Deconstructing Faith

Yesterday on Twitter, I noticed an author I read a lot of “liked” and commented on a tweet that said the following:

“I’m baffled by folks who claim that scripture is “clear”, “plain” or “black and white.” I mean – are we reading the same book? the Bible is a hot-complicated-gray-muddy-mess with one of the only clear things being the way God feels about His people – and really, that’s what gets me.”

There’s this trendy new thing in the cool kids’ circles of Christianity called ‘deconstructing.’ Like what restaurants do when they want to make your wedge salad look edgy, all the individual parts get deconstructed and placed on their own. A pile of bacon here, the lettuce over there, onions off to the side… you then get to re-construct it as you wish. I find it tedious and the opposite of edgy.

The folks who fashion themselves pretty smart and important have decided that it’s high time our faith gets a deconstruction of it’s own. Times are changing! Who are we to keep these archaic old systems in place? Like the childhood game of ‘telephone’, it’s been decided that the more you try and pass along God’s word, the more things get garbled and confused. Life is really hard, and if you aren’t questioning all the established systems, something is wrong with you. It’s the height of pride, they say to think we could or even should attempt to understand the Bible or take it at face value. Deconstruction offers a system in which we can pick and choose what we leave behind and what we take with us. Life is a journey y’all, and if you aren’t changing with the, you aren’t being true to yourself.

Back to this Twitter quote… the big thing she’s gleaned from the Bible is that God has some positive feeeeelings about His people. That’s it. If you’re convinced the God you serve loves you but is purposely muddying the waters, doesn’t that affect your heart just a little bit?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: I think we can all agree that there are things we humans will never understand this side of heaven. I’d even say we aren’t meant to. Yes, God is big, we are small, and to say we have it all figured out is just as unhelpful as thinking we can’t know anything. There aren’t formulas to God, and life is certainly not black and white.

We are willfully turning our compass into a stumbling block.

On the surface, this kind of thinking leads to a helpless Christianity. We love Him, and believe He loves us, but what happens when we expect things to stay gray and muddy? They have a tendency to stay gray and muddy! But the entire trajectory of His word, from Old Testament to New, is the revelation of the truth to all people… not just scribes and scholars.

“The unfolding of your words gives light;  it imparts understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

“But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29

When Moses handed down God’s commandments to Israel, they were expected to understand them and pass them down to their children. Jesus always affirmed scripture, conveying that the problem was a failure to believe it rather than an inability to understand it.

Do you see the importance of this? It’s because of our stubborn unbelief that things get cloudy. Here’s a classic example from Jen Hatmaker that I know will annoy some, I don’t mean to bead a dead horse, but I think is extremely important. And more like this is coming down the pipeline every day:

“I just sort of have this dream for the church where it is safe and it is wide and it is generous and it includes all of our voices. For the longest time, the church has essentially had one voice — sort of the white, male voice. I’m starting to realize how much the church is missing when we silence whole people groups, like you’re either not welcome at all, or you’re welcome but not your voice, not your experience, not your life.”

“Wide and safe.” Jesus literally tells us that the path to the Kingdom is a narrow one and that the vast majority are going to choose the wider gate that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). This doesn’t mean Christianity is prejudiced, as she assumes. Can we underline and highlight this please? This is a false argument! I know it’s all the rage these days to talk about how awful we all are in this area, but this rhetoric is poison. Jesus told the people in the previous verses that everyone who asks receives, everyone who knocks will have the door opened to him. The narrow path is open to all who choose to come to Him, but not everyone will. The metaphor of the big wide open table is pulling at everyone’s heartstrings, but Jesus didn’t promote this. A seat at the table comes at a cost.

“Includes all our voices.” The problem with a lot of voices is, well, it’s a lot of voices. Nobody is trying to silence entire segments of the population, but Christians are to be deferring to the singular voice of God above all else and then going out to talk about it. I know that hurts people’s pride and the need to be heard or adored or popular… but God’s voice first. Not Jen Hatmaker or the well-meaning Bible study lady or the guy at Starbucks. This yearning she talks about to be included and heard would naturally shift to something infinitely better if she’d allow God to do the talking first. We want to go share the Good News, not our latest hot take on why that news is problematic.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow Me.” John 10:27

Our Creator has never un-friended or un-welcomed us and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Your experience and your life matter to Him. Yes, churches have been unwelcoming at times and that goes against God’s Word and character, but don’t confuse the issue and expect everyone to welcome your unrepentant sin to the party. Our SIN is not welcomed and never will be. It does not get a place at the table because it spoils the feast.

“If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” John 7:17

Jesus says that we have to first want to do God’s will. He is absolutely capable of handling our questions, doubts and even our sin, but we have to take them to Him with the expectation that He has a solution. Do we really want to hear what He has to say? Or are we aiming for the approval of the masses? Doubt isn’t a sin, it’s not the same as unbelief, but given enough oxygen, it can become a monster. It leads us down weird paths and convinces us we need to ‘deconstruct’ something we may have never correctly understood in the first place.

Our journey isn’t ever static, we will go through change and doubt to be sure. God’s Word is stable and unchanging, but also very much alive and active through us. It may seem like a contradiction, but there is plenty of room on the narrow path for anyone who chooses to take it. Walking with Jesus on that path opens our eyes to greater truths than any human could ever conjure up.

And look at this ridiculous salad for heavens sakes… someone please put it back together.



On Colleges and Keeping Up

Hustle is an idol if it leads you to cut ethical corners in order to stand out in a competitive world. Katelyn Beaty

I for one am completely fascinated by this past weeks crazy college recruiting scandal. The well-oiled machine that is our national media never misses a beat. I’ve been trying to understand why it has affected me so, and I think it’s largely because it simply hits me in a vulnerable spot: the kids.

I talked with my boys about the antics of these unhinged parents and what could be the driving force behind all this. The irony of it all was of course further compounded by the fact that one of them is a seemingly squeaky clean Hallmark darling whose entire career is based on portraying wholesome characters. You just never know.

I’m acutely aware of the dilemmas and difficulties of raising teens in a culture that wants to undo every value and belief we hold dear. We struggle on a regular basis with boundaries, ethics, identity and truth. The comparison game is strong. Everyone is living in a bona fide pressure cooker that could blow at any moment if we don’t properly let some of the steam out.

We came to a conclusion that much of it has to do with daily, gray-area choices we all make. One compromise leads to another. Pride, when fed and encouraged is almost impossible to tame.

Do I brag about this success or stay humble?

Do I cut corners here if nobody will ever know?

Should I turn a blind eye to something I’ve seen that I know is wrong?

One of our biggest struggles has been the old “well everyone else is doing it, we need to keep up” excuse. I call it the Lance Armstrong defense. You have to do certain things just to even the playing field, or else you’re going to be left in the dust.

Before you know it, you’re photoshopping their face on some other kid’s body and bribing the ACT test-giver.

It’s easy to poke fun at this crowd. I’ve read up on the other non-celebrity parents, and quite honestly, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for them. I do understand, as we all do, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate to be somebody in a world where there are already so many somebody’s.

It’s quite literally the oldest story in the book. Satan tempted Adam and Eve into believing they could have fulfillment outside of God. He convinced Eve that she could acquire something better and elevate herself to a new level of importance.

This whole thing is a losing game. The ends do not justify the unethical means it takes to get there. What is their end game anyway? To bounce from one material success to another, never slipping, never letting anyone see what you’ve sacrificed to get there? I’ll pass.

This is why we reject the hustle, the self-help nonsense and the even (I’m sorry to say) the Christian cool kids who are taking us further into the grey fog of compromise. I’ll be the first to admit, swimming upstream in a downstream world is not easy or even enjoyable at times. But sin always, always ends up costing us more than it can ever give us. The obsession with worldly image is taking perfectly kind and rational people down a path that will destroy them. I used to try and shield my kids from defeat, but now when it happens I don’t necessarily shun it. There’s big things to be learned through disappointment. It’s the same disappointment though that can drive us to make foolish decisions. I loosely joke with them and ask “Would you be the Tim Tebow or the Lance Armstrong?”

I’d like to think Jesus would come down and personally smack me upside my head if I ever stooped to something so low, but let’s be honest here… we are all just one selfish, insecure decision away from doing something really dumb. We are not above our teens any more than they are above us, and we all need the same thing:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage… for you brethren, have been called to liberty… but God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Galatians 5:1, 13,/6:14

Friends, we don’t have to live on the hamster wheel. It’s hard to be in the minority, but it’s actually also a great honor. The world is destined to be deceived, they are bent on it. Let’s remember we don’t have to claw our way up the totem pole or prove our worth. We are worthy and loved already, our kids are too, whether they wind up at Harvard or living in our basement.




Children of (Dis)obedience

“Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4

I read the story of the Tower of Babel and I can’t help but wonder “who amongst these people thought this would be a good idea?!” Just a few generations down from the great flood in which humanity was essentially wiped out and given a new start, here they are again, eyeball deep in idolatry, rejecting God, and building their castles in the sky.

Verse 5 is a little cheeky sounding to me, it says that God had to “come down” to see what they were up to. Even man’s biggest tower was still an anthill to Him.

There are worse things than wanting to make a name for yourself and not be scattered all over the earth, aren’t there? Possibly. However, these folks, the descendants of Noah, were given a very specific command: Go and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). They were doing the opposite of what they were told to do.

And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. v.6-8

God knows, better than we know ourselves, what we are capable of when left to our own devices. This was just the beginning. Interesting that the flood did not and could not wipe out the stain of Adam’s sins. Humanity continues in it’s pride and desire to be it’s own boss.

The disease of sin has been passed down to us, it’s in our very genes. Ephesians 2:2 says we are born “the children of disobedience.” Instead of filling the earth with the Good News, we are busy building our own little kingdoms. Jesus came to undo what the first Adam had done. He came to break the sin-curse that plagues us and root it out once and for all. Have you ever pulled a giant weed up by the roots? It’s remarkably satisfying. If you get it at the roots, it’s not coming back. Too often, we pull and tug at what we can see of our sin but fail to deal with things at the root. Trimming a weed to make it look better doesn’t get rid of the weed problem. Jesus restores us to our original place in the story… free from the curse and free to live a life of obedience to God.

We don’t always respond to the word obedience with open, welcoming arms.

Ever tried to correct a teenager? “I’m doing the best I can! I’m not perfect!”

Ever been comfy enough with sin that you really just don’t even want to give it up? “Don’t be so legalistic! Jesus came to free us from the law! We aren’t supposed to be earning our salvation!”

If talking about living in obedience makes you feel more condemned than free… if it brings up more excuses than solutions… well, you’re not alone. We mess up, then give up, making all kinds of excuses as we go. This isn’t God’s plan at all, thankfully. Salvation isn’t earned, it’s worked out (Philippians 2:12). Our obedience, our love toward others, it’s just the evidence of a real faith working inside us.

How confident are we in Jesus? Do we go all-in with Him regardless of what people will think? In spite of our discomfort? Or do we obey when it’s convenient and take to building our own little cities when we think we can do it better? It’s so easy to start piling up our bricks isn’t it? They keep us sheltered and together. But God isn’t all that concerned with ‘safe and in place’.

James tells us pointedly that faith without works is dead… our obedience (or disobedience) is a natural outflow of our faith. We aren’t meant to struggle along like beggars, we actually get to go “from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7). He gives us strength to obey, a desire to obey, and a heart to obey. One strong choice leads to another, and before you know it, obedience is more natural than disobedience. Our default becomes not what our flesh wants, but what God wants. Not always the easiest choice, but for sure the best choice.

God wants us to honor Him by putting Him first. I don’t think we are created to handle “big” very well. Making a name for ourselves shouldn’t be on our to-do list. Making His name known should.


Equipped

“We still talk of all our struggles in the present tense. We exchange brokenness like it was good news, and comfort each other with still more brokenness. We want to declare each other “enough.” We have treated Christian identity like it was the great afghan of coziness underneath which all of humanity ought to be settling in for a long nap. But what if our identity in Christ is not a blanket? What if, instead of a cozy place to hibernate, what we are being handed in Christ is actually cold steel, intended for a completely different purpose? Your identity in Christ is a weapon, one that will put to death the old man that lives within you (Romans 8:13). We have been baptized in his death, in order to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). If we are not equipped through Christ to fight the sin nature in all of us, it does not matter how thick or cozy the comfort blanket is. Underneath it, the cold hands of sin are still around our necks. That fight cannot be comforted away. We cannot soothe each other into relief from our problems.” https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/your-identity-in-christ-means-war

Mmmm…. blankets. I have an obsession with them. I stockpile them. Have you tried the new weighted blankets advertised on tv? Heaven. I’m a huge fan of a) not being cold, and b) being surrounded by something comforting. This article made me squirmy a bit because it hit me right in my soft spot: comfort. I think we all desire a cozy place to snuggle up and be left alone, and that can easily translate over into our spiritual lives. The status quo is holding steady, we don’t want to really rock the boat, we just want a place to feel wrapped up and secure. Ok, so we are ‘broken’ as they say… but we don’t mind huddling up and just be broken together. I have developed a great aversion to that word – I do not want to sit around and be broken with people. It’s not that I think everyone is ‘whole’, I know we aren’t even close. I just find the concept of celebrating it like it’s our lot in life a bit… backwards.

This analogy really made me think: what if Jesus is offering us something better than to just wrap ourselves up and shut out the world? What if He’s handing us a cold, steely, sword? The further I go into the whole ‘identity’ thing, the more I realize how temporary all of our little “identities” really are. These things aren’t the end game, and counting on them to fulfill us isn’t a good strategy. With good intentions, we sit around piling blankets on one other, but what we really need is to start handing out some weapons.

That kid who feels anxious on the way out the door? Shoes of peace.

The friend who has trouble surrendering everything to Jesus? Belt of truth.

Ourselves, when we feel constantly attacked by the enemy? Shield of faith.

Comfort is fantastic, but not at the expense of our souls. Nobody would ever wrap themselves up in a blanket made of fiberglass, but that’s pretty much what we are doing by ignoring the war at hand. We have to make those ‘cold hands of sin’ unwrap themselves from around our necks and pick up our weapons. Don’t fear the brokenness, but don’t forget the One who came to actually heal it and bind it up for good. (Psalm 147:3)

With Praise and a Sword

“Our false self demands a formula before it engages; our false self wants a guarantee of success; and mister, your aren’t going to get one. So there comes a time in a man’s life when he’s got to break away from all that and head off into the unknown with God. This is a vital part of our journey, and if we balk here, the journey ends.” John Eldredge

Being on Christmas break and not really knowing what day it is or where we are half the time has opened the door for lots of relaxing and movie watching. One of our favorites is the series of Narnia films. I think I love them more than my kids do, maybe it’s because I’m a grown up now and I can see in hindsight how important the stories are. I wish I had known them earlier.

In Voyage of the Dawn Treader we meet cousin Eustace, a spoiled little boy who mocks his cousins tales of Narnia and gets all his information from books. He puts all his hope into science and deductive reasoning. Needless to say, when he experiences Narnia and Aslan, everything changes.

Eustace is scared of what he doesn’t know. He spends his time trying to formulate a way out of strange situations, and when that doesn’t work, he simply mocks everyone that he deems inferior. He’s scared and confused by adventure. Narnia is the worst place for him because everything he experiences goes against how he has been trained to think. It’s also the best possible place for him, because Aslan refuses to leave the poor kid in his sad state. The redemption story of Eustace is a powerful one, but not without pain.

Thankfully, the young boy was with a group who didn’t dismiss the adventure. The Pevensie kids longed for Narnia when they weren’t there. Once experienced, it was something they wanted to go back to. Yes, it was scary and dangerous at times, but there was something there, someone there that made it all worth it. They longed to be with Aslan again.

As we enter a new year full of unknowns, let us not be afraid of heading off into the unknown with God. Avoiding new things or putting off hard decisions may seem safer, but at best it leads nowhere fast. It’s not blindly jumping and yelling YOLO! with our fingers crossed… it’s a conscious decision to follow Jesus at every turn. It’s a choice to push through difficulty or uncomfortableness and get to the healing on the other side. There comes a time when playing it safe just isn’t safe anymore. We aren’t heading off ill-equipped or without a compass… we have the greatest Guide ever.

This is quickly becoming my New Years battle cry:

“Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a double-edged sword in their hand.” Psalm 149:6

We aren’t exactly floating down the river on a pleasure cruise here… life is a battle, and a hard one at times. The false part of ourselves demands a formula and some guarantees before every venturing out into the unknown. Go without it. I want to be more like those kids in Narnia who craved the adventure in spite of the danger. With praise in my mouth and a sword in my hand.

Happy New Year everyone… armor up and enjoy it!

My Life is CAVU

Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.

“CAVU was the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific,” he said. “We had little navigational instrumentation, so we wanted to CAVU, ceiling and visibility unlimited, and because of the five of you whose hugs I can still feel, whose own lives made me so proud, I can confidently tell my guardian angel that my life is CAVU and it will be that way until I die. All because of you.” George H.W. Bush

In a letter to his kids on the eve of the Gulf War, the 41st President of the United States wrote the above to his children. Most of us non-military types are probably unaware of this now-trending acronym, but I was so touched by it I wanted to share it. Bush referred to it often, saying he thought it represented his life. Regardless of storms that may come, with faith and family, we can serve and fulfill our purpose with clear eyes and a ‘full speed ahead’ kind of confidence.

His was probably the last generation that will leave behind an abundance of actual hand-written letters that testify to the trials and triumphs of a life lived for something far bigger than oneself. I am grieved that the era of the Greatest Generation is coming to a close and even more saddened by a culture that has become so obsessed with personal success that the greatest goal one can have is to live for oneself.

We don’t have to agree on politics to see that there was something different about these guys and gals. They could disagree with dignity and they weren’t afraid to fight for what was right. At the end of the day, if people can genuinely speak with fondness of you at your funeral, saying that you loved God and man well, you have succeeded.

Bush 41 spoke about “a thousand points of light” often. He knew and lived out the commandment to be a light to a dark world. The world needs more brave and humble people like this. We need believers who aren’t afraid to be a light, who don’t run to shove their light under a basket when asked to take a stand. I will miss this generation if not for that quality alone. While boldly telling you the truth, they’d give you the shirt off their back.

President Bush was a man who knew what he believed and didn’t back down from it. It didn’t make him mean, it made him genuine. Even in death, he made us all realize once again that we are not here to serve ourselves, but one another. We may not be called to a great world stage as he was, but we are all called to greatness. For the Christian, that means living life CAVU.

Just Go Fishing

“The world seems to have a real genius for being wrong, even the educated world. I can see how a right man might live in a wrong world and not be affected by it except that the world will not let him alone. It wants to educate him. Society, being fluid, usually moves like the wind, going all out in one direction until the novelty wears off. Whatever people happen to be interested in at the moment must be accepted as normal… our highest ambition should be to become integrated to the mass, to lose our moral individuality as a whole.” AW Tozer  Culture

AW Tozer wrote here in this essay of just wanting to go fishing, but the world and its nonsense just wouldn’t leave him alone. I’m sure we all can relate. There are times I walk into a room and my husband is watching the news and I just walk right out… my brain just can’t handle it. It’s like Alice in Wonderland up in here, and everything is topsy-turvy.

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