God: Nice Thought or More?

Back in April, I was thinking about how people think and act about God. Later, I saw a commercial of a show that Morgan Freeman was narrating about who God is across cultures. Watching the promo, I noticed a pattern emerge. To many of them, God was a concept, an abstraction that made them feel good.

Is that the reason many professing Christians aren’t standing out that well in a broken world? Like the rocky soil in Mark 4:16-17, they accept the thought with joy. Did you accept Jesus with a good feeling but no real life change?

A good feeling is temporary, an intangible thought doesn’t trigger change unless it’s accepted wholeheartedly. A term going around for it is practical atheism–where someone believes in God, but behaves like there is no God. He’s just a concept to them, like charity is something that is nice.

Do you fit God into your life when you find the time?

May I be so bold as to say it should be flipped?

God isn’t a concept. He’s the sovereign creator of the universe. A nice thought doesn’t get you through life’s struggles, the emptiness, none of it. That requires something bigger than you. I was told to have faith in my darkest time. Faith is having a trust in something. A nice thought that requires something or someone.

When God arrives, what I call a Godquake happens, everything is shaken up. An overwhelming feeling occurs, your heart breaks as it feels like everything is being pulled out. Then the dirt is scraped off, the gunk poured out, and it’s put back as good as new.

God is so big that when he comes in, things get knocked over.

It can happen at church during altar calls for prayer. It can happen in your home during a really good time in prayer and praise. I don’t cry, for me to shed a tear is rare. I was raised that it wasn’t manly, a foolish thought that was conditioned in me. But I cried so hard in my office at home that I couldn’t see while singing At The Cross (Love Ran Red).

Why?

Because it’s personal, more than a nice thought. Look at the chorus:

🎶At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You
I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You
I owe all to You Jesus🎶

My life was surrendered to Jesus, I had done a great job at screwing it up. The fact that he put me back together is awesome because of why he did it. It wasn’t anything I deserved, yet he took the hit for me. Everything I had done wrong doesn’t weigh on me. Now it’s a cautionary reminder of where I came from. I truly owe all to him, he saved my life.

Yes, it’s a gift I can’t repay, and I follow him in gratitude for what was done and is being done now. It’s not like a codependent parent bailing you out again and again that you can call when needed. He picks us up, knocks off the dirt, and says follow me. 

You do follow then. Life is shaken up and you fit in his agenda rather than Jesus fitting in yours. God is the priority, so everything else is seen as a loss in comparison.

An idea cannot do that for long. Like a new toy, it’s forgotten after a while. It requires grabbing onto someone, not something. Life changes when we embrace two people, and is never the same.

Your spouse.

Your child.

With both, your dreams and priorities change. It includes them now, their needs come before yours. That’s what it’s like with a relationship with Jesus, things change.

He’s the perfect spouse, selflessly giving you what you need. Because of that, you listen and go with him wherever you go. Like it’s obvious you’re married, it should be obvious by how your life is now that Jesus is a part of it.

To see what the self-sacrificial love of God is like, look at a parent’s relationship to their kids. What would you do for your kids? What would you do to protect them?

Anything. And instruct them to stay away from things that can hurt them.

It’s the same with God. Do you know Him like that?

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What’s Holding Back Those Who’ve Thought It Through?

We’ve gotten to the final post of this series where we’ve been analyzing and answering why some people aren’t listening to the case for Christ. We’ve explored the systematic processing error that is cognitive biases, that three types of conscious unbelievers from Tim Keller’s book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism and Mark 4:15, are prone to. The types are the willfully rebellious, the unreasonable skeptic, and the willfully ignorant. The final type we’ll look at is different; they’re genuine.

8815533744_fa7fe5a687_zIt’s the person that is aware of most of, if not all, their biases. They’ve examined the evidence, dived into the philosophy, the theology, and how it fits with the world. They have come to their conclusions with well thought out reasons for not accepting it. They still consider every new piece of information that comes to light.

So, what could be stopping them?

Maybe they want a smoking gun piece of evidence. Or a voice from heaven directed to them in a public place. They could be putting their trust in science, believing that it will figure out the mysteries we have currently in the future.

There may be another reason.

Say you’ve read Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Then you watched every one of William Lane Craig’s debates on YouTube. You checked bibliographies, read opposing views by Bart Ehrman, Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. You may think the evidence for is better than the evidence against.

That leaves you with a decision to make. To accept it, or reject it. Intellectually, you accept that Jesus and God are real. All the points lead to this being true, so what happens if you accept and put your trust in Jesus as a person and not a concept alone?

What does it mean if the God the inference of the evidence matches the God of the Bible who created everything?

What does it mean when you see thousands of years of prophecies are pointing to one historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth? The same person that history records being killed by crucifixion. That there was a darkness and earthquake as recorded by an extrabiblical source. That no one can see the body of Jesus because it’s not in the tomb or an ossuary. The disciples that claimed to see him and died because of it when rejection would’ve saved them. That James and Paul, hardened skeptics, believed after seeing him after he died.

It means there must’ve been some truth to his words. That he was the Son of God here to die for you so you can have eternal life. If you accept that, what does it mean for you?

That you or any other person are an accident of nature?

Or that you have tremendous value.

God wants a relationship with you.

Your world will not be the same.

It’s the last part that worries people. If no one is an accident, then it follows that they were created for a purpose. If God the Son incarnated as a man to pay the penalty for your sins on the cross, then you must be incredibly valuable to him. So is your best friend, and your worst enemy.

If you follow Jesus and do as he says, it won’t always be rainbows and puppies. You’ll see this life as a fleeting moment in light of eternity. Because you’ve been forgiven, you’ll be called to forgive. You’ll have to let go of hate, grudges, and anger, it’s a process, and on this side of it, I can tell you it’s easier than you think.

You’ll have a new nature, and as you grow, the old you will start to flake off, exposing someone pristine underneath. Is it fear that keeps you away? Fear of the change? Or the desire to not let go of something or someone you know isn’t good for you?

In the end, it still falls to a heart issue. Do you have a heart issue? Is it due to an ‘all about me’ attitude? Maybe it’s an anger issue? What is it? Ask yourself that.

The Willfully Ignorant

We’ve been looking at the receptiveness, or lack of it, in people over the course of the past two posts. The idea came from the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:14-20. We’re looking in particular at verse 15, the conscious unbelievers.

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

To recap, we’ve looked at those who are willfully rejecting Christ, and the heart issues underneath it that are fueling their biases. Then we looked at those that reject the evidence of Christ out of hand without much consideration. This comes with it’s own set of biases.

Remember, cognitive biases are from a system error in our thought processes like memory, attention, and attribution. It’s a two-edged sword, sometimes shortcuts are necessary, like making decisions in the face of a charging lion. You don’t put much thought in that. In this post, we’re going to look where I suspect many people fall, rejection due to imitation.

It’s not much of a secret that our attention spans are shorter. The internet is a blessing and a curse. All the information is a click away, available, and you don’t have to remember it. We also don’t really think through things as thoroughly as we used to.

We collect information, mash it up, and spout it without much, if any, fact checking. Who has time for that? I have cat videos to watch on Facebook. It’s opinion by consensus.

One of the most obvious biases at play is the bandwagon effect. If you’ve heard the term, then you probably know what it means. Adopting a belief because others do. Paul quotes the Greek poet, Menander, in 1st Corinthians 15:33 when he writes, “Bad company corrupts good character.” That’s the same principle in effect with the bandwagon effect.

A bias that isn’t obvious to anyone is the blindspot bias. We see others’ biases much easier than our own. Try this, look for your own biases and find ways to counteract them. The anchoring bias is one I have to watch for. That’s why I stressed thinking like a detective in the last post.

Stereotyping is another bias; it fits a mental profile on the first impression, so the person goes with it. Blondes are dumb, people with glasses are smart (people thought that about me until I showed them my report card), and gingers have no soul. All Latinos are here illegally, black people steal, Democrats hate America, Republicans love war and want Jesus for president. It goes on and on and on. It’s pervasive.

These at the heart are blind group think. Sadly, they’re found in every group. They either haven’t vetted the information or have never been taught. Bible verses are taken out of context, without anyone looking beyond it. I run into that a lot more than I would care to. For example, loving your enemies (Matthew 5:44) ties into loving your neighbor (Luke 10:27), who your neighbor is (Luke 10:25-37), and which of the four Greek words used for love is used in those verses.

The willfully ignorant won’t go deeper than that.The Willfully Ignorant

Then it’s justified with the confirmation and selective perception biases. The last two posts covered the confirmation bias. Selective perception is allowing our expectations to influence our perceptions.  You expect the opposing sports team to cheat so you see “every infraction” and suspect the referees were bought off.

There is a saying that you’ll find what you look for. Someone cuts you off in traffic, well they’re obviously a jerk. What you may not know is that their kid was bit by a snake and they’re rushing to the ER.

Being willfully ignorant is at the heart of rejecting Christ by consensus. You have to learn about and meet him before passing judgment.  This type is the opposite of our final type that we’ll go over in the next post. In it we’ll look at those who “have their decision and these are the reasons why.” With it, we’ll close the four part series.

When Skepticism Leads to a Closed Mind

In the previous post, we looked at the cognitive biases of the mind and the underlying heart issues. Remember, a cognitive bias is a processing glitch. Jesus characterized the type we’re looking at as the “Path” or “Road” soil, nothing gets in, from Mark 4. We’re still looking at verse 15, “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

 

10757623486_cb6c4f25a9_z

The last post was about those who say, ‘I know and I don’t care’. This one is about the type that says, “it can’t be proven” or “it’s false”. It stems mostly from a rebellion of the mind, and it can get tribal. Politics is a good example of that.

 

In this issue—rejecting Christ—there are six biases in play:

The anchoring bias, going with and allowing the first piece of information to influence you. Suppose you see a link on Facebook that says Jesus is a copycat of pagan myths. Everything you see after that is shaded in that lens despite any evidence to the contrary. You dropped your mental anchor on that piece of information.

Rather than dropping anchor, be a detective, make a note of it and continue the search for evidence. Then see where it leads. Pull a piece out, see if it changes direction or is still the same conclusion. I wrote about that in Investigating Christianity. Once we fixate, the next bias tends to feed that fixation.

The confirmation bias, only listening to information that confirms our preconceptions. It’s evident everywhere in daily life. You research a car you always wanted, that brand is the best ever, despite the amount of recalls on it. Your boyfriend is so nice, he’s the one, everyone saying he’s been going behind your back is lying. A good Christian casemaker doesn’t ignore the arguments against Christianity, they evaluate them. Investigating all the evidence and coming to a reasonable conclusion is how to defeat it.

The choice-supportive bias ties into it a bit, it’s where you feel good about a choice despite its flaws. Your spouse hits you sometimes, but they’re “not that bad”. These are dangerous biases that go down to a tribal level.

It’s seen in politics a lot, where a politician you like makes decisions you wouldn’t tolerate from another, yet you still support them. This is why I don’t play in politics anymore, the blind tribalism got tiring. Where do these point? What’s the center of it?

It’s the emotional investment in select information. The stronger you feel about something, the less engaged your neocortex‒the logical part of your brain‒is. It creates an emotional blind spot. Belief is fine, but only after reasoning through all the evidence, not just a single piece.

The availability heuristic is also at play, basing a judgment on limited info that leads to poor estimates. We all should all watch for it. On a personal level, it’s when you only have a limited side of the story. On a bigger scale, it will help you if you picture a circle. That’s the world of information. Place a smaller circle inside it. That’s the information that you have in comparison. It can lead to nihilism.

The Greek philosopher Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.” Skeptics love this quote. It’s good to question. However, at a certain point, it’s reasonable to accept something when it’s beyond a reasonable doubt. Face it, we’ll always have questions.

If we don’t have questions and accept something wholeheartedly, then it may be the bandwagon effect at work. That bias is where you accept a belief because others do. Tribalism again. Do you go one way because of your friends or family? Or did you jump from one bandwagon to another?

Recency is the tendency to weigh newer information heavier than older data. The danger is that the older information was heavily evaluated and yet still stands firm. The gnostic gospels, for example, are dated later than the four in the Bible. Mark was written within 10-20 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So was Luke, it was written before he wrote Acts, which documented Paul’s travels before his execution in AD68. Look in the New International Version of the Bible, and you’ll see footnotes and sections where scholars show where different words or phrases are used, and what sections aren’t in the earliest manuscripts. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible is a very heavily evaluated book.

The core of these last three biases is decisions from limited information and peer pressure. It depends on the depth of one’s thought. We can make a claim, but it takes more work to support it with reason. Have you noticed the sliding scale of intensity, from deep to shallow. There’s a surprising depth to it.

I have two more subtypes to examine and not enough space. Next week we’ll continue with the imitator and the thinker types. My question for you is do you fall into any of these subtypes or know someone who does?

Speaking With the Stubborn

Have you ever tried to persuade someone and nothing changes their mind? You appeal to their emotions, form logical arguments, present every piece of evidence short of a video. Facebook is really bad when it comes to memes that are so easy to knock down, and when you do, nothing changes. It’s frustrating.

The answer is simple and complex. There are at least two ways to look at this. They’re obstinately hard-headed, or there are deeper issues at play. We’re going to dig. It’s important for a few reasons: first, it’ll identify our own issues; secondly, we’ll understand the person we’re talking to; and thirdly, we’ll be able to speak to them on a deeper level rather than talking at them.

Jesus taught a parable about a sower scattering seeds through a field. Some landed on the road, some in the rocks, some in the weeds, and some in the good soil. The sower is us when we talk about the Gospel and the seed is the Gospel.  We’re focusing and going deeper on verse 15 in Mark 4; “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

Tim Keller in his book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism breaks down the four soils described in the parable even further. I’m going to look at it from a different perspective, from our cognitive biases. We all have them, and even our biases have biases. If you want your brain to hurt, look them up, find yours and find a way to combat them.

What is a cognitive bias? It’s a mental system error in our thought processes like memory, attention, and attribution that affects judgment. It’s when the mind takes shortcuts to reach decisions.

They’re not the same as logical fallacies. That comes from errors in a logical argument. Logic can help in mitigating biases. However, we make too many quick decisions to think that we’re thinking logically all the time. Those decisions are generally in the lower levels of the brain. That’s not a bad thing, some decisions need to be made quickly, like when jerking the wheel of the car to avoid hitting something.

The first type of receptiveness is characterized by the hard packed road. Nothing is getting in. Tim calls those of this type the conscious unbelievers, skeptics, and rejectors of the faith. Then he breaks this group into five subtypes. We’re looking at the first subtype in this post, those in willful rebellion. Is that you?

Willful Rebellion

This type knows, or think they know, but just don’t care. In this, several biases are at play. 366927039_0a227467f4_zStarting with the Overconfidence bias–too confident in their own abilities, thinking they don’t need God. That was me at one point.

Personal Preference bias–how we perceive our actions as opposed to what we see others do. Humans are really good at rationalizing and justifying bad behavior that we wouldn’t accept from others. Yeah, been there too.

Self-Serving bias–when things are good, it’s because of our intelligence and abilities. When things are bad, though? Well…we just didn’t have control over that, it’s not our fault. Sometimes that is the case; it also means that sometimes we did mess up.

Blind Spot bias–not even seeing our biases, a scary one. This holds the others together, where while I can spot your particular biases a mile away, I can’t see my own. That’s why I issued the challenge earlier to explore and combat your biases.

These four biases, distilled to their essences, point to an underlying heart issue. They all stem from our focus on ourselves to the point we have essentially put ourselves in God’s place. Then we justify it with four more biases.

False Consensus–the overestimation of how many people agree with us. We hear it when someone says, “Well, everyone knows…” and you can probably finish the sentence. It can happen when we surround ourselves with others like us, so everyone else must be the same as our group, right? Broaden your horizons, serve and eat with the homeless, speak with the powerful, comfort the hurting, and hold a conversation with someone from a different culture.

This rolls over into the Bandwagon bias, which is essentially, “everyone else is doing it so I will too.” Whenever someone presents contradictory information, it’s ignored in favor of what we want to hear. We’re all in danger of that one, especially on the information superhighway.

The final bias for this type is Selective Perception. It’s where we allow our expectations to influence our perceptions. Think about the time someone said, ‘Of course they did that, they’re ________.’ Or how about this, are you an optimist or a pessimist?

These boiled down show our heart’s desire for justification. In this type, it’s justifying their self-centeredness. There is hope for this type, though it’s not anything that we can do other than praying for them.

Here’s why, it’s a heart issue, something at their core that needs changed. We can change minds, but we cannot change the hearts of others. While we can work on our own hearts, it’s a holding action. A better option is a heart transplant.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

We’ve seen how far it will go to hold us in place. Here’s how it can be fixed.

“And I will give them one heart [a new heart] and I will put a new spirit within them; and I will take the stony [unnaturally hardened] heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh [sensitive and responsive to the touch of their God],” Ezekiel 11:19 AMP

God is the heart surgeon that is able to help the sick in heart. Some say be true to yourself, however, what if you’re a horrible person? Should you still stay true to yourself? Or will you justify it in pseudo-spiritual language like, “God knows my heart.”

He does, and that should concern you as we’ve seen above. The only time it shouldn’t is when with your heart–the core of your being–you put your trust in and rely on Jesus. Then there will be true justification before God (Romans 10:10).

This was going to be one post on the five subtypes, but we dug so deep that for the sake of time, I’ll split it up. The next post will deal less with the heart and more with the head.

The Dangers of Giving In

Have you ever been tempted? Most likely you have, and it was probably by food. That’s a weakness of mine for sure. It can lead to more serious issues as well.

Dangers of Temptation

Giving in to it can damage your life, and relationships to God, family, and friends. A one-night stand that devastates your spouse. The impulse-buying that wrecks your finances. The fact that every addiction began with just one drink or hit. Friends are pushed away, families are broken, and if you’re a Christ-follower then your representation of Christ is damaged.

How It Starts

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:6 NIV

It was something that was available, desirable, attractive, and in the previous five verses, some pressure was involved. You can remove two of those and lessen the chances of giving in. If the pressure or availability isn’t there, then the impulse will weaken.

What’s The Harm?

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15

Lay’s Potato Chips had a slogan, “I bet you can’t just eat one”, a few years ago. You’d get hungry, 

take a bite, finish the chip, then another, and…soon the bag was empty. It’s a series of compromises, small at first, and then get easier to rationalize.

“It won’t hurt to flirt a little, nothing will come of it.”

“Just one drink, then I’m going home.”

Afterwards, you’ll learn and stop, or escalate. If you’re caught in a compromising situation, then the damage is done. I’m going to give you the secret to never getting caught.

Ready?

 

Don’t do it. Simple, huh?

Sorta.

Temptation works on our weaknesses, our addictions, the hard-to-control urges. Desserts, alcohol, shopping, porn, TV, etc. If you know your weakness, then you can put some safeguards in place.

For example, you’re married, but the new girl sure is cute, or you travel a lot and are lonely. In the first situation, avoid or and keep it professional. In the second, stay out of places where singles hang out, like clubs or bars. Travel with someone who’ll keep you accountable.

It also attacks your strengths, too. Overconfidence can lead to an overestimation of your abilities. “I’d never do that.” A lot of famous people thought that and BAM, their affairs were trending online. Pride goes before the fall.

What Do I Do?

Assess and have safeguards in place. Be accountable to someone who will call you out. Your life should be an open book to your spouse; the only thing you keep from them is what gift you got them. Do not give the accuser, Satan, a foothold.

What worked with Adam and Eve, he tried with Jesus. The difference is, it didn’t work. Jesus stood on scripture and corrected Satan’s out-of-context scripture. The thought pops in your head, “they won’t notice if I take a box of pens from the office supply closet”. Counter it with ‘thou shall not steal’. “Everyone else is doing it,” will probably follow. Personalize Romans 12:2 or Ephesians 5:11 like this:

I will not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If it gets to be more than you think you can stand, use the ‘Joseph Method’ from Genesis 39:10. Run away. Pastor Rod says to shout “I love my wife,” so they’ll never flirt with you again. Still, if the option is there, leave. You can’t fall if you’re not there.

I wrote this because we all face temptation. It doesn’t go away, even for Christians. Broken homes, divorce, jail, unemployment, those times of pleasure come with a cost. Think about this…what will you lose if you give in?

Does Your God Reflect You or Do You Reflect Your God?

It’s been said that on the seventh day, man created God, or something to that effect. I’ve seen posts on Facebook where people were talking about God’s that fit their preferences. While driving to work I had this thought, ‘does your god(s) reflect you, or do you reflect your god(s)?

How do you determine that?

  • Imagine a deity that matches your expectations. What would you want from it?

12136345784_c71e040216_zI spent hours in thought on what I would want from ‘god’. For starters, he would be one, no pantheon like the Greeks. All-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present, along with being a teacher. Admittedly, I would like there to be a double standard for me, but if you’re a really bad person…KAPOW…lightning bolt. The sick would be healed as soon as they were prayed for. If you were good then you go to heaven. If not, then annihilation of the soul, no Hell.

  • How well does your ‘god’ compare to what you actually worship?

That answers the question from the first paragraph. I sat and did a comparison. Of the seven things I wanted, only two were present in God.

God is three-in-one, three personalities of the same essence, where mine is just one personality. Both have the all-everything traits, and God is a teacher, plus more. I don’t get a free pass on the virtue of being me, either I’m facing condemnation or Christ is in my place.

Sometimes that healing I wanted him to do means you go to Heaven in the presence of God. He’s more like a Judge and Warden rather than the executioner I came up with. Fortunately for us all, salvation is faith-based by trusting in Jesus. How cruel would it be to run on a hamster wheel on the road to heaven, not realizing you’ll never get there?

  • How well does your ‘ideal god’ fit into reality?

Use the worldview questions to see how your new religion answers them.

  1. How did we get here?
  2. What is the meaning of life?
  3. What is wrong with the world?
  4. How can it be fixed?

So I answered them based on the characteristics of my ‘god’. First, everything was created from nothing (ex nihilio). The meaning of life is to be good. Then I found a problem.

What’s wrong with the world? There couldn’t be a transcendent standard since my ‘god’ isn’t of good character. The double standard means he’s flawed, there isn’t justice. It would depend on his mood.

How do we fix it? By being really good, sticking with these rules he teaches, and hoping he’s in a good mood.

He’s fairly incoherent. I wondered what kind of god I created according to J.B Phillips’ book, Your God Is Too Small. I found it on page 53 under “Projected Image”. If that’s a reflection of me as all-powerful, then I probably shouldn’t be trusted with massive amounts of power. That’s a scary God.

It also makes me think of how people construct God based on a few verses or from excluding some they don’t like. Usually saying, “I don’t believe God would…” for example. Both are tailor made and not reality.

It reminded me of a C.S Lewis quote from God In The Dock. In the essay “Answers to Questions On Christianity”, Lewis answered this question; “Which of the religions of the world gives its followers the greatest happiness?”

His answer, after repeating the question, was this:

“While it lasts, the religion of oneself is the best. I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty who has lived a life full of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it’s very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian, I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you far better, but I can’t give you any advice on it.”

Not exactly cheerful news. Consider this, why did the Pharisees (self-righteous people) and leaders (powerful and wealthy) have a hard time following Jesus?

They thought they had made the cut; it was about what they could get. The Pharisees built up thousands of rules apart from Scripture, adhering to them, rather than God’s word. Jesus even called them “sons of the devil”.

Yet, those who saw something greater than them came to Jesus in their inadequacy and brokenness. He saves those that do come to him like that, and doesn’t leave them like that. He makes them greater, what they could be, and the fact they’re saved and the chains of the past are undone brings joy.

Would a god you could fit in a box, that is up to your standards, be worthy of being worshipped or called God? Would an all powerful version of yourself be a good thing?

Think through these questions and see if you surprise yourself on who you truly follow.

Is There A Cause Out There With Your Name On It?

I love listening to Ravi Zacharias’ podcasts, Just Thinking and Let My People Think. In one podcast, he summed up his message like this, ‘pathos for your people, prioritize in prayer, pondering in proximity, the process of preparation, and the paralysis of pessimism.’ Then he closed saying do what is right, undergirded by the Gospel.

What does that even mean?

“Pathos for your people”

Pathos means compassion or pity. In the latter, we feel bad for them, but we don’t act, no matter how many infomercials are shown with sad music overlapping. It’s the former that makes you move.

Compassion sees something and shouts, “this should not be!” Then it acts. Is there anything out there that kindles those feelings?

“Prioritize in prayer”

Then you have to go to God with it. We can temporarily alleviate suffering, and unfortunately, there’s more out there that we can’t reach alone, if at all. We have to get our hearts right, check our motives, and make sure we’re not doing this on our own strength. If so, we’ll be like a match trying to fight back the darkness. A brief flame, and then nothing.

“Pondering in proximity”

Everyone seems to have an opinion on how a nation should be ran, yet, few have been in, or seen the inner workings of the government. We’re not fully informed, so we can’t see what dominoes would fall if we did this or that, let alone know how to change directions without collapsing everything.

We have to get close to what we want to change.

Get into the middle of it, talk to people on all levels of it so you can get a variety of thoughts and ideas. Understand where they’re coming from. Pastor Rod said, “Your pain is a key to your assignment from God. It can be used to minister to others”, during a sermon last month.

If it’s something you have faced, then you have the experience, so you can more readily identify with others. Then prayerfully think about it.

“The process of preparation”

You have compassion. Your heart is right. You know what’s up. That means you’re ready…right?

No.

You have to prepare for it, plan, rather than foolishly going off half-cocked. Like the time I locked my keys in the truck and wanted to smash the window. My wife wisely had me call a locksmith. Jesus spoke of preparation in Luke 14: 28-32:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”

 

There is a cost to everything you do and to be effective you have to plan accordingly.

  • What’s the plan?
  • What do you need to make it work?
  • Can you get it?
  • What are the alternatives?

All questions that must be answered.

“Paralysis of pessimism”

“It’s just too much for me, I’ll never make a difference.”

That thought can come in anywhere during the process, particularly during the planning or application phases. If you make a difference in one person’s life, and they make a difference in another’s, you’ll have started a domino effect. People usually pay it forward if they can’t pay it back.

“Doing what is right”

There are a lot of opinions on what’s the right thing to do. Some of them are wrong. Some are right. How can you tell what’s right?

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NIV

“Undergirded by the Gospel”

That’s just a good, basic way to live, but what’s the foundation? Undergird means “to give fundamental support.” In Matthew 7:24, Jesus said anyone who puts his words into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. It’s a firm foundation. The Gospel is the good news of second chances at reconciliation between God and mankind. Reconciliation is the center of it.

Jesus is the foundation that gives second chances.

Find the cause that you’re compassionate for. Is it a cause that can restore people to God primarily, and secondly restore them physically, ? Consider what it looks like at the ground level. Jesus looked at the crowds and said, ‘they’re like sheep without a shepherd.’ Helpless. Prepare for it, press forward, and go forth doing good.