Monday, October 31, 2022

Reason Why

As we're talking about doubt and faith, it's only natural to then transition and talk for a minute about what faith is and why we believe in the first place. After all, Peter tells us to be ready and able to give a reason for our faith at any time. 

So let's be honest about it: the number one reason that persons become Christians is because they fear their own mortality. 

That's it. They know that one day, they are going to die, and what they desperately want is for this to not be all there is. This can't be all there is. There has to be a way to deal with whatever happens after we close our eyes for the last time and become consciously unaware of this life that we now live. Thus, we believe in Jesus because through Him, God promises that this isn't all there is, that we never just...die. 

Then, we build the central identity of our faith around this one thing, this one promise of God - that there is eternal life for those who believe. That we will never die. That we don't have to worry about it like those without the hope of heaven. 

And that's what we tell others about our Jesus - He has promised us heaven! He has made a way for eternal life! He has taken away the stress and distress that we feel when we think about what happens next. Sure, we know we won't live forever, but now, we will live forever! What a great promise this faith is! What a great hope! 

This is why, by the way, we see so many conversions late in life. So many conversions when that point of death is near. This is why those who start their life in the church feel so confident in wandering away for most of their years, then coming back to Jesus "when it matters" - when death is near. Because, hey, if the reason for your believing is that Jesus offers you eternal life, then you really only have to reach out for that hope one breath on this side of eternity to get it. Does it really matter what you do with the rest of your days?

It's our own human insecurity that keeps us holding onto this idea as the central point of our faith. It's our recognition of our own frailty and the fact that 100% of us will die a human death. 100%. That's all of us. As they say, there is not one of us getting out of this life alive.

It's also the one completely unknown reality that we have. We all die, but no one really knows what that means from the other side of it. No one's been able to tell us what death is really like, except from the point of view of the life that we have now. And so, the only way for us to put ourselves at ease about the one thing that we cannot know is to embrace a God who tells us that we'll never have to experience it, so it doesn't matter. 

Then, we walk around talking about how we're never going to die. And well, that sounds good to just about everyone. That really takes a load off of all of our plates. 

But what if the Christian faith isn't about eternity? What if that's not the point? 

What if there's a better reason for our faith than just this? 

There has to be. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

White Knuckling

As we talk about doubt, and as I share my personal story (okay, my most recent personal story) of struggling with holding onto faith, what I don't want to do is create this idea that if your faith is strong enough, it will just naturally hold on through whatever life throws at it and that somehow, it's up to your faith to save your faith. This would be essentially saying what we already said we don't want to say - that if you have a real faith, then even your real doubts don't matter because your faith just swallows them right up. It would be saying what we already said that we hate - that doubt is a lack of faith and a sign of personal weakness. 

So let's just be real, and I'll go first: there have been numerous times in the past several months when I very easily could have just walked away from it all. Just like that. There were Sundays when it would have been easy for me to stay home, sleep in, pick up an extra run, whatever. 

And a lot of persons would be quick to say, "Oh, well, uhm, you were just going to worship in a different way and fuel your soul." Because it's hard for persons to understand what it's like to be ready to walk away. It scares them to think that anyone, especially someone like me (who has used words for God for a very long time) or someone like the lead singer of a Christian band or someone like a pastor (you get the point), could walk away like that. I guess because if it happens to someone like ______, it can happen to you. 

But no, it was nothing like that. I was not going to skip my church to feed my soul. I was going to skip church because my soul was dead. I was going to skip church because I didn't love God any more, and I didn't feel loved by God any more. I was not seeking some alternate spirituality or reconnection with the divine; I was just going to be done. 

And the truth is, there were days when I didn't even want to hold on any more. When I didn't even want to try. When I knew how much effort I was putting into not losing this thing that I called faith because...well, I don't know why. Because I was scared of how God might react? Because I was scared of how I might react? Because I was scared that the rest of my life would fall apart if I let go of faith? Because I was scared that it wouldn't? (It's interesting how many of us think our faith is too big when generations of the faithful have come to discover their faith was too small.) 

There were days when I was white knuckling my faith, holding on for dear life to something I wasn't even sure that I wanted any more, watching my hands take a firmer grip on a slipping rope, and...thinking to myself how much I didn't want to be living like this. Thinking how much I wanted to just let go. 

There were days that I did. 

There were days that I honestly was just done. 

I say that because I think it's important to say that. I don't want to paint an unrealistic picture of doubt. I don't want to create this image where you can't fall into the pit of darkness because faith makes that somehow impossible. It's just not true. Even persons of great faith can fall into the pit of darkness, and more than that, I think they have to from time to time. I think you have to let go of the faith that you hold so that you can learn something more real about it, something that speaks to the very real doubts that you're wrestling with. 

It's...letting go of everything you know, falling into the deep waters, finding something that floats and keeps you from drowning a horrible death, but that doesn't mean that you don't have to tread water for awhile until you discover some new place of solid ground. 

Do you get the image? It isn't easy. It isn't pretty. It isn't all flowers and sunshine and confident assurances. And it doesn't have to be. God is not somehow more glorified by someone who has never tread water; I think His glory comes through all the more in those of us that have, in those of us who, like Jacob, have wrestled with our faith and found it all over again. 

So no, don't think that doubt is easy. Don't think I'm trying to paint some pretty picture. Don't think that if you have a real faith, you'll never have a real doubt. Because it's just not true. Sometimes, your faith really does just explode, blow up entirely, and leave you at the mercy of some small piece of debris that is just in the right place at the right time to start rebuilding, even if you don't find that piece right away. Even if you don't find that piece for twenty years.

And if that's you right now, hear me: it's okay. It really is okay. 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Real Lack of Faith

Everyone goes through barren seasons, even if it's not something they openly talk about or easily admit. It's the nature of faith, especially when the faith that we have comes up against something it hasn't faced before. It's a learning curve; we have to figure things out in a new context, find how the goodness of God reveals itself in a new place.

There are a lot of suggestions on how Christians should handle such seasons. As we saw last week, there are segments of Christianity that say that all doubt is sin and condemn someone for going through a barren season at all. And we saw also that there are segments of Christianity that would say this is a great time for deconstruction and champion a tearing down of whatever faith already existed. 

There's a third, fairly large, segment of Christianity that we could call the 'fake it until you make it' crowd - a group of believers who say that the way through a barren season is to keep singing, to keep praying, to keep reading, to keep studying, to keep churching, to keep doing all of the things that your old faith had you doing until you 'feel' like doing them again, until you make your way through the barren season. 

That sounds good to a lot of us. Most of us have been using 'fake it until you make it' a lot in our lives. For several generations, our culture loved this advice. (The tides seem to be turning toward something like, "If it's not immediately fruitful and fulfilling, quit." The culture's version of deconstruction. But there are still some fake it till you make it folks.) 

But that's not what God wants. 

And it's not what faith requires.

The thing about the Christian faith is that it never grows by pretending to be something that it's not. Never. We see that over and over in the Scriptures, those folks who were trying to look like they were faithful, even though their hearts weren't in it, and they were condemned for it. Their lives didn't work out the way they thought. It still took a major encounter with God to transform them the way that they were hoping to be transformed (or others were hoping to transform them). 

Faith is always an honest endeavor. It's always earnest. It's always real about who you are, even in seasons when you aren't sure who God is. 

See, God's never going to ask you, "Why didn't you pray to me between April and October of 2022? Why didn't you sing even a single praise song?" But I think very much that He will ask us why we kept singing when our hearts didn't believe, why we went through the motions when our questions were heavier than our faith. I think He will ask us what we thought we were doing, being dishonest about our faith - because when we are dishonest about our faith, we are dishonest about our God, even if everything that we say about Him is true. 

C'mon now, we know this. This is the very heart of hypocrisy - it's saying things we're not living, professing truths that haven't captured our own hearts. It's strange, then, that we defend this kind of living in our dry and barren places, when we've lost our faith for a little while. When we're trying to figure things out. 

Is it okay to be a hypocrite for awhile? Do you think God approves of that kind of living?

Of course not. He'd far rather have your questions than your fakeness. He'd far rather you be honest and say, you know what, I don't think I can sing today. You know what? I'm not sure about prayer right now. 

Honest doubt is more honoring to God than fake faith. Period. 

So no, don't fake it till you make it. You'll never make it that way. Just be real about where you are - in a dark night of the soul, searching for that little flicker of light that your heart desperately needs to see. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

A Solid Foundation

In a dry and barren place, book learning - even Good Book learning - is just not enough. When all you have is what you know about God, you find your heart aching like an empty stomach, gnawing at you in the depths of your being. 

A vital, living and active faith requires something of the touch of the Holy Spirit, that sense of a presence, that feeling that God is truly with you. It requires knowing, in your inmost places, your belovedness - and love is never merely a word. It's not something you can read in a book or on a greeting card or even on a billboard and "know" in any meaningful sense; it must be experienced. 

But that doesn't mean that our book learning, that our head knowledge, is unimportant. Or useless. Or meaningless. Not at all. 

In a dry and barren place, in a wilderness, all of that book learning serves as the map. It serves as the solid foundation that lets you know that there's a way through this place. It is what lets you look up and see landmarks - altars, mountains, stones - and see your way through things. 

I started this week by saying that I didn't know I was losing my faith because I would have told you that everything I knew in my head, I still knew in my head. I still knew that it was true. And while that didn't give me the experience of my belovedness and the goodness of my God the way that my faith needs to thrive, it is precisely because of all of the things I still knew - all of the truths that I still intellectually assented to - that I didn't lose my faith. 

Those truths are what I held onto and eventually, what I stood on to start crawling out of the pit that life had sucked me into. 

If I hadn't known the truth of God in a time when I was not feeling the love of God, it would have been far too easy to walk away. 

Have you ever had this experience (it's a pretty common one, as far as I know)? You're craving something, really craving something. Your body is begging for some kind of food, some kind of something. But you can't figure out what it is that you're craving. 

Even though you can't figure out what you're craving, you know what you're not craving. You know that gnawing, nagging feeling in your body, and you know the kind of thing that it's searching for. So you say something out loud like, "Man, I'm really wanting something. I just don't know what it is." And someone well-meaning around you says something like, "We have some bananas in the kitchen." And you're like, "No. It's not bananas. I know it's not bananas." You just know that based on knowing what that feeling feels like. 

The same is true in these spiritual hungers, in these places of famine. Your soul is craving something, but you can't quite put your finger on what. But you know what you don't need. That's because the foundation of truth that you've built in faith knows what's what. That's how, when you feel lonely or lost or abandoned or in despair and the world comes along and says, "We've got bananas in the kitchen," something inside you just, it's not bananas. It's Jesus. It's always been Jesus. I just have to figure out what exactly of Jesus I'm missing in my life right now. 

That's the role that these intellectual foundations play in our lives. They help us to know what we need and what we're missing when our famished soul starts gnawing at us, starts crying out. They keep us from turning away just because we're in a dry spell. They give us the map to read the landscape, and they keep the taste in our mouth of something holy, something good. 

So no, in a dry and barren place, all this book learning - even Good Book learning - is not sufficient. But neither is it nothing. 

In fact, it's essential. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Book Learning

When I found myself unexpectedly in a dry and barren place, I discovered first-hand the dirty little secret that Christianity doesn't want to talk about: 

Book learning is not enough. 

Everything that I knew about God, I still knew about God. Everything that I knew was true, I still knew was true. I could have quoted Scripture at you, cross-referenced a given topic, told you about my Jesus. 

But in the dark night of the soul, it's not enough to "know" something that you learned from a book. 

It's kind of like when you're watching Survivor or any other survival-type show, and you have the guy out there who has read a lot of books about survival or watched a lot of YouTube videos, and he very confidently looks into the camera and says, "I've got this. I know exactly how this is done." Then, you watch for two days as he struggles to actually start a fire - because he's studied it, but he's never actually done it. 

The same is true with our faith.

There are many who say that that key to Christianity is just knowing about God. It's reading His Word and seeing what He's done. Their approach to evangelism is to throw a bunch of ideas at you and tell you that believing means agreeing that these things are true. Their entire goal, it seems, is to get you to know the Bible inside and out, to be able to quote Scripture, to catch the reference to this or that Bible story when someone drops it. They will insist that the key to a solid faith is knowing God's Word. 

And this is precisely why so many have a faith that is not sufficient for their struggles. When they wander in the desert, being able to quote Israel's Exodus experience just isn't as helpful as some want to tell you that it is. Knowing that Israel walked up to a rock and prayed and water came flowing out of it isn't exactly reassuring when you're in a place where you just keep hitting your head against that rock and whatever's flowing out, it ain't water.

Knowing that God is real, knowing that God is good, having read the stories of what God is doing in the's not enough when the world is doing you in. When your heart starts to slip and let go, it doesn't matter how well the rope is tied - your hands still feel tired and weak, and you still feel like you're falling. 

Our faith has to be more robust than this. It has to be more than just what we can call to memory, what we can quote, what we can intellectually assent to. It has to be more than the things we can say that we know about God because we read them somewhere. 

Out here in the wilderness, it doesn't matter how many YouTube videos you've watched; if you've never started a fire with your own hands, you're going to struggle. 

Out here in the wilderness, it doesn't matter how many pages you've read. How many passages you can quote. How many verses you have tucked in your heart. How many sermons you've listened to or worship songs you've sung or classes you've attended. If you haven't had your hands on the living God, if you haven't had Him in your heart, you're going to struggle. 

That's not to say that book learning is not valuable, that it's not meaningful. Actually, it's quite the opposite. It might not be sufficient, but there's something very important about it.... 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Falling Away

I didn't know I was losing my faith. 

Oh, there were signs, but they weren't registering. I just kept excusing them away, thinking I was tired. Or stressed. Or just going through a dry season, as is prone to happen from time to time.

There have always been times in my life where God is more silent than others. It's easy to think, somewhere in the wilderness, that this is just one of those times. Certainly, you say to yourself, I'm not lost. Certainly, it's not I who have gotten off the path somewhere.'s been a tough season. 

It's been tough to keep going to church, knowing that the only thing really different about being at church on a Sunday morning than being at home was, well, the scenery. I could look at these four walls or I could look at those four walls, and really, what's the difference? 

I was sitting through sermons and hearing stories, but not grace. Sitting through worship and hearing music, but not praise. Sitting through prayer and hearing hope, but not faith. And most of the time, I was standing up early and walking out because I was overwhelmed with nothing more severely than sheer boredom

It's been tough to keep writing this blog. As the days have gone by, it's been harder and harder to believe that anything that I say has any value at all. That it matters. I've started just leaning in a little bit and writing to those that I'm pretty sure already agree with me instead of trying to put something new out there, something that might challenge you to think in a new way. It has felt increasingly to me like I have become exactly what Paul feared he might ever be - a clanging cymbal, a resounding gong. 


I have filled my holy space with nothing but noise, and it happened without my even really recognizing it. 

And that's because, to be honest with you, there's not anything over the past few months that I have stopped knowing. That is, there's nothing major that I used to believe about God that I don't still believe about God. There's not been a time where I couldn't have told you, intellectually, the truth about who God is. There's not been a moment when I could not rattle off all of the things that I know for certain, in my head, about Him. I have spent the past several months still knowing about God and still believing all of those things to be true. 


Yet for everything I have still known, it's been a long time since I've felt anything. Since I've felt love for God or loved by God. Since I've felt moved by the Spirit. Since I've felt inspired. 

It's been a long time since I've felt the trueness of truth in my soul. 

It's been a long time since my heart has put any of the pieces together. Since something has rung true in the depths of my soul. Since I've seen anything in this world with new eyes, let alone holy eyes. 

It's been a long time since what I "know" has had any impact at all on how I live, on how I experience my day-to-day. 

I didn't know I was losing my faith. How could I have? There's not a point when I wouldn't have told you that it was all true. 

But here I sat, knowing it and not loving it, and...well, one of those things that I know is that it's that love that is the very essence of that truth.  

Friday, October 21, 2022

Help My Unbelief

We've spent the week talking about doubt and what the "post-evangelical" crowd likes to call "deconstruction" - the questions that we have about faith, about God, about grace, about life, about love, about ourselves in the image of God. 

What we've seen is that doubt is not sin, no matter how much the church sometimes preaches that message. But neither is it something we should champion and applaud as deconstruction, so that we encourage the weakening of the faith. Rather, doubt is a natural part of learning, of growing. It's who we are - we are questioners at hear. We want to know, and in fact, everything we know right now is both something that we once did not know and at the same time, may not know for sure in the future. This is the nature of knowledge and thus, doubt is a natural part of that.

And if you need more evidence that doubt is not sin, that it just is, look no further than Jesus. 

As I was writing one of the posts earlier this week, that well-known Gospel story came to mind where the man cries out to Jesus, "I believe! Help my unbelief!" 

What happens next is important. Or rather, what doesn't happen next. Jesus does not look at this guy and say, "Nope. Sorry. I can't help you. You don't believe? How dare you! Come back to Me when you figure it out and ask again." 

Jesus doesn't look at the guy and condemn him. "Well, then, you're obviously going to Hell because of your unbelief."

Jesus doesn't even call the guy a sinner. Or a hypocrite. Or anything at all negative. 

He just gives the guy the healing he's seeking (not for himself, but for someone he loves). 

Maybe you're thinking to yourself, "Now that you mention it, weren't there times Jesus did call persons out for their unbelief? For their lack of faith? I remember something about you faithless and unbelieving generation...."

You're right. He did. But not because they doubted. Jesus called those folks out because they ignored all of the evidence He'd already given Him and kept asking for the evidence they wanted to see. They were trying to shape Him in their image, and He wasn't about that. He also wanted to make it clear to them that that's not how faith works. Faith isn't supposed to give you the answers you seek, but respond to your actual questions - and these guys that kept asking for signs or failing to make faith "work" for them the way they thought it should weren't asking questions; they were trying to jump straight to their answers. Their own answers, which they really just wanted to hear come from Jesus's mouth. 

That's what He was upset with them about - not that they had questions, but that they weren't being honest about them. 

And you'll notice, if you read, that many (overwhelmingly many) of the questions they did ask Him were meant to trap Him and weren't honest questions, either. That, too, He chastised them for. 

But you never see Jesus chastise someone for an honest question. You never see Him scream at them for a moment of doubt. He doesn't condemn anyone for not having a better honest faith. At every turn, He answers. He helps. He guides. He responds.

And if Jesus doesn't condemn you for having questions, why should you condemn yourself? Why should anyone else? 

Doubt is not sin. It is not deconstruction. It (When it's honest.) 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Still Growing

Yesterday, we thought about how everything we know right now is something that once upon a time, we didn't know at all. We came to know it through learning, through growth. Through doubt and asking questions and wondering about life, faith, God, and ourselves. 

Here's something else we should know about everything we know right now: these might not be things that we know in the future. These might not be things that we believe five years, ten years, twenty years from now. 

What we know is constantly changing as we continue to grow and to question and to encounter new things and have new experiences. 

That's one of the reasons it's so dangerous to be a writer. Or, in this day and age, anyone who puts a message down on any medium. It's because when we do so, that's out there. And years from now, anyone may bring it back and say, "But didn't you say....?" Sure, I did. But I've grown since then. I've had new experiences. I've asked new questions. And what I know today is a more full knowledge than what I had ten years ago. 

The same thing happens with our faith. At any given point, the only things we know about God are the things that we've experienced of Him. But we are humans who live finite lives, and that means that our circumstances have never given us the opportunity to know everything about God. We haven't had enough experiences to encounter everything that's true about Him. Every day, something pops up that shows us something in a new light, and we learn a new thing, and we understand more and better who God is just by living into learning about Him. 

If you've never been seriously ill, how could you know God as healer? If you've never been poor, how could you know God as provider? If you've never been curious, how could you know God as teacher? The lives we live give us our opportunities to learn the things that we know. And every tomorrow gives us a new opportunity to learn a new thing. 

So let's say your life has never given you the chance to learn a specific something about God, so you've gone your whole life to this point with a limited perspective, a limited understanding. Now, let's say that tomorrow, you learn that thing that you never knew and it changes the way that you think about - and relate to - God. 

Is that doubt? Is that deconstruction? Should the very foundations of your faith be shaken just because you've discovered that you don't know everything? 

Of course not. That's absurd. 

The first time you used an ATM, did you question everything you thought you knew about money? Probably not. Was your financial foundation shaken to its core? Probably not. You learned something new about how to access money, but it didn't make you throw off everything else you knew. 

The same is true when we learn something new about God. Learning something new doesn't necessarily mean that we used to be wrong and now, we're right. Sometimes, it just means that our perspective got a little bigger and we can see more things now. We have more experience. We've had more encounters. We've had a chance to learn something to add to the knowledge bank; it doesn't mean we have to use that as a cornerstone to build an entirely new building. 

The things you believe today are subject to change, and that's okay. Actually, it's better than okay; it's the way things were meant to be. We were made to keep growing, to keep changing, to keep experiencing new things, to keep encountering new things. 

To keep asking questions.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2022


Quick - tell me something that you believed as a kid and later, found out to be not exactly the truth. My guess is that if you're like the rest of us, something came to mind pretty quickly, and you even chuckled a bit while you thought of it. You were so young, so innocent, so naive. It's...cute. 

The truth is, there was a time in your life when you didn't know something, so you created a story to make sense of it, and that's what you believed. 

In fact, this is true almost all the time in your life. There are things that you don't know that you make up stories about so that they seem to make sense to you. And not just you, but everyone does this. And then, we share those stories with one another and sometimes, they make so much sense that we just adopt them, too. Because hey, we don't know. 

In fact, everything that you know right now is something that once upon a time, you didn't know. 

Think about that for a second. Every single thing that you know right now is something that you didn't always know (even the things about which you talk with the certainty of a 4-year-old and declare, "I just always knew that"). We are, at our core, a learning and growing people. 

So why do we think that our faith is any different?

That's what we're really talking about here. We're talking about the things about God that we think we know, then we discover that it's just been a story we've told ourselves (or someone has told us) because we did not, in fact, know it after all. We're talking about discovering greater truths as we grow and experience more things and have increasing interactions with God and with the world around us, even with ourselves. 

And we want to label this "doubt"? Or "deconstruction"? 

What if it's just growth?

This is one of the troubles with the world that we live in. We feel like we have to label everything, to name it, to pathologize it. Everything's got its place in our psyche, everything has its roots in our insecurities, everything is something, and even when it's normal, we can't just let it be normal. We have to name it, to label it, to give it its own space and make it into a thing

So we never just learn any more. We never just grow. We never just encounter new information and work to adopt it into our greater understanding. Instead, we "doubt" and we "deconstruct." But what if we're not? 

How would it change your faith - your relationship with God - if you were allowed to just explore it, without labels? If you were allowed to be curious and to encounter new information and to receive new data? If you were allowed to just grow in it, without it being a thing

Tuesday, October 18, 2022


It's become really popular in some Christian circles (mainly "post-evangelical" circles - we could talk about that sometime, too) to approach doubt not as sin, but as deconstruction - a "necessary process" to "move us past" the "failures" of the "church." To this crowd, it is important that we all go through this process of tearing down everything that we thought we knew because the church has been so toxic for so long that the message of Christ is muddled in it, and our only way out is, well...out

So the minute anyone has a question, they are applauded and celebrated, and a whole crowd of "post-evangelical" Christians comes alongside them to cheer them on as they tear apart the very fabric of their faith with a goal of getting to the place where "toxic" Christianity is no longer part of their faith. 

The draw, of course, is that if you have one group of Christians who condemn you for your questions and are ready to cast you out and perhaps even banish you to Hell, then a group of Christians who celebrate you for your questions certainly feels a whole lot better. It's much easier to bear. 

So we have a whole generation of earnest questioners, those seeking answers to their faith, who are running toward this thing being labeled "deconstruction" where the "right" answer is anything but the "wrong" one. Jesus can literally be anything that you can dream Him to be, as long as He is not what the "fundamentalist" "evangelical" Christians have been telling you your whole life that He is. 

I hope that at this point, you can see how dangerous this is, too. 

It's how we end up with a Jesus who loves everyone indiscriminately and affirms every single lifestyle and human decision that we have ever made. It's how we end up with a whole lot of "grace" and not very much truth (though we know that without truth, grace is hollow and meaningless). It's how we end up with a whole generation of "spiritual, but not religious" folk who don't "need" the church but are so lonely in their faith that they're certain that even God Himself has abandoned them. It's how we end up with, as we've talked about fairly recently, a bunch of activist pastors whose entire pulpit is about tearing down the church as we've known it and condemning everyone who isn't them. 

When we label earnest questioning as "deconstruction," we imply that there is only one possible end: the complete unraveling of our faith as we know it. And that is, these Christians will tell you, exactly the goal - they want you to lose everything you ever thought you knew that you can start learning all over again. 

But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. And no matter what they say, not everything you've learned about Him is toxic, even if what you've learned about Him came from someone with whom you now have fundamental philosophical disagreements. 

See, that's the thing - these deconstructionists claim that the reason you have questions is because Pastor Joe who taught you this in the first place doesn't affirm LGBTQ+ individuals. They claim that you are wrestling with what is true because Sister Jill gossiped about you behind your back. They claim that the failings of human beings negates the message of Christ and that if you don't separate what is real about the Gospel from what is fallen about the persons who preached it to you, you don't have real faith. Whatever you have, it's not faith. 

The problem, of course, is that they then think that either 1) they are qualified to teach you better, forgetting that they, too, are fallen human beings (so many deconstructionists suffer immensely from the delusion of self-righteousness) or 2) you are qualified to teach yourself, which is beyond dumb. How can you teach yourself that which you do not know? You have to depend on someone. 

It's just a mess. It just gets down into this deep muck and mire and gets so confused that it's no wonder those with earnest questions are just walking away from the faith...but then, that's what deconstructionists want. They would rather you have no faith at all than a faith that has questions. They would rather you have no faith than a faith that challenges in both grace and truth. They will tell you this is "winning," but it is no such thing. 

And it is unnecessary. 

Having questions is not deconstruction. Seeking answers is not deconstruction. Re-evaluating what you believe and why you believe it is not de-construction. It doesn't have to be the unraveling of your faith, and the end of your wondering doesn't have to be your wandering.  

Monday, October 17, 2022


Christian philosophy - the nature of knowing and believing and understanding - is a sweet spot of mine, so naturally, I follow a good number of Christian philosophical outlets on social media. A couple of weeks ago, one that I particularly love posted a quote from someone apparently well-known. It began with the words, "Doubt is the secret sin buried deep within our souls." 

It continues on to say, "We are all afraid to touch it, to unloose the monster. But authentic Christian belief demands that we uncover it, name it, understand it, and make peace with it." (Kelly James Clark)

My immediate response was, "I don't love the notion of doubt as sin." 

And I don't. 

Someone else chimed in quickly to say that the way the quote continues implies that doubt is not sin like other sins are sin, and in fact, says that we must be comfortable with it and working through it, so it doesn't mean that doubt is sin. 

Here's where it gets complicated. And...dangerous. 

Yes, the quote continues beyond those first very heavy words. Yes, it goes on to say other things. But those other things that it says are the things that we say about other sin in our lives. Struggling with bitterness or envy? You have to "name it." Struggling with anger or resentment? You must "uncover it." Whatever you're struggling with, you'll never overcome it until you "understand it." The only thing really different here is that we don't "make peace" with our sin; only with our doubt. 

Still, to talk about it in these terms, in the very same ways that we talk about other sin in our lives, is to imply, intentionally or unintentionally, that we are continuing in the same vein - with doubt as sin. 

Not that it matters, though. 

My counterpart in this dialogue went on to say that we need to "give seekers more credit" for being able to read and understand the tone of the quote in its entirety. And while that is true that an earnest seeker will read all of the words, it's not the seeker that I'm concerned about here.

It's the wounded. 

Someone who has been told by the church that having questions about faith shows a lack of faith and that doubt is not reading past that first sentence. He or she is writing off every other word that this person has to say about anything because the first word is one of condemnation, the same stinging, painful word this person has already heard too much in his or her life. This person reads that first sentence, and immediately, his heart says, "Ugh. This 'Christian' is just like all the rest of them" or perhaps she starts immediately beating herself up because she still has questions, and no matter how many times someone tells her that her questions are sin, she just can't help but have them. She is hopeless, a lost cause, a wasted case. She will never be a person of faith. 

Just a sinner. 

So yes, I told this commenter - more credit for the seekers, but more grace for the wounded. Because this message has been preached so long and so hard in the church that it stabs instantly into the depths of the hearts of the hurting as soon as it is said, as soon as those two words are linked together: doubt and sin. And whether that's what we believe or not, that's what the wounded hear, and that's why we have to be so careful. 

Let's be clear: doubt is not sin. Having questions does not demonstrate a lack of faith or a broken soul. Questions and doubt are natural parts of our spiritual growth, our development. They are the very things that lead us deeper into the heart of God. 

As I have said before, I will say again: if you never have a question, how is God ever supposed to answer you? 

Friday, October 14, 2022

Filled with Glory

So where does God live? 

This is a question that the people of God have been asking from the very beginning, from the Israelites in the wilderness to David in Jerusalem to the exiles returning home, even on the mountain of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John. 

We know that the answer is not in the Tabernacle, for we are no longer a wandering people. (Well, not like that.) We know that the answer is not in the Temple, for we are no longer a Temple people. We know that the answer is not in the church, for that was never what the church was created for; God has never lived in the church. And we can pretty confidently say it is not in a temporary shelter on the top of the mountain. 

But so, too, must we say, by our living, that the answer is not that God lives in our hearts. The way that we live betrays that very notion. 

The best we can say is that God lives in whatever small place we've put Him in the corner of our souls in a box labeled "religion." 

But that space is not big enough for Him. 

And that is our fundamental problem. 

The thing about God's presence is that He has always filled the places where He has dwelled. His glory is unmistakable. Even in the times of the Temple, the late times of the Temple, the presence of the Lord in the Most Holy Place was undeniable; everyone knew He was there. He shows up in cloud and fire, in smoke. God's people have always known when He was home because, well, it was really hard to miss. 

Yet here we are, trying to tuck Him into a tiny box in a dark place and hope that He brings a little light and a little cloud, and the truth is - it's too small for Him. Not that our tiny, dark places can ever put out the fire of God, but we're doing exactly what Matthew says nobody in their right mind ever does - trying to keep a candle under a basket while proclaiming the goodness of its light. 

A candle...under a basket...when we have in our very breath a raging holy fire that is the Creator of all things. 

No wonder our God feels too small sometimes. No wonder we have trouble believing in His power. No wonder we can't seem to find His glory. 

It's in a too-small box in a too-dark corner of our depraved, church-going hearts. 

What do you think would happen if we made a bigger space for God? What do you think would come of it if we let Him take up all of our hearts and not just one little corner of them? What if we had a place worthy of God living there, right inside of us? 

I'll tell you what - we, too, would be filled with His glory. Just like the Tabernacle. Just like the Temple. Just like the Transfiguration. His holy smoke would be pouring out of our ears, and there'd be no mistaking that this, this, is where the Lord lives. 

And I don't know about you, but I want to live like that.  

Thursday, October 13, 2022

A Place to Dwell

Where does God live? We are no longer living in the times of the Temple or the Tabernacle, when it was easy to detect God's presence by the cloud and the fire. And we have already established that He doesn't live - and never has lived - in the church; the church is the place where believers come to encourage one another. We say that He lives in our hearts, and this sounds right, but in practical terms, too many of us are living like this is not true; others interacting with us would have a hard time saying that Jesus lives in us. 

So where does that leave us?

It leaves us doing the thing that humans have been thinking themselves good at since all the way back in Genesis 3 - trying to be crafty about things. 

Here's what I think happens, and I confess that I am just as guilty of this more often than I want to be as anyone else: what we've done is to build God a Temple in our church-going hearts. 

We have carved out a special place in the depths of our soul where we put Jesus and just let the smoke and fire burn as much as it wants right there. We have set up a sort of altar, an establishment where we go within ourselves when we "need" Jesus. Or perhaps, when we "want" Him. Much as we have created compartments in our consciousness for things like work or home or family or play, we have put God in this specific place that, when we need religious advice or spiritual encouragement or soul healing, we go digging around in that space until we find of Him what we need. 

Occasionally, we bring offerings. Sacrifices. Just the way that Israel always did. It's this place in our soul that we convince ourselves perpetually smells like "an aroma pleasing to the Lord," filled with all of our holy and wonderful and sacred things and all of our worship and all of the other "religious" things we do. 

And we tell ourselves that God is happy here. 

We pat ourselves on the back and applaud ourselves for having made Him something lovely, a perfectly acceptable place to dwell within us. 

Except...that's not what He wants. There's nowhere in the story of God where a tiny Temple in the vastness of the depraved human heart is God's plan for dwelling in us. There's nowhere that He says this would be a great idea, to make Him small enough to fit in whatever box we find convenient for the way that we're living.

Still, we call ourselves crafty and think ourselves righteous, despite the fact that we are neither. 

This is the truth in which we are living, though. This is where we are. We are a church-going people with tiny Temples in the recesses of our hearts where we tuck God until we "need" Him, all the while continuing to declare that yes, sure, of course He lives in us. Look, there He is! Waving from the window of His Temple. 

What's that? I can't hear You, Lord. 

Oh, I'll stop by later, and You can talk to me then. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Home in Our Hearts

God doesn't live in the church; He is not someone that we go to visit on Sundays like we might visit our grandmother. Yes, He used to dwell in the Tabernacle and the Temple, but as we said yesterday, even that was different than how we conceptualize things today. 

And of course, once we get to the New Testament, we know that Jesus lives inside our hearts. We know this because of all the fun little songs that we sing with our children. We know this because the New Testament tells us that we are living sacrifices, that our bodies are the new temple of the Lord. But we know this most simply because Jesus Himself tells us this - He will live in us as we live in Him. He is the vine, and we are the branches. The most very fundamental understanding of the Christian (and thus, Christ-centered, New Testament) faith is that Jesus lives in us. 

But...does He?

We say this because we know that it is true. It even sounds true. It sounds good and holy and like exactly the kind of thing that God would want - a dwelling place inside our hearts. If we're being honest, though, our execution of living like Jesus lives in us...leaves a lot to be desired. 

I don't know how much time you spend around other persons, or how often you go out into public, but it doesn't take a whole lot of interaction or even just looking around to realize that there are not a lot of folk living like Jesus lives inside of them. There are not a lot of us living like Jesus dwells in our hearts. 

The Bible tells us that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Jesus tells us that out of the good inside of him, the good man brings out good. 

Then we cuss out the kid working the counter at the coffeeshop because our espresso is too weak. We yell at the cashier for not working quickly enough to get us through the line. We grumble at the person who steps in front of us to reach the item we're standing mindlessly in front of. We step in front of someone standing mindlessly because we are impatient. 

We live in a culture that, even when we run into our friends, we say something cheeky, something insulting. Then laugh it off as if it's all in good fun. I have even heard elders of a church tear one another down "in jest," but also very much in public, as if it's some kind of joke that we're all supposed to laugh at.

We live in a culture of self at all costs, and our actions and our words show exactly that. At any given moment, almost every single one of us is thinking more of ourselves than we are of Jesus. Which leads us to ask the question - does He really live inside of you? 

Is Jesus really dwelling in your heart? Does He take up residence there? Have you created the space for Him? 

We say that Jesus lives in us because we know that it is true. We know that it is the way our Christian faith works. We know that it is what He said. But He doesn't force His way there; we have to make space for Him. And...looking at our lives, at the way we live and talk with one another, most of us haven't made much space at all. 

So it's not in our hearts that God is living, either. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Church

Where does God live?

The answer for too many of us is that He lives in the same place He's always lived - the church. 

It used to be the Tabernacle, then it was the Temple; now, it is the church. God has always seemed to "live" in some building that is central to the community of the people of God. And when the people are looking for God, they simply go to the building that He lives in. We visit Him on Sunday mornings and sometimes, Sunday nights or maybe Tuesday nights or Wednesday nights or whatever day He's hosting some kind of special event, and then we go back to our own homes until it's time to visit Him again. 

We tell ourselves this is historical Christianity, this is the way that the people of God have always related to Him - He lives at His house, and we live at ours. But is that really the truth? 

No. It's more complicated than that. 

We could get into it at some point, but what's most important right now is to recognize that the fundamental nature of the church is different than the fundamental nature of either the Temple or the Tabernacle, which means that even if they were the same thing in terms of God living among His people, they would not be the same thing in practical faith terms. 

Sorry, that's complicated. Let me break it down with a little simpler language: when the people went to the Tabernacle or the Temple to worship God, their primary emphasis was on God Himself. It was on sacrifice and atonement and prayer and incense and connecting with the God who lived there. Often, of course, they happened to be doing it together, so there was a sense of community in that place, but the essence of Temple (and Tabernacle) worship was the presence of the Lord. 

Not so with the church. Oh, we say that it is, that we go to church to meet with God and to worship Him, but the New Testament - and our own practical interaction with the church - betrays us. 

See, the church was never the place where God lived. Never. It was never the place where Jesus lived. After the resurrection, not a single disciple said they should go to church so they could find Jesus there. It's simply not His house. The church has been a house of a people. It's a place where the people of God come together to encourage one another and to build each other up. The New Testament is exceedingly clear on that. The church, as an establishment, is for us. 

And we know that. We know that because when we walk in on Sunday mornings, we can't wait to see our friends. Our brothers and sisters. To talk with one another. To share our lives. To talk about Jesus, yes, and to worship and to sing and to preach and to pray, but we know that the church experience is primarily about our togetherness. It is, quite literally, a fellowship. 

Which means that even as much as we say that we're going to church to worship the Lord and to meet with Him, even we know that that's not really the case. We're going to church to be with the persons who build us up and encourage us, to be with those who pray for us and with those for whom we pray. To lift our voices together because that's what the church is - it's togetherness. 

So where does God live? 

Not the church.  

Monday, October 10, 2022

The House of God

Where does God live?

The tongue-in-cheek answer is, "Anywhere He wants." He is, after all, God, and He is transcendent, and He is everywhere and anywhere and nowhere all at once. 

The "church" answer is, "In my heart." This is what we teach our children and, in some cases, our seekers - that Jesus makes His home in our hearts and dwells within us in our inmost places. That we are the house of God in our own flesh. 

But the question is more complicated than either of those answers portrays, and it deserves a lot more conversation than we tend to give it. 

From relatively early on in the story of God, His people have consistently been concerned with where God is going to live. Moses built a tabernacle in the wilderness to make sure that God had a dwelling place among them, which served a few purposes - it gave God a place to dwell, protected the Israelites from seeing Him face-to-face in the smoke and the fire, and provided a place for the people to come together to worship. Even after Israel settled in the Promised Land, they continued tabernacle worship for many generations. 

There were altars built throughout the land, and for awhile, the people went to these altars to find God. They were usually just piles of uncut stones, but they were the places where Israel knew they would find God.

When David is working on building his palace, he can't shake the realization that he's going to have a place to live, but God is not. So he starts developing in his heart the plans to build a temple for the Lord, although the Lord stops him from actually following through with it. Instead, David made the plans and began gathering the materials, but it was his son, Solomon, who actually built the Temple. 

From then on out, we had a Temple people - and the dwelling place of God was central to their lives. They didn't consider themselves defeated until their Temple was destroyed, and when the exiles came back, it was the Temple that they were interested in rebuilding. It was important to God's returning people that God have a place to dwell among them first. 

We get to Haggai, and this is a prophecy at the time of Israel's return from Persia, and God is basically chastising His people for worrying more about their own houses than His, for rebuilding their own homes before they rebuilt His. 

Even in the New Testament, we see this: at the Transfiguration, Peter chimes in and says what a great thing it would be for them to build three tents, so that God has a place to dwell there among them on the mountain. 

Throughout time, then, it has always been important to God's people where God dwells. And if that's true (and, as we've said, it is), then it's still an important conversation for us to be having today. 

So let's have it. 

Friday, October 7, 2022

Speak Life

A prophet is someone who speaks God's truth. At its very core, that is the definition of prophecy - speaking truth. But when we are talking about speaking God's truth, there's something else that is essential in that, and it is speaking life

Our God is a God of life. Yesterday, we talked about what it means to be speaking God's glory, and God's glory! 

God's glory is hope and grace and mercy and forgiveness and joy and love and life. Even when we read the prophecies of destruction, we find in them a thread of life. We find that what runs through them is God's deep love for His people and His own heartbreak at how far they have fallen. We hear the words of judgment, of condemnation, of discipline, of conviction, and still, something in our heart sings grace. Something in our heart catches the melody of mercy. Something deep inside our soul understands love. 

We are a people who inherently understand that some truth is hard truth, except, ironically, when we are the ones who need to hear it. But despite our often-vocal protests, something in us still recognizes that this hard truth is not just meant for us, it is good for us. It is exactly the kind of truth that we need, and if that's the case, then this truth is love. This truth is for our life. 

Too often, we're not using God's truth for life. We're using God's truth for death. We're using God's truth for power. We're using God's truth for condemnation without any hint of mercy or grace or love. We're using God's truth to throw our brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends under the bus, then we're hopping in the driver's seat with all of our self-righteousness and running right over them. 

Friends, this is not prophecy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any truth spoken without love is false prophecy. It is not God's word for anyone. 

Read that again: any truth spoken without love is not God's word for anyone. 

If someone doesn't walk away from hearing you speak truth and know God's love for them, if someone doesn't walk away filled with hope, if someone doesn't walk away with their heart stirred toward holiness, then you have not spoken life. And if you have not spoken life, then you have not spoken truth. And if there is no life and no truth, there is certainly no love. 

We have to get better at this. We are just so bad at this right now. We are just too full of ourselves, and there's not enough room for the goodness and glory of God to get into what we're saying. The Bible says that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, but when we haven't got life down into our very bones, our words betray us. They reveal that. The world sees that we don't have it. And when we don't have it, the world does not hear God when we speak. 

We need more prophets in our world, but...real prophets. No more of this fake stuff. No more of these false speakers. We need more persons who speak God's truth, God's full truth (and remember - full truth doesn't always have to be the whole truth). We need more persons speaking love, speaking mercy, speaking grace, speaking hope, speaking joy, speaking glory...

...speaking life

Let's do it.  

Thursday, October 6, 2022

The Glory of God

We're talking about prophets and truth because I've had a few verses jump out at me lately in my own devotional reading, and in world that doesn't care for either (prophets or truth), this is an extremely important concept. 

We have established that a prophet is someone who speaks truth, not necessarily someone who tells the future. There is something else that we need to add to the tongue of a prophet, and that is this: 

A prophet speaks for the glory of God. 

I thought I wrote down where I read this recently, but I can't find it, which means it is one of those things that struck me in the moment as so profound that I was certain I would remember it. (Much like when you have a desperate need for something like toilet paper, so you don't even bother writing it on the grocery list...then you come home from the grocery with everything but toilet paper.) But given the time frame, it's somewhere between the latter part of Ezekiel and Joel. 

The verse struck me because I immediately realized how very few of us actually speak truth for the glory of God. 

When we speak truth, we usually speak it because we want to be right. We want to show our moral or intellectual high ground and put someone else in their place. We want to demonstrate our mastery of a topic or our authority over something or someone. We speak truth as power, as our means of gaining power.

Sometimes, we speak truth in judgment. We want to show how wrong someone else is. We want to make it clear to them and to anyone else who might be watching that they are wrong somehow, fundamentally wrong. 

Sometimes, we speak truth because we want to inspire change. We use truth as manipulation to get what we want or to get others to do what we want them to do. We want someone to act in a certain way or we want something to be true, so we speak truth as though it already is so that the world will get on board with what we're doing or what we want to do. 

Sometimes, we speak truth as the vengeance of God. We speak truth to tear down sin and sinners. We speak truth to destroy things that we know God doesn't like (even though we often fail to admit that God also does not like destroying things). 

But how often do we speak truth for the glory of God? 

To speak truth for the glory of God is to reveal first His love. To talk about His grace. To tell the world about mercy. To speak truth for the glory of God is to erase the line between creation and Creator, to draw the world closer to the heart of God. To stop putting barriers between us and Him, or even between us and "them." Truth builds up toward the heavens, toward the only One who is Truth Himself. 

How often are we doing that?

That verse, whatever it was, jumped out at me because the answer is, "Painfully, not often enough." We use truth for all kinds of things in our world, but the glory of God is sadly not often one of them. 

But what if it was?  

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Whole Truth

This discussion about prophecy really highlights how our relationship with truth has changed so much, over thousands of years, yes, but even over a relatively short amount of time. 

When we read the Bible, we encounter many prophets sharing many hard truths, pronouncing judgments and periods of waiting and stories of wilderness to the people of God. But not once do we see the people of God speaking back and saying, "You missed something" or "But what about...?" Not once do we see someone arguing, saying that the prophet doesn't have his foundational facts straight or that he hasn't taken into account some human factor involved. 

The prophet speaks and the people recognize themselves in the prophet's words, and they either repent or they don't, but no one is arguing whether or not what the prophet said is true. 

Fast forward to today, and we have all kinds of arguments about why what the prophet speaks isn't really "true." It can't be truth unless it's the whole truth for us, unless it takes into account every single little thing that we think we know about...well, anything. 

Someone speaks truth, and we tell them that they don't know the whole story. That they don't know us and what we've been through and what we're still fighting. That they don't know how hard we've worked to get this far. That they don't understand our reason for doing the thing that we're doing, whatever it is. 

What you say might be true, but it's only a portion of the truth; there's so much more to the story than what you're proclaiming, and unless you include all of it, you're wrong and nobody has to listen to you. 

If you say that I'm a sinner, but you don't affirm me for not sinning today in the same way that I sinned yesterday, then I can dismiss whatever you've said because obviously, you don't know me and you don't know my sin and you don't know my story. What you're saying, then, can't apply to me because what you're speaking is not my whole truth; it's just part of it. A part that, we might say, you're nitpicking because it's somehow important to you. 

Then, we start shouting for you to take the plank out of your own eye before you start digging at the speck in mine. 

And it sounds like moral ground. It really does. That's what our world has convinced us about truth - that nothing is true unless it's the whole truth, even if it happens to be fully true. 

In today's world, truth isn't a fact; it's a story. And without every little detail, it's not truth. 

It seems silly, then, that this is our sticking point with prophets. Because isn't that the same thing with the Gospel? 

Our truth is not a fact; it's a story. 

Perhaps there is more common ground here than we think. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

To Someone Else

Truth is a hard concept in our postmodern culture. We have been taught that there is no such thing as truth, unless of course we're talking about your truth and my truth. Truth, we hear, is subjective; it depends on who you are and what your experiences are. And no one has the "right" to tell you a truth that doesn't seem true to you. 

It seems overwhelming for a people of truth. How are we supposed to tell Good News to those who don't want to hear it because it isn't true (yet) to their own experience? How are we supposed to be honest about who God is and how amazing grace is if there's no foundation for hearing or listening to anything that contradicts what your own heart already tells you? 

How do you preach truth in a world that is hostile to the very notion of it? 

It may be that ours is the first generation to articulate so thoroughly our rejection of truth as a principle in and of itself, but man's rejection of and aversion to truth go much further back than just our generation. We are a people who, from the very beginning, have had a strange relationship with truth. On one hand, we love it - when we are the ones preaching it and when others are the ones being judged by it. On the other hand, we don't really want to hear it ourselves, and we don't want to judged by it. 

This is why Israel had such a problem with false prophets; nobody wanted to listen to the real ones. Nobody wanted to hear the real truth. 

I was reading recently in Amos, and there's a part where the king tells the prophet that he needs to take his prophecy elsewhere. In fact, he needs to go to such-and-such a people and speak his truth to them.

Embedded in this is the very thing that we're talking about, two realities that we, as human beings, can't seem to shake: take your truth elsewhere because 1) those other persons are the ones who need to hear it and 2) I can't tolerate being judged by it. 

Isn't this us? Isn't this still the world we're living in?

We speak a word of truth, and our world says, nuh-uh. No. Nope. We speak against rape, and the rapists say, "What about the murderers?" So we speak against murder, and murderers say, "What about the abortionists?" So we speak against abortion, and the abortionists say, "What about your own priests/ministers?" So we speak against our own sin, and the Christians say, "What about the world?" So we speak against the world... 

It's not that the truths that we're speaking are not true; it's that the persons who are most affected by our words don't want to hear them. So they remind us of all the others words we could say but aren't, and then, they tell us that we must not be real prophets because we don't speak "full" truth. Now, we are, of course, speaking full truth; we're just not speaking whole truth. Because the truth is that when you're confronting one measure of brokenness, you have to be specific. You have to narrow it down to what you're actually talking about and not get distracted by what you're not talking about, even when it's just as devastating and heartbreaking as anything else. 

But that's what the world does. That's what it's always done. The minute you try to speak truth, the world will try to shift your focus, then shift it again, until you're so lost in the brokenness of our fallen human condition that the truth you have feels too complicated and, sadly, too small to address any of it. 

And then, you might start to think the world is right. Maybe God isn't the answer. 

Yet, look at how Amos responds. The king tells him to take his truth somewhere else, to go talk to those other persons who really need to hear what Amos has to say and to tell them what the king really thinks they need to hear. And Amos continues to stand there and simply say, "No thanks. This is the truth that God gave me. This is the truth that I have. And this is the place God told me to speak it. I am, and I'm not going anywhere. This truth isn't for someone else; it's for you. It's not up to me if you listen, but it's up to me if I speak. So here, I speak." 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Speak Truth

In the past couple of weeks as I have been reading my Bible (I am in the minor prophets, which is roughly Daniel - Malachi in the Old Testament), the verses that have been jumping out at me more often than any others are the verses about the prophets themselves - Israel's response to her prophets, the Kings' response to the prophets, God's instructions and words for the prophets. 

Prophecy is something that we don't talk a lot about in our modern (or...postmodern) churches, unless perhaps you want to characterize your church as "charismatic." Prophecy, for us, brings up all of these mental images of persons standing around predicting the future, often inaccurately. We get these ideas about cults and about all of the "prophecies" about when exactly the world is going to end, none of which have come true. And it's because of things like this that we have developed in many cases a negative opinion of the idea of prophecy itself. 

To be fair, prophecy is a bit of a mess. There are a couple of different kinds of prophecy in the Bible that we can get tangled up in if we're not reading carefully enough to separate them, and basically, we're talking about prophecies that are meant to come true quickly and those that aren't. 

Sometimes, God sends the prophets to tell the people what is going to happen and then, it happens. Sometimes, God sends the prophets to tell the people what is going to happen and then, nothing. Whatever God says is going to happen doesn't happen in the lifetime of the prophet or that generation of the people. 

Now, there are some who use that as permission to say whatever they want, and then just tack on, "But not in your lifetime." Or "not right now." Or "God didn't say when." We must be extremely careful of false prophets who speak in this sort of language. 

Because here's what a prophet is, what a prophet has always been, all the way back to the very beginning and the very first time that God spoke through His person - a truth-teller. A prophet has never been someone who tells the future, but always someone who tells the truth. 

The prophet tells the truth about God, about His power and His love. The prophet tells the truth about God's heart. The prophet tells the truth about God's intent and God's plan and God's will. The prophet tells the truth about God's story. 

The prophet tells the truth about God's glory. 

That's who a prophet is. Anyone who claims to do more than that is not a prophet, and anyone who doesn't do at least that is not a prophet. Plain and simple. 

So we'll talk a little more about prophets this week because like I said, some of this stuff is just jumping out at me here recently, and if we're being honest, we could all use more of God's truth these days. Or...any day. Or, really, every day.