calls for someone to give Him a coin. He then asks, “Whose image and inscription is this?” “Caesar’s,” they said. Then Jesus told them, “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The coin bore Caesar’s image, so one should pay to Caesar that which bore his image. So what then belongs to God? Well, what bears the image of God? When we refer back to Genesis 1:26, we find that we are the image bearers of God. Therefore, we give God our very lives.

It is only through giving back to God what is God’s that we find our identity. When we make life about us, we never find complete happiness. We were not designed to serve ourselves. Our identity is wrapped up in serving He who created us. In serving Him, we will also serve those around us and take care of what He has bestowed upon us.

Let us last consider the question of destiny. Where are we headed? As we have said, all of mankind bears the image of God, yet when mankind chose to do things their own way instead of God’s, that image was tarnished. As Norman Geisler says, “The image of God has been effaced, but not erased.” Christianity teaches that there are two ultimate destinies, with Christ or apart from Christ. We get to choose where we want our destiny to be. Are we willing to concede that we are sinners that fall short of God’s glory and  turn toward Him or will we continue doing life our own way and living according to our twisted inner man? The choice is completely ours?

There are three big questions. Christianity offers three big answers. We were created by God. Our identity is wrapped up in whether or not we give ourselves to Him. Our destiny is determined by how we respond to His offer. We can embrace what Jesus did for us on the cross and turn toward God, or we can reject His offer to be called the sons and daughters of God.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Lessons from Daddyhood

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Yesterday, I got to celebrate my second Father’s Day. I could have never fathomed, prior to being a dad, the joy, wonder, and excitement that comes with the job. Every new day is an adventure.

Being a father is also an exercise in self awareness. My son is like a smaller version of myself in so many ways, and he reflects much about who I am back to me. My flaws and strengths become apparent in the way he relates to me. Sometimes he evokes a sense pride in the man I am, and at other times, he shows me the long road ahead in my life to becoming more like Christ.

Throughout the journey of fatherhood, I am continually being taught an abundance of life lessons. It is both fascinating and humbling that God can use such an innocent and naive human being to teach you so much about life.

My son reminds me to enjoy the moment, to be present. We have no guarantee of tomorrow, so we have to enjoy the day for what it is. I tend to gravitate to the future, which is good in some ways. Obviously, we have to make plans for the future, but we can do so to a fault. I have learned that some things can wait. Enjoy what is before you at the moment, because tomorrow that moment is forever gone.

Hayden has also taught me to find joy in the little things, to see the world with a fresh set of eyes. With age, the excitement of life tends to wane. We take for granted the simple pleasures. Enjoying life with a child will either give you a fresh perspective on how to enjoy the simple and mundane, or it will drive you to stifle the whimsical side of life. I would much rather enjoy the wonder with my child and re-experience the world with him than seek to distance myself from the silliness that accompanies it.

At times, I can take myself too seriously. It is easy to fret over the many commitments and responsibilities that we have. Sometimes, our self worth becomes wrapped up in what we accomplish instead of who we are, people created in God’s image. It’s quite alright to be silly. There is more to life than what we do or accomplish. These things are very important, but they are not the entirety of life. We also must remember to enjoy life and learn to laugh at ourselves. We need to remember to slow down and have some fun on our brief journey through this life.

I feel truly blessed to have such a wonderful son. I am enjoying what being a father teaches me. These lessons are invaluable. I continue to have a greater understanding of my own dad. I hope my son is as thankful for me, as I am for my own dad. I also am able to gain a glimpse more insight into how the Father loves us. Our worth is not based on what we do. We don’t have to earn his love. He chooses to give it freely.

I look forward with eager anticipation to the years ahead. I am thankful for the title of father. If having one is this much fun, I can’t wait for Hadley to arrive in September.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

What has being a dad taught you?

Lessons From An 18 Month Old

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A couple of months ago, Devon and I started praying with Hayden at night when we put him to bed. He sits in one of our laps while the other prays. We always say the pray as if he is praying. We put our hands together and offer up a prayer that might come from a toddler, and then we give an overemphasized amen. We then usually proceed to read a book, and about 7 out of 10 times he wants to read his bible stories.

Tonight, we were going through the whole bedtime routine and before we can even start praying he has his hands cupped together. Devon and I grin at one another, and I offer up his bedtime prayer. He gives an enthusiastic amen along with us, and then says, “More.” I ask him if he wants to pray again, he smiles with delight, and I offer up another prayer. The amens ring out, and as I get up he says, “More.” By this time, Devon and I are laughing, and I breathe yet another prayer.

Next, I let him pick what book he wants to read before bed, and as usual, it is his Bible stories. I exit his room and listen around the corner for a few moments as Devon reads him the stories, and he names the characters on each page.

Finally I made my way back to the living room, while thinking about the whole exchange between the three of us. Hayden gave me a vivid reminder. Isn’t that the way it should be for us as Christians? Shouldn’t we enjoy spending time with God? The times we are able to lean back in the safety of God’s arms and just enjoy talking about our joys, fears, concerns, problems, and blessings; then to have Him speak to us through His word should bring is delight.

Now, I understand, much of the significance of this was lost on Hayden. More than likely, he was just stalling to avoid sleeping and be able to sit with his Mom longer, but the application is still there. He wanted to delay going to bed, and “more” prayer and time to read his Bible. So often, I want to go to sleep so I rush my time with God.

Our relationship with God is like any other relationship. It only grows through nurturance. So maybe we should take the same approach. Instead of rushing our time with God, or skipping it altogether on some days, maybe we should seek “more.” I have a feeling if we did, the course of our week might be entirely different.

“It is impossible for a believer, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will not take the trouble to spend time with God. Spend plenty of time with him; let other things go, but don’t neglect Him.” -J. Oswald Sanders

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Mitt Romney, Mormonism, and the Facts

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With Mitt Romney securing the GOP nomination, Mormonism has become a topic discussed with greater frequency in the recent months. Interestingly enough, the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, also decided to seek the office of presidency in 1844.

Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, who in 1820 at the age of 15 had grown disillusioned with the church of his day. He claims to have had a vision from God, where he was instructed that all the churches were wrong; this lead to the founding of the Mormon Church, which claims to be the one and only “true church.”

Smith later claimed that in 1823 an angel named Moroni appeared to him and informed him that there was a book written on gold plates that told the story of the native Americans, who were actually of Jewish descent. Supposedly, these plates contained the full revelation from God to mankind written in “Reformed Egyptian” (a language that is not known to have existed). He proceeds to translate these plates into English and the original Book of Mormon was published in 1830. Once the translation was complete, it is said that the angel Moroni removed the plates, thus the evidence that they existed cannot be substantiated.

Mormons refer to four different books as scripture: The King James Version Bible, as far as it is accurately translated, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine in Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

So what exactly do Mormons believe? Let’s just examine a few of their doctrines that stand at complete odds with orthodox Christianity.

First, Mormons believe that the Bible we have today is corrupt and that it is missing “plain and precious parts”. This stands in contrast to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Mormonism also affirms that there are an infinite number of Gods, and that God the Father was once a man. That is, God is flesh and bone, though omnipotent and omniscient. God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are not considered one God, but three, distinct and separate Gods. It is also taught that we too can and will be gods, if we are devoted and faithful to practicing the teachings of Mormonism. A popular saying within Mormonism is “As man is, god once was, as god is, man may become.” John 4:24 reminds us of God’s true nature. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” We also know, according to I Timothy 2:5, that “there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus.”

It is also taught that Jesus was conceived via God the Father having actual sexual relations with Mary. It is affirmed that Satan is the spirit brother of Jesus, and we are also the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Orthodox Christianity affirms that Jesus is God, and has always existed (John 1:1) and was born of a virgin miraculously (Matthew 1:23).

This quick glance just scratches the surface on the history of Mormonism and some of the doctrines it endorses. It is clearly something entirely different from Christianity and teaches a Gospel other than what is found within the Bible. It is our duty to understand what we believe, why we believe it, and how it interacts with what others believe.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

What experience do you have with Mormonism that can contribute to our brief discussion?

Marriage Monday: Unspoken Rules

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A newlywed couple returns from their honeymoon filled with excitement from the week. They unpack, recount the fresh memories they just made and begin to make the adjustment of having another person living in their space. As the days unfold, a curious thing begins to happen. The kitchen trash begins to overflow. No one takes it out. Instead, each partner wonders how long the other will wait before bringing it to the curb. As the days go by, the trash grows higher, and their apartment smells increasingly worse. Each thinks that the other is a bit of a slob. Finally, the wife approaches her husband and politely asks, “How long do you plan to wait before taking out the trash? The paint is peeling of the walls in the kitchen.” “Me?” He responds. “I thought taking out the trash was your responsibility.” In her family of origin her father brought the trash out, and in his family of origin his mother brought the trash out. Each figured it would work the same way in their marriage.

This is an example of an unspoken rule. We tend to create rules in our minds about the way certain things should operate without communicating them to others. Unspoken rules exist in every area of life, but especially in marriage. Sometimes, couples create their own unspoken rules and everyone follows them, usually because they have similar rules. At other times, each partner brings these unspoken rules into the marriage and then wonders why their spouse does not abide by them.

The reason our spouse does not abide by our unspoken rules is because they are….well…unspoken. This seems straightforward enough, but so often tension builds in relationships because the other person isn’t abiding by our set of unspoken rules. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we are doing this. We think it must be obvious that our spouse should just fall in line with our set of unspoken rules. After all, isn’t this the way everyone should conduct themselves?

Sometimes we confer to our spouse mind reading abilities that they do not have. They are not necessarily privy to how responsibilities were divided in our families growing up, who took on certain roles, or they way we think things should operate in the present.

A great deal of the time, these issues sort themselves out. As was the case with our newlywed friends, one can only stand so much trash piling up in the kitchen, so they had a discussion. But sometimes these things do not work themselves out, and one party just takes out the trash, feeling they are doing the other person’s duty. This then leaves room for on spouse to feel bitter or resentful toward the other. One just assumes the other is being lazy, selfish, or obstinate, when in reality, the other person believes things are running as they should be.

So what is the moral of the story? Your spouse cannot read your mind. You have to tell them when things are bothering you. You have to clue them in to your world. Just because they are not following the rules that exist in your mind that you have never told them does not mean they are trying to slight you or ruin your day. It could be that they just don’t know.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

What were/are some of the unspoken rules you brought into your marriage?

Here were a few of mine (which were different than my wife’s):
-Weekends are for staying home, relaxing, and watching movies.
-Laundry should be divided in three separate hampers.
-Microwaves are for heating food, but also storing open containers of food.
-When someone “beeps in” while you are on the phone, you switch over.

Apologetic Wednesday: College, Questions, Doubt, and Truth

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When I first entered college, I was opened up to a great many new ideas. Questions I had never even thought to ask were posed to me. New worldviews I had never considered were showcased. Christianity was presented in ways that were foreign to me. I heard discussions about how people approach Christianity differently and interpret scripture in contrasting ways. I had entered a Christian college, and yet a flood of new ideas competed for a place of acceptance within my worldview. There is no place that challenges a person’s beliefs more than the university campus.

Going into college, I had questions about my faith that I was uncomfortable with. At this point in time, I had never heard of apologetics. I would discuss things with people and search for answers the best I could. At one point, I remember just suppressing the questions in my mind. I grew weary of wrestling with questions I couldn’t answer. I remember a friend describing to me that one of his friends decided to walk away from Christianity. I worried what would happen if eventually I was presented with an argument against my faith that I could not account for, so I tried to force the questions out of my mind. I think a lot of Christians do this (and not just Christians, but people from all stripes). The problem is, when we suppress questions that are extremely important to the cogency of what we believe it creates anxiety and cognitive dissonance.  Due to the anxiety and dissonance, the questions keep working their way to the surface, demanding answers.

I remember one day, feeling very pressed for certain answers. I decided that I had to seek truth, and be comfortable with following wherever truth lead me. I started talking to people about my struggles. I started looking for books that would give me understanding. Early on, I felt there were some conflicts between my faith and science. I approached a biology professor about some of my questions, and she equipped me with a strong apologetic early on. She reminded me that Science remains in a state of flux, but God is consistently God. She pointed out that we need to search for truth and seek answers, but that when we follow truth ultimately it always leads back to God. This relieved my mind some, and bolstered my confidence to find answers.

So from that day forward, I started challenging my beliefs and seeking answers to my questions. Looking back, many of my questions at that time were extremely naïve, but they were a big deal to me at the time. I found books that presented massive amounts of information. Sometimes I found answers to questions I was yet to ask, and sometimes my search for answers led me to more questions.

Over the years, certain beliefs have changed in light of new and convincing evidence. Other beliefs have solidified as I was presented evidence that was very supportive of what I believed. It has been a wonderful journey of faith, doubt, questioning, learning, and finding answers. I am so thankful that I started asking questions and looking for truth regardless of where it brought me.

I share this story for a couple of reasons. First, a big part of apologetics is knowledge driven. Debates wage back and forth. People search for answers. Books are read. Journal articles are scoured. Lectures are listened to. Books are written. Blogs are posted. Apologetics is steeped in academia and cuts across a great many fields including, but not limited to, theology, science, ethics, philosophy, etc. A mistake the apologist often makes is focusing only on this side of apologetics. We must balance the intellectual side with the personal touch. My professor took time to listen to my concerns, share her own perspective, encourage me, and point me in the right direction. We must remember to express love and give of ourselves when it comes to giving an answer for the hope that is within us. Our lives should also reflect what we proclaim to believe. We can be scholarly and present wonderful arguments for what we believe, but if we do not do so out of a heart of love we are not accomplishing anything. We become as the apostle Paul says, nothing more than a clanging symbol. As Gypsy Smith so eloquently stated, There are five Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, and some people will never read the first four.” The message must be seen in the apologists’ life before it is heard.

The second reason I share this story is to assert that we never come to a point where all of our questions are answered. I have found answers to a great many questions that I have had throughout the years, but there are some that will probably elude me until eternity. We have to be alright with not having all the answers. No worldview provides answers for every single question in a fully satisfactory way.

Apologetics is about giving the reason for our hope, and showing that Christianity has a prominent place in the marketplace of ideas, all the while exhibiting the love extended to us by Christ. For those moments where we arrive at a wall in our understanding or having our questions answered, we continue to look for truth. We pray for understanding. But most importantly, this is where the faith comes in. A certain amount of faith must be present for any belief system to operate.

We seek truth. We continue to look for answers. We rest on faith. We look at God’s faithfulness in the past and we trust Him with our future. We share the reason for what we believe and point to God’s love, mercy, and goodness. We give strong arguments for the hope that is within us.

Let’s not forget the personal side of apologetics, and let’s remember that not every question can be answered fully. One day all will be revealed. In the meantime lets seek truth and love people.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. – John 14:6

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

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