Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What are YOU insecure about?

I'm currently sitting in a school board meeting and it is interesting to see the process of people approaching the board and presenting their concerns. They say that the greatest fear for people is public speaking. I can see this in the trembling hands and voices of those approaching the microphone, yet I'm impressed with each of these people for facing their fears and embracing the opportunity to speak in this public setting. I'm especially impressed with those whose speaking skills are lacking as their act is all the more courageous.

It got me to thinking though about why public speaking is so scary.  The best thing that I came up with is that we are terrified about what people will think of us.  Ultimately, the fear of doing anything public is rooted in our own insecurities.  What is interesting is all of us are insecure but we live in a society that frowns upon that.  We worship those who appear strong and confident, insecure about nothing.  As a result we hide our insecurities at all costs, trying desperately to hide from the world who we really are.  The sad thing in all of this is that our insecurities are what make us most alike.  They are the most real things about us, yet we hide them.  Essentially, holding back the very things that could and would unite us the most. 

When we assume we are the only ones that feel the way we feel and we are kidding ourselves.  That is why our favorite forms of comedy often focus on those awkward moments we can all relate to.  It resonates with us because we all know the feeling.

I've decided I want to connect with my fellow human beings and as a result this will require that I become much more vulnerable.  I'm insecure in that I really like to be liked.  I have a hard time accepting the idea that someone might not like me and I have a tendency to act in different ways around different people so as to increase the my chances of being liked.  Most of the time I don't feel qualified to do any of the tasks that I take on but I don't want others to know that, I want to appear squared away so I don't like asking for help.  Just ask my neighbor who had to help me with the mess I made of trying to install my water softener.

Sometimes I will ask one of those fishing questions, where you ask a question where the indirect intent is to seek some sort of affirmation.  I'm also insecure in the idea that perhaps my wife will not be impressed with me or that now that she knows me well might second guess her decision to be with me.  She's done nothing to cause this, it's just my own private insecurity.  I'm also very concerned about being a good enough father to my kids.  I fear I lack the wisdom to guide them during their teenage years.  Why?  I don't know....It's just a fear of mine.  Why am I sharing this?  Really, its just to practice being real.  And to be honest, that really wasn't that bad.  Actually, it felt kinda good.

Hmmm, interesting.  So, how bout you?  What are you insecure about? 

P.S.  I'm also very insecure about my speling.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

The First Endorsement Is In!

I'd like to say a big thank you to Chris McGuire, who is the Area Director for Young Life in the Burbank, CA area. After having an opportunity to read the pre-edited version of the manuscript he had this to say about What If God Is Like This?:

"In my almost 20 years of ministry and following the Lord I have come to realize how few answers I truly have about God.  In fact, I now recognize that I have many more questions than I have answers.  Many times I don't even realize I have those questions; I just know that my heart longs for more.  This book does a phenomenal job at getting to those questions and peeling away the layers to get at truth."
 
Chris McGuire
Area Director, Burbank Young Life


Thanks a ton Chris!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Update!!

Greetings all,

Just a little update on What If God Is Like This? Everything is moving along on schedule and we are still looking for a release date in the next 3 to 5 weeks. Just a reminder that this is the last week to preorder a copy at the current discounted price as the publisher will be raising the price next Saturday.

Thanks for all of you who have already made purchases!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What We "Deserve."

For a while now I've become very aware of the word "deserve" in our culture. I turn on the TV or the radio and I hear on commercials that I "deserve" a vacation or a new car or a well made hamburger. I'm really starting to become concerned about our use of this word. It sure seems to be thrown around a lot and I'm afraid our culture is starting to buy into it. This is becoming especially true of our younger generations. We have become an affluent nation, so much so that even those of us who fall into below average incomes still experience levels of comfort that surpass that of royalty in previous times. In the past kings and queens would ride in carriages while today most everyone travels much greater distances in much shorter times in automobiles.  People used to wait months, even years for messages while we pick up a cell phone and communicate immediately. 

I'm not suggesting that we stop striving for a better life for all, but in order to fully appreciate that life, we can't feel as if we "deserve" it.  The moment one feels they deserve something is the moment one loses the ability to be thankful for that very thing.  Those who came before us worked very hard for us to have what we have today.  If anyone deserves the luxuries of today it is the generations of yesterday who laid the foundation for us.  Since they aren't here, to enjoy the fruit of their labor, lets at least not act like we somehow deserve what they sacrificed to give us.  The only reason we have what we have is because we were lucky enough to be born where we were born.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What If The Story of Adam and Eve isn't About The First Man And Woman?

Hopefully I won't get too much hate mail for this one :)

Since I was a child in Sunday School I've been taught the story of Adam and Eve. That famous account documented in Genesis that chronicles the fall of man through the failure to resist the temptation to eat from a mysterious tree. From the time I can remember, this tree has always fascinated me. Mainly because I was mad at Adam and Eve for eating from it and spoiling everything for the rest of us.

The last few years I've been revisiting this story and as an adult I tend to look at things a little differently. For much of my life I never took the time to examine the possibilities that would present themselves if the story was looked at from a symbolic perspective.

So, what if it is? What if this story really is symbolism? I find it interesting that Adam and Eve were "sinless" until they gained the knowledge of good and evil. After all the only criteria given was not to eat of the tree. So would this mean that prior to eating of the tree they could have done things that would be considered sinful and not been held accountable for it? If Eve got mad at Adam and slapped him would things have still been okay as they had not yet eaten from the tree?

It really goes back to the age old question of whether someone can sin if they honestly don't know that what they are doing is a sin. In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul makes some interesting points about the relationship between knowledge and sin. He says in verse 7 that he would have never been aware of sin were it not for the "law" which is essentially, God's rules for living. He then uses coveting as an example. He says that he would not have known what coveting was were  it not for the law.  Once he learned through the law that coveting was wrong, he began to covet like crazy.  He actually states: "Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died."  (Romans 7:9 NIV)   Essentially, he was alive until he came to the knowledge of sin, then once he became aware, that knowledge led to his spiritual death.  Does that sound at all familiar?

Clearly the significance of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not for nourishment but for knowledge.  What gives us a greater understanding of the knowledge of good and evil than the "law?"  Is it possible that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil actually represents the law? 

Think about it, Adam and Eve begin completely innocent of right and wrong.  They honestly don't know the difference.  They even run around naked and think nothing of it, then they become aware of right and wrong and "die."  Sin takes the opportunity through their new knowledge and "kills them."  Why do they die?  They die because now they are fully accountable for their actions.  They are no longer innocent, they know the difference between right and wrong so when they choose wrong, they are left without an excuse. 

Now, compare that to each of us.  You may have heard it said that what is cute at 4 is not cute at 14.  When a child throws a tantrum we are not as critical due to the child's innocence.  But when an adult throws one, we are much more disturbed because the adult should "know" better.  In essence, the story of Adam and Eve isn't just the story of the first man and woman, it is the story of every man and woman.  We all begin our lives naked and innocent and as we grow older we begin to take bites of that tree of knowledge of good and evil and the more we learn about right and wrong the more accountable we become for our decisions.  When we choose evil our consciences are slain as we know some things are wrong yet choose them anyway. 

I guess I can't really get mad and Adam and Eve anymore because their story is really my own.     

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Would Most Christians be "Christians" If Heaven and Hell didn't exist?

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if heaven and hell weren't realities?  How many people would live the wildest lives possible if heaven and hell didn't exist?   Obviously, most Christians believe in a heaven and hell, but if a great deal of us were honest, we wouldn't live this "sacrificial" life if we didn't have the reward of heaven or the fear of hell.  Think about it.  How authentic is the "Christian" life of sacrificial love if the true motivator is just to avoid "hell" or just get into "heaven?" 

That doesn't seem very genuine.  How legitimate can our faith actually be when it is coerced by the threat of an eternal punishment or the reward of everlasting paradise?  The true person is revealed when we no longer have a threat to fear or a reward to strive for.  The fact is, most people would not necessarily live the life Christ presents if they didn't have some sort of motivation to avoid the worst or gain the best.  Perhaps this is why the road to heaven is "narrow." 

The true "follower" of Christ is the one that would follow even if heaven and hell didn't exist.  Honestly, if this life is so great, should it need a reward or punishment for not following?  Why would anyone do this?

As parents we teach our children to live a certain way.  Don't lie, cheat, steal, etc....  Now, most children will only obey their parents under the pretense that their parents will either reward them for their obedience or punish them for the lack thereof.  As the child gets older, the child will begin to recognize that the best way to really live is not to lie, cheat and steal.  As a result the child will begin to avoid these things simply because the child now realizes through maturity that this is the best way to live.  The child now begins to live the life the parents have taught them, not due to fear of punishment or desire for reward., but because they recognize the intrinsic benefits. At this point the child will move from being "obedient" to the parent to being "like" the parent. 

In the same way, when we learn that the life of love taught by Christ is really the best way to live, we will move from being "obedient" to Christ to actually being "Christ like."   When Christians learn to love simply because love is the best way to live rather than to avoid hell or gain heaven, then we will finally have attained the standard that Christ came to demonstrate for us. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 We Swore We Would Never Forget......But Did We?

As we remember the 13 year anniversary of the Septebmer 11th attacks, naturally one does a lot of reflecting on the events of that day. Where was I, how did I first learn about it etc.. In the weeks and months after, we swore that we were a changed people and that we would never forget what happened, and for the most part, we have succeeded, I believe we have done a pretty good job of remembering "what happened" but do we remember how it changed us? Remember how nice everybody was to each other for the next few weeks? For a brief moment in time we didn't scream at the guy that cut us off in traffic, we slowed down and valued what really mattered. Everybody seemed to have this desire to help each other even if it was just to give up a seat on the bus. It was quite beautiful actually, but what happened? Where did that go? Honestly, wouldn't that be the greatest way to honor the heroics and sacrifices made, to forever live our lives changed? Oh, yes, we remember the events, but I'm afraid we have forgotten the most important thing, we've forgotten how it changed us ever so briefly, how for a few weeks we weren't Republicans and Democrats, black or white, rich or poor, for a while we were just people and we treated each other with dignity.

I'm afraid we remember the planes and the lives lost but in the hustle and bustle of life we have forgotten ourselves.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What If We Ignored the Miracles?

I was talking to a friend the other day who mentioned that the miracles of Christ had been a distraction to him for most of his life.  He couldn't believe that anyone ever walked on water or calmed storms or rose from the dead.  As a result, he never really looked farther into this historical character who had such an affect on the world.  After all, how believable could any of the rest stories be if some of the most popular stories about this man were so unrealistic? 

Buddha was said to have walked on water, Mohammad ascended into heaven on his horse.  As Christians we feel that those ideas are preposterous until they are applied to Christ.  When we consider Christ walking on water or ascending into heaven, then it becomes very "believable" for us.  But what about for everybody else?  What are they to think?

The fact is, every religion has their miracles, and all of them have miracles that can compete with the miracles of Christianity.  But, the one thing that I think really sets Christianity apart are the teachings of Christ.  If we were to take the miracles out of every religion, all that would be left would be the teachings.  I have a hard time comparing the miracles of Christianity with the miracles of any other religion, but I have no problem comparing the teachings of Christ with the teachings of anybody who has ever lived.  Who can compete with unconditional love?  Who can beat the idea of loving your enemies or unconditional forgiveness?  The fact is Jesus was way more amazing for what He taught and the way He loved than he was for His miracles.  It should be the power of the teachings that validate the miracles rather than the other way around. 

In fact, in my mind, the most amazing miracle of all was His love.  Who can beat that?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Life Lessons from Bowling

After almost 13 and a half years of marriage, I finally beat my wife at bowling.  Yet, the satisfaction I feel is still curbed by the fact that I wasn't able to beat her at her best.  See, when we first started dating and what not, I would "let" her win because I just figured that was the polite thing for a young man to do while trying to win the heart of a fair maiden.  Little did I know at the time, I wasn't really letting her win at all......she was just beating me.  It wasn't until we had been married a couple years that I figured it was time to go ahead and drop the gloves to show her the fullness of my bowling skills.  Only then did I learn that I really am a terrible bowler.  Tonight in the first game she nearly tore her entire thumb nail off on her third attempt.  Even still she beat me two games.  The third game her hand was hurting so bad that she suggested we all try to bowl left handed.........only then did I finally win..........somehow it doesn't feel like a true victory. 

Thankfully, I'm the sort of guy that only needs some perspective to help him enjoy life more.  If I get the wrong order at a restaurant I try to think about all the people in the world who don't have the luxury of having so much food the order can be wrong.  Tonight, as I was pouting over my bowling inferiority, I went to use the restroom and noticed two pairs of shoes from under the toilet stall that were facing the same direction and standing in very close proximity to each other.  From the muffled noises I was hearing it was clear that someone was having a very hard time in there.  I went about my normal business and shortly after I left a young man and women came out of the restroom together giggling.  As they returned to their group they were greeted with cheers and laughter.  That's when it hit me.  Here I am pouting about a bowling game when this poor chap can't even go to the bathroom by himself without the help of his girlfriend.  What a sad state for this poor guy and what a selfless young lady that would sacrifice her pride as to enter the men’s room to be a helper.  The idea of people helping each other is really quite beautiful isn’t it?  I immediately felt extremely sorry for him and realized that if my biggest problem tonight is that I can't win a bowling game then my life is pretty good.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Huge Thanks!

I wanted to take a second and thank everybody for the interest and support you all have expressed reference this book project! The pre-orders for What If God Is Like This? have been extremely encouraging! For those of you who are still interested in a copy remember the discounted price of $17.95 will still be available until Sept 30th before the publisher raises the price to it's set amount of $21.95.

Thank you all! To be completely honest with you, promoting my own project is rather awkward for me but with all the feedback I'm getting it is becoming clear that a lot of us share the same thoughts, questions, and fears. Its exciting to see how inter-connected we all are in that regard. I also hope you all will feel free to use this blog to share your thoughts and feelings as well. I don't want this to just be a place for only me to vent but a place where we all can learn for each other!