Thursday, March 27, 2008

Have You Seen My Self?

I was recently browsing videos at the local library and glanced at one entitled, "Zen--the Search for Self." I thought, Yuck.

Please don't misunderstand--I'm not bashing Buddhists. I deeply love and respect people of all faiths. But if you don't mind me saying so, I'd rather not go looking for "self." I'm trying desparately to lose it. And strangely, the more I succeed at doing so, the better I feel about myself!

I'm discovering myself really for the first time--the enhanced version, my truest self, the person I was intended to be. As songwriter Sarah Groves said, "I just showed up for my own life."

I've chosen a "religion" (if you want to call it that) that teaches that in order to find one's "self" (or "life"), one has to lose it. Self has to be buried, reckoned as dead. One's life has to become "hidden in God." How different from endless meditation on "self," trying to find oneself, to make a name for oneself.

Every now and then I lose perspective and get full of "self" -- either through feeling like I've said or done something really special and that everyone should applaud me, or through facing my own stupidity and feeling swallowed up in the foolish words of my big mouth. I have to say, whichever way, being so "full of self" feels really gross.

A humble harpist came to our church some time ago and told the "sock" illustration: I am like a sock and Jesus is the matching sock--my soul mate. The man then interlocked the socks together like one does when folding clean laundry and said that God wants me to be lost in Him, and He in me, like that mated pair of socks. I rather like that idea.

I don't think any one of my socks, if it were alone, and could talk, would be going around saying, "I need to find my self." Drawers full of unmated socks are bothersome.

I recently was at prayer and asked God, "Show me where I'm proud and arrogant." Then I quickly changed the request to, "Better yet, just let me hide myself in You. And what I don't know won't hurt me." And "my meditation of Him became sweet" (Ps. 104). It's really a wonderful thing, the loss of self.

Friday, March 21, 2008

God Wants You--RICH?

I was raised in the Bible Belt and still remember falling asleep on carpeted convention room floors under the voices of great men of God like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and the like. I was only a kid but knew that the faith they preached about was what God wants us to have. I knew I served a God that yearned for us to ask that we may receive. My Heavenly Daddy wants to bless.

But I fear that much of the church has taken the beautiful truth of the Word/Faith teachers and twisted them into a "God wants you rich" prosperity doctrine that makes God look more like Santa Claus. Get your list ready, He's coming to town.

I recently heard a minister say, "Financial lack makes you depressed and envious. It hinders God from using you in the world."

Are you kidding me? It's the response (the wrong response) to lack that makes you this way. Can you imagine someone telling Mother Teresa that God wants to "prosper" her, that she doesn't have to remain under a "spirit of poverty?" What if the prosperity message was taken to the underground church in China, to the saints who are joyfully imprisoned and impoverished for their loyalty to Jesus? Would the Fransican monks have wanted to drive around in a Lexus? Would someone dare tell missionary Heidi Baker--who willingly lives with the bare minimum among the poorest of the poor--that her material lack is an "attack of the devil?"

The apostle Paul did very gladly "spend and (was) spent" for people's sakes, suffering hunger, near nakedness and unspeakable hardship. He never once implied that He was waiting for his "financial breakthrough." And what's more--he wasn't depressed or envious either. Why I'll bet he was the happiest man of his time, and he was dirt poor. And what income he did generate wasn't through leaching on the local believers. He made tents.

Perhaps we should stop blaming financial struggles on the devil and the curse of our ancestors. Instead of acting as though God will wave a magic wand and get us out of debt--why not get to the real issue? We're stupid with our money. Bring in the Larry Burketts to teach the church how to handle finances wisely, and we won't need any more prosperity sermons.

For that matter, what if we had a paradigm shift that caused us to start seeing the needs of the world more than our personal comfort?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

For Thinking People Only

I suppose many nonbelievers assume I'm like a lot of "religious people" who are going on blind faith. Nothing could be farther from the truth! As a matter of fact, it was the employment of reason, intelligence, logic, scientific and historical evidence that set me on the journey to belief in the God I've come to know and love.

Calling all scientists, philosophers and other thinking people: If you're at all interested in exploring whether Christianity might actually be based on something more substantial than emotional prejudice and blind faith, I'd like to introduce to you Ravi Zacharias, who produces a radio broadcast entitled, "Just Thinking." Dr. Zacharias travels from university to university defending the Christian faith with astounding answers to the most challenging questions. You can hear the recordings of these archived Q & A sessions on-line.

It's been said that if a person does not believe in the God of the Bible it's due to either a mind issue or a heart issue. For some, there's a willingness to believe, but a simple lack of information keeps the mind from embracing the Truth. For others, all the scientific and historical evidence in the world will not ever convince--for there is a heart that truly does not want to believe.

I hope someone decides to open his or her mind and/or heart (which ever is necessary) and take a listen to a Zacharias podcast: