So I finally finished this book…. Actually I was rather surprised that it took me this long since I am typically a fast reader and this is not a long book. However, Ravi tends to have a lot of deep thoughts in his writing (I could only hope to aspire to something like that….) which really make you think about what your are reading. I simply had to stop every few paragraphs and reflect on what was written and how it impacted me.
In the end, a great book with lots of things to think about. The subtitle “How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives” really sums up the overall theme of the book. The 8 chapters are: Your DNA Matters, Your Disappointments Matter, Your Calling Matters, Your Morality Matters, Your Spirituality Matters, Your Will Matters, Your Worship Matters, and Your Destiny Matters.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13
Just not having a lot of time to post stuff….
As always some deep and thoughtful insights from Ravi. Thoughts so far from chapter 3 “Your Calling Matters”.
He talks briefly about Pilgrim’s Progress:
He tells us with great insight how the pilgrim, Christian, attired in rags and weighed down by his burden, reaches a hill, where he encounters the cross. He is searching for the Celestial City but discovers one cannot enter the city without going by way of the cross. As he looks up at the cross, he falls to his knees and the burden falls off his back. But this is not the end of the story! He is still at the beginning of his journey. Burdens are not just lifted at the cross; some new ones are added to give direction to our call.
After Christian loses his burden of guilt and sin, three “Shining Ones” greet him. The First of these three is the Angel of the Dawn, who greets him with the words, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” The second, the Angel of the Daylight, strips him of his rags and gives him a new set of clothes. The third, the Angel of the Dusk, points the way for Christian to walk toward the gate of the Celestial City.5 This third angel puts a mark on his forehead and then gives him a scroll-a map to guide him on his way. The first angel meets his spiritual need; the second addresses his physical needs; and the third engages his intellectual needs and gives him the tools to instruct him along the journey.
The Christian’s walk involves all three areas of life-the spiritual, the practical, and the logical-which are not mutually exclusive. God is an immensely practical being who also guides us with reason and wisdom. Let us see how the threads of your hopes, your dreams, and your calling come into place spiritually, practically, and intellectually.
Also on God’s calling of us based on who we are:
In specific moments in history, God has raised up particular individuals with a momentous call, people such as the pharaoh of the exodus, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, Paul, and many others. And though we may not know the names of many, many more, their callings are just as certain and needed. That truth is what I want us to consider and ponder. If my very ethnicity and my disappointments make up part of God’s pattern for my life, then it stands to reason that so does my calling before him. He has intricately woven together my hopes, my dreams, and my vocation. God’s plan for each one of us includes the way he has wired our thinking and has prepared whatever it is in our lives that will bring us fulfillment.
I do not believe that one can earnestly seek and find the priceless treasure of Gods call without a devout prayer life. Each of us is the temple of the Lord, and it was the Lord who said, “My house will be called a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7). That is where God speaks. The purpose of prayer and of God’s call in your life is not to make you number one in the world’s eyes, but to make him number one in your life. His calling is perfect, and he has a specific place for each one. Every member of the body has a particular role, and we find our fulfillment in filling that role.
And the chapter conclusion:
Know that you are God’s temple. Bathe your life in prayer. Live out your life in humility of spirit that serves for the right reasons. Seek the counsel and example of godly men and women. Finally, exhibit a commitment of a call. Self-glory, power, sensuality, and the seduction of material gain impede such a call.
Lots of great insight from Ravi. Typically I am a voracious reader and can blaze through books quickly, but this one is taking me time. Not a bad thing.
I know all about the Ring of Fire and the underlying science behind plate tectonics. The rational part of me can comprehend the cause-and-effect of the geological activity causing the earthquake which caused the tsunami.
But why? And deep down inside, I think I’m really asking “But why, God?”
Natural disasters of this scope affect us on so many levels: intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. And we have different responses on all of those different levels. Most of us are extremely fortunate to not have to be part of the physical reaction. The pain, suffering and anguish of the people of Japan is more than abundantly clear, and it’s not even over yet. At the same time, some of us have friends, family or coworkers living in Japan and they are personally affected, even if they live hundreds of miles away.
Our minds get involved in the intellectual debates. Were they prepared enough? Warned in time? Did people die needlessly? Are the reactors going to make it? If the earthquake had happened in the middle of the night how many more people would be dead? All these thoughts and more can race through our minds as we try to make sense of the data we have been presented with. And in some sense, we have more access to the data, especially photos and videos, than ever before. And we sit staring at the tv or computer, fascinated yet horrified at the raw physical destruction that took place.
Emotionally, I think it all depends on our connectedness to the events. The more removed we are from the situation, I think we are stuck with general feelings of despair and sorrow. When we have friends or family personally involved, we start to be more pulled into the emotional whirlpool that surrounds the catastrophe. Having lived in Japan for almost 18 years, and having many friends who still live there, I feel anguish in ways I didn’t think I would. We pray for all those involved, both friends and their families and coworkers. May you be a shining beacon of hope in that land of current sorrow.
And finally, we come to the spiritual side of things… We know that this is a corrupted fallen world. Bad things happen all the time. And God can still bring beauty out of the ashes. But why this? Why now? Why?
Sometimes I want to be angry with God about this situation, but I know that’s wrong. It’s just as inappropriate to say to God “Why did you allow this to happen?” as it is to say “Why did you cause this to happen?” Our feeble human minds will never be able to comprehend how exactly God remains sovereign, we have been given free will, and in the middle of all of that, bad things happen to everyone. Do we understand? No. Do we need to understand in order to have faith and trust? Again, No. Our minds struggle against the unknown things, but we must be content to leave it all in His hands.
Psalm 13 is a great reminder from David, the man after God’s own heart.
1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
We pray, we help, we seek Gods will. And through all of our doubts, fears, pleas & struggles, we must have the faith to know that God is still God.
Recently in the Christian Blogsphere, there seems to be a lot of debate, conflict, disagreement, and downright nastiness. Yes, we’re all human and have those tendencies. But at what point in our growth as believers did we get to the point where we can no longer disagree on topics of ambiguous theology?
Ambiguous Theology, what exactly do I mean by that? I mean the thoughts, doctrines, beliefs we have that are minor points simply because we aren’t given a clear cut answer in scripture. Not really liking that phrase, but I couldn’t think of anything better for now.
Take for example, Hell. Do we really have a clear picture in scripture as to the exact nature of Hell, and what it means to both the believer and non-believer? Sure, there’s a lot of common rhetoric we use about it, but do we really know the exact details and every nuance of the reality as express by our beliefs? Scripture is clear that there is a separation between the believer and non-believer. But beyond that, we have a few passages that try to give us an indication, but don’t give us a lot of details. We aren’t given a play-by-play, but more of an overall concept. And that should be okay with us. But it doesn’t seem to cut it any longer…
On a similar note is the ever present debate between predetermination and free-will. We see that both perspectives are clearly portrayed in scripture (even though both extremes of the spectrum will argue that the opposing side is misinterpreting scripture), and at times those perspectives seem to be at odds with each other. How can we resolve that? Typically the answer is to pick one or the other and yell loudly at anyone opposing your view.
But maybe we’re not supposed to “pick a side” but to be amazed at a God who is able to get, from our small human perspective, two opposing ideas to coexist simultaneously. I am convinced, as I’ve said before, that we’ve so analyzed, systematized and classified God that we’ve lost the sense of mystery and wonder of who He is.
So what happens then in all these ongoing debates? In these “majoring in the minors”?
For starters, we see the opposing views start to openly criticize their counterparts. Sometimes it starts small, and then grows exponentially. With the immediacy of todays social media outlets, it’s almost instantaneous nowadays. Then it moves from criticizing to open hostility. Then it gets to the calls of “blasphemy” and “heresy”. *sigh* Whatever happened to the idea that we are all human and prone to mistakes. None of us are perfect. And by working together, we can edify, teach, learn, build up the body of Christ for the greater good of all of us.
But instead, all we see today is things like:
- “Farewell Rob Bell”
- “There’s nothing loving about preaching a false gospel. This breaks my heart.”
- “It is unspeakably sad when those called to be ministers of the Word distort the gospel and deceive the people of God with false doctrine.”
I understand that there needs to be guidance and correction, especially of someone who teaches something that may or may not be correct. But our calling as Christians is to love one another, exhort one another, and admonish one another. Do we decide today that person X said something that I don’t agree with so I must question his faith? Even if we look over the history of certain people and find that they don’t have the same concept of salvation, heaven & hell, etc, does that mean I publicly condemn them and pronounce them apostate? I truly believe that it saddens the heart of God when we do this. And we do nothing more than make a spectacle of ourselves to the world.
Because here’s the real question: How do you know that your self-righteous view is the right one?
We have so many things that we do not have clear directions/answers on in our spiritual walk with God. The scripture is not clear on many things, especially about things that many of us have deemed as important or crucial. We can work our best over time to wrestle with those questions and dilemmas and in time we can come to certain conclusions. But in the end we have no way to know for sure. Of course that doesn’t mean we don’t stop trying to understand. But if we are honest about it, we can look back over the history of the church from ancient times, and we can see all the places in the path from the time of Christ till today where the church has made drastic mistakes in it’s beliefs and practices. But you know what? They were just as self-righteous about the validity of their beliefs as well.
- The church of the middle ages strict beliefs in a salvation of works.
- The church of the 1600′s persecuting Galileo for teaching that the earth revolved around the sun.
- Calvin’s belief in infant baptism and opposition to believers baptism.
- Luther’s belief that baptism was salvific.
Am I saying that we should just drop our defenses and listen to any version of doctrine that we want? Absolutely NOT! But I do think that we need to be mindful of how judgemental we are when someone proposes something that is outside our comfort zone. Not necessarily because we need to listen to them. But the reality is that if someone as prominent as Rob Bell can ask some really tough questions and (probably) get some of the answers wrong, then what about all the other believers who are out there today asking those same questions but don’t have a forum to express their questions and doubts? Scott McKnight said this directly in one of his blog posts about the whole Love Wins blowup:
But I’ll tell you this: Rob Bell is asking my students’ questions on that promo video and then, as you watch the video, he walks away. Rob and his people are artists, and you can read that walking away any way you want – but I’ll wait until I read that book for myself. I hope you do too.
People are asking more and more tough questions today. And more and more Christians are becoming unsatisfied with the same old answers every time because they realize that something just doesn’t sit right about the normal answer. Almost as if we’re missing the point somehow.
So do we go to our normal hangout and order the same thing each time? Do we instead go to the all-you-can-eat buffet and pick and choose only the things we really like, but ignore the things we don’t like? I really don’t know… But I think that we need to be willing to question our own beliefs, and why we believe those things. We need to be willing to listen to people who say things we don’t agree with and potentially learn something good from them, and certainly be willing to not agree with the things that we don’t agree with.
I liked the “tab” look of the original theme I picked, but there seemed to be an awful lot of wasted space in it, and I didn’t want to have to try and wrangle through someone elses code to try and figure out if I could modify it easily.
Attempt #2 was nice looking until I realized it didn’t support nested comments….
So now we are on attempt #3. Made a few small tweaks here and there but am satisified so far… At least for today! ;)
So as I’m sitting stuck at a client site waiting for a harddrive to be cloned, I got to thinking… I know, I know, a dangerous proposition sometimes…
In as few words as possible, how would you sum up what it means to you to be a Christian? What’s the most important quality to you? It you had to put it in just a few words, what would those words be? I know it can be difficult to summarize, but try it in 3 words or less. And tell us why you answer that way.
Faith? Hope? Growth? Belief?
For my non-Christian friends, I’d be curious as to what words you would use to describe Christians? Religious? Old-fashioned? Tradition?