Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm afraid of some of you

I've been to a fair amount of doctors in the past few months internist, an emergency room doc, a cardologist, a podiatrist and an opthalmologist. Those who know me well are probably thinking "What, no psychiatrist?"

One gets older, stuff breaks down. That's life.

It does make one think, however.

Do I take things for granted?
What do I do with the time I have left?
Who and what's important?

Scripture tells us that we are foreigners on this earth. We are made for eternity. That's good. I buy it. I also am fairly attached to this life. It may be unpredicatable but it's known. Ask me to preach a sermon on 'what's next' and I'll paint a remarkable picture ...I also know that I cling to the picture I'm painting in the here and now.

What comes next, after this life, is something I hold onto by faith. It's funny. My faith is strong. Sometimes my certainty isn't. For every measure of faith I have, doubt creeps in like low early morning fog.

John Ortberg has written a book about Doubt and Faith. Read it if you can. Ortberg is always intellectually honest, highly amusing, and carefully thought provoking. He has great faith. He lives with doubt.

I guess if I know everything for sure then I would need no faith, huh? Sometimes I run across people who are sure about everything. They look at the Bible like it's a puzzle needing to be put together. Put all the pieces in the right order in the right place and voila ... you got it all, you figured it out, you're right and everyone else is wrong.

It doesn't work like that. I'm convinced I'll never put that puzzle together in the right order or the right way. And it really doesn't matter. I'm glad people work at it. I benefit from it. It helps me to make sense of things. It helps me develop a paradigm of 'biblical thinking'. But I don't think anyone has it completely right. Do you?

More and more I try to make sense out of my life and my life of faith by not trying to have all the answers. I'm convinced God is still doing something. There's something about Jesus that touches the core of my being. I'm learning to give as much as I know about myself to as much as I know about Jesus ...and I know I have doubts and I have faith and more doubts and renewed faith. It's a cycle.

I'm learning that this life of faith doesn't mean that I have to be able to answer every question, to understand every bible verse, or to never doubt. It means that each day I link the story of Mike to the ages old, ongoing story of faith ...trusting that God knows what he's doing. He knew what he was doing then. He knows what He's doing now. He will do what He needs to do in the future.

I've been afraid, at times, to confront the spiritual bullies of our day and age. You know who I'm talking about. They try to intimidate. If you have a question they insist you believe their answer. They are on the 'right' and on the 'left' ...conservative and liberal. So you better believe what they believe about women in ministry, when Christ is coming back, the age of the earth, whether to vote red or blue ...because if you don't you will be labeled and shamed into silence. Some call folks like this 'guardians of the faith'. I think they're bullies.

There are others who make 'fun' of any mention of a 'faith-filled' life and they use the intimidation of pop culture relevancy as their weapon of choice. They are bullies enjoying the protection of public opinion.

I'm starting to face my own mortality. It makes me wonder about how I want to live out the rest of my days. I don't want to be afraid. I don't want to be afraid to share my faith. I don't want to be afraid to admit my doubt. I don't want to give up thinking. I do want to be faithful. Especially, among other believers I don't want to feel afraid. And sometimes I do.

And so I declare ...

I have an opinion about all kinds of things. Many of you who read this blog wouldn't like some of my takes on certain things. You might label me too conservative or too liberal. You might say I'm clinging to orthodoxy or not. Some might say I'm too religious, others not religious enough.

But you will never know for sure until you listen without the unbending bias of your own tradition and beliefs getting in the way of you really hearing. You see, I think we're all out to prove a point, to correct an error, to label ...we're not really quick to listen ...because when we listen our world can get rocked ...our faith shaken, doubts show up ...we get vulnerable. But maybe, just maybe that's where God really wants us. Because then He can speak into our lives. He becomes a living God.

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