Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Faith Versus Doubt by Frank Black


FAITH VERSUS DOUBT

[F. Black – June 2016]

 

            When I use the word “Faith”, what comes to your mind?  Probably your religious belief.  We’ll get to that, but you should realize that you have faith in many, many things that have nothing to do with religion.  You have faith that the sun will rise in the morning, that the lights will come on when you flip the switch, that your car will start, and so many other things.  Faith is the belief that something is true and will happen.

            I ride my bicycle for exercise. I think an example of absolute faith is my faith in drivers - that they will see me and steer away from me.  If the driver’s attention wavers, I would be at the mercy of their two ton vehicle.  When you drive, you have faith that others on the road will stay in their lanes, etc.  [Actually, I’m always amazed that there aren’t many more accidents].

            I’m just trying to get your thoughts on faith broadened a bit.  It’s true that everyone has faith in something outside themselves. Even atheists have a belief [a faith] in the fact that for them there is no overarching power [no God] in their world. 

            If you have belief [faith] in something, have you ever had events happen or something that caused you to begin to doubt that your belief was correct.  Of course you have.  Well, the same can be true for your religious belief.  Have you ever begun to have doubts about “the whole religious thing”?  Come on, now.  I have.  Have you wondered how all the events have happened on planet Earth and how a God could actually have created all this?  Again, I have.  The question then arises, “Is it wrong to doubt”?  No; a resounding NO!  So, what do you do when doubts arise?  I say ATTACK!  What do I mean by ‘attack’?: look to the real, historical Jesus who prayed earnestly to His Father God; talk to other strong Christians; read articles/books by people who have worked through doubts [John Clayton, C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and others]; tell God of your doubts as you pray for what to do; and relax as some time passes.  Don’t worry; our God is greater than any challenge and understands your doubting. By working through your doubts I can guarantee that your faith will end up being stronger!  And by the way, doubts will keep arising over time.  They are not a “one and done” phenomenon.  Don’t be surprised, and be ready for them.  Remember; ATTACK !!

 

            I’m going to present some different definitions, thoughts, or stories about “Faith”:

·        Of course Hebrews 11 is the best known Biblical definition.  I like the way J.B. Phillips renders it in his version:  “Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for; it means being certain of things we cannot see.”

·        “Faith looks at God; unbelief looks at obstacles.”

·        “Faith is NOT having all the answers.”

·        “Faith is holding onto uncertainties with passionate conviction.” – Kierkegaard

·        “Faith is NOT the absence of doubts.”

·        “Faith is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” – Yancey

·        Luke 17:5 – “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’.”  We should offer the same in prayer. 

·        “Faith is a ‘process word’; it should motivate us to action.” – York

·        Jesus blesses us in John 20:29:    “….blessed are those who have NOT seen and yet have believed.” [Jesus didn’t denounce Thomas for doubt]

·        A favorite story of mine:

      “Legend has it that a man was lost in the desert and dying for a drink of water.  He stumbled upon an old, deserted, ram shackled shack.  In it he found just a bit of shade from the desert sun.  As he looked around, he saw an old rusty, water pump.  He crawled over to it and began to pump up and down.  Nothing came out.

He struggled back to the shade.  Then he noticed an old jug off to the side.  He dusted it off and found an attached note that read, ‘You have to prime the pump with all the water in the jug my friend, and then you’ll get all you want. P.S.  Be sure you fill the jug again before you leave.’ 

He popped the cork and sure enough there was water.  Suddenly he was faced with a decision. If he drank the water, he could live.  Ah, but if he poured the water in the old pump, maybe it would yield all the water he wanted.  What should he do?  Pour the water in the pump and take the chance of getting fresh water or drink the water in the jug and ignore the message?  

Reluctantly he poured all the water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle and began to pump …. Squeak ……. Squeak ……Squeak  – Nothing came out.  Squeak ….. Squeak  -- a little water dribbled out, then a small stream, and finally it gushed!  He drank his fill of the cool, fresh, life-saving water. 

Then he filled the jug to the brim for the next traveler, put the cork on, and left a note:  ‘Believe me; it really works. You have to give it all away before you can get anything back’.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My Only Hope by Mike DeCamp


My Only Hope

Some items of background:  1)  I carry around an I-Phone.   2)  At home, I have a Mac computer.  3)  Apple automatically transferred the Mac I-tunes to my I-Phone—much of it having been my girls’ collection from their teen years, and often not my taste.  4)  I have Bluetooth in my car.  5) Recently, my I-Tunes started playing automatically when I start my car—a fact that I find rather frustrating.

Earlier this spring, I went through what my wife likes to call a “period of disenchantment.”  It wasn’t deep enough to be depression, but I was in a consistent state of being discouraged.  Many of you know that I have written a novel, and I had been looking for a literary agent for several months—I have a collection of rejection emails.  My job had been seeing some difficult issues.  The eldership had been frustrating in some ways, and I didn’t believe that I was doing a good job.  To top it all off, I was struggling with my own internal spiritual battles.  Doubts about myself.  Doubts about God.  Struggles with keeping my mind pure.  And, let’s be clear—if you are struggling with keeping your mind pure, that means that you are sometimes FAILING.  Think about this—impure thoughts often lead to bad decisions—‘nuff said.

All this leads up to Saturday morning, April 23rd.  I was driving to the North Central Church of Christ to attend ElderLink—and I just did NOT want to be there.  Oh, sure, this was a great event with great speakers.  Church leaders from across the Midwest were planning to be there.  It was a chance to meet new people and to learn new things.  Normally, I’d be all over it with excitement.  Not this day.  Nope.  I was deeply “disenchanted” instead.  Frankly, I had just exited one of those periods of struggle with my mind, and I was feeling quite guilty.  But, I was going.

All the way there, I was praying.  I was apologizing to God, and I was lamenting my struggles.  In essence, I was pouring out my soul.  I was hurting way down deep, inside.  As I turned into the driveway at North Central, I was telling God, “I don’t want to be here.  I’ll have to put on a face and act all happy, but you and I know that I’m a mess.” 

I sat in the parking lot for a while, continuing to pray and not feeling any better.  I watched as Randy Harris, Carson Reed, and Robert Oglesby drove up, got out, and walked in.  I was still struggling in prayer and not feeling one bit better.

The car was running.  I was praying, but drawing it to a close as I steeled myself to put on that happy fa├žade.  Finally, I grabbed my I-Phone, and said one last thing:  “Help me, God.  Please help me.”  After that, I shut off the car and opened the door. 

Then, my phone did something it had never done before.  As I held it in my hand, it started singing to me.

“What in the world?” I said out loud.  However, instead of looking for the silence button, I decided that if it was going to randomly sing to me—well, maybe I better listen.

You guessed it.  It was singing a song that one of my girls had downloaded years before on the Mac.  As crazy as this may sound, I am so glad I listened.  The song that my phone began to randomly play was “Only Hope,” written by Switchfoot and performed by MandyMoore.  The lyrics are just what I needed—at just the right moment—right after I’d just asked God to help me.  Here are some of the lyrics:

There’s a song that’s inside of my soul

It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and

Over again

I’m awake in the infinite cold

But you sing to me over and over and over

Again

 

So I lay my head back down

And I lift my hands

And pray to be only yours

I pray to be only yours

I know now you’re my only hope

 

Sing to me the song of the stars

Of your galaxy dancing and laughing

And laughing again

When it feels like my dreams are so far

Sing to me of the plans that you have for

Me over again

~

So I lay my head back down

And I lift my hands and pray

To be only yours

I pray to be only yours

I pray to be only yours

I know now you’re my only hope

 

At that moment, my heart turned.  I was still hurting inside, but now I was ready to listen to God, and I was ready to go into the event, to see people, to listen to the messages.  I was ready to hope again.

You can write this off as a crazy coincidence, but it sure felt like God meant for me to hear that message at that exact moment.  That’s what I’m going with.  Oh, and by the way, I got my literary agent that very night.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Who is Packing Your Parachute? by Clint Davis

I recently traveled on a business trip for meetings at our regional office in Minneapolis, MN.  I always try to use the time between my meetings to meet people who I interact with via the phone or email so I can make a personal connection.  It is always easier to work with someone you know personally.  Late one afternoon, I decided to go down and meet the facilities services coordinator.  His name is Lee Vang.  We had only spoken on the phone once or twice and exchanged a few emails.  From the moment I met him, I liked him.  He had a very welcoming and genuine personality.  Lee has a slender build, black hair and is about 5’3” and he speaks with a strong accent.  Over the course of our conversation, I found out that he was from South Vietnam.  His father had worked for the American CIA as a mine sweeper.  When he was just 7 years old, his mother was killed in a night time mortar attack by the Viet Cong.  When he was 9, his father was killed by a mine.  A few years later, when he was 11 years old, the United States made the decision to withdraw from Vietnam.  Lee was on a helicopter ready to be airlifted out of Saigon when his Uncle asked him to give up his seat for some other younger children to be saved.  When all the helicopters had gone and the North Vietnamese army came into the south, Lee soon realized that he had a decision to make.   If he stayed in Saigon, being the son of someone who had worked for the CIA would most likely subject him to being sent to a reeducation camp in Hanoi.  (Years later over half of the people sent to these re-education camps would never return.)  Lee decided to flee into the jungle.  After surviving for two years, he made his way to Cambodia where he lived in a refugee camp.  While he was there, he got the news that a Mennonite family from the United States would sponsor him to come live with them in Nebraska.  After being raised in their home and struggling to learn English, he would work several different jobs when the family sent him to Minnesota to get his college education.  Upon graduation, he started working for our company in Minneapolis and has been with the company now for over 26 years.  Lee and his wife have raised three boys.  His life is truly an American success story.
 
When Lee escaped South Vietnam, I was in the third grade at Edgewood Elementary School on the south side of Indianapolis.  My biggest worries were missing the school bus or forgetting my lunch money.  Years later when I was at Harding University, I would hear Captain Charlie Plumb tell his story about his experience in Vietnam. Born in Indiana he would attend the Naval Academy and became a fighter pilot.  He had flown 74 successful missions over Vietnam and had just five days left before he headed home, when on his 75th mission he was shot down.  He would spend the next six years in various North Vietnamese prisoner camps. Suffering brutal torture and near certain death he would survive to make it back home.  Some time later, Plumb would meet the man who packed his parachute that saved his life many years before. Today, when Captain Plumb engages the people he meets, he asks them "Who is packing your parachute?" Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb states that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory - he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these before reaching safety.

Who is blessing your life today?  Are you blessing the lives of others around you?  Many times in our day to day routines and as we face rough times, we miss out on what really is important.  We may fail to say thank you or hello, or please, or congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through today, this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes.  Remember who is blessing you and share those blessings with others.

I John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love.