Christian Living

The thread

“It’s like I’m hanging onto my faith by a thread. I just don’t know what to do anymore.” 

It’s a powerful image, isn’t it? A hand desperately clinging to a tiny thread connecting him to the Eternal. A weary hand outstretched, tearful eyes, and a gravitational pull towards a threadless life.

When someone says that to me I wonder if their soul is literally dangling over a faithless abyss separating them from the faithful life they know? Are they really thinking that the afterlife in hell, separated from God, would be better than the hell they are living in the present? Maybe. Sometimes. Yes.

Most often, pain or frustration brings them to this place. Maybe they suddenly lost a loved one? Or maybe their vocational dreams just evaporated? Or maybe their marriage is over? Or maybe they just can’t stand their church anymore?

The circumstances, there are always circumstances, are what has pushed them to this place.

Whatever it is– it brings them to the edge of their faith. A person says that phrase, “I’m hanging on by a thread” as a warning. They are really saying… “I’m thinking of letting go of my faith.

I know that because I’ve been there. Too many sorrows, too much crap, too much annoyance has pushed me dangling over that abyss more times than I’d care to admit. Hanging there by a thread the most honest thought in my mind is– “I just don’t need this anymore.

Want to know a secret? 

In my experience, it takes letting go of that last stupid thread of faith to find faith.

That’s my sympathetic advice to friends who say that to me. Let go of the thread. To paraphrase Alice in Wonderland, let’s see where this rabbit trail goes.

It’s positively illogical, isn’t it? Sometimes in order to find faith you need to let go of faith. But that’s exactly how it works.

When you let go, when you fall down the abyss and land at the bottom. There a new reality emerges for you. Your journey might reveal that the thread you were holding onto wasn’t even faith in God at all. Maybe it was faith in your job? (Or your faith WAS your job) Maybe that thread was tied to an abusive organization or person? Maybe that thread was tied to your family history? Or your child-like dreams? Or you never really asked yourself what your faith was because you just got so busy being a faithful person you never took the time to discover who you actually had faith in?

And the crazy thing is that in that abyss of letting go– God is still there. He is still faithful. He is still good. He will find you. And you might just find a brand new faith.

So that’s my advice. Just let go. 

Discover just how omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God really is. I’m not saying put Him to the test. I’m saying put you to the test. 

My experience has shown me time and time again: When I let go of the thread of faith I’m holding onto, I discover newfound freedom in faith I never knew existed.

Photo credit: Stephen Montgomery via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Church Leadership

Why Christianity Works

On my trip up the West Coast we’ve been meeting with youth workers in a variety of settings and a wide variety of types of youth ministries. And in those conversations we talk about what’s going on in their ministry, what they are teaching, what’s working, and what isn’t.

Now, youth workers love people. And they don’t just want to talk about themselves– so invariably they in turn ask me the same types of questions.

Here is one thing that has stimulated our high schoolers thoughts lately. This video actually covers the last month of our teaching in just 3 minutes.

A funny sidenote. As I’ve talked about before, our high school ministry is working hard to not just talk about Good News but to literally be good news to the students in our ministry. All of our core kids have limited church background. And every week God reveals a new way we need to be good news in order for the gospel to be Good News in their lives.

So, last week we taught the third portion of this video– that Jesus came to make a way to restore our hearts as well as the world around us.

In our small group time I gave an example from my own life about what it would look like if the Gospel penetrated into the way I think about being a dad compared to the way that I was brought up. A few of my students were really tracking with that because there is something within them that wants to be better fathers to their future kids than they’ve experienced.

As one of my kids got it, he blurted out “It’s good that God sent Jesus so we could be part of making things better. If he had just left us in that other mess, that’d be bulls**t.

I kind of laughed when he said it. As a churchified person I was a little uncomfortable with how he put it. But I was also appreciative that God had just illuminated a deep truth about Himself in this young mans heart. I looked at him with a big grin… “I think that’s good, too. God’s no bullsh**ter. That’s why we call it Good News.”


It’s your turn to go to Haiti

My trip to Haiti was two-fold.

  1. To serve the Haitian church. Each day of our trip was spent meeting with local pastors, meeting their people, and assessing/serving their needs. As I wrote about on the YS blog, “Jesus is the one feeding the people in Haiti.” As I documented over and over again, I was able to help be the hands and feet of Jesus– even though I have no special skills for disaster relief. God used my inability to show off his abilities.
  2. To mobilize you. Let’s face it, now that the film crews are rolling out of Port-au-Prince you are starting to forget about the need. While the disaster of January 12th fades into your memory banks, distracted by the Winter Olympics and testimony of Toyota’s president— 750,000 people are living in the open with no shelter, no regular source of food, and no clean water. They desperately need people like you to come to their aid.

You witnessed my trip. I laid bare my anxieties and fears as I prepared. I documented my every day of the journey. And you’ve seen that I’m just a regular guy who went to Haiti to be the hands and feet of Jesus– and I came back safe and sound.

I wasn’t traumatized. I wasn’t under-utilized. I wasn’t in harms way. I wasn’t in the way of “professionals.” And the place certainly isn’t crawling with American relief organizations or morbid tourists.

Am I saying that God is calling every person to go to Haiti to serve? Of course not.

But I am reminding many of my readers what they already know: If the Holy Spirit is prompting you to go, and you are finding reason not to go… you may need to toss aside those excuses and lean into what God is calling you to do!

Find an organization and go. Soon. The need is getting greater, not less.

hmm... thoughts Social Action

The Bible is Dangerous, But are You?

This message by Francis Chan will mess with you.

A trip to a third world country, in my case Haiti, will show you just how much syncretism we practice in America.

Here are some of the gods we mix with our faith.
– The safety god
– The comfort god
– The performance god
– The money god
– The staff god
– The building god
– The schedule god

I don’t point those things out to bring judgement on anyone. In fact, these are my gods, too. As I’m re-entering my culture I need to wrestle with these gods in light of the teachings of Moses in Deuteronomy.

The thing that God (the real God!) kept hitting me over the head with while in Haiti is that I live a life of dependency and faith avoidance. Before the trip, as I wrote about, I felt like God was calling me out and asking if I truly believed the things I told people I believed in.

I hope I lived up to the challenge.

And it turns out, coming home presents a new challenge of faith.

As Francis points out in this message, dangerous things could happen if we would just be obedient to what God teaches us in the Bible. Our faith can change things. But so much of that is conditional on whether or not the people are lifting God up above these false gods.

The fact is that believing the Bible is actually true is a step of faith.

But putting your complete faith in Christ and living as though the things of the Bible will happen in your midst… now that is dangerous.

The reality I am trying to reconcile is that I know God is calling me to live a dangerous life. But the life I know isn’t all that dangerous.

hmm... thoughts

Desert Questions

Sports Video Clip


HT to Andy

Culture hmm... thoughts illustrations

Finding culture from within four walls

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the culture we live in as well as how we discover the culture we live in. Some of it comes from observation, some of it we naturally pick up without noticing it, but a lot of our culture comes from outside.

Think about the cultural things you pick up at a camp or even on a vacation with friends. You develop new lingo and special norms. That’s fascinating to me about human nature. Why did God make us that way?

And what does our ability to adapt and learn culture so quickly say about our God. We are made in His image, aren’t we? Does that mean that God is super-adaptable? Does that mean that God uses new lingo or norms to reach us? I think it does.

And what about this. Have you ever thought about your own personal role in culture? Have you ever thought that you were put into a culture or sub-culture or micro-culture to infect, affect, or defect that culture?