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Hitting the Faith Puck!

Paul McMullen —  January 26, 2017 — 9 Comments


Last week, I began this series of blogs concerning the interplay between doubt & faith. Can the two co-exist? Are they antithetical to each other? This week I’ll be introducing a book we’ll use to spur some thoughts on the subject.

Gregory Boyd, in his recent book Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, has a lot to say about faith and doubt. In the introduction , Boyd points out that for a lot of Christian people, faith is seen as our level of certainty regarding what we believe. And for many of us, a lot is riding on our level of certainty. God’s response to our prayers, how blessed our life is, and even our very salvation can all be tied to the certainty of what we believe. For example, if we pray for someone to be healed and they aren’t, what does that mean about our faith? Does it mean that we didn’t feel certain enough that God would really answer our prayer? If only we had greater faith (faith = more certainty), then God would have given what we asked for. Right?

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Doubt & Faith

Paul McMullen —  January 20, 2017 — 9 Comments


As I lay there looking up at the ceiling, I reached out my hand into the darkness and cried out on the inside, “If you’re there, won’t you let me know?” I spoke to God, whose existence I was uncertain of. I often laid awake at night, wrestling with doubt, wondering if he was there, wondering why he made it so hard to believe.

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Isaiah’s prophecies are popular because they address people who feel like they are living in the wilderness — a dry parched land where we wait for God to do something, to change things. And God does something indeed: he shows up in the wilderness with us, and something happens…

Listen to the message here.

Sail Boat

I had a conversation with a mentor and teacher of mine – Monte Cox – a few years ago that keeps coming up in my mind.

Monte shared with me some teaching he had developed about the Holy Spirit and spiritual formation.

He likened spiritual formation in the Holy Spirit to sailing a boat.

Our role in spiritual formation is simply to raise the sails and catch the wind of the Spirit. The key question then is what does it look like to “raise the sails” and be carried along by the Spirit to become more like Jesus?

Monte shared five different ways to raise the sails, but one of them stuck out to me the most.

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I’m not on Facebook, so I’m spared the worst, but we’re all aware that people get pretty vehement during election cycles. And this one seems to be more polarizing than most. Those of us who avoid social media are still bombarded with constant news and opinions from the variety of sources in our culture. I admit to having the regular habit of checking the top news sites, and I can’t remember the last time I really felt better after having done so.

There seems to be so little of the Gospel in any of it. The Gospel, Christian’s defining narrative of God who created, who made himself known, who became one of us to share good news, who was killed, buried, and raised to break the bonds of sin and death, who sent His Spirit to carry on his mission, who is making all things new and who will bring justice to the world. This story that Christians call their own is not the one that makes the front page.

We are living, instead, in the story of a country that takes sides, that demonizes the other, where each side claims the ability to save. We are living in a story where Christians join in the polarization and perhaps look down our noses at those who disagree. In short, we are living in a bad news story – bad news endlessly repeated through the marvel of modern communication. A marvel which runs on bad news with a hunger than cannot be consumed. And many of us feed on this story every day.

So how does a Christian be a Christian during an election cycle? I spoke recently with some friends who are fasting from media for a time. They report feeling more at peace, and their ignorance of today’s top stories has not kept them from living well. In fact, their ignorance may be helping them live well. One wonders, is the human heart really made to receive bad news on a daily basis? I think that each life has just about enough troubles of its own, rather than having to stack on the worries of the world on top.

Is this suggestion equivalent to sticking our heads in the sand and not confronting the issues of our day? Well, I suppose it depends. Are we walking in the community of our church? If so, are we loving and serving our community and confronting its challenges? Are we connected to our neighbors? Are we confronting the problems and challenges of our neighborhoods as they arise? Do we know what problems our neighbors are facing? Are we involved in the lives of our co-workers? Do we confront the issues they and our workplace face with love and wisdom? I could go on to speak of our cities and counties and states; but really, aren’t we already getting a little big for our britches? You see, it all depends on which issues we’re talking about.

What if, instead of having our heads out of the sand in regard to the bad news fed to us via CNN and Facebook, we took our heads out of the sand in regard to the lives of the people God has put us around? Perhaps there are enough problems to confront right in front us. Perhaps there is also life and joy in growing to know and love and serve the people around us.

Let me suggest a fast during these next two months. Why not limit our exposure to the bad news cycle wherever we come into contact with it? I’m not saying I won’t watch the next few Presidential debates, but I can avoid my daily check ins to the various news websites. In place of that, let’s commit to paying closer attention to our families, our neighbors, and our co-workers and schoolmates, and to the issues they are facing. Let’s raise our heads from our phones and have the courage to ask our neighbor how things are going. Let’s pray that God uses us as a conduit of His Good News story on their behalf.

I readily admit that there are valid reasons to be involved in macro-level issues, but I hope this stimulates some thought about what most grabs our emotional energy. So please add to the discussion and share your thoughts about living well during this season.