Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On Hardship and "The Secret"

Lately I've encountered some people who firmly believe in the power of a book called "The Secret." If you're unfamiliar with it, the concept basically is that you have the power to attract good circumstances or bad circumstances in your life, based on your attitude and actions.

This book is filled with a lot of feel-good-isms, and on the surface, it may seem perfectly harmless.

But I think it's one that Christians should avoid at all costs, as it takes a very humanistic point of view.

Rather than accept that God allows both good and bad, the followers of "The Secret" seek to wrench control of their futures. There is no acknowledgement of God's role in their lives. Not only that, if you are undergoing immense hardship, this book would intimate that YOU are at FAULT for the bad things happening to you.

This is complete fallacy, folks.

I base my argument on two Scriptures. The first is Matthew 5:45: "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Jesus)

The second is in Job 2: 9-10: 

"His wife said to him, 'Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!'
He replied, 'You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?'
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said."

The point of this is that while we're in this fallen world, good and bad will happen to us, to some more than others. I've been reflecting on this a lot lately, because the past two years have been extremely arduous for me. It's been suggested by well-meaning people that I attracted the poor circumstances (which is what "The Secret" would maintain) or that I sinned and therefore am reaping the consequences (which is what Job's friends tried to convince him of).

I won't lie to you. I have been tempted to think along those lines. Now if you're in a tough spot in life, consider this: ask the Spirit to bring to light anything that you have to correct. You know as a believer that He will make this clear to you, if you need to become right with Him. If there is nothing, go to sleep with a clear conscience and fully lean on Him for His guidance.

God doesn't promise that we won't have difficulty. But He promises to walk along with us if we do, and to also bear our burdens for us. I can't tell you how many times during the past 24 months He has provided unexpected relief and support when I thought my life might be over.

Don't fall into the temptation of reaching for humanistic philosophy that claims you can solve the problem yourself. And don't fall into the temptation of accepting the condemnation from other people that you've done something wrong, either.

Rest on God's love, grace and provision. As I write this, I'm extremely sick with a high fever, chills, a strep throat, weakness -- and I'm still in the midst of a medical mystery where specialists are trying to find the source of an unexplained abdominal pain.

You might say I deserved it. You might say I attracted it.

But I say, God allows both sunshine and rain in my life. I am His, I believe in His goodness, and I will never stop saying that He will carry me through.

You can, too.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Chocolate Fallacy of Lent

Lent ... the season when people think that giving up chocolate is their glorious way of showing the world that they're honoring Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Pardon the venting session, but I'm sick of hearing about it, and nothing irks me more than a careless chuckle from a person who admits that they're dying for chocolate because they've given it up for LENT. I don't know about the rest of the world, but here in America, it's a reflection of our paunchy-gut-centered society, where people are so well off that the biggest sacrifice they can think of ... is chocolate.


I mean it. If you've given up chocolate for Lent, you are nothing more than a spiritual INFANT.

I know I'm not going to make many friends with this post, but I want you to think about something -- really think about it:

Lent isn't about checking off a sacrificial list so that you can feel good about waking up on Easter morning and indulging in Cadbury chocolate eggs.

Lent is about remembrance. And it's not a requirement of Scripture, but it's something we do in preparation for dwelling on the meaning of the cross as we mark the celebration of the Resurrection.

If you really want to make Lent meaningful for yourself, think about the types of sacrifices that Jesus made. Let's see, do you really think you could match those? Of course not, but just humor me here:

1) Forgiveness. Think about it. Forgiveness is a sacrifice, because you are sacrificing your right to be affronted at someone wronging you. As Jesus was dying, He asked God to forgive those who had just tortured Him and left Him hanging to die in agony. What if, during this Lenten season, you made a commitment to forgive people who have really hurt you? I know we're supposed to do this as a matter of course. But what better time of year than this to reflect on wrongs, great and small, and sacrifice your right to feel angry about them? What better time to work on the act of forgiveness -- allowing God to heal your heart so that if that person ever approached you and said, "I'm sorry," you'd embrace them with open arms?

2) Giving. Jesus gave everything -- His life. What if, during Lent, you made a sacrifice to give of your financial resources I mean, REALLY GIVE? No? Sound too hard? What about people in the world who don't have Bibles, food, shelter? Do you think Jesus died for them? If you want to honor His sacrifice by giving up something this Lenten season, why not cough up a little more to help your fellow neighbor?

3) Sacrificing your time. Before Jesus died, His last act was to pray in the Garden. Yes, we're supposed to pray every day to build up our relationship with God. But have you ever sacrificed your TIME in order to intensely pray to God? We know that in our American society, time is of the essence. Giving up your time is indeed a a sacrifice, in our Puritanical mindset. What if, during Lent, you gave up more of your time during the day to pray? Or volunteer? How would you view Jesus's sacrifice if during His prayer in the Garden, He said, "I'm really bummed that I'm going to die, because it means I won't have the extra time on earth to do the things I wanted to do?" Yeah. Pretty self-centered, huh? What if you took your time and gave it to God and to your fellow man, instead of thinking about how you'd use it to fulfill your needs?

This is just to get you started. I'm sure you can think of more things you can sacrifice.

And if I still haven't convinced you, I encourage you to watch "The Passion of the Christ." After you take that trip back in time to the day Jesus was tortured and murdered, think about whether giving up chocolate is what you really want to do this Lenten Season.