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How To Be Here by Rob Bell

Compared to some of his more recent work, HOW TO BE HERE feels more like ‘classic’ Rob Bell (if there can be such a thing). I think fans of his earlier work will like this book a lot more than some of his most recent writings.

 

I have been a long time fan of Rob’s work – early works, his first tours and of course his Mars Hill sermon podcast. I think some of the fans that he lost with Love Wins and after might feel like ‘snugging back’ up to Rob with this book.

 

I like Rob’s style, and this book isn’t ‘hit you over the head theological.’ Put this more in the self-help / inspirational section with a touch of God dashed on top for flavor.

 

Great insight here.

 

Great take-aways and one liners that really make you want to “tweet” his wisdom.

 

As with his other books, it’s a quick read with bite sized chapters. I was over half way done and then felt like I had read too much too fast, so now I am starting over and going a little slower just to take it all in.

 

Rare that I’d want to read a book a second time this soon, but that’s how good it is.

 

Thank you to Harper One for this advance copy in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

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Do you think all religions are the same?

 

John 14:1-6

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

Jesus says to those listening… “I am the way.”

 

This is the offensive part of Christianity. This is what makes people angry. “Christians are closed minded to other faiths. They are so quick to tell others that all other faiths are wrong. Everyone is going to hell unless they are a Christian. Christians are brainwashed… they have no open mind to listen to stories of other faiths. Every nation has their own faith and we can learn a lot from taking a little here and a little there.

 

After all – Don’t All paths lead to God?

 

Let’s talk about that – because that seems to go against what Jesus says.

 

Do all paths lead to God?

 

This is a popular bumper sticker. It says “coexist” and the word is comprised of symbols of all the major faiths. And what this bumper sticker says is… “cant we all get along?” No more holy wars, no more arguments, let’s just all have peace because all paths lead to the God.

 

Is the “mountain analogy” of God true. Where God is pictured at the top of the mountain, and man at the base. And religion is man’s way of carving his way up the mountain, and each can take their own path – some take the direct route, others take the windy way, but all eventually reach the top. What do you think: is that analogy true? One mountain top, with many paths?

After all, aren’t there many good religions out there, and aren’t there good intentioned people who are a part of those religions or who were brought up in those religions? Why does Christianity get to make the claim that only one faith can be true?

Is there really any difference between us and, say, Islam, or Buddhism, or Judaism? Many people claim that all of these religions are valid.

 

 

And don’t get me wrong, I think we as humans should coexist – I think we do need to learn how to share this planet and live together in peace – But often those who claim that all religions are valid and true haven’t really looked closely at those religions. Because when one looks closer, we find that often these different religions contradict each other in many important ways; and it becomes clear that they can not all be true.

 

So let’s look at this theory that all paths lead to God for just a second. Is it possible to coexist? Let’s look at the 5 most popular faiths: Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam.

 

Christians 2 billion

Islam 1.2 billion

Hindu – 760 million

Buddhist 355 million

Jews 14 million

So let’s ask some important questions to each of these groups. Questions like who is God, What are your holy texts,  how do you reach god, how do you deal with sin and what is life after death?

HINDU

Hindu – Pantheists – god is in everything. They are also polytheists – meaning there are thousands of Gods. Hinduism is not a single religion, it’s more of a variety of beliefs and practices. It teaches about KARMA that all life is subject to cause and effect and it is each of our jobs to do our duty.

 

Brahma, Vishna and Shivu are among their many Gods – Jesus could be one of those Gods, but he is not alone. A Hindu looks at god through a stained glass window. So there are many facets and approaches to understand God – Or to view God they can walk outside and see God as an experience. And so in Hinduism your own experience can trump any priest, or prophet or text. Hinduism is very open and all inclusive.

 

Sacred Texts Hindu – Rig Veda

 

The human body is the temple of God.
One who kindles the light of awareness within gets true light.
The sacred flame of your inner shrine is constantly bright.
The experience of unity is the fulfillment of human endeavors.
The mysteries of life are revealed.

 

In Hinduism it is your pursuit to reach God. There needs to be a desire in you to crave God. As Hindu followers we must continue and follow the scriptures, go to the sacred places of worship, read the instructions and then follow our instructions – and then when God sees your efforts he comes toward you. A Hindu saying is, “Make a step toward God -and he will make 10 steps toward you.”

For the Hindu they have a loving and passionate relationship with God.  A complete and loving surrender to God. And it’s through meditation, acts of service, acts of selflessness – that the Hindu works towards the God experience.

 

The Hindus also believe in reincarnation -  their concept of sin is really checks and balances. In your life your debt (karma) must be repaid or repaired through many lifetimes until you eventually become 100% spirit and one with Brahma.

 

Nirvana is Hindu heaven. In terms of our mountain analogy today, the top of the mountain for a Hindu is to become one with the cosmic whole of the universe. Their path up the mountain involves multiple lifetimes of living well and dying well and being born again and again and again. and again. Hindu scholars estimate that, on average, it takes roughly 600,000 lifetimes to make it to Nirvana.

 

Islam

 

The story of Islam begins with the angel Gabriel meeting with the Prophet Muhammad to teach him about Allah.  Islam is monotheistic and has only one God – Allah. Their teaching is to follow the 5 pillars: That there is only 1 God, to pray five times a day, they have to give to the poor, they fast through Ramadan and they have to make 1 pilgrimage to Mecca. The word Islam the word means “surrender.” The word “muslim” means submission to god.

 

For the Muslim the Prophet Muhammad was the perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful, and brave human being and he is considered their last prophet. In their faith, they do acknowledge Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Ishmael and Jesus – however Jesus for a Muslim is only a learned prophet, he is a man.

 

The Islam sacred text is the – Koran (which means the recitation)

 

And what will explain to you what the steep path is? It is the freeing of a (slave) from bondage; or the giving of food in a day of famine to an orphan relative, or to a needy in distress. Then will he be of those who believe, enjoin fortitude and encourage kindness and compassion.”

 

For the Muslim they believe that god is in all of us, but it’s our job to unlock it. We must take the first step. For the Muslim, it’s not enough to believe, you must also have good deeds and you must surround yourself with other good people and learn to give good council to others.

The first line of the Koran is In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful: All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Universe The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

So first and foremost the Koran teaches Mercy for all humankind. Another line from the Koran says, “God will not be merciful to those who are not merciful” So your relation with Allah and how you deal with sin, is dependant upon your relationship with others.

 

For the Muslim, death is the complete end of physical life and the beginning of a period of rest until the day of resurrection when Allah judges the living and the dead. Muslims believe the soul remains in a kind of “soul sleep” until Judgment Day. When the Day of Judgment arrives, everyone is judged according to their deeds in life. Many Muslims believe that even non-Muslims can attain heaven only after an extended period of purification.

 

Judaism

 

Judaism begins with God (YHWH) calling its Patriarch Abraham to the Holy Land. Judaism is monotheistic and it is the Mother faith to Islam and Christianity. Judaism spends much time being debated and re examined. But for the most part most Jews agree on 13 articles of faith.

 

G-d exists

G-d is one and unique

G-d is incorporeal

G-d is eternal

Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone and to no other

The words of the prophets are true

Moses’ prophecies are true, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets

The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses

There will be no other Torah

G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of men

G-d will reward the good and punish the wicked

The Messiah will come

The dead will be resurrected

most part they believe that God created the world and it’s now our job to partner with that creation. The Jews have a covenant and they are accountable to God with that covenant.

 

For Judaism the sacred text is the – Tanakh (very similar to our Old Testament but laid out in a different order)

 

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”

 

For the Jew being faithful or loyal is the basic requirement of any healthy relationship and demands constant reinforcement. Jews believe in free will which means that they can be good, or evil. It’s up to us. And so if we can choose to be good, that means we can also be righteous

 

In Judaism – Sin is just part of life, Adam and eve’s fall was not Bad per se but a necessity, it created balance.  The balance of good and evil is a needed thing, but we are called to complete the unfinished work of creation. To make ourselves “right” and to “fix” the world.

 

Traditional Judaism firmly believes that death is not the end of human existence. However, because Judaism is primarily focused on the life here and now rather than on the afterlife, Judaism does not have much dogma about the afterlife

Buddhist

 

To a Buddhist, actions are more important than beliefs. So while a Buddhist can recognize God, it is not the goal or chief end of their faith.  It’s founder, Siddhartha was a real man, born in Nepal (who was a Hindu) and lived in 483 bc. and so to be a Buddhist is to follow this man’s teaching (called the 8 fold path). The main teachings are learning to control, cravings, desire and anger. If a Buddhist can overcome craving and if you are successful to do that -  then the Buddhist become enlightened and you devote your life to service.

The Buddhist have many sacred texts, but the chief one is called the Tripitaka (3 baskets)

 

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

 

Buddhism is a pragmatic way to ease the human situation without god or self.  Buddhism won’t help you reach God, but it will help you reach peace. A Buddhist is only interested in relieving your earthly suffering.  To do this a person has to be willing to do the work of letting go of the hurts and hang-ups of this world.

For a Buddhist, it’s less about sin and more about earthly suffering. All suffer, so it’s up to you to let go of that suffering.  Through the practice you learn to let go of these states when they arise in your life. You focus and calm down your suffering and you pursue your wisdom.

Buddha accepted the basic Hindu doctrines of reincarnation and karma, as well as the notion that the ultimate goal of the religious life is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth.

 

Christianity

 

- is monotheistic (one God) Christians believe that God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. All powerful, all knowing and exists in three persons – the trinity. God is loving, graceful, merciful, just and righteous. Jesus Christ is the son of God, and he was fully human but for Christians he is also the exact representation and fully God.

 

Christians read the Bible as their sacred texts which consists of the Old and New Testaments.

 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Christians believe Salvation comes from a belief in God’s son. That God came to earth as Jesus who died for the sins of the world and that if someone accepts that gift – they are saved.

 

Christians also believe that all sin but that on our own we can not reconcile ourselves with God, but instead that we need the work of the cross to remove our debt. And once we do that – it’s through our gratitude for that saving work, that we follow Christ’s example.

 

Christians believe the afterlife is Heaven or Hell, but neither destination is based on anything we do, but only through the saving grace of Jesus

 

Can you see how different all these systems are?

Some recognize one god, others many… others none. Each see their role in the world differently and their descriptions of heaven, and how to get there are all different. Which raises the question, why would God do something like this? Why would He go over to one side of the word and whisper to people, “This is what I’m like, and here’s how to get to me.” And then whisper a completely different thing to another section of the world?

If God is real it doesn’t seem very loving of Him, does it?

So, unless God really is a cosmic prankster who likes playing jokes on people, a god who enjoys making his disciples jump through hoops on confusion, unless God is a God of deception, then probably… maybe…. only one of these systems can be true, wouldn’t you agree?

It can’t be both reincarnation or death. It can’t be both Nirvana and heaven. It can’t be both nothingness and everything.
Most of this…. the confusion. You can break it down into one of two categories, DO or DONE. I would argue that religion is based off of DO. The common denominator of the world religions are – you try – you attempt – you do.

 

And some even reinforce… you can never do enough. Sometimes life after life you have to do and do some more.

 

However of all we talked about today Christianity is the only faith that defines itself as DONE. Christianity says you are not saved by what you DO – you are only saved by what Christ has DONE.

 

 

Titus 3:5-6

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

 

Jesus’ last words on the cross were –  “It is finished.” – In Greek that word is “tetelestai,” literally means “paid in full.”

Which makes sense? Which is attractive to you? Which holds logical sway in your mind? Many religions paint God out to be male Father figure – Which one seems like the way a Father would act towards His children?

Picture a Father and his 3 year old daughter. The daughter wants his father to pick her up, to embrace her, to carry her, to hold her close. That’s all the daughter wants is to be in her Father’s arms. And so the little girl lifts her hands up to God and desperately reaches for his father’s neck, so that she can be lifted up. She reaches and reaches, and urges her father to pick her up. But she’s never quite able to reach up high enough.

 

That is a picture of the desperation many have in trying to reach up to God, but never quite reaching high enough. Other religions are a system of rules and pious commandments which will maybe bring a person closer to God, but never close enough.

But now picture a Father and this same 3 year old child. The child reaches up to her father to be lifted up and held in his arms. But instead of just looking down at his child, he lovingly kneels down to where the child is, and with compassion and strength he lifts the child up into his arms and draws the child close to himself. That is what makes Christianity different than all other religions. God came down to us in the form of Jesus Christ, and made a way for us to be lifted up into the arms of God. Jesus is the way to be in the arms of God. He came here to us, so we could come to him.

 

The fact that Jesus was a historical man has never been in doubt. Secular, Jewish, and Biblical evidence is overwhelming that He existed and claimed to be God.

Because Jesus didn’t just claim to know the way to God, He said that He was God.

In John 14 He said was “I am the only way to God.”

And I don’t believe Jesus said that out of arrogance or ignorance – but rather out of great compassion and his own disciples affirmed this claim: Peter said in

Acts 4:12

“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

 

John said, John 3:36

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

One theologian said it like this

 

“No founder of any religion has dared to claim for himself one fraction of the assertions made by Jesus about himself. No religion has claimed for its founder what Christianity has claimed for the Christ. No founder of any religion has been as highly acclaimed by those of other faiths as has the Lord Jesus.” Henry Heydt

 

In 1997, 50% of Christians and 25% of non-Christians said that there are moral truths which are unchanging, and that truth is absolute, not relative to the circumstances.

 

Think about it – can everybody be right? Christianity claims there is one God who exists in three persons. Muslims and Jews disagree – they believe God is indivisibly one. Hinduism claims that everything is God – you’re god, I’m god, this podium is god. Islam claims that Jesus was not a god and that he didn’t die for the sins of humanity. Buddha was pretty much an agnostic.

We may all be wrong – But we can’t all be right!

 

When he was stood before Pilate, Jesus said, ‘I have come to testify to the truth’. And Pilate asked him ‘what is truth’? That is the same question being asked today.

 

In the world that we live there are those who say that there is no such thing as absolute truth. What might be true to you might not be true to someone else. This is my truth – you tell me yours.
But Jesus says ‘I am the truth and I have come to testify to the truth’. Winston Churchill once said, “truth is absolute – Panic may resent it; ignorance may deride it; malice may distort it; but there it is.”

Pilate said ‘What is truth?’ and Jesus said ‘I am truth’. And you know people may misunderstand the truth of the Christian gospel, some people resent it, and some people distort it, but truth is absolute.

Psalm 43:3

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

 

Listen, if something is true it does not waiver and it does not change; it remains the same. And because Jesus is the truth we have a light for the journey.

 

Your way… to meet God should ne illuminated by truth

Jesus said he was the truth and he said that he was the life
The news came to Jesus that His close friend Lazarus was ill.

Jesus declared that the ultimate purpose for his sickness was the glory of God. God’s glory would be revealed through Jesus when he spoke the words that brought Lazarus out of the grave. Before He brought Lazarus back to life, He told His friend’s sister Martha in John 11 that “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, even though he dies, he will live. And he who lives and believes in Me, shall never die.” and then He Martha: “Do you believe this?”

This declaration sets Jesus and His message apart from every other religion.

 

The life Jesus gives to those who believe does not start when someone dies but rather when they comes to faith. This life is experienced fully when we live out our lives within the body of Christ.

 

One other important thing. The Bible says that when Lazarus came out of the grave he was still wrapped in a burial shroud. Jesus then called people to unbind him and let him go.

 

This continues to be the role of the church. As Christ brings new life, as he continues to save people from death, our role, the church’s role is to surround those people, unbind them and loosen them and show them the abundant life that is just ahead.

 

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

 

Do you believe that for your own life this morning?

Through Jesus we have eternal life – but eternal life isn’t something far off in the future, it’s here – right now, it begins today.

 

So many people think that Christianity is about rules and regulations. They think it’s a list of do’s and don’ts – but Jesus said, “I didn’t come to burden you – I have come to set you free, I have come to give you a better life, a more fulfilling life, a more content life, a more abundant life, here, now, today! Free from guilt, free from shame, free from sin, free from anxiety, free from fear, free from dread, free from depression, free from your misery, and free from death…..because I am life!

 

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Do you have doubts about God?

Edwin Abbot was a British Headmaster who lived in the 1920s and in his book he argued for an idea for a made up universe called “flatland”

 

People in flatland – lived in 2 dimensions. They could only experience height and width. In other words -not depth. And that there would be people here, existence and life. So Edwin Abbot argues, what could we learn from a society of people trapped in 2 dimensions?

 

We as enlightened 3Ders. What could we conclude?

 

For instance…. what if my ring went into flatland. As a 3D object, if I could push it into their universe what would they see?

 

Well they’d see a dot and then a line, and then two lines, and then two lines further apart, two lines close together again, a line and then a dot.

 

So we have our two flatlanders – how would they both experience that? One would say, “did you see that?”

Yea

What do you think that was?

Well, to me it looked like ” see a dot and then a line, and then two lines, and then two lines further apart, two lines close together again, a line and then a dot.”

Yea but I think it was all the same thing, I think it was all connected?

Connected?
Yea, I think it was a ring?
A ring? What’s a ring?

I don’t know, but I think that’s what is was

Have you ever seen a ring before?

No

Held a ring?

No

Then how do you know it was a ring?
I don’t know, I just have faith.

 

One person goes with what they can see and prove and to them the ring is nothing more than dots and dashes.

 

The other person has a ‘feeling’ and they talk about faith.

 

The skeptic says, “flatland is all thee is, and all we know is what we can see”

And the person uses different language

 

Now what would happen now if “I” who live outside their universe tried to enter it. What if I drew near to it and tried to make my presence felt?

 

 

But what if I tried to go in there?

“do you feel that?”

no

You could have your hand close

“I feel the presence of David”

what are you talking about?  You’re superstitious

 

What if I stuck my hand in three

you’d see 5 different sizes, 5 rings in a circle

“I think that’s the hand of David”

 

one person who sounds crazy – would be right

and the person with the empirical evidence would be missing something

 

The one who goes by what they see – would say that flat land is all there is – there is no higher law and no greater purpose

 

But of the two, the one who has faith…. believes there is more and therein lies the conflict. It’s not just a story for today, it’s the story of the ages… the story of human history is one group of people saying… “this is all there is….”

 

And another group saying…. “no, I think there is more.”

 

Ephesians 3:17-19

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 

The Bible says there is breadth and length and height and depth to life. And that even with all of our dimensions, the love of Christ still surpasses all of our knowledge.

 

So it’s only human to doubt. Can you have doubts about God? Doubt he exists? Doubt heaven? I think so.

 

Just this last Sunday, Morgan Freeman had a show on the National Geographic Channel – the Story of God. Maybe some of you saw it. The show promises to travel around the world and answer the questions of life… where do we come from? What happens when we die? Why does evil exist? Do our beliefs connect us all? Or divide us? Is it all just one epic story?

 

And I think some people pursue those questions… and I think others could care less. Like flatland, I think each of us sees the world and approaches life differently.

 

One approach is no approach

 

I used to work in a Toy Store warehouse. I had a friend named Greg who I cared for a lot. He was a great friend, and I really wanted Greg to be a Christian – he was a good guy and his approach was probably one you’ve heard before.

 

He said, “if there is a god – he’ll do his thing and I’ll do mine. If there is a god – he knows me and he understands.” In other words, “maybe there is a god, but I can’t be bothered.”

 

If God is real… he’ll come find me. He’ll tell me. This person doesn’t seek. This person doesn’t knock. This person doesn’t find. There is no effort here.

 

But just understand, no approach is still an approach, but it’s my least favorite.

 

I think another approach is observation

 

We go by what we can see. I think some have learned to see and find God in His creation. Try this some time.

 

Go to the zoo.

 

Go scuba diving,

 

watch a sunset,

 

sit next to a waterfall – (Seljalandsfoss in Iceland)  just send the day observing things with your eyes and ask yourself – where did all of this come from? Beauty? Pattern? Design? Structure?

 

Acts 17:24-25

The Bible says, “The God who made the whole world and everything in it is the Lord of the heavens and the earth… This God is the One who gives life, breath, and everything else to people”

 

From the earliest times, philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, wholly apart from the Bible, have concluded that God must exist, based on what they saw in the world.
In other words, creation itself is evidence of a Creator.

 

But then if you really want to mess with your head… ask yourself this. “How am I able to even see this waterfall?”

 

With my eyes. Do you realize that most of your life, has been observed with your eyes. 80% of your life’s memory is comprised of just the things you have seen.

 

Your perfect eyes… comprised of over 2 million parts working harmoniously together

even though it weighs only an ounce and is about an inch in diameter.

 

Your finger print has 40 unique features that make you who you are. 40 unique things that only you have – shared with nobody else. Your retina has 256 unique features. Making your eyes yours and yours only. After your brain, your eyes are the second most complex organ in your body.

 

Night vision goggles are green because the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other color

In fact – Your eye can distinguish between 10 million different colors

Your eye is a 576 mega pixel camera

 

And a full healthy eye can see very far, on  perfectly clear night if you were standing on a mountain, you could see a candle flame 30 miles away

 

Yes, you can see a waterfall and day dream about who made the waterfall and where it came from? But who made your remarkable, sophisticated, intelligently designed eye?

 

Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory said this about the human eye….

 

“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

 

The founder of evolution had doubts…. that the human eye came about by natural selection.

 

Another approach is scientific

 

With wings that beat up to 200 times every second, Humming birds are among nature’s most accomplished pilots, they are the only birds able to hover, fly backwards, side to side and even upside down.

 

Some males have been known to travel 400 times their body length in a single second – achieving speeds that are the equivalent of 10 gs of force (that’s 10x the force of the earth’s gravity) just to put that into experience, astronauts experience 3s during take off, any more than 9 gs and the human body blacks out) but 10gs for these little fragile birds  = no problem

 

and yet their feet are so small, they can not walk on the ground…..

 

Hummingbird metabolisms are set in permanent overdrive, requiring them to consume more than half their body weight in nectar every single day, so, that means when they are sleeping – they run the risk of starving to death.

So to survive the night, they fluff up their feathers and adjust their thermostats, decreasing their body temperatures by half and reducing their heart rate from 600 beats per minute to a mere 36.

 

So if you were a scientist… what would you say about a humming bird? Do they make sense? Any other thing like them in nature? These birds are crazy… they’re mutants! I’m supposed to believe this complex creature came about by accident? Natural selection should have eliminated them long ago.

 

This is what the Intelligent Design movement is all about. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an Intelligent Designer, rather than a random undirected processes.

 

I’ll give you another example. Back in the day we used to have dials on our radios and the trick was can I turn the dial to “fine tune” exactly to the channel to hear it the clearest. Well, Astronomers have now been discovering that in order for a “big bang” to have actually occurred the universe would have to have been precisely dialed in, in order for it to happen.

 

This fine-tuning includes certain constants within the laws of physics, like the force of gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the subatomic “weak” force. It also includes a perfect ratio of protons to electrons in the universe, the expansion rate of the universe, the cosmological constant and many, many others.

Just to give you one example of a fine tuning.  Consider the nuclear force that holds atoms together. Stars “burn” by fusing hydrogen atoms together. When the two hydrogen atoms fuse, 0.7% of the mass of the hydrogen is converted into energy. If the amount of matter converted were slightly smaller—say 0.6% instead of 0.7%— a proton could not bond to a neutron, and the universe would consist only of hydrogen. With no heavy elements, there would be no rocky planets and no life.

 

.6% life….   .7% no life

 

If the amount of matter converted were slightly larger—say 0.8%, fusion would happen so readily and rapidly that no hydrogen would have survived from the Big Bang. Again, there would be no solar systems and no life. The amount of mass converted into energy had to be exactly 0.7%.

 

Freeman John Dyson is an American theoretical physicist and mathematician, known for his work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. Freeman Dyson = smarter than you and me.

 

He said, The more I examine the universe, and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the Universe in some sense must have known we were coming.

Now that’s just one example of a fine tuned universe; and there are literally dozens of these constants and quantities that are precisely balanced to allow chemistry to take place, stars to burn, galaxies to form. And if any of these variables were altered by even a hundredth of a percent, life could not exist anywhere in the universe.

 

And this is a well establish fact of science.

 

That reminds me of a story about Sherlock Holmes. Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson, are on a camping trip. At some time during the night Holmes wakes up, elbows his faithful friend and say, “Watson, look up and tell me what you see.”

Watson replies, “I see millions of stars.”

“What does that tell you?” asks Holmes.

Watson ponders for a minute, and then says, “Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Horo-logically, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, it’s evident that God is unimaginably powerful and we are small. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.” Then after a pause, Watson says: “Well, Holmes, what does it tell you?”

“Watson, you idiot,” Holmes replies, “It means someone has stolen our tent!”

The Bible also makes this remarkable claim: Romans 1:19-20

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,  in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

If we look for evidence of creation, we will find a creator.

 

How else could we approach our doubts… maybe we could pursue morality.

 

Who heard that this last Easter there was a Taliban suicide bomber who walked out to a playground where Christian mothers and children were playing and the bomber blew up 69 people. This Easter – Purposely targeting Christian women and children playing at a park. 341 people were injured.

 

When the news starts to trickle in, you get both emotions, people who are sad and people who are mad.  Can I ask you a question?

 

Why do we care about Pakistan? Why do we care about suicide bombers? Why do we say this was “wrong?” It’s not our country, why should we care? Who are we to say this is wrong, or right? I mean, to each their own? It’s not our business.

 

Is it right to pardon killers and let the guilty go free?
Is it right to violate another person’s sanctity?
Is it right to own another person as property?

 

Why do millions of people across the world agree… what is right and what is wrong? Where did this moral center come from?

 

Because no matter where you live, what culture you were raised in, no matter what time of history you have lived, people have always preferred

truth over lies

justice over injustice

kindness over violence

loyalty over betrayal

 

Why do you see something and say “that’s just wrong” we all have it….

what account do we have for our moral center

where did we get that morality from?

we all gasp in horror when a child is abused

we all cry when families are reunited

we all are outraged when human rights are violated

where does this universal right and wrong come from

 

I challenge you, spend the time and think about it …. if we’re only apes, of if we’re just an assembly of cells – how did we get all get here?  Who or what is responsible for the marvels that we see all around us?

 

Philosopher William Paley’s said once  ‘‘There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance, without a contriver; order, without choice.”

 

But there is still room for doubt.

 

Even among the 12 disciples we know that Thomas doubted when Jesus rose from the dead. Thomas just wanted the same thing the other disciples had – he wanted to see it with his own eyes – he wanted the empirical evidence and when it happened – Jesus was right there in front of him – the Bible says THEN – when the evidence was presented. Thomas believed

 

John 20:28-29

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

How do you do that? How do you believe without seeing? Because I would venture that every one of us at some point has walked side by side with Thomas in that state of doubt.  It is in our very nature to doubt what we cannot see.

What about you – Are you able to trust – are you able to believe without seeing.
Yes, Thomas doubted; and yet, which of us can claim the right to throw the first stone at him? Which of us has never had the smallest bit of doubt?

Maybe you’re just like Thomas, and struggle to believe, wishing you could receive a firsthand revelation.  You’ve prayed that prayer, “God if you’re real… show me a sign.”

 

And it’s too bad that Thomas is called “doubting Thomas.” Because he didn’t stay that way did he? Thomas heard the story of the resurrection, he heard the good news and then he said…

“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas had been excluded, Thomas didn’t see the revelation. What was that week like for Thomas? The only disciple left out? The only disciple with fears and doubts?

 

When everybody else could see the thing he wanted most to see.  Just think about that for a moment… the only disciple left out.  The only disciple with nothing but the words of others to go by.  The one disciple most like us today.

 

But Thomas’ story doesn’t stop there. The Bible says that it was 8 days later. Jesus shows up, and says, ” “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus doesn’t lecture him, chastise him, or discipline him for doubting. Instead, Jesus gave him peace, and in his mercy, Jesus gave Thomas what he needed in order to move past his doubt.

And it is at this moment that something new happens

Throughout the entire book of John, Jesus is “Lord” to his disciples, “Lord and Teacher” to Mary Magdalene, “Rabbi” to all his followers and now…. and only now, Thomas says what? “My Lord and my ….God.”

Now Thomas gets it.  But not only does he get it, he gets it in a deeper and much more profound way that anyone else- EVER. Believing Thomas! Christian Thomas! Profession of faith Thomas! Jesus who was once Master and Teacher has now become Lord and God.

Like Thomas, there are times we will be challenged. There are times when we will doubt. The very best of news is this. God meets us where we are.

God does not let us sit in doubt forever. In our time of doubt ….we will search, we will examine. We will question; and when we do we will gain a stronger and deeper understanding of God, and our relationship with him.

 

Thomas wanted to see Jesus with his eyes.

 

God gave you your eyes – so use them. Jesus says in Matthew 7:7 “Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open unto you.”

Who knows what this is? It’s an old garmond GPS. My wife bought it for me when we lived in LA. I lived there for years and could not find my way around. This was long before we all got GPS on our phones.

 

I use my GPS all of the time. Even for places I go to all of the time. Because I get lost. I get turned around and so I find that having the directions keeps me on track. It gives me confidence.

 

And do you know what I love about GPS, there is no wrong turns. When I make a mistake the lady in the gps, doesn’t hit me and say “you idiot!” Like some people… nope, she simply pauses and then says “recalculating.”

 

In other words she says, “oh you want to go THIS way…. I can still get you there.” We take wrong turns in life. We can even doubt the road we’re on, but GPS will help us reach our destination no matter what we chose.

 

2 Peter 1:5-11

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,  and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Peter says “make every effort…”

 

My friend Greg who said “If God exists, I’m sure he’ll forgive me.” My friend Greg made no effort.

 

Tell me something, in your life, what do you work the hardest at ? What gets your most energy? Notice Peter’s list… each character quality builds into the next – faith becomes virtue and virtue becomes knowledge.

 

Peter says “make every effort.”

How do you keep on course, how do you keep on track? Make every effort.

 

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a pastor say this, but there have been times in my life when I have doubted my own salvation. I have walked through moments of incredible pain or grief or fear where I have even doubted the existence of God.

 

It happens to everyone.

 

But every time I have those doubts … it is always when I have walked away from making every effort.

 

I was driving back from the airport with my Mom in the car, we were on the 45 north and I was not paying attention to road signs. It was late at night and I was not reading the signs. We were laughing and talking and having fun.  We were almost to Willis before I realized I had missed my turn.

 

I got lost

 

I wasn’t making every effort to find my way

 

Peter says in verse 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

 

Paul and Silas were sent on a missionary journey to Berea, the Bible says in

 

Acts 17:10-12

Paul and Silas (were sent) away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

 

The Bereans heard the message and then they what? Made every effort to see if it was true.

 

Does God care if you doubt? Not at all, as long as your doubt drives you to find answers. How can you find those answers? Look at nature, study humanity and morality, study the wonders of science or the fine tuning of the universe – the answers are there. God signs his work.

 

James 4:8 says Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

 

Everyone has had doubts. It’s not a sin to doubt. God is not mad at you. But my advice is, don’t let those doubts just sit there. Follow the story of God. Make every effort to answer your questions so that perhaps one day you can also say to Jesus

 

My Lord and my God.

 

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Posted in Pastor.

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Do you struggle with the demands of life?

 

Where are my 21 Pilots Fans? Tyler Joseph, Nick Thomas? No? They have a song now on the radio that my son Declan likes it’s called “Stressed out” and I really love the lyrics, so I will read them for you.

 

I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink,
But now I’m insecure and I care what people think.

Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young,
How come I’m never able to identify where it’s coming from,
I’d make a candle out of it if I ever found it,
Try to sell it, never sell out of it, but I’d probably only sell one,

And It’d be to my brother, ‘cause we have the same nose,
Same clothes homegrown a stone’s throw from a creek we used to roam,
But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered,
Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter.

We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away,
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face,
Saying, “wake up, you need to make money.”

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

 

How many of you would say that you are stressed out? Busy? It’s the new normal. We almost feel obligated to stay busy, don’t we? How are you doing? Keeping busy.

How many consider yourselves to be too busy? How do you know if you’re too busy? How about….
· No matter what you’re doing, you have a vague sense you ought to be doing something else.
· or how about – No matter how hard you work, you always feel like you’re behind.
· or You feel like your spinning your wheels — you get to the end of the week, and in spite of all your activity, you find yourself asking, “what did I really get done?”

 

Growing up there was a classic rock song from the Byrds called “Turn Turn Turn” (ok it was long before I was born, but my parents liked it, so I heard it growing up) and the lyrics were actually taken from the Bible.

 

It’s Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;  a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

King Solomon, the Bible says, was the wisest man who ever lived, and he said there is time for everything. Really? Is that what you’ve found? Everything has a time? Or does it really feel like everything is rushing at you all at once?

 

Do you ever stop long enough to wonder if there should be time – more time to do it. That there should be “seasons” and time to do the important things? There should be. But I don’t have time…. do you?

 

Last week was a blur. Easter has already come and gone – did you enjoy it?

 

If you meet someone at the grocery store or you ran into them at McDonald’s, and you ask them how they’re doing, almost invariably they’ll tell you how busy they are and start rattling off a list of activities — and their children’s activities.
· Monday is pee-wee football, Tuesday is ballet, Wednesday is piano, Thursday is tae-kwon-do, Friday is swimming lessons, Saturday and Sunday are soccer games.

 

Americans are busier than ever. Let me give you another example. Dinner time. The “Leave it to Beaver” picture of the family sitting around a dinner table at six o’clock eating a home cooked meal has virtually disappeared.
· These days, when Mom calls, “dinner time!” the family doesn’t head for the dining room table, they head for the minivan. The percent of meals eaten away from home has increased from 16 to 29 percent since 1978.
· Almost no one takes a traditional “lunch hour” any more.
· Not only that, but we are increasingly eating meals while we are doing other things — working, driving, or watching television.

 

Studies show that the average American is working longer days, and taking shorter vacations. We have less recreation time, less time with our kids, less time with our spouse… all for what?

 

Who is making us do this? Who’s foot is on the gas pedal of life?

 

When I was a kid back in 1977 and we first saw the movie star wars, we got to see what hyper drive looked like.  Star Trek had “warp speed” and we all knew it was fast, but when the Millennium Falcon took off and those white striped peeled past the ship, the entire universe spun around that ship as it blasted away.

 

That was fast when I was a kid, that was “super fast” we couldn’t imagine anything going that fast, but that’s how fast life seems to be now.

 

Everything happens at warp speed. Everything happens in “hyper drive.” Isn’t that how it feels? So let me ask you a question….

 

What moments of worth can you experience in your life at warp speed?

 

can you develop and sustain intimacy with your spouse

can you be vulnerable with your friends

can you pause and address the problems in your life

do you have time to dream

can you understand your 10 year old heart’s and mind

can you enjoy all of your relationships

can you relate to God in a meaningful, and heartfelt, fashion

if you’re still seeking God are you able to do an honest process about faith and god?

If you’re a Christian, can you receive god’s instruction, reflect, confess sin deeply, figure out problems and the direction God is leading you?

 

What moments of worth can you experience in your life at warp speed?

 

If you think back on your own life so far, what are those treasured moments that have added richness and texture to your life? What are those unbelievable memories? If I asked you what are those things that make you cry with gladness?

Would they be treasured time with friends? Family? Playing games with your parents?

 

What do they all have in common?

 

They all happened slowly. There was no speed involved.  And so if the richest moments in our life require quietness ….. and slowness…..  then why do we live as fast as we live?

 

I don’t know. So we have to ask the ‘smart people.’ What do the smart people say?

 

1. Explosion of Choices

 

Wouldn’t you agree? Now more than ever we have more opportunities everywhere – more choices – more of everything.

 

I walked past a lady in Wal-Mart this week and she was frozen in front of 40 different mustard options. Literally frozen. What do you do? How is that even a choice anyway? It’s mustard.  I don’t want to buy the wrong one. Let me help you out. Its mustard. There is no winner.

 

And I know how difficult it is – when I was a kid we had way less options. On TV we had 4 channels. 3, 10, 13 and UHF. When HBO came out a little later, it was 1 channel. It was called HBO and now you had 5 channels. And if something good wasn’t on TV you turned it off.

 

For fun –  we had 1 mall, 1 park and we could sign up for swim team in the Summer.

 

Now in 2016 how many things could your kids be into during the week? Almost one on every day. And for some reason there is a voice inside us that says “these are once in a lifetime opportunities” and you don’t want to “miss out.”

 

I don’t want to miss out.  What if THAT mustard is better? What if that mustard is more life fulfilling? My kid wants to do soccer, and scouts and karate, who am I to deprive them of all of these great opportunities?

 

Ok, but ask yourself, at what point do the opportunities in your life become threats?  When do they become thieves that rob you and your family? How much time have you wasted picking out mustard? What else to do the smart people say….. today we also have

 

2. A Streamlined Workforce

 

Most companies run leaner today.  Goals are higher, margins are thinner – so as a boss you have to make all your employees crank up production – now your employees eat lunch at their desks – it’s no longer 9-5, now the average American stays at work from 6 am to 6pm. Your work “out-put” is high but your soul is dead. And this isn’t going away competitive levels in our economy is here to stay – the good ‘ol days are gone – this is the new normal. This is a new day.

 

I think our parents generation feared that the workforce would be replaced with robots and it has… it’s us. We’re the robots.

 

What does that do to the American family? More kids are in day care – longer. Marriages become less intimate, conversation breaks down. Your body needs more down time and between work and your family – it’s your family that suffers.

 

One more…..Americans also have a

 

3. High sensory addiction

 

Many Americans are addicted to high level stimulus. You submerse yourself in it all week long, movies, TV, sound systems, rock concerts, facebook, laptops, cell phones, the latest apps, the latest gadgets. And it’s not just us – it’s also your kids.  – my kids always want a show – a game  -Disney infinity – a screen – or one of us – they want us to play with them – not because they want the relationship, but because they constantly want to be entertained.

 

And then…. 6 days of that and you come to church and what does your pastor say? Your soul needs more attention, pray….. read your Bible.

 

Read my Bible? How do I turn it on? It’s just words? Does it come in High Definition? Is this it? A dusty old book?

 

How can the Bible compete with your cable TV sports package? How can the Bible compete with Batman vs Superman? This isn’t warp drive, this isn’t mach 2.

 

But the problem remains…. your soul needs attention, it needs nurture, and care. So what things are you going to do to refresh your soul? Do you have a hobby? What do you do with your hands? Are you building something? Growing something? How is your soul being nurtured?

 

Listen to this warning, Jesus gave to his followers…..

 

Matthew 16:26

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

 

Now, I’ve never become famous or written a book, so nobody has ever asked me to speak at a High School graduation, but if they ever do, I already have my speech prepared. It’s called “Be very careful…and guard the pace of your life.”

 

Listen, God wants to do life with you and so Jesus warns “guard your soul” What good will it be, if you gain the world and lose…. yourself… or your family?

 

So let me ask you this morning. How is your soul? Does your soul feel active? Does it feel young and alive? Jesus says your life should feel like a river.

 

John 7:38

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

 

Have you ever stopped life long enough to sit down by a brook or a stream? It’s an exciting feeling, to hear the voices of nature and the water bubbling past. Jesus says for the follower of God, life should feel rewarding…. life should feel… like living.

 

Is that how your life feels? And if not.. why not?

 

Is your soul more responsive to God – or less?

do you feel close to God in your life?

is He a part of your thoughts and conversations?

 

are you more or less responsive to other people?

or do you want to be left alone?

are you alive in your relationships?

are you interested in being a part of other peoples stories?

 

Or some days do you wake up and feel more like a stranger in your own body?

 

So are you ready to make a change?

 

Are you ready to say NO MORE?

 

The good news is, I won’t make you go to a seminar, or install a new time saving app, I won’t recommend a book… the only way you can fix this is if you examine the choices you are making and you learn to slow down.

 

Life doesn’t need to move at warp speed. You make the choice. Speed … or Soul?

 

Let’s look at how Jesus handled time management

 

Mark 1:32-38

That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.  And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.  And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and those who were with him searched for him,  and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

 

What just happened? Jesus willingly left a place where many people were clamoring to see him. He was a preacher, and there were many people who wanted to hear his preaching. He was a healer, and there were many people who wanted to be healed. And yet… he left.

Why?

 

Wasn’t it worthwhile to teach and heal these people? Wasn’t this a good opportunity? Of course it was. But…. He had another purpose. AND Jesus “knew” his purpose.

 

His purpose was to spread the gospel throughout the whole region of Galilee, and he stuck to that purpose in spite of all of his choices.
Do you have a purpose in life?

 

Of course you do.

 

But do you know it? Do you have a clear idea in your head of what you are trying to accomplish in life?

Because, if not, then you will be controlled by the expectations and demands that others place on you. You will be leading your life according to the opinions and judgments of your family, your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, your kids school, your kids coaches….. If you don’t have a clear purpose, then you will end up being directed by those who do.

 

And then you will look back on your life and wonder what you really accomplished by all your busyness.

 

Easter Sunday I asked if you felt buried alive, felt like a zombie? Listen, if you don’t care about your soul, keep the pedal to the medal and go. But… if you do care, and you’re tired of being a cog in the wheel…. then it’s time to make a change.

 

You need to rest

and You need to lean some new skills

 

Take a break – relax, stop, unwind, get away take a vacation

 

Mark 6:30-31

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.  And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

 

Jesus has 3 years to save the world. 3 years to start the church, inspire the new testament, make some good connections, and make his appearances. And he stops and takes a break. Are you kidding me?

 

But notice… they had no time to even eat…. so what does Jesus do? He makes time.

 

Is rest important to God? You bet it is – so much so that there are over 23 thousand verses in the Bible and just 32 verses in God takes a break.

 

God rests after a week of work – and then he commands his people to do the same. Commands. It’s one of the 10 Commandments. “Thus says the Lord… relax.”

 

This is my bow, it’s real wood, very strong, I’m no sure of the weight I think it’s 40lbs, but this is how I store it. It doesn’t look like a bow in this position. The bowstring is not on, the bow is not bent. Why do I store it like this?

 

Because I care about it. The bow is relaxed. If I put the string on, the bow locks up, it gets tense, the wood is taught and everything is on edge. This is a heightened state. If I leave it like this…. all the time …..what’s going to happen.

 

My bow will become worthless, and it will break.

 

The disciples find Jesus in prayer on a mountain side, in seclusion and they say “Jesus the people are ready for you – it worked – you’re more popular than ever.” And Jesus says…

 

“Let’s go someplace else.”

 

But you’re missing all of these opportunities!  Listen, you and I – we need to come to the understanding that missing an opportunity is not the end of the world. It’s not the end of the world.  Good, healthy, viable, fun opportunities need to be said “no” to.

 

Do you know how you carve out a time of rest? By saying “NO” when everyone is looking for you. If you want to start rebuilding your soul, you need to learn to exercise your “NO muscle.” Maybe for some of you, the reason you are saying NO to ministry and NO to God’s church, is because you’ve said YES to everything else.

 

So… let’s practice.

Can you make cookies for the second graders tomorrow?

Can you be the room mom for next week?

Can you run into town and pick up my dry cleaning?

 

I know, you’re driving your car along 105 and you don’t like hitting red lights, but guess what? Red lights STOP your car. and the word “NO” stops your life.

 

What is your purpose in life? because saying the word “NO” will help you define it.  Are people going to like it? Of course not, nobody likes hearing no. So change your no….

 

“Hey, can you be a coach tomorrow for the walk-a-thon?”

 

“Oh wow, I would love to…. but I can’t.” Why can’t you? Because I need that time for me. I need that time for my family. I am already obligated for something else and that would push my week to it’s capacity – they don’t need to know why. And you know what happens when you say NO.

 

The end of the world.

 

Nope, they will ask someone else.

 

Listen, your soul is at stake, your family and your life are at stake, carve out time, make time – loosen your bowstring. Take off your shoes and your tie – take a break and learn to say “No.”

 

Here’s another thing you can learn….

 

Let someone else win

 

Somewhere along the line someone decided that life was a competition, it’s an unwritten thing, but we all do it.

On the freeway we’re all going to someplace different, but for some reason if we pass more cars, we feel like we’re winning and if cars pass us we feel like we’re losing.

 

But part of the stress your feeling is the competitive edge. The need to win, the need to get the prize, first place, number one. But you know, certain contests need to be forfeited. This is going to be hard for those of you who have a competitive nature. In every facet of your life there is a need to be a winner. Mom of the Year, World’s Best Dad, Best Boss, Number One Teacher, Employee of the Month, Citizen of the Year, Best in Show…. you know how to find some peace and rest for your soul?

Let someone else win. You don’t need that one.  Throw in the towel, declare defeat, you win. Everyone on your street does a bigger better Christmas lights display. Guess what? HEY, YOU WIN! I’ve come to be at peace with – that’s just not me. I have time to hang one strand of lights around half my house – and the rest of ya’ll can be the winners.

 

Everyone on your street got new mail boxes. I don’t need it. You can have em. You win best mail box. All your friends got new houses, new cars, new boats….. YOU WIN!

 

The Big Church out in Conroe has TV ads, church mailers, flashy stage, high volume sound system and millions of dollars, YOU WIN the big best church award. We don’t need it. You can have it.

 

You want some soul replenishing space in your life, just repeat this phrase – “I don’t have to compete for every promotion. ” My kid doesn’t need every medal.

 

If it means sacrificing your soul, let someone else win (last)

 

Turn off and Unplug

 

Sherry Turkle argues for unplugging from technology in her TED talk she says this

 

“Why does this matter? It matters to me because I think we’re setting ourselves up for trouble – trouble certainly in how we relate to each other, but also trouble in how we relate to ourselves and our capacity for self-reflection. We’re getting used to a new way of being alone together. People want to be with each other, but also elsewhere – connected to all the different places they want to be. People want to customize their lives. They want to go in and out of all the places they are because the thing that matters most to them is control over where they put their attention. So you want to go to that board meeting, but you only want to pay attention to the bits that interest you. And some people think that’s a good thing. But you can end up hiding from each other, even as we’re all constantly connected to each other.”

 

Mutli-tasking used to mean watching TV, talking on the phone and doing your homework. And now… we text and answer emails at funerals. Can you imagine? We don’t even allow our souls to grieve.

 

Listen, if you don’t make some boundaries with technology, it will run your life. Cut down on the stimulus. Cut back on the surround sound and the excitement, the car chases and the video games. Cut back and unplug the flashing blue screen.

 

I want you to listen to something, this is the Chairman of the FCC, Newton Minnow at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in 1961 and he’s talking about television.

 

(sound clip – video)

 

1961…. but I’ll go even older on you. This is a quote from a survey about the telephone taken in the 1930s

 

“… Most people saw telephoning as accelerating social life, which is another way of saying that telephoning broke isolation and augmented social contacts. A minority felt that telephones served this function too well. These people complained about too much gossip, about unwanted calls, or, as did some family patriarchs, about wives and children chatting too much. Most probably sensed that the telephone bell, besides disrupting their activities, could also bring bad news or bothersome requests. Yet only a few seemed to live in a heightened state of alertness, ears cocked for the telephone’s ring – no more, perhaps, than sat anxiously alert for a knock on the door.”

 

And it’s funny that people today…. we think this is a new issue. But we as a society have seen the dangers of media and electronics for the last 86 years! Phones do more, TVs are bigger and our movies and internet are flashy and thin – but the concept that these devices rob you of life, that they steal away your soul and that they accelerate your day and push you and push you – they’ve been warning us for generations – the signs have all been there.

 

So you need to decide.  Is it going to be speed or soul? Do you want to continue the high stress, fast paced lifestyle? Are you going to get the blue ribbon in every event? Are you going to be first to work and last to leave? Or …does your life have another purpose?

 

Is something else more important? Is your family more important? Is God more important?

 

In Luke 10 when Martha complains that Mary isn’t helping her in the Kitchen, Jesus says

 

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”

 

That’s super good advice. Are you letting yourself be distracted and anxious by many things?  Only one thing is important – the rest are distractions.

 

And don’t get me wrong, it’s not all a waste of time, we can all have the best of intentions and our schedule might include all the good and important things, but… they might not always be the BEST things.

 

And at the same time, God doesn’t want to make your life boring, take away your toys or condemn you. But He wants to free you from the trap of busyness so that you can give your time and energy to those things that have eternal value, and that won’t fade away.

 

God wants you, at the end of your life, to be able to look back and see that you have invested your years in something that will last forever. You want to know what matters most? Remember – only two things last forever: God and people.

 

The purpose of your life is to love them both. Love God, and Love others.

 

 

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Searching for God by Robert J. Hutchinson

Robert J. Hutchinson is an award-winning writer and author earned his graduate degree in New Testament studies. Hutchinson’s most recent book is Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth — an overview of recent archaeological finds and new developments in Biblical scholarship that are calling into question much of what skeptical scholars have assumed and asserted about Jesus over the past two centuries.  He blogs regularly at www.RobertHutchinson.com.

In this book Robert J. Hutchinson argues for the “Biblical Jesus” and not the watered-down secular Jesus that many have tried to label him as. Hutchinson’s Jesus is sizzling, brave, and compelling. Hutchinson argues for a Jesus who wooed crowds, grew famous all the while angering the powers that be.

But Hutchinson doesn’t just offer his opinion, he shows that much of the theory behind who Jesus was is out-dated and wrong and doesn’t line up with the historical data.

Who would like this book? I think anyone who is looking. Atheists can find value here as well as Christians. I don’t think this book is written simply for believers so that we can puff up our feathers and say, “see, I told you so.”

Do I think there is anything in this book that is crazy new or surprising? Not really. I don’t know that Hutchinson is really breaking any new undiscovered ground. These truths and discoveries I think are the ones Christians have held for generations.

And Hutchinson also backs up what he says with reference materials and he sites his sources. So, on the one hand the book feels a little scholarly, but on the other hand I think it’s very readable and digestible for lay people.

True, there are other historical Jesus books on the market, but if you’re curious you can’t go wrong with this one. I think anyone who has spoken with skeptics or any disciple of Christopher Hitchens would find value here as well.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing this advanced copy in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

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