being defriended by God

Category : God, bible, failure, faith, living a life of faith

Have you ever been betrayed by a friend?  Someone you liked, someone you trusted, maybe even someone you loved.  When we experience that kind of betrayal, it’s one of the worst experiences we can have in life.  Not as bad as your team not winning the Superbowl.  But still pretty painful.

That’s why God’s love of us is so revolutionary.  We’ve all betrayed God before.  Most of us on a daily basis.  We’ve put him through exactly that kind of pain.  Yet God is always there when we need him.  Despite everything, God still stands by us.

This isn’t just one small part of who God is.  It’s one of the major themes that runs through the entire Bible.  We see this in the lives of Moses and David.  Jesus illustrates it with stories like the prodigal son.  It’s even the story of Peter’s life.

There are very few people in the Bible who are more outspoken in support of Jesus than Peter.  Peter was always the guy jumping to show just how much he was willing to sacrifice for God.  He put his life on the line more than once.  Peter wasn’t just talk, he was action too.  (You don’t get to walk on water by sitting on the shore.)

But in the hour of Jesus’ greatest need, Peter failed him.  First because he couldn’t stay awake and keep Jesus company.  Second, by denying Jesus three separate times.

Imagine if one of your closest friends couldn’t visit you in the hospital as you were dying.  Or never called to see how you were after losing your job.  You’d be understandably angry and maybe even a little resentful.  We’d start treating our friend differently.  We might not even call them our friend.

Yet God is the God of redemption.  And Peter’s story doesn’t end with being defriended.  It ends with Jesus restoring Peter as a friend.  In fact, one of the first things God does is send a message to Peter that Jesus is alive, and he shouldn’t worry anymore.

Think about that.  Peter had done nothing.  Yet God sought him out.

This is why God is such a radical God.  This is why the Bible is such a revolutionary book.  Despite our failures and betrayals, God does the unexpected, and keeps on loving us.

photo provided by flickr user saragoldsmith

what to do when you make a mistake

Category : Paul, bible, failure, faith, sin, taking action

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What do you do when you make a mistake?

That’s a question I think very few people actually think about.  Oh sure we all do something when we’ve made a mistake.  But very few of us actually think through our actions, we usually just react.

The way I see it, there are only a few options.

  1. Do nothing – we essentially say, “I did something wrong and I am so scared of doing it again, and so scared of the consequences, I will never do anything again.”  When we do nothing, we shut down.  We can’t be used by God because we aren’t interested in being used by God.  We become like the ostrich who shoves his head in the sand, thinking he is hiding.
  2. Do the same thing – we make a mistake, but choose to do the same thing over and over.  This is the whole, “I am sorry I hurt you/ was a jerk, etc…” line.  And then the next day you’re back to your old habits.  We say it, and maybe in the moment we are sorry.  But not sorry enough to actually change.  This is where we are when we continue to commit one of our “favorite” sins  (for instance, you repeatedly get angry at a coworker).
  3. Repent - True repentance.  This is where we truly turn to God and say, “I am sorry, help me never to do this again.”  Where we fully turn away from our actions and embrace God.

Why do I bring all this up?  Because Carrie Prejean, a former Miss USA winner is involved in another controversy.  It turns out she was involved in making a “sex tape.”

For some celebrities this wouldn’t be a big deal.  Society often seems to reward people who do this.  We’ve all read the stories about a celebrity “losing” provocative pictures in a PR attempt to revitalize a career.  But for Prejean, who has started teaching and talking about “family values” this is a big issue.

Rarely do we talk about current events on R3.  I believe that the Bible offers us timeless principles that apply no matter the event.  And I almost never talk about a specific individual.  There’s enough gossip and junk out there, we don’t need to add to that.  But sometimes I make exceptions.  And that’s where I am with this.

I have no idea what’s on the tape.  I don’t know why it was made.  And frankly I don’t want to know.  To me that’s irrelevant.  What matters is how Prejean decides to act.  And to a lesser extent how we, as a society, respond.

We all have made mistakes.  How many of us would really feel comfortable having our mistakes be national news?  What Carrie Prejean did was wrong, and it was a mistake, and that’s not an excuse.  But does this prevent her from ever talking about family values?  There are many people who very much want that to be the case.  (As I was flipping the channels late one night I saw one panel of “experts” gleefully declaring this meant she could no longer talk about family values.)

Personally I don’t know if this tape excludes her from talking about family values.  I know there are a lot of people who are gleefully hoping that will be the case.  For her to fall, would be a major victory for them.  This situation brings legitimate questions that she must answer.  But when I look at the Bible I see people who aren’t perfect.  I see people lose their temper, act in fear, commit adultery and murder.

Yet God still uses them in powerful ways.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. But he does ask us to repent.

Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament was actively seeking to kill Christians prior to his conversion.  Does that mean he can’t talk about sin?  Or does it mean he has unique insight into the redemption that Christ offers?  Moses murdered someone before God chose him to become the leader of Israel.  Did that exclude him from talking about freedom to Pharaoh?  Peter acted in both anger and fear in the last hours of Jesus’ life – but God used him as the rock upon which the church was built.  Was God wrong in all of this?

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  But he does ask us to repent.  And in each of these cases, they repented and turned away from their sins.  So I ask you, what do you do when you make a mistake?

Carrie has the same three options that we do.  She can do nothing.  She can do the same thing.  Or she can repent.

I don’t know what she plans to do.  Right now it sounds like she wants to repent.  But saying you want to repent and actually repenting can be two different things.  It’s much easier to offer false promises than to take the hard work of repentance.  Is it any different for us?  So again, I ask you, what do you do when you make a mistake?

will the evildoers never learn

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Category : God, R3, failure, sin

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I rarely start out with such inflammatory headings.  R3 is a place for people to explore what it means to live out a life of faith.  I am fully aware that a lot of people who read R3 aren’t self-identified Christians.  That’s fine.  You don’t have to be.  So while I don’t pull any punches, I also don’t intentionally mean to offend people.  Insulting someone is never a way to show God’s love for each of us.

But there is something about the nature of sin that’s been bothering me the last few weeks.  And there is no easy way to say it.  The fact is, the damage sin causes shouldn’t be “sugar coated.”  So allow me to be as blunt as David was when he wrote Psalm 53: “Will the evildoers never learn?

I’m not the first to ask.  And I won’t be the last.  Ever since that fateful decision by Adam & Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, things have been a mess.  It seems that we simply can’t stop following in their footsteps.

Why?  Why is it “evildoers never learn.”  And by the way, those evildoers – that’s us, all of us.

Are we so blinded by our pride that we can’t even see where our actions lead?  Are we so sure that we can fix any problem we make that we simply don’t care?  Or is the devil just too good at tricking us into believing that God is holding out.  Or maybe we are just so blind we fall for his same tricks every time.  Even Tom couldn’t fool Jerry every time!

What I find disturbing in all of this is that I am no different.  And neither are you.  We are all held captive to sin.  We all fall short of where we were designed to be.  And none of us can seem to break the cycle.  That’s how powerful sin is.  That’s how much control it has.

That’s why Jesus is so important.  He’s broken the chains of sin.  When we are in relationship with him, in God’s eyes we are sin free.  But sin still lingers on us.  It still hurts our relationships with others (and God).  It still causes pain and suffering.  It still destroys like a thief in the night.

Pavlov, in his famous experiment, taught dogs to salivate by hearing a bell.  If dogs can do something like that, why can’t we break free from sin?

‘Anti-Christ’ gets ‘anti-prize’ at Cannes

Category : God, failure, faith, hope, living a life of faith

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The Cannes Film Fest has come and gone.  Usually Cannes produces some movie that is declared a “must see” or generates some buzz for a few films.  But this year there didn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm.  Maybe it was the economy.  Maybe it was the movies.  I don’t know.

There was, however, the usual controversy.  Cannes tends to pride itself on pushing the envelope (you aren’t going to see X-men 14 or Star Trek 12).  Because it tries to push artistic or non-main stream movies, you often see the “boundaries” being pushed.  This year it was the movie Anti-Christ.

I admit, I don’t know anything about this movie other than what I read in a few news stories.  I have no idea if this movie is interesting.  (I doubt it.)  Or if it’s well conceived.  (Probably not.)   Roger Ebert describes Anti-Christ as, ” Its images are a fork in the eye.  Its cruelty is unrelenting.  Its despair is profound.”  I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably not the best movie ever made.  But, for argument’s sake, lets treat Anti-Christ as if it’s the greatest piece of art man has created.  In reality it doesn’t matter if this movie is good or bad, it still raises one question: why?

Why do we feel compelled to make ‘art’ that is so violent and base?

Why do we feel compelled to make ‘art’ that destroys instead of build up?

Why do we feel compelled to make ‘art’ that shocks us?

There must be something about human nature that drives us to offend.  We must get some satisfaction out of shocking people.  How else do you explain ’shock jocks’ on the radio?  It has to be that we delight in hurting others.  Take the American Idolist William Hung (you know, the guy who sang She Bangs).  The only reason Hung was shown on American Idol was so that we, as an audience, could rip him apart and laugh at his expense.  No one could possibly believe he was talented enough to be on the show.  He was there as a spectacle.  As a friend used to say, “I’m not laughing with you, I’m laughing at you.”

But what does it say about the message if it needs such violence and offense to drive home the "point"? What does it say about the messenger?

I often hear the argument that God doesn’t exist.  That evil isn’t real.  That given enough time, man will “improve.”  That’s the core philosophy of Star Trek after all.  It’s also the hope held out in most Hollywood movies.  But if that’s the case, if man improves over time, how do you explain a movie like Anti-Christ?   Surely this film doesn’t show that man has evolved into an enlightened species?  That somehow we are becoming better with time.

Why, then, do we do it?

In the book Faith & Doubt, John Ortberg addressed this issue by writing, “One day I realized there was no God, no one behind reality, no life after death.  I realized existence is a meaningless accident, begun by chance and destined for oblivion, and it changed my life.  I used to be addicted to alcohol but now the ‘law of natural selection’ has set me free.  I used to be greedy, but now the story of the Big Bang has made me generous.  I used to be afraid, but now random chance has made me brave.”

Ortberg said this with tongue in cheek.  But he raises a point.  We try to rip apart the existence of God, but in the very act of setting ourselves “free” from God, it seems we bring out the worst in ourselves.   Why?  How can it be that we always seem to find a way to fall back into the pit if we are becoming more enlightened?

Movies like Anti-Christ are supposed to represent social criticism.  It’s supposed to make us think about society and life.  But what does it say about the message if it needs such violence and offense to drive home the “point”?  What does it say about the messenger?

When I try to answer the “why” question, the only answer I have is that we are a fundamentally broken people.  That if we are left to their own devices we end up with a world of shock jocks, gratuitous violence, and empty philosophies.  That we are not getting better over time.

What we end up with is a world that wants to offend one another, for no reason other than that we can.  I think the evidence of that is overwhelming.  You don’t need me to tell you this, of course.  Just pick up a newspaper and read the headlines.  Or think about what you do when you get angry.  It’s to “get back” at someone isn’t it?  It’s part of human nature to fall backwards, not move forwards.  None of us are immune to that.

Only God changes the equation.  Only God breaks us out of the cycle.  Only God, can stop us.  Because we sure can’t stop ourselves.

question of the day: are you a failure

Category : God, barbarian, different, question of the day

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The world constantly tells us we are failures.  From commercials to “shock jocks” we’re told without their products, without their input, we can’t make it.  From rankings and ratings of every kind to the let-me-see-how-loud-I-can-shout-on-TV programs, we are told we don’t measure up.

We are told we need to do more.

Be more.

Achieve more.

But…if God loves you, can you be a failure?  If God loves you, and gave his one and only son for you, can you be without worth?

I say you can’t.  I say you have unsurpassing worth.  And so does God.

are you special?

Category : God, faith, hope

  

Most of us want to think that we’re special.  We want people to miss us when we’re gone.  We want them to recognize that their life just isn’t any good without us in it.  So we tell ourselves that other people may be expendable, but thank God we’re not!

We cling to this idea that we’re special.  That we’re unique.  Despite the evidence.  We hold onto our jobs, our relationships, even our possessions as if they somehow make us unique, somehow special.  We fill our lives with things that turn out to be utterly meaningless.

So doubt creeps in.  Maybe we aren’t as special as we think we are.  Maybe we aren’t quite as wonderful as we think.  Life has a way of proving that to you time and again.  Is it any wonder that people lose hope? 

Yet when God cries out “I’ll give my life so that you may know me.”  We turn our backs and walk away.  It’s ironic that the one person that truly views us as unique and special we reject.  In our desperate search for meaning and value we reject the one place we can receive it.

failing God

Category : David, God, failure, faith, fear, sin

 

If you ask an athlete about a game, they will almost always tell you about the shot they missed, the tackle they could have had, the putt they should have sunk.  Of course you don’t need to be an athlete to think this way.  When you go into work what do you think of?  The things you should have finished?  The account you should have landed?  I bet very few of us focus on the positives.  Even fewer live wide awake.

We live in a culture that emphasizes failure.  I don’t know if this has always been the case or if this is some recent development.  But whatever the case, we live in a world obsessed with failure.  

It’s true in our professional lives.  It’s true in our personal lives.  And this attitude is true in our relationship with God.  We focus on our short comings:  How we could have been more generous.  How we shouldn’t have yelled at our kids.  How we knew what we were doing was wrong, yet we didn’t stop.  We focus on all of the mistakes we make.   

But is this how we are supposed to live?   

Most of us have fallen for the performance plan view of God.  We think God is carefully taking note of our failures.  That he’s just waiting around the corner to whack us with them.  “If Santa makes a list, what does God do?” we wonder.  Instead of experiencing God’s grace, we find ourselves overwhelmed with guilt.

Yet that’s not the God of the Bible.  While God is never thrilled we’re sinning, it’s not our sin that destroys our relationship with him.  It’s something else… 

There once was a father and son who believed in God.  The father was a murderer, adulterer, he was even negligent of his family.  The son on the other hand never killed anyone, never had an affair, and always seemed to have his family in mind.

Yet God turned away from the son and not the father.  Why?

Because no matter how many horrible things David did, he always maintained his relationship with God.  He never rejected that relationship.  Solomon on the other hand, despite all his wisdom, began to worship other Gods. 

“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.  He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech [a] the detestable god of the Ammonites.  So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.”               (1 Kings 11: 4-6)

David’s failure didn’t drive God away.  No matter how many mistakes he made, God always remained with David.  Solomon, on the other hand, despite all his wisdom found God as an enemy.  It wasn’t his failures that caused it – it was his choice to believe in other gods that ended things. 

So why do we still believe our behavior is what matters to God?   Why do we focus all our energy on our failures, and spend so little time focusing on re-building our relationship with God?

David did many horrible things.  Yet he was described as, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13: 22).  Despite his actions, despite his failure, he built a lasting relationship with God.  Isn’t that the model that we should work towards?  Shouldn’t we stop focusing on failures and spend all that energy of doubt, fear, anger, worry towards re-energizing our relationship with God?

We need to live out a life of faith, not live a life in fear of failure. 

i’m a loser

Category : Jesus, Mark, choice, failure, faith, taking action

 

Success.  Failure.  We all experience these things.  Even if you’re Bill Gates or Tom Brady you will have both highs and lows in your life.  That’s just the way it is.  In fact, we’re all losers – we all have more failures than successes. 

In the AFC championship game a Steelers rookie dropped a pass that was a guaranteed touchdown.  He was so wide open it was embarrassing.  And yet at the moment that would have crowned his rookie year, he blew it.  A moment that would have sealed him in Steelers history, he choked and took his eyes off the ball.

We’ve all been there.  Well, ok, maybe we haven’t screwed up before a live TV audience.  But we’ve all screwed up in public ways.  And we have all wanted to lie on the ground and pretend we’re injured, just like Sweed did.  We think, “well if we’re injured, at least we have an excuse.”  Which feels so much better than admitting you’re a loser.

We live in a world that pretends you can be successful 100% of the time.  We’re told that life can be easy.  That it can be safe.  That the worst thing that can happen to us is to be placed in danger.  But the truth is, that’s a lie. 

The world is filled with failure.  And we are all losers. 

The question isn’t, “will I fail?”  The questions is, “will I get back up again?”  Limas Sweed almost didn’t get back up.  He almost stayed on the ground.  But something changed his mind.  Something made him get back up.  And you know what?  He became a winner.  He had two key plays that changed the course of the game.  He unleashed a devastating block and had a key catch.

In one game Sweed was both a loser and a winner.  That sounds a lot like our lives, doesn’t it?   

Peter had days like that too.  On the day Jesus was arrested, Peter put his best foot forward and declared,  ”even if all fall away, I will not!“  I think most of us would be thrilled to make such a bold statement.  We’d love to take a stand for Jesus that many people refused to do.  Yet, within a few hours Peter was hiding in fear, denying his relationship to Jesus. 

Peter was a loser.

But that’s not where his story ends.  And it doesn’t have to be where our story ends.  Peter went on to change the world with his life.  He got back up.  And because of that was able to do something amazing. 

That’s what God wants for all of us: to get back up.  We may be laying on the ground, just like Peter, but we don’t have to stay there.  We can get up and keep moving forward.  That’s the whole point of grace. 

There may be no better definition of faith then getting up one more time – especially when we don’t feel like it.  That’s what it means to live out a life of faith. 

reader comment: king of the hill

Category : God, failure, faith, reader comments, sin

 

I’d like to say that I’m home after a few weeks of travel. But I’m actually back on the road. Which is nice because where I live it’s snowing and where I am its 70 degrees. You have to love that! So while I’m on the road I want to take care of a little housekeeping and expand upon an interesting idea.

Christopher sent in an email about the king of the hill post.

The part of your post that I really wanted to comment on though is about being an individual and learning to submit to authority. From my own experiences in Christ, I have to say that once we do start to practice submitting to authority for the sake of the Lord, it has been for me, another one of those new found freedoms in Christ that you begin to experience. You’re no longer weighed down by thoughts and feelings to “defend” your ground, or to come up with arguments of justification for your actions.

Practice. It’s something I usually don’t’ associate with living out a life of faith. But you know what? I think that’s a great way of looking at it. It’s very rare that we instantly become people who can live in perfect faith. Usually it takes weeks, if not years, to overcome some of our sinful behaviors.

I think this is one of the most dangerous times of being a Christian. When we become frustrated that we aren’t changing as fast as we should be, we run the risk of giving up. We can become so upset that we keep making the same mistake we wonder, “will I ever be able to overcome this?” It’s easy to say we’re never going to overcome our selfishness, our lust, our greed, and so we give up.

But if we look at it from a practice perspective, things change. Our weaknesses no longer become impossible to overcome. Instead they represent a chance to learn and try again. In the book, God is closer than you think, John Ortberg has a prayer that simply says, “God I’m sorry I failed, please help me start again.”

God can never change our hearts if we’re running away from him because we see ourselves as failures. But he can radically change us if we keep getting back up and saying, “God, I failed, help me to stand up and try again.” This is the balance between truth and grace.

Maybe it’s true what they say: practice makes perfect.

reader comment: right where I need to be

1

Category : God, R3, bible, failure, hope, reader comments

   

Not to sound melodramatic but I think there’s a moment (possibly several) in a person’s life where they question if what they are doing is worthwhile.  Is the project you’re working on meaningful?  Is the business you’ve started going to be relevant.  Are you making a difference in people’s lives? 

It’s easy to fall into the idea that we’re somehow not doing “enough.”  And that’s where I’ve been the last few days.  I was wondering if I was doing enough professionally.  Was I reaching everyone I could with R3?  Should I do more? 

I expressed these concerns to a friend, and she said something that froze me in my tracks:

I think you’ve got something backwards here :o ].  It’s not you that needs to make something out of your life, it’s God.  That I know of, nowhere in the bible does God tell us that we have to make something out of ourselves.  That’s His job…our job is to listen to what He says and act on what we hear, whether that’s physically doing something, or waiting on God to do something.

Ouch.

She’s right though.  I can’t think of a single example where God said, “why don’t you make something out of yourself?  What are you waiting for?”  God always says, be obedient, and let me do the rest.

All I need to worry about is listening to God, then obeying. 

What a relief!