Our Future Depends On The Spiritual

There is a theory that our civilization is at its most historically precarious existence at this very moment. 

This Hinge of History theory considers human’s current capacity to destroy ourselves, the all encompassing future of AI, the still present ability to reverse some of our wrongs such as climate change, and the mounting global crisis and posits that if we don’t prioritize the right things in our society over the next 50 to 100 years then we could be on the current road to obliteration. 

Hinge of History theorists state that if we wait to solve some of our problems then it could be too late. That we, as a species, must act now at this hinge in history.

In what I have read about the Hinge of History idea there is very little said about the spiritual side of our existence. This dumbfounds me. Despite the tendency of scientists and even philosophers to favor the physical over the spiritual it doesn’t change the fact that every person who ever existed and will ever exist has a spiritual life. From the child in the slums of India to the billionaire in Malibu, everyone of us has a spiritual life – this non-physical side that governs our decision making, gives us hope, establishes meaning, and directs our character. 

What are we doing with this spiritual life and what is the future of our existence if the spiritual is not made a priority?

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God is an active agent in our existence. He creates, sustains, moves, changes, and transforms his creation and his people. Reading the Psalms has shown me the priority of God as shield and protector. Still, he lets human beings make their own choices and shape their own existence and develop their own solutions to problems. 

God has supreme power over the universe yet he wants to partner with his creation to manage it. Our best way to manage this world and our lives is through the power of Christ in our lives. This side of Christ’s return, a way for God to be a factor in society is through individuals who claim Christ as Lord bringing him with them into their board meetings, city councils, laboratories, hospitals and places of government. And where does God operate with the individual? At the point of their spirit, their heart, their mind and will. A non-Christian or a Christian that has not Grown Up, doesn’t  bring Christ into their complicated existence because their spiritual side has not been transformed and renovated. Their lack of Growing Up prevents Christ from showing up in the fullest way possible and that is catastrophic for our existence.

As we face this Hinge of History, however significant it may or may not be, we must Grow Up and become more like Christ. We must prioritize the spiritual over the pragmatic, discipleship to Christ over discipleship to power, and wisdom over intelligence. Our very existence could be at stake.

I Am To Blame For The World’s Problems

Faced with bad news in our world we have two choices – 1. Take responsibility for it or 2. Point fingers at others and place blame.

Which one of these do you think most people choose?

I am tired of finger pointing and blaming all of the world’s problems on others. As a Texan follower of Christ, I mainly see this kind of behavior among Christians who want to place the blame for moral decay and chaos at the feet of the common suspects – liberals, homosexuals, and Hollywood.

Maybe these groups deserve some of the blame but if they do so does their opposites. How you ask? Last I checked, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, even the conservative, straight, and pro-family Christians. The last I checked, the Christian church deals with scandals of the Money, Sex, and Power variety just like anywhere else. The last I checked my own heart, I discovered hatred, rage, revenge, incredible selfishness, superficiality, immorality and disbelief. I am part of the problem and the sooner I can start working on my own heart and continue to transform into a Christlike version of myself, the sooner the world will change around me.

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The alternative is to not have to worry about my own faults and mistakes because I can blame it on someone else. That is not a recipe for Growing Up. Most likely, it is a recipe for staying still and after too long we start to regress because our way of seeing the world is predicated on ignoring our own heart and we are unable to see the log in our own eye as we try to flick out the speck in everyone else’s.

So, what can we do?

First, fall on your knees and cry out for mercy. You are a sinner, I am a sinner, and even though we have the divine power in our lives to change and put on the new self, we are still at the mercy of Christ and his salvation for our redemption. Know your need and humble yourself. We have not reached moral, social, or political blamelessness.

Second, admit that you are a part of an unbelieving generation who has very little faith that God can solve the world’s problems. We are like the disciples who couldn’t heal because of their lack of faith and deserve Jesus’ criticism and frustration. And we are like the Pharisees whose only answer to the world’s problems are self righteousness, judgement, condescension, and ridicule. We can do better than that.

Third, Grow Up. Practice some of the things that have been discussed in this blog. Ask Christ to change you. Repent of your sins and judgmental nature. Listen to God. Read scripture. Be a part of a community that wants to grow in trust and doesn’t take itself too seriously. As I start to put on more of Christ and you start to put on more of Christ then we start to become an unstoppable force known as the Kingdom of God. Beware of poor and dangerous substitutes for the Kingdom of God and ruthlessly compare them to what you see in Christ and the early church.

If finger pointing is our solution to the world’s problems then we are only going to make matters worse. But, if we can humbly accept our own penchant for evil, are vast ability to screw things up, and our urgent and pressing need for Christ then we have a starting point for our own growth. This is difficult work but where has finger pointing taken us?

Do the hard work and start to see Christ change the world around you.

Love Isn’t Supposed To Be Rare

I have been reading the book Let Justice Roll Down by John Perkins. He tells the story of the pastor of the Baptist church in his Mississippi town in the early 1960s. Perkins, who is black, had befriended the white pastor and they had reached common ground on their love for the Lord and the Bible and Perkins had developed a white ally for his work with the marginalized and poor in his community. Sadly, Perkins’ pastor friend committed suicide shortly after the start of their friendship. After the funeral, Perkins talked with a member of the Baptist church. She said, “The last few Sundays he had been acting strange. He was talking about love and concern but in a strange way.” Perkins then writes about this encounter, “So it was strange to hear all that talk about love and concern. So sad, I thought. Are love and concern really as rare as all that?”

As Christians, our default mode should be love. Jesus himself says that we will be known as his followers when we love. Sadly, the human default is often anger, fear, selfishness, and greed. When I examine my own heart, I often would much rather turn to anger than understanding, to fear rather than trust, and selfishness rather than love. 

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My base state is a million miles from love and concern and it takes daily practice and much help from the Holy Spirit to deny myself, take up my cross, follow Jesus, and love in the way of Jesus. One of my prayers lately has been, “Let me love others in the same way that you love me. Blessing everyone that I meet, even those that mistreat me.”* 

This might be the most radical thing I can pray for in a given day because for it to be answered would mean it would change the way I drive, the way I talk to my kids, the way I choose a line at the grocery store, the way I view politics, and the way I treat my enemies.

Brian Zahnd says that “the future belongs to love.” My eternal destiny will be in the presence of God, who is love. I will not be able to escape him. Love will inhabit all of eternal life and I will be soaking in it. I might as well start my exposure and practice in it now. It will serve me and all those around me so dramatically better than the non-love that we see around us and are so capable of.

If the future belongs to love, let’s start our future now.

*Taken from a book by Bill Gaultiere called Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke.

Quit Worrying About Your Level of Faith

The definition of a simple faith is not a small sentence with the most minimum of doctrine. A simple faith is wanting to believe. But this isn’t good enough for our 21st Century mindset that has to have not just happiness but fulfillment, not just wellness but fitness, not just devotion but radical commitment. 

When it comes to our Growing Up, what if we were satisfied with the faith that we have because we know that we are not ultimately responsible for our spiritual lives. If faith is a gift then whatever miniscule amount that we possess didn’t come from our own doing but was given to us by God. Our job is to take our faith, as diminished as it may be, and offer it to God and ask him to build on it and then start practicing proven methods to provide a context to Grow our faith – namely prayer, worship, scripture reading, and service.

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Lately, I have wrestled with some serious doubts but that didn’t stop me from worshipping, fasting, praying, reading the Psalms, writing this blog, and listening for God last week. My faith is still strong even though my understanding about how God works and what he is trying to accomplish in my life may be in doubt. 

When a former student told James Bryan Smith that she hadn’t experienced God in a while and was worried about her spiritual life and her future in ministry, Smith responded with, “I have never seen your faith stronger.” His point was that despite the dryness of her life with Christ at the moment she hadn’t wavered from her commitment and her discipline in matters of faith. The lack of present experiences with God was not a sign of her lack of faith. The fact that in despite of all she was missing her practices were still frequent, dedicated, and intense showed that she was open and available for something greater, richer, and deeper. According to Smith, she found it and her ministry has flourished and been fruitful.

Dallas Willard says:

I never worry about someone who wants to believe, because I know that they already believe enough to want to believe more. If they did not already believe a great deal they would not even want to believe. That is why God says to us through the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your heart” (Jer. 29:13). Why? Because only faith would lead you to seek God with all of your heart.

Not feeling it during worship? You still have faith. Relationships not working out? You still have faith. Doubts present when they were not there before? You still have faith. 

Remember what we have faith in? The God of the universe who is pleased with you and loves you and never turned his back on his creation. The God who provided us his son to learn from, to demonstrate divine love, and to sacrifice his perfect life for the sole benefit of an often ungrateful but always sinful people.

A simple faith is wanting to believe and a realization that God has exactly what I need. That is enough for God and should be enough for us. God can use this simple faith to build on. Will we let him?

Your Only Option Is To Embrace Inconveniences

Today, I may face a hundred interruptions and multiple inconveniences. What I do with these moments may be the most important aspect of my day. What if I let these moments be holy moments?

I know what you are saying. An inconvenience could be straight from Satan and something that I could denounce and not think twice about. Or, most likely, an inconvenience could simply be a reflection of my selfish and inconsiderate heart that is ready to be irritated at the slightest drain on my time, energy, or space. 

I am always struck by how Jesus dealt with inconveniences. While he is going to heal an important person’s daughter he stops the healing parade to address some forgotten woman, much to the irritation of his disciples. When little kids are around and the disciples are wanting to get rid of them, Jesus rebukes them and says, if anything, these kids should be the model for the rest of them. When a storm is surging around him, Jesus finally is able to take a nap. When soldiers come to arrest Jesus and a servant loses an ear in the scuffle, Jesus takes a moment to heal the wound of the earless man. When his own family comes desperately knocking on the building door for his attention, Jesus doesn’t lose the moment to make a point and welcome all of the faithful to his family.

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So, what if I was to take the Jesus approach to these inconveniences and interruptions? Instead of growing irritated and bemoaning the derailment of my day or hour, what if I embraced these moments as a chance to trust, a chance to serve someone, a chance to heal. Instead of dreading that next interruption, what if I welcomed it and looked forward to it because God may be in it and who am I to judge God’s timing, God’s way, and God’s will. 

C.S. Lewis calls these interruptions our “real life”:

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”

I am going to embrace my real inconvenient life today and see what God does with it and how he helps me Grow Up in the process.