Category Archives: Faith

The Devil of Pride

I recently engaged in a conversation on Twitter about why the mere statement of a scientific fact makes some people go into a near apoplectic rage (yes, I write it that way because I wanted to use “apoplectic”).

More accurately, many of the responses seemed angry if not enraged. My opponent admitted that the fact itself didn’t anger him so much as the political motive behind it.

I responded, “I don’t understand why it should. Facts help us learn to question our current beliefs; that we could be wrong — or we could be right, and we now have more confidence that our opinions have real merit. We should all be willing to learn, because that’s how we grow.

“Who presents those facts, and their perceived motives behind those facts should be irrelevant. If one of my opponents presented such a fact, while I may be initially irritated, I will set aside my emotional reaction and thank him/her for it.

“Perhaps that’s just me.”

After I wrote that I realized if I could point out a single problem with our society, it’s pride. When we succumb to the devil of pride, we become so sure of our beliefs, we grow rigid, unable and unwilling to grow, learn or change. Our intellectual opponents we soon see as our enemy, and that enemy must be destroyed at all cost.

Part of pride results in depending more on our emotions instead of facts and logic. We should then not be surprised when we and others react emotionally when we see facts that contradict those emotions.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before ruin, arrogance before failure.” (TNK)

I also like Proverbs 16:16: “How much better to acquire wisdom than gold; To acquire understanding is preferable to silver.” (TNK)

Another problem with pride is it can destroy our relationships. When we don’t allow opposing views even from those we love, the end result is a deep loneliness. No one likes spending time with someone who refuses to listen. If someone at least gives a different view a fair hearing, it doesn’t matter if they don’t change their mind in the end. That they listen is enough, because they approached the discussion with humility.

We are human. That makes us flawed. We’re not right all the time; it’s impossible. A little humility and willingness to learn, to acknowledge our flaws can go a long way in mending relationships instead of destroying them. Humility can also help us find joy instead of unrelenting anger, defensiveness and frustration.

Best of all, we decrease the chance of looking foolish when we’re forced to face the facts.

God in a Leaf

One of my favorite scripture verses is Romans 1:20: “For ever since the world was created people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

During my morning walk a few days ago, I found these:

Notice how the leaves look almost like parachutes or kites to carry the seeds away from the parent tree? If I were to label the quality of God in the leaves, I would say he is an engineer. Only an engineer with intimate knowledge of gravity, botany and aerodynamics could create a leaf of just right shape and size to carry one or several seeds into the wind.

I am endlessly fascinated at how one tree reproduces and how the seeds are carried away (either by wind or animals). How can I not be awed by God’s thoughtfulness in a single seed attached to a single leaf of a single tree? And how each tree produces seeds so different from almost every other species.

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:26)

I love the fall, with the turning trees, cool weather and the birds beginning their migration.

If anyone’s been following US politics, you’ll know it’s been a tough week, regardless of what side you’re on politically. It has for me, which is why I’m so grateful I was mindful enough to study my surroundings and spot those leaves. They reminded me of what’s important. Not politics, that’s for sure, even though I will continue to pray for all those involved.

Tomorrow, as cold as it might be, I will be out by the river with my camera to take many pictures of a hopefully calm day so that my spirit might also be calmed. Perhaps I might hear God’s whisper in the wind reminding me not to worry or fret. No matter what happens here or elsewhere, he is in control. Always has been. Always will be.

In Tears

Maybe because I had a difficult week dealing with a bad tooth, and now with it fixed, I have succumbed to exhaustion. As such, I’m feeling a bit more emotional than usual (or maybe it’s a hormonal thing).

Regardless, I just finished writing another devotional for my church, and more than once I had to fight back tears. Something about it struck me. It’s about God’s love and mercy, that no matter how egregious our sins, he will always pursue us to get us to accept his convictions, his mercy, and his love.

Perhaps there are a few sins of my own that I need to lay at God’s feet. Perhaps, although my head is well aware of who God is, and how much he loves me, my heart needs a bit more coaxing. I don’t always feel God’s presence even when I know he’s there.

Such as when my husband is sitting next to me. I know he’s there, loving me, however quietly. Yet sometimes I need him to hold my hand, so I can feel his love just as poignantly.

Another Big If

Romans 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

I wrote a devotional for my church called “The Big If.” It’s short, so here it is:

You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Scripture is replete with such passages. God promises us many things, but there’s often a caveat introduced with one little word: If. It is one of the largest words in the Bible, I think. Not the most powerful, but one with deep meaning. A word so small, it could easily be overlooked.

If (see what I did there?) we remove the “ifs” from scripture, we could too easily infer that God requires nothing of us in order to reap the benefits he offers us. That means I can move mountains with a thought and be saved with no other action on my part.

For more times than I can count, I have expected God to do all the work while all I did was show up to receive his blessings. Instead, however, I found myself accepting darker consequences, feeling lost and abandoned, and not at all blessed.

All because I neglected to notice that tiny, yet ever-important little word.

That’s not loving or being faithful to God. It’s taking him for granted, and treating him like Santa Claus instead of the Creator of the universe who makes the rules.

Still, God wastes nothing, not even our mistakes. When I ignored that little “if,” and faced the consequences accordingly, I learned just how important looking for that little “if” is.

I often hear the second part of Romans 8:31 above from other Christians, typically when they’re seeking some kind of social change. While they can be laudable goals, I always cringe at the declaration. The reason is two-fold.

One, it smacks of presumption. Is God really on their side? Or are they being a bit prideful, openly stating that God will not allow their failure. It also implies that those who might disagree with them are God’s enemy. And what happens if they do fail (for whatever reason)? How do they view God, and their relationship with him after that?

Having made that presumption many times myself, I have learned to avoid thinking, or stating that God is on my side. Instead I ask (less often than I should) whether or not I am on his.

Secondly, claiming that verse for the things we do, or intend to do, misses the point of the passage. Paul does not refer to the success of our deeds, but something else entirely:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)

Does that mean God will not “take our side,” and help us succeed in the tasks he gives us? Of course not. I just think we need to be careful how we proclaim his help, be sure to give him glory above ourselves, and always make sure we don’t miss any more “ifs.”

The Journey of Discovery

We’re studying the book of Isaiah in church, and the instructor of the video study guide relayed a story of one of her classes.

Isaiah describes a person called the Servant in later chapters. She asked the students, which consisted of Jews, Christians, atheists and Buddhists, to name a few, to figure out who that person is, may be, or was.

In the end they determined that person would be both human and a deity.

As a Christian, I know exactly who the Servant is. I learned about him in ways that didn’t include Old Testament prophesy. In reading Isaiah, there’s no question. As Brandon, one of our pastors said, “That’s Jesus. Next!”

I heard a line on the show “Earth: Final Conflict,” where a character –a scientist — complained how scientists were no longer necessary, because the Taelons were giving humanity everything. Humans no longer needed to endeavor scientific advancement. He said, “The journey of discovery is what makes us human.”

What happens, then, when we are deprived of that journey?

I felt a little of that loss during last week’s study. Like getting the answers to a test without even knowing, let alone understanding — or discovering — the questions. Or someone telling me the end of a story before I have a chance to read the first page.

I don’t regret my journey with God, not even close. I mostly wonder what uncovering him through Old Testament prophesy would be like, to have that a-ha moment of discovering Jesus for the first time as I read the Bible instead of discovering Jesus before I read the Bible.

An Attempt at Losing with Grace

Well, I’m a little bummed. I submitted my latest novel to a contest, and just discovered it didn’t even make the semi-finals.

Part of me is thinking, “Wow. It must have sucked. Maybe I should give up on editing the darn thing, because it has no chance of even getting published.” (Don’t worry, I’ll get over it, because it did win a different contest last year. All this means is the competition was especially good, not that mine sucked).

Sure I was hoping to at least make the finals if not win, both for bragging rights, and because after each round, the judges submit a score sheet with comments for improvement. Win or lose, those comments alone are worth the price of submission.

The good news is I no longer have to think about going to the conference this year when they announce the winners.

Call it coincidence, or call it irony (or ironic coincidence), but less than 15 minutes before discovering I had lost, I commented on a Facebook post about one of my favorite verses in the Bible:

“Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked.” Ecclesiastes 7:13

Believe or Else — Until You Leave The House

I overheard a boy say, “I have to believe in God until I turn 18 or when I move out. Then I can believe whatever I want.”

I found that a little concerning. It almost sounded as though faith was being forced on him, and that he looked forward to not believing in God later in life.

Faith should never be forced on anyone.

Some could argue at this point that Christians believe just that. Even Jesus said that those who don’t believe in him will die (John 3:16-20 & John 8:24). History abounds of instances where churches killed or imprisoned those who refused to convert.

I won’t argue church history, except to say they got it wrong. Jesus never told anyone to force others to believe; he merely stated what will happen to those who refuse to believe (see Matthew 13:41-42 & 49-50).

We are all still free to make that choice, as long as we first consider the consequences of that choice.

Nor do I think we can force anyone to believe anything anyway. Sure, we can say we believe in God to appease others, but we are also fabulous liars. We, in fact, more often than not hide what’s true in our heart than what we reveal — both good and bad.

Jesus, however, knows what’s in our heart regardless. Sure, scripture says we must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), but we must accept it as truth in our heart first.

Jesus will always know the difference even when those around us don’t: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” ~ Matthew 15:8 (& Isaiah 29:13)

I also had to ask a question of myself. Am I forcing my own son to believe in Jesus? After all, I take him with me to church twice a week, he goes to a Christian school, I pray with him every night, and I keep my car radio on a Christian station to name a few.

Yet I never once said, “Believe or else.”

Exposing and even immersing my son in my faith is showing him how important Jesus is. At the same time, I try to encourage him to ask questions, even (especially) the hard questions. Still, I know that no matter how much I encourage him to believe, that choice will always be his to make — the whole leading the horse to water stuff.

I think it’s important to encourage, and not threaten when it comes to faith, children most of all. They all rebel in one form or another, and if we present our faith as tyrannical, and unattractive, they will run away from it the first chance they get — perhaps permanently.

I’ll leave you with these:

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” ~ Ephesians 6:1-4

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. “ ~ Deuteronomy 11:18-19

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6