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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tone and Timbre - On Christian Speech and Writing


I'm a guitarist. I've been playing for about 20 years now. It's a great instrument and I'm usually inspired when I watch professionals and artists play it.  Every once in a while, I'll find someone who is technically proficient, but I just can't stand to watch them play.  Don't misunderstand me, I enjoy players as diverse as Paul Gilbert  and Phil Keaggy in their approach to the guitar.   However, there are certain players who just seem to be obnoxious  when I hear them. 

This mainly seems to be the case when someone knows all the notes to play yet fails to take the time to make their guitar sound good.  Guitarists refer to this as a lack of tone and timbre.  Now, it's true that tone and timbre are a matter of personal taste.  There are still some basic rules to follow as you develop your own tone. A chief one is to never be so obnoxious that you can't blend with the rest of the band. In my opinion, Kenny Loggin's "Danger Zone" is one of the worst all time offenders in this respect. The guitar in this song is horrid. Somewhat ironically, the song was used to great effect by recruiters.  In music, sometimes a job will get done by the guitar, but it could have gotten done a lot more graciously.

This is where my thoughts went after reading a recent post by a certain Christian blogger. Although the particular topic he was addressing (i.e. Robin Williams' suicide) may have been an appropriate topic given the amount of time addressed to it in the media, he handled it without a real sense of grace.  If he was playing guitar, his tone and timbre would have been brash, in your face, and without a consideration for the rest of the band.  It's an ugly tone.

If this was the only time this blogger had written in this way, I may not be writing my own thoughts on the matter right now.  However, again and again this individual chooses to interact with topics in a bombastic, kick-in-the-door manner. I thought about linking to more of his blog, but decided against it since I really don't care to drive more traffic to his site.  He's the theological-blogger equivalent of someone who presents a possible theological truth in all the wrong ways to a grieving family.  For example, if a family was grieving with the loss of a young child, he appears to be the type of person who would say, "Well, just remember God has a plan and we just have to trust God." There may be some truth in those words, they may have even be intended to convey comfort.  They don't though. They are a miserable failure in terms of solace, empathy, and grace. 

Before I get accused of being a pot calling the kettle black, let me make clear my point here.  I don't know that blogger personally. I do know myself.  I do know plenty of other Christians.  I know quite a few Christians who are teachers or leaders who are responsible for sharing their ideas with other Christians. I don't intend to correct him personally. I do intend to help correct the possibility of making the same mistake within the group of people I know.  At least, I hope that this blog post will contribute to the discussion as we try to become more Christ-like. 

As James taught about the power of the tongue, he wrote, "Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?" (James 3:11 HCSB). This is a reminder about the life-giving quality of our words. Specifically, he was talking about the power of our words as we teach and lead. The application turns us toward life and grace. When we speak and teach it should not just be done so that we are right. Our tone and timbre matters.

I mentioned kick-in-the-door delivery tactics. Such tactics are always more concerned with "truth" and proving a point than loving people or growing the kingdom. I say "truth" because facts are never just facts, objective truth always relates to a bunch of other things, like the people involved and the cultural context. Furthermore, there are several ways kick-in-the-door tactics employ logical slight of hand to accomplish their feats of intellectual entry.

First, logically valid arguments are assumed to be true (whether implicit, tacit, or focal) .  This is either devious or ignorant of the relationship between an argument and its premises.  It is completely possible to make a valid argument and yet be untrue. Consider the following 1. All refrigerators are made of titanium alloy. 2. All items made of titanium alloy are time-travel devices. 3. Therefore, all refrigerators are time-travel devices.   With this example, we immediately see the absurdity of the premises.  It is not always the case that we see the truth or absurdity of a principle or premise.  When this is the case, we must not assume we are telling the whole truth.  After all, a partial truth is also partially false. We need sound arguments where both the premises and the conclusion have at least a high probability of truth. 

Second, there are often other tactics used by those marshaling to barrel through intellectual doors. Some of these include equivocation. Equivocation is when two entities are made out to be the same thing.  Often, equivocation relies on the inability of others to distinguish between different types, tokens, classes, etc. Presumption is another tactic used by these go-getters. Presumption relies on underlying assumptions about the state of affairs as presented.  It is closely tied to equivocation in its application. 

What about our good intentions?  Doesn't it sound like I am the enemy of truth and justice and the American way? Good intentions mean very little if we do not consider our context.   As a Christian it must always be my goal to communicate life to others.   Are my words bringing life (not just what I think will bring life, but actual life, dependent on Christ)? If not, then I have failed to communicate objective truth. I have only communicated some "objective" ideas.

When James referred to our speech as either fresh water or salt water, I can't help but think James was thinking of Jesus (e.g. John 4:14).  My words, when spoken or written should bring fresh, living water to those who need it. Yes, it's true that my words may occasionally sting, as when water washes out an old wound.  I must gauge how I deliver those words though. Usually a power washer, and it's strong tone, is the wrong tool for delivering water to those in need. Sure, I can imagine a situation where it would be the proper tool. Most of the time though, the water will have a calm, musical sound to it as the clear waters of life are delivered.  



Friday, July 25, 2014

Surprise Party

At our local church, we've been going through many of the parables of Jesus this summer.  It's been great because studying the parables allows us to see what Jesus taught firsthand to people. I love re-reading what Jesus taught to people. It often hits me square between the eyes and gives me a kick in the pants (sorry to mix metaphors).

Last week, we looked at the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-35; Mark 4:30-34; Luke 13:18-21).   Each time we have studied a parable at youth group, we have taken the time to go deeper and read the surrounding context. This way, everyone who is there will be able to apply and teach the scripture to a friend or neighbor (at least in theory). This parable was no different. As part of this study, we read all of Matthew 13 and then discussed the background of expectation.

I guess we should back up, why were we talking about expectation in the first place? Expectation is one of the chief things Jesus was dealing with when he taught.  Many people had expectations about what the Messiah (Christ is transliterated from the Greek for Messiah) would be like.  As Jesus deals with those expectations, he talks about the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Luke and John, the same concept appears as the Kingdom of God. Matthew, as a good Jewish person, would have avoided using the name of God and instead inserts heaven.  For our purposes, it will be sufficient to look at what Matthew does with the concept.

In Matthew, the idea is introduced by John the Baptist (3:2) and then taken over by Jesus as he inaugurates his public ministry (4:17).  In this particular instance, Jesus reinterprets the prophet Isaiah as speaking about Jesus' ministry (cf. Isaiah 9:1,2 & 42:7).  From here on out, we start to see how Jesus sees himself fulfilling the role of Messiah for the Jewish people. Interestingly, Luke follows a similar path in allowing Jesus to interpret his role as Messiah through the voice of Isaiah the prophet (Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2 ff), but this time Luke is writing primarily for a Gentile audience.

As Matthew continues his narrative of Jesus' life, he keeps using the Kingdom language. In the Sermon on the Mount, this expression dominates the new way of living shares with the people.  For the Jewish people, it was not the newness which surprised them about how Jesus described the Kingdom. Instead, it was the fact that Jesus was not describing a kingdom on earth which would be marked by peace and signs of paradise (i.e. material wealth and glory- for a further explanation on this see (βασιλεύς, βασιλεία, βασίλισσα, βασιλεύω, συμβασιλεύω, βασίλειος, βασιλικός:
Vol. 1: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (564). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.    מֶלֶךְ and מַלְכוּת in the OT and ff).

But Jesus doesn't preach to them about material wealth or earthly peace.  He preaches about things like loving our enemies, blessedness because of persecution, and a higher standard of sexual morality.

I can imagine the reaction to these things- "Aw, come on! You have to be kidding me Jesus! When is it our turn?" It's easy to imagine this reaction because many people feel the same way today. Sometimes I am one of those people who expects Jesus to bring me material bliss or earthly peace.  I don't usually, if ever say it, but I live that way and I pray that way.

In any case, Jesus has built up a story of the Kingdom which keeps slamming their expectations.  Very little is left of most peoples' previous thoughts on the matter, at least if they've been paying attention.

This is the state of things when Jesus tells the story of the mustard seed.  Here is a tiny little seed. Maybe even a seed that is regularly thrown away because it is insignificant and a bother to those who are not cultivating it. Then God does something amazing with it- he turns it into a plant big enough for the birds of the field to land in.

I am an advocate for the idea that parables only have one main point. All the other points are just in support of the main point. This one is no different.  Jesus is telling us that God is going to surprise us. How is he going to surprise us? He's going to use the Kingdom of Heaven just like a mustard seed. It's unexpected, not necessarily wanted, it's small, hidden, and just a little bit annoying if we're honest with ourselves.   How does a mustard seed grow? You let it go. You let it do it's thing. And then we are surprised by what happens.

We can't control God's kingdom. We can't control the results. We can't even control the means God wants to use. God is going to use the crazy things, the small things to break into our world and grow his kingdom. God wants to surprise us today. How must that happen? We have to give up control to God.

In our talk, the topic of choice came up. So, does this parable mean I no longer have any choice in my life? Nope, it just means we are going to give the choices to God.  For a high school student, it means I give the choice to God about whether or not I should attend a party, or drink, or have sex with someone I am not married to- all of these choices either lead to life (the tree/kingdom) growing or to death (retaining control and not letting the seed grow).   The difference really isn't that great for adults. We can either choose to let the kingdom grow in our lives or we can choose to retain control.

Control often comes with the allure of short term gain. It can be fun to know what kind of pleasure I will experience immediately.  In the kingdom, we give up control so we can see the benefit of God surprising us.

A surprise is hard to wait for, I know, I am really bad at being patient when someone tells me they have a surprise to give me.  Just imagine what God has in store for us though! When we give up on our short term control, desires, and expectations God has something better in store.  God wants to surprise us with his grace and love.

Let's let the kingdom grow. Let's be surprised. Let's give God control.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Revelations and Relationships


If you have spent a large amount of time around church people, you've probably heard someone correct someone else at some point about the name of the last book in the Bible. Sure, the correct name is "Revelation" as in The Revelation of St. John. I understand the reason most people try to make this correction. In fact, I have often been one of the people doing the correction. There is a concern to help the offender become enlightened. We also want people to know there is only one revelation from God about the end of the world and not multiple ones.

Sometimes though, our corrections come at wrong times. I would argue this happens a lot. If someone feels like I am more concerned with correcting them than having a discussion, the discussion shuts down. Later on, this can cause the relationship to start shutting down too. This is especially true if it happens more than once.

I'm a know-it-all at times. My wife would attest to this fact. I don't know when to shut up.  The good part is that I do know how to apologize and learn when I'm wrong. At least I hope that's the good part. We might be kind and call a child who knows a lot a savant, but by the time we reach adulthood we usually label such a person a jerk if it is not tempered by other things. We all know people like this in our lives (if you're reading this you probably know me and have thought I'm a jerk at one point or another, it's ok, I realize it).

So, why is this important for the church and not just me? The church is full of know-it-alls. In fact, we often set up systems in order for the people who remain a long time in the church to become know-it-alls.  This set up is foundational to having a church which is more systematic and business like than body-like.  We were meant to be a body, not a business. I know this is a tired theme for some people, but I'm focusing on one particular element. How do we teach people without making them experts?

You may be wondering why I would want to do such a thing.  Isn't being an expert a great thing?  Isn't an expert the equivalent of someone who has done extremely well?  The answers to those questions are, "it depends!" What does it depend on? It depends on the way you are evaluating an expert.

In the book Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier, we see two models of evaluation compared.  One model tries to encourage outliers or "stars" to appear. For our purposes, these would be experts- people who excel so much that they are beyond everyone else.  The entire point of this first model is to create people who are outliers. The problem with such a model is that by design most people will never achieve this status. The second model is based upon a Bell Curve of success. This model assumes that many more people will achieve a more modest form of success without ever aiming for the outlier position.  In this model, many people are rewarded for doing lots of things well without all striving for the few same things.

That's all well and good, but what does it have to do with the church? Especially given the fact that the book you gained the idea from is a business and management book?

Well, it got me thinking. What has been our goal in the American church? Why do we correct people over things that destroy relationships- like an "s" at the end of a word when the person is maybe only trying to reference something and we turn it into a discussion on meaning? Why do we feel the need to make people right? And that's where it hit home for me.

I believe we try to create Christian super stars in the U.S. Maybe not always, maybe not at every church, but in general I think this is the modus operandi. We continue to operate in a business model because our goals are pragmatic and not grace oriented.  A business cannot operate on grace. Bodies depend on grace for life.  I think this might be Paul's point in 1 Corinthians-  

13:13  Now these three remain:
   faith, hope, and love.
   But the greatest of these is love.
 
   14:1       Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy. (HCSB)

How do we expect to teach people (prophesy, which I take to mean speaking truth) if we don't love them? We can say we love someone, but it is meaningless unless we serve them.  This has to include the way we correct someone. Do we correct from grace or from a need for that person to be right? Do we correct someone because we want to see the body succeed or because we want them to be an expert? Or maybe we correct someone because we want to show them we've already achieved expert status?

Do I think we shouldn't call for excellence in the church? I am arguing for some type of moral middle ground? Is using the Bell Curve to describe the situation an excuse to no longer want the best from people? Answering all these questions definitively- no. I think it is about thinking of people in terms of a whole rather than merely as individuals. We are the body of Christ- not the hand, the eye, or the foot of Christ.

This idea has implications for how we view things like holiness and moral action within the church body. It also has implications for the role of the local church and its leaders. I guess what I'm saying is that it is just a starting place. Let's live with grace as we help people to succeed in a new way. Let's make a go of it together with room for imperfection when it comes to the things that don't matter- which by the way includes an "s."

Friday, January 31, 2014

Child-Like Faith

One of my habits the last few years has been to read through the four Gospels in the month of January.  I usually end up teaching my students out of these books during the first part of the year, and it helps me re-focus on the person of Jesus.

As I have been reading this year, I have been struck by the need for simplicity in faith.  I know child-like faith is one of those things you hear about and learn about if you grow up in the church. It certainly wasn't a new concept for me.  I'm not completely sure why, but this year it especially hit me hard. It could be because I spend more time with young children than I ever have before. Or, it could have been prompted by the things I am dealing with in my own life as I get older- after all, I'm 31 now and that's old and stuff... Maybe the whole issue of people leaving the church from my generation and the younger generation has been on the back of my mind.

Maybe it's a little bit of all of those things.

Blogs like this one, from the Barna group, attempt to try to help bridge the gap between faith and unbelief in these groups.  I think the Barna group and many other Christians are trying to do a good job of reaching out to the "Nones" and other young people who are walking away from faith.  However, I often come away from the many sides of this debate just feeling hollow and a little hopeless.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I believe in the ability of the Holy Spirit to change lives. I also believe God can create miracles where nothing appears to be happening on the outside of a person.  It's just that I am not sure we, the church, are getting at the heart of the problem in all of our solutions. I think we need one solution- Jesus.

Sometimes my students get tired of that answer. It sounds trite at times, but I'm serious, we need more Jesus.  I know I need more Jesus in my life.

In Luke 20, Jesus has finally reached Jerusalem after an extended time of travel which included plenty of parabolic teaching.  At this point, the religious leaders and Jesus start to clash even more than they had previously (as if Jesus' judgments on them earlier in the book weren't enough of a clue, it starts to get real now). Compare Luke 2:41-52 with Luke 20:1-8 if you want to see something interesting in the buildup of tension between the religious leaders and Jesus in this Gospel. As the chapter closes, Jesus points out a fatal flaw in their lives, everything they do is "just for show" (Luke 20:47 HCSB).

Some people reading this might get all excited because they see the vanquishing of religion in favor of relationship. That is a really popular one these days too. I've seen it from people who don't claim to be followers of Christ as well as those who do.  From Christians, the sentiment recently spawned things like this video. 

I'm still feeling hollow and a little bit hopeless after watching the video. Maybe you're not, maybe it inspired you. I doubt I'm the only one though. You know why?  Religion in and of itself is not a bad thing, I realize Mark Driscoll and many others would disagree with me.  

The reason I don't believe religion, in and of itself is a bad thing? Jesus was religious (explain the Lord's supper to me without it), he just wasn't falsely religious. I think kids understand the difference implicitly.  Rarely can a child explain things as perfectly as an adult, but they know the difference in their gut.

By the way, I happen to hate false religion too.  I think the whole religion vs. Jesus thing might be a topic for another day, but it was important to point out the false dichotomy a lot of people are trying to use.  The false choice is this- Jesus or religion. In this scenario, religion is trying to usurp the power of the Gospel, grace, and love of God.  Religion, here, is just a man-made way to reach up at God with rules, regulations, lists, etc. It's all about power and Jesus is about servant-hood.

There is another way to consider religion. Religion can be a teacher. It is something which helps us make sense of the world, provide a little order, and even a little beauty. Would I ever consider building a cathedral? Nope. Do I think that some of the architects who designed the beautiful cathedrals of the world were offering up worship to God in their designs? Yes, yes I do. Were these designs and even their intentions formed out of religion. Sure. Was it still worship. Probably.

Here, it makes no sense to create a celebrity death-match between Jesus and religion. Although the combat can be more dramatic, it is often created by people who fail to see the real problem. We just need more Jesus in both.

And here we are back to our original conundrum, the religious people did what they did "for show." So, what is my alternative? Let's be children.

Kids love life.  Unless they have been hurt, beat down, or just squashed in some awful way, the default action of a child is to take life and live it.  What if we lived this way in our experiences with Jesus?

Alright, there might be one major objection to my fairly simple understanding of how we should live from Luke 20:47.  Someone might say, well kids put on shows too.  And this person would be right.  But when kids put on a show, it is completely different than the ways these religious people were just showing off.

Luke 21:3-4 tells how a widow put in "all she had to live on" (HCSB). This is one part of the greater context of the "just a show" comment. This context shows absolute trust in a loving Father. Overall, I think if you were to read chapters 19-21, and eventually all of Luke's Gospel, and the other Gospels too- you might see a pattern emerge.  The pretense or "just a show" part of false religion is done to keep other people and God at a distance. It is all about personal power and privilege. False religion doesn't need Daddy, except to show how much power or privilege you individually have.

When I was younger, my sister and I would dance to music. We weren't good at all. We didn't know how to dance, but we would dance. And we did it for show.  We loved to show our parents our dances. I remember distinctly one in which we put together a show around The Lion King soundtrack.

As an adult, I know my dancing was terrible from a certain point of view, the point of view of power and prestige. From my parents' point of view, it was an amazing show.

So, go ahead and show off in your faith. Just remember, it's a child's dance.



Monday, October 21, 2013

A Saving Grace

The other night I was literally the only paying person at a show.  It was a really, really good show.  The band was playing for me, the bar tend, the opening band and the sound man.  There are a number of things I could say about this, but it got me thinking about one thing- grace.


Much can be said about the difference between grace and mercy.  It's already been done though.  Suffice it to say, grace is favor given without a necessary reason. 

These guys could have played a very short set. They would have been well within their rights to do so. They didn't. I don't know if they were just practicing and hoping some more people would come up, check them out and stay, or what... In any case, they played a decent set, had some fun with it, and sounded great.  I don't know if meant anything to anyone else in the room or not, but it meant a lot to me.  

Grace arrives in unexpected ways daily for me.  Sometimes those ways are small. Sometimes they are massive.  This one was- amorphous? Hard to measure for sure. 

The crazy thing about grace is that I need it. Maybe some people don't need it. 

I don't think I have met those people though.  Since I need it, I try to extend grace to others. It's hard for me to do so.  Some people I have met aren't willing to extend grace unless someone extends it to them first.  It is a hard line approach to life, friends, and how to interact with people socially.  

It is definitely easier to act this way when I am having a difficult day.

However, when I have the time and luxury to reflect, as when I was listening to this set the other night, I realize I am constantly the recipient of grace. Ephesians 2:5 says, "You are saved by grace" (HCSB).  Most Christians know, or have at least heard, Ephesians 2:8-9, "For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast." It wasn't until reading through Ephesians again this morning that I really noticed the simple phrase from verse 5.  

I think the reason most Christians focus on verses 8 and 9 is that they are trying to come to some understanding of the theological underpinnings of faith.  I think they might be overthinking it.  I do occasionally, and when I do I miss the simplicity of grace.  

I have been saved by grace and I needed it.   I am being saved by grace and I need it.  If I can't extend that grace to others in big and small ways I miss an opportunity to experience grace.  I miss out on what it means to live.  

The question becomes, "How can I extend grace today?" 

You are saved by grace. What are you going to do with it? 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Back at It

If you can't tell (whoever reads this?), I took quite a break from blogging.  I was thinking through a lot of things for quite a long time. 

I'm still thinking through those things. I'm still not settled in any sense of the word.  However, I am ready to get back at it.  I am ready to try writing again.  

Part of what rang through my head for a long time was a lone lyric and melody line from a Deathcab for Cutie song.  The song was "The Sound of Settling." I am only vaguely aware of what the song is actually about.  The reason this song kept coming back to me is that I felt like a failure; the song reminded me of my perceived failings.  I still feel like a failure.  There are days when I just don't want to move. 

Today happens to be one of those days.  I got up anyway.  I get up each day anyway.   In the past, there would be days when my body got up, but my soul didn't. It was down for the count.  

And that's where I return to that song.  The lyric goes, "this is the sound of settling, 'bum, bum'." It's a nice, cute, little catchy thing which absolutely fills up the void in my head sometimes.   This earworm of a song represents so much to me about the allure of failure.  Failure feels good to me sometimes.  Yeah, it does.  Sometimes I enjoy feeling like a failure because it's somewhere I have been before. It is easy.  



I'm not talking about anyone else here, just me.

Failure is easy because it is comfortable. It doesn't stretch me to become more.  It definitely does not motivate me.  It just makes me want to sleep. That song just makes me want to sing along- to go to sleep- and forget what I really want. It is like living towards death. I can understand why some of the poets talk about death like it is a calm, steady friend always inviting us forward.  Death, in this sense, is easier than life. 

So, what is the difference between the different types of days? Those days when my soul was still sleeping and wasn't? Hope. Yeah, really, it is hope.

I'm still depressed much of the time. I still feel worthless a lot. I still want more friends.  I still want to be successful. I still want to know my place in the crazy, messed up world.

More importantly than all of those things, I know I have hope.  The experience of hope in the midst of those things can't be explained well, at least not by me.  But I am confident that I have it. Maybe someday this hope will completely lead me out of death and into life.  I know it will happen, I'm just not sure if it will be in this body. 

I have hope and I know what I want. I want to live.  John 1:4 says, "In him was life, and life was the light of men."  



Monday, March 25, 2013

Doubt

It's that time of year again. We will all get our fill of interpretations of Jesus over the next few weeks. It's inevitable- every Easter we hear some new or re-imagined life of Christ which attempts to show how he was different than our preconceived ideas of him. Mostly, these special articles, tv programs, and lectures serve to show how orthodox Christians are wrong in some way and need to convert to the newer paradigm.

I'm kind of tired of these. Everyone has an agenda anymore it seems. I used to care a lot more about all of these ideas. Many of the best writers have compelling stories to tell. It's just that the coherence seems to come apart.

I just don't care that much anymore. It's not as if I don't have doubts. I do. I doubt a lot of things, but when I come back to Jesus, I keep discovering a compelling and believable story.

Doubt has been healthy to my faith. Learning and exploring different ideas is challenging and interesting. It's just that the skeptical doubt is not as interesting as Jesus.

James tells Christians to ask in faith without doubting (James 1:6). Many have taken this verse (and others similar to it), and assumed it referred to all doubting. In particular, when they apply it to faith some people believe we should not doubt our faith and just accept it unconditionally without revision.

The problem to this approach to faith and doubt is that it misses the core of rational belief in Christianity. We must have a noetic (intellectual belief) system which incorporates doubt. Doubt allows us to question our preconceived ideas and embedded culture. By doing so, we can come to a better understanding of truth which is universally applicable in nature. As Christians, we must believe truth is a person (e.g. John 1:1).

How do I square this with what James says? Easy, James is addressing Christians who are going through a time of hardship and suffering. These Christians need wisdom. Wisdom, I would argue, is the personification of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. This is what we are to ask for without doubting. So, when James tells us to ask for wisdom without doubting he is telling us to approach God with full-abandonment.

The lack of doubt he refers to manifests itself as a life which wholeheartedly seeks God. This is not what I mean, or many other people mean when they say "doubt." We mean something like- questions we have concerning the nature, character, or reliability of God, Jesus, or the scriptures.

James urges us to seek God first. Don't hedge your bets when you need help, seek God and what He has given you. This is a radically different topic than the intellectual exercise which considers things like historical truth or reliability.

For example, when we approach the Gospels with an attempt to learn because we are unsure what we believe, we may actually do so in a way that is consistent with what James advocates for Christian living. However, the locus of this intellectual doubt is not holding to some impossible idea of impartiality or empirical non-subjectivity. Instead, it is an abandonment to the search for truth while realizing that truth must be a person.

The doubt of a person of faith seeks understanding. It is the prayer of the father in Mark 9:24, "I believe, help my unbelief!" Only in Jesus do we find fulfillment and resolution to our doubt.

As I finish a season of preaching/teaching about the person of Jesus (I just spent 12 weeks on the subject with my students), I return to Jesus full of doubt and full of faith. My doubt has always sought Christ, The Lord, the Son of the Living God.

It is my prayer for my brothers and sisters in Christ that they will have some doubt as they think about Jesus this Easter.

I cannot help but have doubt as I approach the cross on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Have I forsaken my Lord? Do I continue to forsake Him? Is my prayer really any different than the thief who wanted to be with Jesus in paradise?

My doubt never ends, leads, or finds it source in my own questions. My doubt comes from being in constant contact with Christ. This is the second part of my prayer; may our doubt come from knowing Christ and His death and resurrection. This is the intellectual doubt which says, "How can this be?" This is the doubt which produces genuine faith. This is the doubt which affirms His resurrection and looks into the tomb.

My doubt is found in the uncertainty of the present moment.

My doubt is not guided by inaction.

My doubt is not held in suspension.

My doubt is not based upon the wisdom of this world.

My doubt finds itself next to The Lord and says, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom!" (Luke 23:42).

It is a cry of desperation and hope. It holds nothing back. Even in my darkest hours, I say "I believe, help my unbelief!" This should be a humble and biblical prayer.

in Christ,
Christopher