FeelMyFaith.com

Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

Brian is the author of #TheWalk, a contributor to the Faith, Hope, and Love Daily Devotional, a pastor, and teacher.  Brian speaks regularly for various groups and events.  FeelMyFaith.com began as a writing project in 2007 and has expanded into the media outlet of Brian's ministry.

Work 40, Eat 3, Sleep 8

Work 40, Eat 3, Sleep 8

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5

· Receive my words
· Treasure my commandments
· Make your ear attentive
· Incline your heart
· Call out for insight
· Raise your voice
· Seek it
· Search for it

Knowing God is not for the man who wants only to live – work 40, eat 3, sleep 8, fit in. Our souls were designed with the capacity to stretch for a lifetime. God has designed life to be a metamorphosis. Each day we can become deeper and different. We are not merely bodies. The mind is not just a brain. Living is not the ability to breathe in succession. We were created to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

· Learn
· Value
· Pay Attention
· Desire
· Ask Questions
· Cry
· Journey
· Explore

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

Position your soul at the mouth of God.

· Read
· Memorize
· Think
· Discipline
· Ask More Questions
· Pray
· Journal
· Turn the Page

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Ehrman and Wright on the Problem of Evil

Tomorrow (6/8/08) I will be preaching a message entitled “The Edge of Evil” as a part of a series on The Book of Esther called “The Endgame.” In the Book of Esther there are no miracles, no dreams or visions, no one prays, and most striking of all is that there is no mention of God; yet this is a book canonized in the Biblical Scriptures – a book we believe is inspired by God and is basically the story of God redeeming the world. Biblical Christians believe God knows what is happening in our world and that He is intimately involved in it. But if God is involved in the world, why is there so much evil within it? You could ask the question like this – if God is the author of the world – why is the story going like this?

These are great questions with no easy answers. I dealt with this problem in a sermon on Easter morning entitled “Does God exist, know why, or even care?” That sermon was basically an apologetic that showed that just because evil exists we cannot rule out the existence of God. Tomorrow’s sermon “The Edge of Evil” will deal mainly with the problem of gratuitous evil – if God exists, why is there so much evil?

In no way would I consider my thoughts on the matter definitive or even unique. I recently recovered from a four month headache called Intro. to Philosophy by Dr. Robert Stewart of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary – it was the most difficult class I have ever taken but at the same time one of the most beneficial classes I have ever taken. I would consider it to be a formative event in my Christian walk. Dr. Stewart – thanks for the class and the headache, it was worth it; your teachings have peppered my most recent sermons. But I said all of that to say this, there are some much better reads on this subject than me – and I would like to recommend one that is very fresh.

Bart Ehrman and N.T. Wright recently entered an online debate on the problem of evil on Beliefnet.com. It is a great read and very informative. Here is the link to the opening page. The interface is a bit awkward in that the entry on the home page is actually the last entry. On the right side of the page you will see a log of entries as they occurred – in that log you can access the first entry by Ehrman which opens the debate. Ehrman’s opening statement is actually a testimony of how the problem of evil was a major factor in his journey from being a devout Christian to becoming a staunch agnostic.

Enjoy.

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Page 125

He simply breathed, al all of us do, the toxic cultural air of a disenchanted world in which the mark of sophistication is to reduce wonder to banality. Even more, the acids of intellectual urbanity turn sacrifice into delusion, generosity into greed, and love into self-aggrandizement. In academic circles, this is called “the hermeneutics of suspicion,” meaning that things are interpreted to reveal that they are not in fact what they appear to be. At least things that seem to suggest the true, the beautiful and the good are not what they appear to be. They must be exposed and debunked if we are to get to “the truth of the matter.” The false, the self-serving, the ugly and the evil, on the other hand are permitted to stand as revealing “the real world.”

Reverence is vulgar; irreverence is chic.

An Excerpt from Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus, Basic Books, 2000.

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Audio: “Is There Life After Death? “Cryin’ Out Loud”, seven things Jesus said that you’ve always wanted to know.

Is there life after death? How can we possibly know for sure?

Listen to audio of: “Is There Life After Death?”

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What is Wrong With Us? Part 1 of a series of reflections on Jesus' words from the cross.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34

“They know not what they do.” Were they ignorant or are we to believe Jesus was naïve? Is it honest to say about such a deliberate act as the crucifixion that those involved did not know their role?

On Saturday I was awakened by a tiny kiss. My wife had gone out for breakfast; I was practicing second sleep[i]. During Saturday second sleep I am almost comatose; it is as close to a near death experience as I will probably ever get . . . but I felt the tiny kiss. I opened my eyes only to find that my vision was filled by the round smiling face of my youngest daughter. She then turned, walked out of the room and closed the door behind her, the smile never fading, almost Mona Lisa in nature, serving only to raise suspicion, to stimulate thought. I did not think how pleasant it was to be awakened by a tiny kiss. I did not think of how loving my little girl is. My first thought of the day was that I had been betrayed by a kiss. I knew something was wrong. Investigation revealed her desire to pull out all of her big sister’s clothes and play dress up; a situation that would require hazmat clean up. She kissed me to see if I were actually dead, thus giving her freedom to create disaster.

We like to laugh about it, but we know in all of us exists potential for mischief. If we could kiss and kill our conscience there is no limit to the evil we could imagine. We stand in the world like a child who has just shattered the cookie jar.[ii] We know something bad is about to happen. We know something has gone horribly wrong.

After Adam tasted forbidden fruit he realized something was horribly wrong. For the first time he felt shame. For the first time he felt fear. For the first time he hid himself from God. Adam had never considered these feelings; no one had instructed him on how to cover sin, there was no lesson on guilt, he just knew. He was afraid – instinctively afraid.

Chuck Colson said, “Someone has quipped that the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by thirty five centuries of recorded human history.”[iii] All we need to do is live, view, listen, experience, express and we know something is wrong. Catalog only a few passing thoughts from your day, thoughts never shared, and you know your heart is not what it should be.

Jesus was not declaring their ignorance, nor was He exposing His own nativity. Jesus was declaring that something had gone horribly wrong. “They know not what they do.”

It was indeed a horrible scene, a naked man, disfigured, beaten, covered in blood, writhing in pain, fastened to wood with spikes, encircled by death. Mel Gibson interpreted the scene on film, it was rated “R.” As blood drips from his feet soldiers play a game of chance, the winner gets a dying man’s cloth. The air is filled with insult, cursing, and satire. Lending more color to callousness is the fact that nothing about his scene is uncommon. Jesus’ death is only one of three this day, and theirs only three of many scheduled to die on a hill called skull.

The Academy Awards celebrate the best stories of our year recorded on film. The five most nominated films of 2007 were rooted in plots that portrayed the worst of humanity. They were filled with images of blood, corruption, violence, vulgarity, curse, lust, dishonesty, and greed. Is this our world? Is Hollywood right? Is art merely imitating life or is art now corrupting life? Do we live in an “R” rated world? Perhaps the proper question is an unusual one. Do we feel these films? Are we not like actors on red carpet who walk playfully in and out of a world filled with vulgar images? Vulgarity in our world is so common that we can no longer feel it. In our newspaper are stories of murder and birth, divorce and engagement, molestation and education, disease and athletic accomplishment, car wrecks and coupons – and it all fits together so well, like oil on canvas. This is the image of our world. Today someone will go to the mall and buy shoes, someone will enter a dark room and inject heroine into a vein, someone will eat bar-b-q, and someone will pay a woman to spend an hour with them in a hotel while their wife is at home feeding their children.

We walk the red carpet. Look beautiful. Continue to believe life is imitation film. Perception is reality. What is that you are wearing and who is the designer?

The description of us in Romans 3 is poignant, “their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” No one wants to be a viper, it is difficult to agree with this description when it is your soul that is involved . . . but neither does the asp taste its own poison. Death resides in the mouth of a viper. Everything he eats he swallows whole. His throat is an open grave. Whatever he eats is laced with his own poison.

We cannot taste our poison.

Our television shows, movies, books, words, thoughts – the images of our culture are laced with our poison, we swallow them whole, a rated “R” world. We have grown as accustomed to the images of our world as the Romans were to three men dying on a hill called “The Skull.” Death and brutality were common. It felt natural. The winner gets the cloth. Let’s play.

“They know not what they do.”

Ultimately it was rebellion. They posted a plaque that declared Jesus was a king, but they killed him because he said he was God. Nietzsche said that God was dead. He believed with the execution of God that man would move away from the supernatural and concentrate on the actual. Without the trappings of God man could fulfill his ultimate potential, redefine himself.

It was the same issue in the garden. Cast off the restraint of God and man would be able to create his own definition of morality. The forbidden fruit represented potential, man becoming as God. Legalize sin and it is no longer sin. Yet, when a doctor inserts forceps into the skull of a half born baby we prove we are not capable of handling moral autonomy. Just because abortion is legal does that make it any less of a holocaust? Some things the conscience cannot legalize. Guilt is not a judicial decision; it is a prison for the heart.

We do not know what we are doing, yet we are not ignorant. Something has gone horribly wrong, we can feel it. We cannot kiss and kill the conscience. How can we become what we have proven we are not . . . clean?

“Father, forgive them . . .”

(To be continued)

[i] I first mentioned the concept of “second sleep” in my entry, “Interpretations of Jesus.” Since I first mentioned it people have become so interested in the subject I may need to develop a manual, or at least a Wikipedia article.
[ii] Richard John Neuhaus, Death on Friday Afternoon
[iii] Chuck Colson, How Shall We Now Live

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Audio: What is Wrong With Us? “Cryin’ Out Loud”, seven things Jesus said that you've always wanted to know.

Something has gone horribly wrong. We stand in the world like a child who has just broken the cookie jar. We may not be sure what is about to happen, but we know it is bad. Jesus’ first statement from the cross was, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Were the people crucifying Jesus truly ignorant of their actions, or was Jesus simply naïve?

If the gospel is personified in a moment it is this one; the bloodied Son interceding with the Father on behalf of sinners.

Listen to audio of: What is Wrong With Us?

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Some Books You Might Want to Read (2)

Here is another list of books you might want to invest in. I try to read a book a week. Seminary makes this a difficult discipline, but I try. When I am really busy I read one of those cardboard books in my daughter’s room. If I feel really motivated I will read two. Elmo can be very philosophical, especially his biography about potty training. So outside of some cardboard Elmo, here is your next trip to the bookstore:

The Jesus Way – Eugene Peterson (Highly Recommend)
The Contemporaries Meet the Classics on Prayer – Leonard Allen
The Path of Celtic Prayer – Calvin Miller
Uprising – Erwin McManus
The Gospel According to Jesus – John McArthur
Culture Shift – Al Mohler
Back to Jerusalem – Paul Hattaway
There is a God – Anthony Flew (This one is a headache waiting to happen, but a must read!)
The Art of Personal Evangelism – Will McRaney
Unlearning Church – Michael Slaughter
I Am Legend - Richard Matheson (If you read Calvin Miller’s Unfinished Soul he writes a parable entitled “Red Book, Blue Book”, this was my attempt at a blue book. My review is that it was way better than the movie but unfortunately not as clean).

By the way, “Red Book, Blue Book” is not necessarily about reading books about vampires, but it is about widening your scope a bit, reading some things that offer different ideas, that are written from a different point of view. Unlearning Church can be a blue book in my circles, or squares; but I thought it was fantastic.

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Interpretations...

Interpretations of Jesus: A reflection on Matthew 16:13-20

We are Saturday experts. My family takes pleasure in creating great Saturdays. There are plenty of things that will destroy a Saturday, i.e. yard work, house work, work. But there are a few ingredients that make for a great Saturday. For me, the first ingredient is what I would call “second sleep.” Second sleep is when everyone wakes up at around 7:00 a.m., my daughters crash the bed, injure their father, drag their mother away as a spoil of battle, and there is calm after the storm. Second sleep comes during that calm. I am not a good sleeper, but for some reason in that second set of Saturday morning sleep I am almost comatose. That is second sleep, a Saturday morning coma that occurs between 7 and 9 a.m., and if I am lucky can last as long as 10.

And then there is breakfast. You cannot have a great Saturday without a great breakfast. Through the week we start the day with cereal, yogurt, pop-tarts, a stick of wood, a jar of glue – anything that has any decent nutritional value that can be consumed in about three seconds. But on Saturday breakfast is a renaissance.

A couple of weeks ago we put together a jewel of a Saturday. Following second sleep we went to The Original Pancake House at Five Points on the Southside of Birmingham, AL. Granted it was almost eleven when we got there, but we realized there are tons of people who practice second sleep and treasure a renaissance breakfast. Following breakfast we went to the Alabama Museum of Art to take in the Pompeii exhibit. Unfortunately, at the museum, we ran into about a quarter of a million people who do not practice second sleep on Saturdays; we were already about six hours behind them in line – no exaggeration. So we decided to visit the free/lineless galleries reserved for Saturday second sleepers.

The first gallery we visited was the gallery of contemporary art. Compared with the historical progression of art I witnessed throughout the museum, my initial conclusion is that the longer we are on this planet, the weirder we get. Contemporary art is a metaphor for the fact that we have almost completely lost our minds. I thought art was mostly paint, clay, and stone – colors, shapes, and figures, but apparently art can also be video – really high-def., plasma, video. On the wall were two monitors, one containing the image of a man (shoulders and head), the other of a woman (shoulders and head). The woman and the man had a blank forward stare, sort of eerie; I uncomfortably stared back. Their staring was only interrupted by very pronounced slow-mo blinks. They would stare and then they would slow-mo blink. Suddenly you realize they are in water because they slow-mo rise out of the water. During the slow-mo rise you notice how water slightly changes the tones, colors, and shape of their skin. And then, they take this slow-mo fall back into the water. The slow-mo makes the disturbance of the fall, the splash and the swirls almost seem chaotic. The chaos of the water makes the man and the woman lose their shape, they are just dark non-descript images beneath the water, no longer distinguishable from one another. The video ends.

I struggle with culture as does any southern fried Georgia bred male, and so this moment for me was a total enigma. I hate feeling stupid, unfortunately it does not take much to get me there – art makes me feel beyond stupid. I like it, but I do not understand it. To add to the level of my discomfort there were several people in the room watching the video art who were not stupid. Every once in awhile the non-stupid people would let out an intellectual grunt, an appreciative grunt. So I tried to fit in and play along, I grunted just after they grunted as if to acknowledge I saw it too. But what did they see grunt worthy? Was it that they appreciated this blink even more than the previous blink? Did they know the meaning of water, what does water mean? Honestly, my first impressions were that these televisions would be awesome during college football season and I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I too can get in a pool. I knew my grunting was only an intellectual façade, I was looking at the same thing they were looking at, but I was not seeing what they saw.

And so I read the information plaque beside the video art and it told a little bit about the story. Later that week I got on the internet and tried to learn more about what I had seen. It is a piece by an artist named Bill Viola called Dissolution. Dissolution is the last segment of a seven piece movement of video called Purification. It was inspired by an opera and is an artistic representation of the process of change through purification and sacrifice. In the end the man and the woman meet as lovers in Dissolution. It is an impression of what it is like to love. There were two distinct people, but when they fell into the water they looked the same, they sort of dissolved into images that were strangely similar and non-descript, indistinct from one another. Then it became provocative to me because I saw it like the artist intended it. This is what it is like to love, to lose yourself in someone else. When you find that person who changes you and you can’t imagine your life being defined without them. Your relationship with them changes you into someone else and you have a similar effect on them. In the Bible it is called “the two shall become one flesh”, dissolution.

Dissolution is when you are so in love it makes you want to jump into a pool. Strangely, when I am around my wife I have a sub-concious urge to swim.

Art has a way of making something happen inside of us. It provokes thought, captures your imagination, it helps you feel. Artists take intangible concepts and attempt to impersonate them with colors, textures and shapes, images – that take something indescribable and make it tangible: anger, sadness, confusion, joy, melancholy, love, hope, desire, freedom. Artists have a way of connecting with your thoughts and emotions through paint, clay, marble, and video.

You approach the piece with shallow first impressions – it’s a slow blink on LCD, “hmmm, oh yes, very intelligent.” Obviously even though you are seeing what everyone else sees, you are not seeing what everyone else sees, more importantly you are not seeing what is really there. And then you learn of the artist’s intentions, his or her story or background or interpretation of what they wanted you to see. After you get that, you begin to see even more and now you see it differently, in almost a moment. Now that you share the artist’s knowledge it frees you to see even more. You identify with it – yes, this is the way love feels, this is what love does, this is the way love looks, like dissolution.

Our souls desire to make a connection with intangible things:

Forgiveness – what is it like to know you are forgiven?
Love – what is the greatest love? How far can love go?
God – can we really know God? If we can, what is He like? Does He know what just happened to me?
Hope – What’s next? Will it be better than this?
Eternity – Is this life all there is? What will happen to me after I die? Does life end?

Jesus asks His disciples for an interpretation. When you look at me, what do you see? What do you think? Who am I to you? How do you interpret me? He called for all the options. “Who do men say that I am?” After the options were on the table He asked of them personally, “Who do you say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So what are the options? Who is Jesus?

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, believes God is bad for man. Religion has inspired men to kill, to persecute, and to brutalize. He believes God is bad for science. There can be no valid science that begins with the idea of God. If science cannot begin with God it will render honest conclusions, namely that there is no God. The story of the Golden Compass echoes this thought that the world would be a better place without God and His church; that people would be better if they were free to experience magic dust and think and act as they feel. The atheist has no room for God, no place for miracles, and no tolerance for Jesus.

Post-modernism, the something and nothing of our culture, is very spiritual in nature, but revisionist in practice. Post-modernism encourages spirituality but discourages definition. The Jesus Seminar is the reputation of the idea and “The DaVinci Code” was the entertaining of the idea. The idea that what we have been led to believe about Jesus may not be honest. The traditional Christ is only an invention of the modern church, a projection of what they wanted Him to be, but never was. To Oprah Christ is one of many valid paths. On the island of LOST Christianity and Hinduism are a potpourri of mysticism that helps us explore the meaning of miracles, forgiveness, prayer, and ultimate reality.

Religion presents its interpretations of Christ. To the Catholic Church it is the institutional Jesus, that through the vehicle of sacraments, papal authority, and the administered graces of the church you will find forgiveness in Jesus. The cultic Jesus says he is not God, but a god. Jesus was a man like you and me who struck gold on a path to deity, an inspiration for the rest of us prospecting for immortality. There is the bubba Jesus, the icon of southern fried culture, the man who will help us believe just enough so that we can escape Hell. Jesus is the moment we fear fire, fear death, but at the same time dread actually changing the way we live our life. We will make a deal so that we will not burn. Jesus is sort of like a booster shot, every couple of years you may need one. I don’t know if you realize this, but almost everyone who dies in the south goes to heaven. At some point in time we have almost all believed in Jesus, we made a deal so that we would not burn.

“Who do you say I, the Son of Man am?” Every person has an interpretation of Jesus. It is sort of like art; we are looking at the same thing, but we are all seeing something different. But are we seeing what is actually there?

Peter interpreted Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter was raised in a religious culture. Peter was raised in what I would consider to be the forefather of post-modernism, Roman pluralism. Some people believe that Peter was raised geographically near Jesus; he may have known Jesus his entire life. But now, he saw Jesus in a way he had never seen Him before.

It is when we hear the artist’s story, his or her intention and explanation of the metaphors, of the images, of the colors, of the textures, of the motions, of the shapes, that we begin to see what is really there. When we see what the artist sees it connects us intellectually and emotionally to intangible, sometimes unexplainable, concepts like sadness, joy, melancholy, passion.

Our first impressions can be misleading. The atheist’s interpretation of Jesus is hopeless. The post-modern Jesus is confusing, He is and isn’t. The religious Jesus is lifeless. The southern Jesus is shallow. It is ironic that sometimes we can all be looking at the same thing, but see something completely different. More importantly, we can look at something and not see what is really there. Sometimes our interpretations are biased based on what we want to see; but how can we ignore that which our soul truly craves: to be forgiven, to be loved sacrificially, to have hope, to have a place in eternity, to know life is meaningful, to know God? God has a way of revealing truth to us in grace by making a connection with the cravings of our soul. Jesus said to Peter, “Simon Bar-Jona, flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Simon, also called Peter, you now see what God sees, this is God’s interpretation, that Jesus is the anointed savior of the soul.

We are constantly presented with Jesus, almost to the point of confusion, very near apathy; and then a moment comes in which God powerfully shows us what is actually there. In a moment He connects our soul to forgiveness, to hope, to eternity, and to Himself through the reality of Jesus. We see Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. For Simon Peter and for those with whom God makes a connection Jesus is not simply a confession, but He is a revolutionary of the searching soul.
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Sermon: Praying for Forgiveness

Are you certain that when you pray for forgiveness that God answers your prayer? Do you find yourself asking for forgiveness for the same sins over and over again? If I ask God to just forgive me in general, does that cover it, or do I need to actually name my sins one by one? The prayer for forgiveness is a prayer we need to get right. In Luke 18 two men go to the Temple to pray. One man prays for forgiveness and leaves the Temple right with God. The other man prayed, but he was basically just talking to himself. This story, as well as three conversations with God from the Old Testament (Cain, Jeremiah, and Ezra), teach us about God’s attitude about our sin and how we should approach Him in asking for forgiveness.

Listen to the sermon "Praying for Forgiveness."

Also available through iTunes Podcast

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A Few Good Books You Might Want to Read

Here is a list of some books I have enjoyed over the past few months. This doesn't mean I agree with everything in them or with the people who wrote them. It just means they challenged me and I appreciate what they had to say.

A Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us - Larry Osborne
Soul Cravings - Erwin McManus
The Barbarian Way - Erwin McManus (I read this one about 2 years ago, but had to mention it, awesome!)
Eat This Book - A Conversation on the Art of Spiritual Reading - Eugene Peterson
Prayer- Finding the Heart's True Home - Richard Foster
Joseph - A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness - Charles Swindoll

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Fallacy of Religion # 3, You are Alone

Fallacy of religion: The people sitting around you don’t struggle nearly as much as you.

Truth: You are not alone; it’s just that no one is talking.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. - James 5:16 NLT

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A Fallacy of Religion

The ego will drive you further and further into self. Once it grabs onto religion the ego converts spirituality into sensuality and tells you as long as you enjoy it, as long as it holds your interest, as long as it is positive, it must be God working and moving in your life. As long as you agree with it, something spiritual must be happening.

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A Fallacy of Religion

As long as you don’t get caught, you’re still holy.

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Tales of a First Grade Atheist

“If I can’t see God, how can I believe in Him?” I could tell we were progressing past the usual questions of curiosity that we had grown accustomed to for the last six years. You know, the questions designed to make parents squirm. When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I know God laughed. “Daddy, why is my sister in mommy’s belly?” And before I could clear my throat, “Daddy, was I in mommy’s belly?” “How did I get in mommy’s belly?”

 

“Well, um, honey. . .it just. . .you see. . .when a mommy and a daddy. . .” and now that God is laughing, by His grace, in the infinite expanse of time and design, by His predestined purpose, before the worlds were framed, He placed a Chic-Fil-A, with a playground, and ice cream in your path. There you make a hard left, “let’s play on the playground.” And the child screams with glee. The secrets of biology are safe, preferably until she’s thirty.

 

But this question scared me, not so much due to the question, but because she’s only seven, and she was serious. If the eyes are a window to the soul, I could see deep within her, and I could not see God. I could only see a soul that had been thinking consistently about this long before she asked me about the existence of God. And my soul, her daddy’s soul, panicked. And it panicked hard. Has my first grade beauty become an atheist? Is public education truly a tool of the anti-Christ? Is that lump in my throat more than nervousness, could it be the early stages of cancer? I can’t breathe, do I have asthma? Could it be true that my child was not only losing baby teeth, but also losing her faith?

 

I have read tons of Norman Geisler, Chuck Colson, Josh McDowell, and Francis Schaeffer. I was stunned, but I was armed – and so I fired. Picking up the nearest Junie B. Jones volume from her nightstand I said, “Have you ever met this lady who wrote this book, Barbara, have you ever met Barbara?”

 

She stared at me.

 

“Well don’t you believe Barbara is real even though you haven’t actually seen her?”

 

And I did that with a dollar, with a doll, with a Disney princess. I did that with almost every artifact which cluttered her floor. Every toy, book, and doll became a part of my apologetic arsenal. Tonight the tools of theology, tomorrow she must clean her room.

 

That’s theology, that’s great apologetics, that’s something that no seven year old in her right mind could refute; the fact that even though we cannot see these people, and have never met these people, the proof of their existence is clearly seen by the evidence of their creations. And so I proudly waited for the seven year old to surrender, for the intellectual dust to settle, for the daddy of theology to kiss her goodnight, say her prayers, turn out the light, having once again successfully explained the secrets of the universe to a seven year old. And this time without a Chic-Fil-A bail out.

 

The dust settled, and in her eyes, in her soul, only doubt.

 

This went on for several days. She played on the swing set, I taught her how to hit a softball, she pretended to be a princess, she took a bath, she went to bed, and she became an atheist. The eyes of her soul full of doubt, the question consistent, “If I cannot see God, how can I believe in Him?”

 

How can this child not see God? I am a pastor, we own a hundred Bibles, we go to church – even on vacation, we pray – a lot, how can this child not see God?

 

And as the nights progressed my soul began to break. And it was hard for me to see my child at seven begin to lose her faith. It was hard for me, in this, to see God.

 

Isn’t there a formula for raising born again kids? I know there are books about it. I took a family class in Bible College; I know we talked about it. I am sure I have heard or preached a sermon with a sure fire list of five, three, or eight ways to raise born again kids. There must be a formula – perform a list of steps, pray a certain prayer, memorize a chapter, claim a verse, have twenty minutes of quiet time a day, never let your daughter see you screw up (at least not very much), and even go to church on vacation – and you should be guaranteed that God will not plant a child in her mommy’s belly that will turn into an atheist – at seven.

 

But it wasn’t working.

 

There have been a number of things in my life that have brought me to the conclusion that there is not a formula for spiritual things. I can teach, model, preach, suggest, advise, regurgitate, talk about faith with my daughter, but only God can make faith come alive within her. And I needed God. So my prayers about this matter began to lose formula, and moved to soul cries of a dad who desperately desired to see faith bloom in the heart of his little girl.

 

But she continued to question me, and I continued to question God.

 

Why will God not flip the switch, plant the seed, make faith simple – seven year old simple, again? There are a lot of things in my life right now about which God is silent, and for some reason, He will not move. But this was, to me, the cruelest of all, for God to allow me to lose grip on my daughter’s faith. Why?

 

And I grew closer to joining her, wondering why do we believe in a God I could not only see, but I could not hear, that I could not feel, and now seemed would not answer? Do I believe? And the battle moved from her bed into mine. Deep into the night I prayed and I wondered about my own faith.

 

She dressed a doll, she played with her Gameboy, she ate a pop-sickle after supper. She took a bath, she went to bed, and there it was again, those contemplative, empty eyes – a doubting soul.

 

And so I reached down into my soul and grabbed it to see what was there. “Morgan, I believe in God. I have given my life to Him. I believe Jesus died for me on the cross, that He loves me and that he has saved my soul. I may not understand everything about God, and I may never be able to really answer your question, but I believe in Him. And Morgan, I pray for you every night, that God will give you faith and cause your heart to long for and believe in Him.”

 

She hid her face under the covers. All I could see was the bow I had forgotten to take out of her hair. And then I heard her cry. My heart broke.

 

I begged her to tell me what she was thinking. I could tell, whatever it was, it was coming from a place deep within her. Finally she sat up. Wiping her tears, clutching her pink patchwork quilt, broken and teary, she pressed it out of her mouth, “Daddy, I’m just so happy to know you pray for me.”

 

I grabbed her in my arms and held her tight. My eyes grew watery, the lump in my throat – growing. She shook in my arms and I could feel her tears now saturate my shirt. But I must confess, the unregenerate, sarcastic monster that lives within me wondered where she had been for the last seven years as her mother and I have religiously prayed for her? Seven year olds – a mystery.

 

I am a pastor, I go to church. . .even on vacation. I can turn Bible passages into formulas, put them on PowerPoint, and preach them systematically. I own a ton of Bibles. I overreact. She was nowhere near atheism, but her faith was challenged, and so was mine. If my little girl cannot look into my eyes and see that my soul is connected with God – why would she believe? At seven, she understands religion is my job. And there are times she looks into my eyes, and that’s all she sees, a job in religion. What she wants to know is that her daddy knows God and actually talks to Him about her. Not in formula, but in conversation. When my girls destroy my nap, pounce on my outstretched stomach, crushing my vital organs, and begin to “waller” me to death – can they sneak a peek into my eyes, my soul, and see God? I wonder how many times, praying over green beans, have they actually been listening to my voice, listening for it to connect with God? When I pick up the Bible, do they wonder if I have truly met the author – or is our relationship strictly apologetic?

 

I saw God in my daughter’s eyes again. Her faith and my faith, a little more elastic, stretched, and growing. I realize she and God have something in common. They are wondering if I believe in someone I cannot see.

 

Dear God, come alive in me.

Dear God, come alive in her.

God give us faith to see You.

BB

Gal. 2:20

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