Why Does God Demand Faith?

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” -Matthew 7:9-11

This hit me today because lately I have been pondering what faith means (again). I’ve been listening to a lot of atheists debating Christians and it always seems that debate can go on for eternity. Both sides always have very intelligent people on either side yet no one seems to ever be able to convert the other side or actually really even make the other side stop and think at least. I really am beginning to think the whole thing (debating, not apologetics because those have other uses for the Christian) is a fool’s errand. Why? Because it seems the debaters are always missing the fact that both parties always start out with presuppositions. Also, it seems both sides are demanding proof for the other’s worldview, something I am really learning isn’t possible. Not because one or the other isn’t true, but because our origins are something in the distant past and therefore cannot be tested using the scientific method. I don’t know how an atheist grapples honestly with that other than finding that the little left-over evidences in the fossil record are enough proof for him of evolution (and therefore that all of nature and the universe has brought itself about.)

For the Christian, I wonder why God has designed our relationship with him to rely on faith? I get that God, being our Creator, and therefore Heavenly Father, wants a relationship with us, but why can’t He be as apparent to me as my wife, my parents or my brother? I have pondered this as far back as my college days and in that time my conclusion was largely about love being choice. It was something like this: If God showed Himself, we would no longer have a choice to believe in Him and therefore love would be impossible; we must see His revelation of Himself and then choose to love Him. But that still left me a little uneasy about the whole thing hinging on faith. 

Lately though, some things in life have illustrated clearly to me what faith means in a relationship. Namely, being married has shown me that, when my wife demonstrates trust in me – a deep and real trust – there are few things that make me feel as deeply loved. Its as if she is saying to me “Josh, I don’t need to double check what you said or try to find out what you told me again on my own and this is because I know and trust your character.” AH! It’s like a light goes off in my head. When you apply this to that relationship with the Heavenly Father, I can picture Him saying “Know Me and then Trust Me because of who you know me to be.” After all of this cogitating I then come upon a verse I have read dozens and dozens of times through life and finally it hits home. Why don’t we ever realize that our prayers, even as good sounding as “Please help baby Jonas recover from his stage IV cancer” may be the same as “God, please give me a Lamborghini”? When baby Jonas then passes away at 6 months we think “Why God?!” or “There can be no God or any good God if this happens”.

“But God, surely to ask for baby Jonas to live, that is good gift, right?” we ask Him.

“You know Me, right? I will give you what is good,” comes His answer.

And He just reiterates what He told us 2000 years ago: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

“But God, baby Jonas died. That is a stone, when I asked for bread.”

“Is it? If YOU would never give someone a snake when He asked for fish, and you believe I am your Heavenly Father, then don’t you think I have something better?”

We need to trust in Who we know God to be and in His character. We need to have faith that He has something far bigger, more appropriate, more fulfilling and good than baby Jonas’ physical, earthly healing. 

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Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things by Watchman Nee – Review

I used to always think of “going deep” in my walk with Jesus as being in the direction of apologetics, specifically in science, history, language or other more tangible spheres. Nee, however, shows abundantly how lacking I am in spiritual depth. The concept of “Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things” is simple and is basically repeated throughout this book: Christ doesn’t GIVE us things like peace, healing, patience, etc., Christ IS our peace, healing, patience, etc. I can easily see how we can work at and achieve some semblance of life without Christ, but trying to grasp Christ BEING our life is hard to grasp. I have a lot of growing to do and I’m thankful for wise men in the history of Christianity, such as Nee, to help guide me.

The Cheerleader Effect

The Lustful Look

One of the saddest effects of the fall of man, was was our budding proclivity to indulge in the pure and beautiful to the point of perversion. Chief among the perverted beautiful things has categorically been the many facets of sex and sexuality.  Because of the unique design of the sexes, this perversion of the joys takes on a different look in men and women. For the vast majority of men it plagues us primarily visually.  I have personally found this to be singlehandedly the most relentless temptation in my life. Reading through the Bible, a man will come across numerous scripture warning against sexual sin from adultery to covetousness. A man desiring to do right, a difficult as it usually is, can much more easily avoid sleeping with a woman who is not his wife and discipline himself to not covet his neighbor’s wife than he can avert his eyes from a woman he finds attractive. From there it is a slippery and somewhat ambiguous slope into lustful thoughts. And so, when he reads Matthew 5:28, there is an especially poignant sting as he realizes he’s probably already lost the battle he set out to fight.

Recognizing The Danger of Sexual Sin

I’m part of a small group of guys who, realizing how damaging sexual sins are to ourselves and especially to our marriages, have set out try and hold each other accountable in this area. We recognize that a guy having a full blown affair can trace the roots of his folly all the way back to just lustful thoughts. Those thoughts can lead to viewing pornography and flirting with other women which can become an affair in a matter of days. We realize that broken marriages, especially those involving children are the foundations of many the world’s problems – not mention how it effects our God, our Heavenly Father who created us and wanted purity and righteousness for us but watched us all throw it back in His face.

Lustful thoughts are as easy or easier to drift into as breaking a diet or little white lies or gossip, but I believe the consequences are potentially more far reaching and destructive. So it is our duty to do all we can to guard against them. In my accountability group we often share little tricks that can help us keep our thoughts pure and directed toward our wives. One such tool was a profound realization I had once and I have since dubbed it The Cheerleader Effect.

The Super Woman

The Cheerleader Effect happens when a guy finds himself in a place with lots of attractive women. It doesn’t have to be cheerleaders, but this helps you get the picture as a group of cheerleaders can probably be universally considered ‘a group of attractive women’. (Also, the underlying principle can be applied to anything we covet, not just the opposite sex.) In this situation a guy will often leave that place with an powerful sense that he just saw a huge group of some of the prettiest, and depending on the situation, sexiest females he has ever encountered. When the lust juggernaut starts, he may be then flooded with lies and evil thoughts ranging from imagining sex with them to comparing them to his wife. The sad thing is, no matter how stunningly beautiful a man’s wife is, she will always lose out to the cheerleader effect (minimally in his mind). In his mind the group of attractive women will win UNLESS he realizes and concentrates on what is happening in his mind. Simply put, the Cheerleader Effect is a number of women blending together to create one, imaginary, super woman. This is what I realized one day – that when I tried to pick one out of the group and examine why I thought she was “so perfect”, I would find a flaw in that particular girl. So I’d move to the next until I found her flaw. Suddenly, when I disassembled the “super woman”, I realized that she was made up of flawed human females. This one with too big of hips, that one with ugly hair until I realized not one of them was completely better than my wife. 

Let’s Fight

Men, we must realize when the cheerleader effect is happening and then mentally dismantle it until it no longer has power over us.

The Man Who Was Thursday – A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton ~ Review

A page-turner that kept me on the edge of my seat with every scene. There is something very intriguing about each of the characters that keeps you wondering “OK? And then what?” or “What? Weird….why?” from page to page and chapter to chapter. As one one mystery is uncovered, it only leads to another until you’re on the last page waiting for a grand wrap-up, an “aha” moment that explains the whole cockamamy thing and then the credits are rolling and I’m blinking and I look at my wife with a confused face and say “What a fun, but weird little story. But…I think I missed it”. Reading other reviews, I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt this way. Some people have said in disgust “Chesterton must have been on acid, pass this up” but after having read some of his other works, I believe the misunderstanding here is entirely on my inability to grasp the poetic presentation of a philosophically driven allegory.

Thoughts on The Eclipse

Offerings of the Eclipse

Today over the noon hour most of the USA stood outside staring skyward, hopefully with some approved glasses, to watch the first total solar eclipse in 38 years. Where I live, in western Colorado, it was only a partial eclipse but as 11am passed we could begin seeing a dimming of the sun that became, at its climax, comparable to the haziness cause by smoke from wild fires. Personally I was only mildly interested because we were only seeing a partial which is the same as any more frequently appearing partial eclipses I have seen in my lifetime.

Because I wasn’t real interested, I hadn’t heard some of the interesting facts that my co-worker, Ross, started sharing with me as we joined the rest of staff outside our place of work. First he pointed out the noticeable temperature difference which was about 10˚ to 15˚ cooler. He said a lot of animals will start to act erratically because it messes with their internal clocks which reminded me something I had heard about being quiet and listening. When I did, I noticed the din of crickets much louder than usual. I had also heard of people making pinhole viewers so I tried making a sort of pinhole with my index finger and thumb. Sure enough, I could see a little half-circle bump in my “pinhole” shadow on the ground.

This event also reminded me of an interesting documentary called The Privileged Planet in which philosopher Jay Richards and astro-biologist Guillermo Gonzalez talk (among a plethora of other observations) about the scientific data that is able to be gathered only at an eclipse. The documentary is mostly about the anthropic principle which, simply put, states that universe seems to have been designed for observation; the conditions that make our planet habitable are so finely tuned that any slight deviation in temperature, the earth’s axis, etc. would render our planet without life. There’s quite a bit more in that documentary and about the anthropic principle to discuss, but as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’m not here to reiterate ideas already thoroughly discussed elsewhere, but to add my original thoughts and observations to these kinds of topics.

Taking Our Sun for Granted

What struck me most is that, when I paid attention to the rising noise of the crickets and the cool, dim air, I was flooded with a lucid and almost eery realization of the sun’s power over nature. I’m not sure if the same effect doesn’t happen when storm clouds blot out the sun (and if it doesn’t, why not?). It takes a special event like this because, though one can observe the sun’s return each and every morning, one needs a jolt of the unordinary to recall their latent gratitude. Suddenly it flashes through my mind: What if something we have always regarded as a constant in our universe were to come undone or “break” so to speak and caused this phenomenon of the sun to happen more frequently? (And in any other necessity provided to us in our symbiotic existence? I.E. Why shouldn’t the trees run their course and suddenly stop giving off oxygen?) Depending on how much the sun was blocked and for how long, it could have devastating effects to life on earth. Today’s events proved it can start having major effects relatively quickly.

To Whom Do I Owe My Gratitude?

I don’t claim that any of this is an absolute proof that their is a God, but the idea that life exists on a knife edge, that any slight change in these consistencies that make life possible, testify (as Romans 1:20 says) to a Creator. Even prominent militant atheist Richard Dawkins said, when asked if there was one argument given by a Christian or Creationist that caused him to pause he said “I think the closest is the idea that the fundamental constants of the universe are too good to be true…that does seem to me to need some kind of explanation if its true”. When I start to remember that no one/no thing owes me my next breath or my next heart beat, I start to wonder who designed this place where I get enough oxygen, where my atoms hold together, my synapses keep firing and where our planet faithfully rotates giving us night and day. The sun rains down ultraviolet-B radiation helping us create Vitamin D, raises our serotonin which can relieve anxiety and reduce depression, its light kills bad bacteria, has a beneficial effect on skin disorders and on and on. I choose to thank the Creator for this incredible biosystem He built us into.

 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:1-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Blessed Child” by Ted Dekker – Review

I’m learning that I am simply not a fan of Ted Dekker. Not because I disagree with his beliefs or anything, but because I find his writing to be a bit simple and his characters one-dimensional. (Ex. He uses colloquialisms outside of character dialogue. Also, in this book anyway, he refers to microphones as “mikes” – maybe this is shame on the editors too, but the term is short for microphone and should be “mic”, etc.) Originally I thought he was an improved Frank Peretti – a Christian writer who wrote about scary things but he had a better imagination. I’m thinking, though his books are many times better than the Left Behind series, he’s not any better a writer than Peretti.
Anyway, enough about Ted, what did I think of Blessed Child?
As I mentioned above, the characters (mostly Jason and Leiah) we kind of one-dimensional and sort of movie-cliche ish. I liked the innocence and belief of Caleb but he just seemed too perfect, too good to be an actual boy.
The arc of the story tries to take some non-believers not just to belief, but into a more charismatic Christianity where people are healed from sickness and death which I find to be very difficult subject to try and tackle in fiction. I would hate for a brand new Christian to read this and then wonder why he or she isn’t taken to a mountain-top for an acid-trip like experience with God.
My take away from this novel (which is almost counter to the ‘healing from stage’ message) was “Whoever said that a straightened hand was more dramatic than a healed heart anyway?” (the character Dr. Paul Thompson)

Strange Behaving Animals

My dad, brother and I were looking at a little plot of land somewhere in Africa to construct a little building to use as a small store. We found, a little ways down a road, there was already a building the size we needed it (about 12’x20′) We approached it and opened the door. The place was being used more or less like a shed and was full of clutter. My dad got busy taking some measurements while I looked around. There were closets in all four corners. I looked straight up and the ceiling had no attic and I could see a vent/chimney straight above me. I noticed how one end of the place was sort of partitioned off, kind of as a separate room with a big window on that side. My mom joined us & was sitting in that side room chatting on the phone. Straight ahead of me to the right of the front door was a large picture window with closed blinds which made me realize this was probably originally built as a house. I went forward & drew the blinds and saw the sky was getting dark with clouds and it looked like it might rain soon. Then I saw a herd of yaks (or some animal like that) and I felt like the storm was probably agitating them. Suddenly one of charged the picture window and broke a large hole through it and sort of bounced back and ran off. Before we could really grasp what was happening a pig seemed to come from out of no where and charged the window at such a high speed it broke through the remaining glass on a B-line toward the end window. It knocked my mom through the window and she and pig landed on the ground outside. We rushed out to tend to my mom and she seemed OK. I was so angry at the pig I grabbed it by the sides and flung as far away as I could. I remember the gushy feeling of its fatty sides in my hands.

 

Dream 7-28-17

Review of Watership Down by Richard Adams

Adams has an almost scientific attention to the details of rabbit life and nature. He mentions more animal and plant species than Darwin did in “Origin…” and brings you right into the passing days and nights on the downs of England. I was continually fascinated by Adams’ anthropomorphism and fictional adventure that never betrayed his careful understanding of actual rabbit behavior.
I was driven by a continual ‘OK, where are we going with this?’ feeling spurred by the subtle mystery of Hazel’s ‘reluctant hero’ personality and budding leadership. But if you’ve started the book and get bored, press on! Part 2 is where things really pick up. By the end of the book I felt like Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver, Pipkin, etc. were all old friends. I’m also impressed by the Lapine language and when and how the rabbits use it. Great read if you’r in one of those ‘take me away to another world’ moods.

 

Identity as Armor

I hate when certain words or concepts become buzzwords because it dulls their true meaning. Identity is such a word. My church (CVVC) has used it as a youth camp title and a youth sermon series title (twice I think) and I hear it all the time in talks, podcasts, sermons and see it in books. There’s a reason, though, why Christians place emphasis on this concept. Its because as believers we are aware of the dichotomy of self-identity versus identity found in Christ. Solutions to life problems are widely divergent at the junction of this choice, so It is absolutely vital to choose the right identity.

Struggles with Self-Confidence

I have pondered to death why God had Shelly & and I wait until our mid 30’s to meet each other. We have both come to the conclusion that, because of our specific personal short-comings, that we both needed a lot of work. If Shelly had met the self-doubting, timid Josh of my teens and 20’s, she would have likely distanced herself from me the way many of my girlfriends in those days did. Why? Because low self-confidence is ironically an over emphasis on self. I was caught in a perpetuating cycle thinking ‘girls don’t like me’ leading to low self-esteem which caused the females to lose interest which caused me to think…well, you get the picture. God did a lot of work on me in that area and though I’m not perfect now, I believe I have been much more prepared in the last few years for marriage which is an ultimate practice in focusing on another person.  (Here is a  blog I wrote years ago about when it dawned on me that serving others helped eliminate depression: The Inherent Problem with MySpace – its really old, so just replace MySpace with Facebook haha)

That was my struggle with confidence, but I have seen that struggle manifest itself many other behaviors. A good friend of mine this last decade always over compensated trying to loudly assert his manliness wherever possible resulting in an ugly display of arrogance. In other people low self-esteem leads to an ‘I’ll take anything I can get mentality’ with the opposite sex. I see this one a ton when usually good girls end up with bad guys or abusive men.

Identity in Christ

The phrase Identity in Christ has also become so common I know I have become numb to it.  Yet, when I stop and really think about what that means, I start to understand how it applies to our outlook on life. There are a multitude of life-things that are fixed by a right understanding of this, but I’m focusing on the confidence issue. Very concisely, if we choose the worldly fix it goes like this ‘OK, I have low self-esteem, so to fix this I need more self-esteem’. Without realizing it we only compound the problem by focusing more on self and repeating some silly mantra like “I am good enough! I am worthy, I am important, I am special’ or whatever. If we choose to place our identity in Christ it goes something like ‘I am a wretched sinner, that’s why everything is coming down all around me. But Christ came to redeem and make me whole and He will be faithful to complete it in me. If I follow His Holy Spirit then I am on a path to restoration’. See? We’re not standing on our own crumbly foundation but upon the immovable rock of Christ. When Satan launches an attack on my self-esteem he’s successful, but he can launch all he wants at Christ and it just bounces off.

The cool thing about placing identity in Christ and thus taking our eyes off ourselves and all of our own short-comings, is that it takes off a ton of performance pressure! As long as we’re being real, we don’t care anymore if we’re nerdy or wimpy or stupid. We start to not take ourselves so seriously and we lighten up which makes us more fun to be around. Its easier to admit when I don’t know something or to laugh with everyone when you walk into a group with your zipper down (literally or figuratively) instead of shutting down in embarrassment.

Let’s Fight!

I don’t know about you, but when I think about God knitting my soul together, then Christ loving me so much He was nailed to the cross and now that He patiently bears with me in my redemption- it make me want to hold my self to a higher standard. I don’t want to refrain from smoking simply ‘cuz its bad’ but because I am this lump of clay that God’s moulding for His uses. I know most of us have heard that ‘we’re a temple of the Holy Ghost’, but when I start to really see that, man, I don’t want any filth near me! I respect myself because I’m God’s child and I don’t want to fill this body with junk food, porn, drugs, unequally yoke myself to someone or really defile this temple in anyway.

(Here is a blog I wrote years ago about our dirtiness next to a Holy God: Fear in His Presence)

I Wanna Tell You (refurbished blog from MySpace 10-4-07)

Here’s a song I wrote for a sinking ship but even though that ship rests at the bottom of the sea, the song is applicable to all like situations because it is written about my reticent tendancy in almost every promising situation.

I Wanna Tell You

by Josh Anderson ©2007

capo the 4th fret, finger pick (acoustic or no distortion)

verse 1

G, walk down to E

I wanna tell you – how you look tonight

Like a flower – bursting into bloom

But when you’re standing – right there

Words, they just seem to – run away

verse2

G, walk down to E

I wanna tell you how you – make me feel

Like a sunset after – a long hard day

But when we’re standin’ – face to face

Somethin’ like a glacier – freezes over my brain

Chorus

E, A, C

But I know, we can make it – if you want to

And I know, we can work this – if you wait

And I can, show you your worth – if we try

verse3

G, walk down to E

There’s a treasure hidden – behind your eyes

I have the map to – search it out

If you give me – one more try

(That last verse is a little rough, I’m still working on it)