Not An Answer To Prayer, Or Charlie Gets A Job Remix Edition

If you’ve hung around this blog for a few months, and God bless your poor little heart, then you likely know that in April I unexpectedly lost my job, as the company I worked for closed. It wasn’t til late July that I got a replacement, however it was a temporary job, as I was covering for someone on maternity leave.

Part of my logic in taking in the job, in a decent-sized medical facility, was so that I could get my foot in the door and try to find more permanent work with the company. At the time I actually had a job offer for a full time gig doing something I desperately didn’t want do, so I  passed it up in faith.

Unexpectedly, as life usually is, it worked. Today I signed papers as a full time employee. And I am grateful.

My mom has remarked over and over again that it’s an answer to prayer. I know what she means but I disagree. You see, for me to get this full time job, it meant that someone had to get fired. Fired for breaking a big time rule. And I’m very reluctant to think that this person getting fired was God answering my family’s prayer. That doesn’t sit well with me.

I’m turning this announcement in a post that’s wandering some greater things. This last week I’ve seen old college acquaintances ask for prayer for God to move in aiding the process of settling a home purchase, and another ask for prayer for their car sitting in the mechanic.

This is sticky. Certainly I believe God can do all and that nothing is too absurd and God blesses those with faith, yet those things seem a little off. Does God move corporate personnel changes and the in-workings of the mortgage process?

So I’ve got a job. I’m grateful, though it came at someone else’s expense. It is their fault for doing something that warranted getting fired. What did God do? I do believe he provides more than moral support, but…

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Charlie Quotes A Quasi-Hindu Yogi Teacher, Or The Narrow Search For God

I recently heard a quote from an India spiritual leader (Yogi Bhajan if you must know his name)

If you can’t find God in all, you can’t find God at all.

Though I find the cute little saying quite profound I think it fails to acknowledge that we are all on a journey and some of us are finding God in small petri dishes and others are finding him the whole world over. As I’ve written about before I’m hesitant to say “oh this person isn’t a true Christian because of….,” and so I’m equally hesitant to say someone hasn’t found God because they haven’t found him everywhere. It’s a bit too elitist for me. Nonetheless….

I think it’s very easy to narrow our search for God upon certain areas. I think we automatically discount places and people where he seemingly can’t be. We think of dark places, or maybe even the plain places and move our attention onward, thinking God can only be found in radiant beautiful light.

A few years ago before I was an old married dude (I’m 27) I did 300+ mile backpacking trip in Virginia. It rained – a lot. In fact I left the car to begin the trail in the rain. Often I’d climb up a mountain (what on the west coast would qualify as a hill) and get to overlook just to see I was enveloped in a cloud. My hard earned dramatic landscapes were often not to be found.

But what I discovered was beauty in the forest. It wasn’t as overt as 200 foot waterfalls or snow-capped peaks, but the experience taught me to find the beauty in what was around me. Because it’s there. It’s about dropping your expectations and being open. Similarly I think we can find God everywhere we go, even in the darkest of corners (if not especially so in the darkest corners, as we serve a God of redemption), but it’s a matter of casting aside filters and expectations. It’s less about gaining new eyes and more about seeing with pure ones.

What do you think of the hippie quote? Were you uncomfortable with me quoting from a Middle Eastern non-Christian? Do you find it difficult to see God in all things and people – or do you even believe this could be true?

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Insider Deals In The Kingdom, God Complies With Government Regulations

Recently I heard the story of a woman who was going through many struggles with her daughter and a ruthless, shrewd ex-husband was late for a meeting in downtown LA. Of course finding parking in such a big city is an adventure where the journey is not the destination, and the woman was panicked at being tardy to a business meeting with heavyweight clients. But miraculously a spot was open just in front of the office building she was going into. She began to search for change in her car to put in the meter but alas she had nothing but a cupholder with a handful of pennies. She sighed and decided she’d just pay the hefty parking violate fine, but as she walked by she saw the meter had forty-five minutes left on it – the exact time of her meeting. She walked into the meeting knowing God was reminding her not to worry and that he was safe with her.

If the Christian life were this way at more regular intervals I think’d we have more conversions. If God was giving out hook-ups to his people then why wouldn’t people want free parking and the myriads of other perks for being his follower?

Though it likely sounds like I’m critiquing the parking meter story, my question is really would God give that free parking to a non-Christian? Or maybe better stated – does he? Are there special benefits to being a Christian? Are there insider deals in the kingdom? I ask the question in a ridiculous way, but it’s an actual question I have.

I think God doesn’t discriminate against people based on their religion. After all lawyers are all over that stuff these days. As Matthew 5 points out sun and rain happen on both parties. Though I believe God is a servant I don’t think God is like a butler who goes around serving us with little divine hook ups. It’s a little more ambiguous and a lot less sexy, but I think God is in the delivering us from destruction business, not in the serving up small-detail hook ups.

It seems as though we easily turn the idea of God is in control into God controls all – and suddenly God seems more like a genie who lives to grant us wishes or a guardian angel. God loves us and is with us in the details, but I think I’m seeing he is here with us pulling the world out of the mud, not putting money into parking meters.

Are there insider deals for Christians? If so, what do you think they are? Have you thought of God as a genie or a guardian angel? Does God comply with government regulations about religious discrimination?

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My Church’s Address Starts With WWW or Why Sermons Are So 1677 (Part 5)

I gave y’all a break from my series examining the role of sermons in church life. The lifeless horse may be soon approaching a second death, it remains to be seen after today’s beating.

In 2006 Craig Groeschel‘s LifeChurch, which had been expanding from Oklahoma to include other campuses around southeastern America, launched a different kind of campus: an internet one. Meaning you could log on to watch a church service on a computer.

I think this naturally weirded many people out. Though most churches stick to the format of worship & sermon for church services as religiously as they stick to Jesus an online church seems to violate something*. “Wait – you’re going to church…and there’s no people?” Almost all of us realize that the sermon isn’t the point of the church service – it’s the gathering of the people.

I’ve been to a lot of boring church services. I’ve been to ones where the pastor wasn’t exactly presenting a coherent message, and in fact I walked away utterly confused as to what he was even trying to say. And if I’m going to go to church to hear a sermon, I mightaswell go to one where the sermon is engaging and challenging and well thought out. Why use up my time fighting off sleep and balancing my checkbook in an uncomfortable seat?

And so in this way an internet church makes total sense – I mightaswell tune into an interesting sermon if I’m going to listen to a sermon. But ultimately church is far more about the gathering and community and fellowship of people.

To me, this is the ultimate reason for this series. Sermons are not inherently wrong – they certainly have their time and place. However I do not agree that their place is at front and center of a church gathering.

*I’m not criticizing Life Church as I’m confident there are many circumstances in which an internet church is useful and necessary for someone, and that is blessing someone’s life somewhere.

How can sermons be done to encourage fellowship? What do you think of internet churches? If a sermon isn’t front and center of a church service then what should be?

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With You In The Cow Poop, Or The Promises of Christian Radio*

Recently a big tragedy struck my life and the lives of many around me. Unfortunately due to legal reasons I cannot disclose the tragedy** (and it’s likely I’ll never be able to to). These things never come when it’s convenient, if there is ever a convenient time to begin with, and so the news came while I was at work. Yesterday I saw a person who I worked with that day, which they reminded me of, but I don’t remember them.

When my wife and I have a conflict I try to resolve immediately. I can’t stand the tension, I can’t stand the division, I immediately apologize for the stupidity I contributed and I try to make it all well again. But when it comes to matters of sadness and grief and pain I like most people try to put it off like paying bills or a fixing something in the garage I really don’t want to do. My schedule had me booked, and so I used that as a way to not actually work through the process of pain. Someone recently used the analysis of holding a beach ball under water – it takes all sorts of effort to keep it under the water so you know it’s there yet you never let it see the light of day. And of course the deeper under the water the higher it’ll fly when it comes up.

Finally after a week I had to face what had happened – there was really no avoiding, as it was thrown in my face in a very literal way. I was likely a bit cranky that day. I was shaking and stuttering, clearly on edge and red in the face.

We deal with a God who isn’t afraid to hear what we’ve got – even if it isn’t exactly flattering. We deal with a God who wants unflinching honesty, but mostly gets little paper sailboats of honesty arriving on the shore of a big ocean. And we deal with a God who is with us in this pain.

I think too many people try to hype up God as someone who takes away the pain. He’s the one who makes the boo-boo all better. But I think less and less of God of doing this. Moreso, I see him as with us in the pain because he can’t call us out of it if he isn’t already in there with us to begin with.

Lately I’ve been very interested in the promises of God, and I think they aren’t as numerous as we’d like them to be or even report them to be. But the promises of God are deeper than the credit we give him. And that’s what counts.

*This is a reference to a recent post. I’m sorry I haven’t responded to comments yet, I haven’t had much emotional energy lately (reference the subject of this post).

**My wife and daughter are fine.

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My Religion-Induced Headaches, Or Overdubbing The Gospel

I had a headache last week. I’m aware that I’m fortunate, as headaches are incredibly rare for me. I take about six ibuprofen a year.

Lately I only get a headache if I’ve been looking at a computer screen too much at work, but I had that day off. I get these kind of headaches from time to time, and it’s when I’m too immersed in Christianity.

I will now spend the rest of the post trying to explain what I mean, because that sounds terrible.

When I finally get some free time I often catch up on blogs I haven’t read (google reader’s been stuck in the 70’s for a while), try to finally make some headway on that spiritual memoir that’s been on my nightstand for 4 months, try to get caught up with sermons I’ve missed, and so on. And I think today I got a religious headache.

Sometimes I think we couldn’t swallow the backwards logic and subversive gospel of Jesus and instead invented the religion by how we thought it should go. It’s like we imagined what a religion should consist of, the conclusions you’d naturally come to when thinking of a powerful God over all. You know – God likes good little boys and girls who keep all the rules, he showers the good little boys and girls with gifts, and all he demands in return is strict personal piety and weekly checks.

I think I began to feel burdened with religion, feeling the weight of religious obligation and guilt for innumerable shortcomings. It’s entirely possible to surround yourself with Christianity, thinking it’ll only lift you up, when in fact it compresses on your chest like a linebacker.

Do you ever get religious headaches? Why do you think you get them? Do you ever get over-Christianized?

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The Ultimate Seeker Friendly Thing Bill Hybels Is Jealous Of, Or Build Your Own Christian Radio Station

If I ever started a side project blog, and maybe even a book, it’d be called “The Wacky Stuff I Heard on Christian Radio.”  Of course there’s no real plan to follow through with this, though the more I think about it the more I’m convinced it’d be a big hit. Overnight sensation kind of thing.

My dad mysteriously developed a taste for Christian music in his late 50’s. Growing up my friend’s parents tried desperately to get them into Christian music – showering them with Audio Adrenaline CD’s and taking them to P.O.D. concerts. I don’t think my parents knew of such a subculture, thus I was spared. So I find it fascinating that so late in the game my dad listens, nearly, exclusively to Christian radio.

I’ve been with people who, when channel surfing in the car, have stopped at the local Christian radio station for a irony’s sake and mocking laughs. And if you judged Christianity based off of some Christian radio, well, the laughs wouldn’t be totally unwarranted. Hence my new bestselling book.

Christian radio has a unique role in that it’s for Christians by Christians, yet anyone can tune in. It’s almost like having a tap into the Pentagon phones. Knowing this I think I’d be cautious about what goes on there. Especially with people easily cruising on by only hearing six second snippets what’s said can easily be misunderstood.

Knowing any old person could happen on the station would likely entice the station to adopt a seeker-friendly demeanor. You probably won’t have much talk about the trials of God purifying your heart by fire nor the immense difficulty in daily dying to self – that doesn’t translate well in radio. You’ll probably have more talk about all of the hookups God’s given you (no, not that those kind of hook-ups).

There’s dangers with spewing both bubblegum pop Christianity and the real down and dirty “true” faith. The latter is best shared amongst those you know and are with, and the former needs to be balanced out, preferably with more mature believers.

All in all I actually like the idea of Christian radio, even though I’ve vocalized my disappointment with most Christian music. Going to church can be intimidating, and so for those so-called seekers out there they can anonymously tune in. In that way it’s even more open than the most seeker friendly church because you don’t even have to go anywhere – it comes to you!

All that said I think Christianity could be better represented than what gets broadcasted these days. It seems to toggle between feel-good-suburban Christianity and loud-angry-at-the-liberal-state-of-the-world fundamentalism. And this in turns ends up being the perception many have when their tapped into our phone lines.

If you ran your own Christian radio station what would you feature? How do you think Christianity can get misrepresented on the radio?

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