Faith Matters - Current Posts

Friday, June 5, 2009

Religious vs. Secular

I’ve never liked the word “religious.” To me, “religion” smacks of organizations, institutions, rules and loads of self-righteousness. So I don’t want to be “religious.” I just want to be Christian.
But there is a sense in which “religious” is a good word. It refers to the practical living out of faith. It means living with a constant awareness of God. Living “religiously” is the opposite of living “secularly.” Living “secularly” doesn’t mean denying God, it indicates a lack of awareness of God. It means not thinking about God at all.
Let me put it this way: Imagine a person coming up to you and bluntly asking, “What do you think of me?” And you say, “I don’t.”
I mean, how could you be more offensive to someone? You’re saying, in effect, “I don’t think ill of you, I don’t think good of you. I just don’t think about you at all. You’re not part of my life.”
That’s what a secular person thinks of God ? not at all. A secular person is not anti-God. God just isn’t part of his or her thinking. But the opposite is true of the godly person. The person who lives religiously thinks about God almost all the time. God is important whether you are waking up or going to sleep, working or playing, worshiping or praying. For the godly, religious Christian, God is woven into the very fabric of every part of life.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Did you ever think?

My wife, Charleen, and I were reflecting back on our years of marriage one day. It wasn’t a “what if” conversation, it was a “did you ever think” conversation. Did you ever think that we would live in the places that we lived in? Did you ever think, Charleen, that you’d work for a daily newspaper? Leith, did you ever think that you’d become a mobile home repairman? Did you think we’d be at a university in Illinois and graduate school in Colorado? And did you think that we’d end up in Minnesota? I’m not sure I even knew where Minnesota was at the time we were married. On our wedding day we promised that we would love each other for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, until death us do part. We had no idea what paths we would take, what decisions we would make – no idea how life would process out.
Marriage is about relationship. It isn’t primarily about the specific decisions. We can’t even remember many of the decisions that we agonized over at the time. Those decisions are certainly part of our relationship, but the relationship is far more important than the individual decisions.
And that’s what decision making is for a Christian. God's will is mostly about relationship. To be a Christian is to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Maintaining that relationship is more important than career, money or even marriage. When making the important decisions of life we need to worry less about the outcome and focus far more on our relationship with God.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Following the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the dictator Joseph Stalin hoped to eradicate Christianity from Russia. In an effort to replace Christian faith with Communist atheism he sent commissars to every city and town and village, even to the most remote places in the Soviet Union. They delivered long speeches, trying to persuade the people that God did not exist and that they should renounce Jesus Christ and replace him with Karl Marx. After one such speech to an assembly of peasants in a remote rural village, the commissar finished with a flourish. He had talked a very long time and he was pretty well satisfied with himself. He was convinced that he had talked the impressionable peasants out of their faith and into his communism and atheism. When he sat down there was a deep silence in the assembly hall. Then a Russian Orthodox Priest stood up in the back of the hall and shouted out, “I have one thing to say to you. Christ is risen!” The entire crowd immediately and resoundingly replied, “Christ is risen, indeed!”
The people in that hall had experienced Jesus for themselves in their lives and they had believed. Nothing was going to dissuade them. Karl Marx had remained in his tomb, but death could not hold Jesus.
This Easter I invite you to see for yourself. Experience the risen Christ. See the empty tomb. Believe in him and be transformed from now to eternity.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We All Need Hope

We all need hope to help us get through tough times. When we’re sick, we hope to get well. When we’re unemployed, we hope for a job. When our family breaks up, we hope for reconciliation. Prisoners serving a long sentence hope for a pardon or parole.
One of the very best parts of Christianity is that it’s a religion of hope. Many world religions are more about fear – fear that either there is no life after death or that the next life might be worse. Christians, on the other hand, are all about hope. God has promised to see us through the worst this world can deal to us. God promises us eternal life. The best is always yet to come.
This was especially important to first century Christians who were few in number and constantly threatened with suffering. Their confidence in God in the midst of uncertainties was amazing. Their enemies killed them because of their faith, only to discover that Christians faced death with hope. Martyrdom became a stunning tool for evangelism and recruitment. As the pagans saw the hope demonstrated by Jesus’ followers even as they died, many decided to become Christians themselves.
It was to these suffering Christians, and to us today, that St. Peter penned these words of hope, “And the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”