#GodsNotDead

29 03 2014

Yes I have joined the world of Twitter. You can follow me at @DevosByChaps.

This last weekend I had the opportunity to watch the new movie “God’s not dead.” It was a great movie. It captured the reality that belief in God is not an intellectual debate but a personal one. I wanted to offer my thoughts on why people reject God and how to respond.

Pain and suffering. Many have begged God to cure a family member or friend from cancer or have asked for God to intervene in a horrific situation only to experience silence. They may have experienced abuse and begged God for protection only to face more abuse. Tragically some have been hurt by those claiming to be Jesus’ followers.

I don’t think there is an easy answer because they did not face an easy situation. Grace, love and prayer are the best things we can offer. We also need strong healthy churches. A healthy church creates a safe place for people who are hurting and in the middle of pain. When done well, the church offers real hope and true peace to those who suffer from the harsh realities of this world.

Avoidance of accountability. Let’s be honest, there are some things we do that we know deep down are wrong. We either justify it or remove the standard that says it is wrong. If there is no higher law ordained and established by God we can live how we want. We end up living by collective relativism. In other words, we agree as a group what is right and wrong which can and will shift depending on what we think or more often feel in the moment. God forces us to be accountable ultimately to him but also to each other.

To respond I would offer the church has to be a standard bearer of what it means to live a life of submission and obedience. That does not mean we are perfect. It does mean we role model a life of honor and integrity that is transparent. We seek forgiveness when we mess up. We also influence those around us to a higher good. We can’t live by legalism and the world has seen plenty of hypocrisy. This is a hard challenge that can really only be done if we seek to follow Jesus and submit to his leading in our life…wait! That is what we are suppose to do. I love it when a plan comes together.

Experience. We also have to be honest that you don’t need God to live a good life or even make a great impact on the world. Many people experience life apart from God and are happy and content. Then, they hear talking points explaining why God is an antiquated idea and it matches with their experiences. Therefore, those talking points become theirs.

Jesus does not promise an easy life or even a good life. He does offer a meaningful life filled with purpose. He helps us focus beyond the here and now and enables us to have broader perspective. Once again I find myself calling for churches to be healthy places that send out healthy Christians into the world. Our lives and our experiences can present an alternative to their talking points. It can create a space where faith is a possibility. Combined with prayer and an understanding that ultimately it is between God and that person, I believe we can offer a compelling case.

Here is the great part. Our faith has incredible depth. I am thankful for people like Ravi Zacharias and Tim Keller who do a phenomenal job of explaining why we can have confidence in our faith. I am also thankful for a movie like “God’s not Dead” that demonstrates we do not need to shrink back from a debate about our faith. We just have to recognize that at the end of the day it is a personal relationship. If all it took to win someone to Jesus Christ was a really good argument it would have been done a long time ago.

So what can you do? Step back and pray about the people in your life who have rejected Christianity. Let God lead and guide you. Trust me God cares about having a relationship with that person way more than you do. If there is an opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation don’t seek to win the argument instead seek to understand the person. If there are questions, know that there are great resources out there. Look at those resources together. Second, be authentic. If you struggle with something admit that you struggle with it. Role model being genuine. Next, pray, pray and pray some more. It will remind you only God changes hearts. Finally, make sure your church is a healthy place for people to come. We need healthy faith communities where we can encourage one another and be a beacon to the world.

It is amazing that God invites us to be his ambassadors to the world. He desires to work through you and me to touch lives and make an impact. It is a great privilege. Oh and in case you were wondering…God is definitely not dead, he is ALIVE!





Friend or Flow

15 03 2012

Do you obey the speed limit? We see speed limits more like guidelines. We prefer to just follow the flow of traffic. If someone goes faster than us they are dangerous and if someone actually obeys the speed limit they are crazy (of course this is after we look to see if a police officer is nearby). We all agree speed limits are important. They set boundaries. While we are frustrated when we get a speeding ticket, we assumed the risk when we decided to violate the law.

Think about obeying the speed limit and apply it to other areas of your life. At work if there is a rule or regulation but it is not strongly enforced what happens? People will go with the flow and get frustrated at the person who goes overboard or the person who actually obeys the rule. If binge drinking is glamorized in your circle of friends the laws on drinking age or drinking and driving become fuzzy. When there are black and white laws and rules but I don’t follow them I am making a statement. I am demonstrating how much I actually respect the law and ultimately the one who made the law.

We see this when we look at times we are willing to submit. If we have a personal connection or passion about a certain area it is easy for us to follow the rules. For example, if I have been personally affected by drunk driving, I will submit to the law and look for the people around me to submit. If we have a passion for equal rights we willingly submit to the laws and regulations ensuring them.

We also follow the rules when there is a personal relationship. If we know the person responsible for the rule or regulation we follow it out of respect for the person. This makes sense. Not too many of us know who drafted the speed limit law. Therefore, we are casual about it.

This gives us insight into what we really think about God. If God is distant and abstract then we will go with the flow. If God is personal then I am more willing to submit. There is an interesting dynamic. God has established boundaries. People tend to live within those boundaries because of one of two reasons. First, they have a personal connection or passion because they have been hurt by someone going outside of God’s boundaries. Second, they have a personal relationship with God that is growing. (I am ignoring the legalist because they are not following God. They have created their own rules and boundaries apart from God.)

Please take a look at this statement by Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)

There is an expectation of mutual respect. Jesus sets a standard for his followers. It is the same standard he sets for himself. He also offers transparency. There are no secrets in the relationship. What you see is what you get. He invites us to be friends with an understanding that we would honor that friendship by respecting him and following his commands.

Imagine if the President of the United States was your friend. He (or, one day, she) would hang out with you. He would share the struggles of the office and talk about his family. If you were truly his friend you would honor that friendship. You would also have a deeper appreciation for your country and the role your friend played in the world.

I encourage you to really look at your relationship with God as a friendship. The natural consequence will be a desire to obey his commands. Why? As you get to know him your respect will grow. As you begin to grasp the depth of his love you will want to honor him by living within the boundaries he set. You won’t just go with the flow of traffic. You will be a good friend.