Thursday, April 23, 2009

faith and doubt

I just finished reading a book by the title of this blog: Faith & Doubt by John Ortberg. It was a good book. I definitely found myself drawn into it as I was reading. There were a number of things that really made me think as I was reading this book. But there is just one thing quote that I had to stop and read a few times that I want to share from it tonight.

Then Jesus gives the disciples what is called the Great Commission,
sends them out to be his agents in the world. Jesus looks at these worshipping
doubters and says: "You go! You doubters, go. You risk your lives for me. You
change the world for me. And as you will find as you go that it is your own
doubts that are healed. You doubters are included too."

Disciples are not people who never doubt. They doubt and worship. They
doubt and serve. They doubt and help each other with their doubts. They doubt
and practice faithfulness. They doubt and wait for their doubt to one day be
turned to knowing.

Waiting is really hard. Maybe you're not sure if you can wait for God
anymore. But if you do not believe Jesus, if you do not wait for the Father whom
Jesus himself believed in, then the question becomes, what will you wait for?
We're all waiting for something, whether we want to or not. We're all waiting -
in our own lives, in our sorry world. If it's not for God - for the Catcher -
then what is it for?

It seems ironic that every kid, at some point in his or her life wants
to run away and join the circus. The truth is that we are all born holding on to
a trapeze - a little trapeze we call our "life." We hold on to it tightly: our
security, our "okay-ness," our success, our importance, our worth, our stuff,
our bodies, our health, our influence.

Then Jesus comes along and say: "You can let go of all that. You can
let go of your life, because Someone is holding it. You can die to all the
things that would keep you from living in my kingdom, and you'll find out that
you haven't died to anything at all that matters. Let go.

"Let go of all the darkness.
"Let go of all the selfishness.
"Let go of all the fear.
"Just let go."
(Faith & Doubt, John Ortberg, Zondervan 2008, pages

That's the way Ortberg finishes his book. The whole book is about choosing to have faith, even in the midst of doubt - how doubt can be good, as long as it does not take us so far that we walk away from faith.

As I read this book, I was challenged to begin to see how doubt can be a good thing. And, really, we see it all the time through-out Scripture. People struggled with doubt even when they could see Jesus face-to-face and they could see His miracles. We choose to have faith despite our doubts.

I was especially struck and spent time dwelling on one portion of the above quote, which I'll repeat here:
Disciples are not people who never doubt. They doubt and worship. They doubt
and serve. They doubt and help each other with their doubts. They doubt and
practice faithfulness. They doubt and wait for their doubt to one day be turned
to knowing.

The first time I read it, I kind of stopped and had to go back to reread because I wasn't sure I got it. But, as I reread, I realized that those few words contained a pretty good summary of what life as a disciple of Christ can be like. We may have doubts, but in the midst of them we continue to serve and worship and encourage, and over time discover those particular doubts go away - although are often just replaced with new ones. But, we still choose to have faith and to follow in the midst of those doubts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Do you ever have those days where you think about where you are in life now and compare it to where you thought you would be? That's where I've been today. I guess with it being my birthday, I've been a little reflective today.

If you had asked me when I was in college still where I thought I'd be today, I would have told you something different than what my life looks like now. Not that I have any problem with where my life is. Quite honestly, it's a pretty good life. I have a good job - good roommates - a great family - I'm involved in things I like. I do like where I'm at and I'm happy with it. But, it definitely looks different from where I thought I would be at this time in my life. I think, though, that where I am now is where God wanted me to be no matter what plans I had for things.

I wonder how often that is the case. We get so caught up in the way we want things to be and so focused on making them happen that way, that we miss what God really wanted for us. God may still use the way we make things to turn out for His glory, but I sometimes wonder if we miss out on the absolute best that God has because of our stubborn insistence on doing things our own way. I could have insisted my life look the way I thought it would now, and probably made it happen, but when I think about what I would have missed along the way, I'm glad I didn't do that this time.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

hands and feet

So, I doing some reading for this leadership development program I've been doing with a group from my church this year, and I came across this devotional-type thing that talked about the hand and feet of Jesus and how following Jesus involves using our hand and feet.

It started off just asking you to look at your hands and think about the stories they tell. Our hands can tell stories of where we have been and what we have done when we take the time to think about it. The author of this section then went on to talk about how Jesus' hands and feet told stories of where He had been and what He had done - including the scars from His death on the cross still being there on His resurrected body.

Jesus has now entrusted us with the responsibility of being His hands and feet on this earth, as we continue to bring the message of His Kingdom. We may not feel qualified to do so, but Jesus has sent us out to do so and entrusted us with the responsibility of doing it. Jesus set an example of how we should live through His life - His hands and feet told a story and our can tell the story of our lives in His as we serve Him and live out His calling on our lives. As we use our hands and feet to serve others, we are following Jesus' example of using His hands and feet to serve others.

I just want to close with a portion of what I read that really stuck with me:
So leadership is both simple and profound after all: your hands and feet, Jesus' hands and feet. Leadership is not primarily about you, your abilities, your position, your charisma, your passion, your skills, your cleverness, your wise insights, your capacities or your talents. It is primarily about Jesus showing up, calling you and blessing you. And if you get that, you can become an amazing disciple in the hands of Jesus. The disciples' leadership was not about their qualifications, but about their availability to God. No one was more surprised than the disciples were when God showed up and multiplied the works of their hands many times over. And so it will be with you - you'll be surprised as well, if you place your hands into His.
(VantagePoint3, 2006, pg. 65)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sabbath-keeping in a New Testament world

Note: If you read things in the Alive Minsitries website (, then you will also read this same entry there. I originally wrote it for that site, and then felt that I wanted to share it with readers here as well. This is a copy of what I wrote for the Alive Ministries blog, with no editing from that form, so the style it is written in is also a little bit different than I normally write here.

When you hear something about the Sabbath, what do you think of? Do you see it as something from the Old Testament that has no value for us today? Does it seem to be an ancient, out-of-date practice? Or do you see it as something we should be doing today? Do you think that it has value today?

The idea of keeping a Sabbath comes out of the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. In the fourth commandment given, God has these words to say:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11, NIV).

And then again in Deuteronomy, the Ten Commandments are repeated as a reminder:

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall do no work . . . Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a might hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:12-14, NIV).

From these passages we can quite obviously see that keeping the Sabbath was incredibly important to the Old Testament Israelites. But, does it have any importance for today? We are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament, so is the Sabbath something we should still be keeping today?

This is something I have spent a lot of time wrestling with in the past few weeks. It kept coming up in things I was reading, until it ultimately made me take the time to study what Scripture has to say about keeping a Sabbath. I was really looking to determine if keeping a Sabbath was something that we should still be doing today. And, I ultimately came to the conclusion that, yes, it something we should still be doing today. Let me present some thoughts on this to you for your own study.

One of the main arguments I have heard against the idea of keeping a Sabbath still being something we should do today is that Jesus does not specifically say that we should do so in His teaching. The other nine of the Ten Commandments, Jesus does repeat as something we should still be living by. Jesus even repeatedly angered the religious leaders of His day by the things He chose to do on the Sabbath. From the point of view of keeping a Sabbath as a day with very strict rules about what you can and cannot do, Jesus definitely did not tell us that we need to keep a Sabbath.

But, as I looked at the arguments and reasons behind God commanding the Israelites to keep a Sabbath in the first place, I started to see things a little bit differently. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had reduced the Sabbath to little more than a list of things you were not allowed to do. In doing so, they had lost the entire purpose of the day in the first place. When God gave the command to Israel the day was to be a day of rest and remembrance, not a day for just following rules because you had to. I think that upon looking at the concept originally behind the Sabbath, we can say that Jesus still saw the importance of keeping a Sabbath.

Jesus modelled a life of constantly taking time out from the busy-ness of His life to rest and spend time with the Father. Even when the crowds were large and pressing Him for more, He would withdraw to pray and just be with His Father – receiving strength, encouragement, rest. Through my study I came to see this as being what the Sabbath was supposed to be, and it was something that had been lost in the religious rule following of Jesus’ day.

Based on this, I would say that for Jesus to simply restate the commandment to keep the Sabbath would have meant that it remained nothing more than following rules. With this commandment, I honestly believe that Jesus rather modelled what keeping a Sabbath should look like. That means that as we seek to model our lives after His, we should be including this in our lives.

Once I determined that keeping a Sabbath was something that we should still be doing, I started studying and thinking about how to put that into my life. What does keeping a Sabbath look like today? Is it a specific day of the week? How long should it be? How do I make this a practical part of my life? Those were just some of the questions that were going through my head.

When we read the passages out of Exodus and Deuteronomy (above) about this, we can see that it was to be set aside by the Israelites as a time of rest and remembrance. A time to rest from the busy-ness of life and from work. A time to remember God’s faithfulness in the past.

I think that keeping a Sabbath is also about creating space in your life to hear from God. It is about slowing down enough that we can actually hear God’s still, small voice whispering to us – that voice that we so easily miss in our busy-ness and the noise of our culture. I think this is more than just having a half hour, or whatever time it is for you, set aside each day – although that is important. As I have been seeking to understand this better, I have come to see that keeping a Sabbath requires that we give a larger chunk of unscheduled, un-busy time to God for His purposes. This may be a whole day, or it may be an afternoon, or it may be an evening. I think the key is that it is a larger chunk of time than we may normally be able to give in a day. And, to do this, will probably require us to be intentional about it. The pace of life in our culture does not lend itself well to these times just happening – we may have to actually sit down and in our schedule block out regular chunks of time where we will not plan or schedule that time full.
I think the other important thing about keeping a Sabbath is that we leave the time open to God’s purposes. As I have sought to begin to put this into practice in my life, I have discovered that it can be very different each time. Sometimes it may be just spending extended time in prayer and the Word. Or it may be just reading a good book. Or it may involve spending time with friends or family. Or maybe it will be sleeping. All of these things can be God’s purposes for our Sabbath. He knows what we need most in that time, and, if we are open to it, He will lead us into that during this time.

Keeping a Sabbath definitely goes against culture and how we are taught to live. But, I honestly think that it is key to having a healthy life as a follower of Christ. Without it I think we are in serious danger of ending up burnt out on life, on work, on ministry, on relationships.
As I close, just some questions to think about in your own life:
-When was the last time I had an unscheduled block of time that I left open for God to work?
-Do I see the importance of having a regular Sabbath in my life?
-If I have a regular Sabbath, is it helpful to my walk with God?
-If I don’t have a regular Sabbath, are there things in my life that I feel like I’m missing when I speak with other Christians who have this practice in their lives?
-How can I make room in my schedule for a regular Sabbath?
I encourage you to spend some time thinking about these questions in relation to your life and to take some time to look at what Scripture has to say about keeping a Sabbath and Jesus’ example of regularly taking time out to spend with the Father.

Friday, April 10, 2009

hope for the future

As I sit her pondering all of my day so far . . . Good Friday . . . a day to remember what our Savior did for us. He loved us enough to go to the cross and suffer and die for us. When I really take the time to think about that, it's pretty incredible and amazing.

Earlier this morning I was reading on another blog some thoughts about the story in Luke 8 of the woman who pushes her way through the crowd to just touch the hem of Jesus' garment, for a chance to be healed. She went to all this trouble to just touch the hem - just to get close to Jesus.

At this point, I'm going to quote the part of this other blog that really spoke to me, because it says it better than I could hope too. You can read the entire blog here, but this is the part I really wanted to share today.

One day we will trade the hem for the real Him. No more pressing through
the crowd wondering if we're going to be among the few that see that kind of
miracle. We will see Him. Jesus Christ, the risen King. We won't just touch the
edge of His cloak. We will touch the God-man Himself in His spectacular immortal
body but, significantly, one still bearing the scars of His visitation here. His
wholeness is so utterly complete and infinitely perfect that we, upon the very
sight of Him, will be made whole as well.
This, Beloved, is what we live for. Not for just another day here. But for
that very day there.
(Beth Moore)

That is the hope we have for the future! The hope that comes because of what happened today so many years ago! May you be encouraged today that there is hope for the future.

Friday, April 3, 2009


So, this past week I was reading an article that I found really challenging. I wanted to share it with you. It's in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

Joy is not really something I have thought a lot about until the last couple of days since I read this, so I don't have a lot of thoughts on it all right now. I just wanted to share it with you. I may write more on this all at some point when I have some thoughts on things that make sense. ;)