A Christian Athiest?

Recently I have read a great book, ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ by Brennan Manning.  It is book that I would recommend to everyone.  He looks at the struggles we have with following Christ and the trouble we make for ourselves.  I won’t spoil the book for you by telling you any more, but I will say it is worth the read and will revolutionize your life.

In his book he makes a statement that has had me thinking for months.  He called most Christians ‘Functional Atheists’, and as I have thought about what this means and the implications of it I have come to agree with him.  Unfortunately I have to say that in my life I have been guilty of being a ‘Functional Atheist.’  So what is a ‘Functional Atheist’ you ask, and how can a Christian be one?  Well let me explain.  Brennan Manning states ‘Functional Atheism’ as

“The belief that nothing is happening unless we are making it happen. Though our Christian language pays lip service to God, our way of functioning assumes that God is dead or in a coma.”

How many of us have heard or even used the phrase ‘God helps those who help themselves’?  I know I have.  And in some respects this phrase is true, because if we are unwilling to put our lives in motion into the basic acts that God would have us doing then He is unwilling to help us.  Let me explain.  If we are unwilling to get a job and pay our bills and be responsible God will not miraculously make us profitable and pay our way for us.  However we have taken this phrase further than God intended.  In my own life I have “trusted God” to help with my finances but then when God didn’t ‘seem’ to intervene I got out the credit card and made my own way.  So I paid lip service to the truth of scripture that God will look after me and when He didn’t work it on my schedule, I then acted in my own strength and made my own way.

How many of us have done the same thing?  And in more areas than in our finances.  We say that God is looking after us, and make our requests known to God and then we get uptight and try to solve our problems ourselves.  Often only making a mess.  So by our actions we demonstrate that God is uninterested in us and uninvolved in our lives, even though we say the exact opposite.  And to a watching world, who sees us doing this we seem to not believe what we are preaching and then wonder why they don’t want what we are offering.

I have found that God doesn’t always work on our time-table.  When you know the beginning from the end you can see things from a different perspective.  One year I needed new tires for my truck before winter.  They barely had traction on dry pavement let alone on ice and snow.  But my finances were low and I could not afford them.  I got myself worked up as October changed into November and wondered why God wasn’t helping me.  These tires were not something I could do without, so they weren’t just something I wanted.  They were a legitimate need.  And it really seemed like God wasn’t answering.  But that year we got snow really late.  It was two days before Christmas when snow finally came.  Which is very unusual where I live.  It often snows in September/October here.  And two weeks before it snowed I got a cheque in the mail from a tax rebate that paid for my tires.  I got them before it snowed.  God looked after me even though He did it in a way I didn’t think about or understand until afterwards.

When we take our burdens upon our shoulders we often remove God’s ability to help us. Only when we begin to trust Him and allow Him the time to work on His schedule and not ours will we begin to see His hand in our lives the way He is longing to.  Matthew’s gospel states that God works in our lives according to our faith.  What we are believing God can do will show in our actions.  And mine have shown little faith I must confess.

So in this new year and as I grow in my relationship with my Creator and Saviour I am choosing to lose the ‘Functional Atheist’ from my vocabulary and allow God to do what He does best, look after me and reveal His life in me.  Can I invite you to share my journey?

Counting Minutes

Most people don’t think in terms of minutes. They waste all the minutes. Nor do they think in terms of their whole life. They operate in the mid-range of hours or days. So they start over again every week, and spend another chunk unrelated to their lifetime goals. They are doing a random walk through life, moving without getting anywhere.” Alan Lakein

When I read this quote I had to agree.  Not many of us ever think about the minutes in our day.  “It will only take 10 minutes” is a common phrase I hear, and often even use myself.  We say like those 10 minutes are of little value, or we can get them back easily some how.  They bear the same weight to us as 10 dollars.  Do you worry much about spending 10 dollars on something?  I know I don’t often worry, unless it is my last 10 dollars.

But the problem is we can never relive those 10 minutes.  So why do we never look at how much value they truly have.  I had to ask myself this very question.  10 dollars I can easily get back.  10 minutes are gone forever.  And yet we don’t ever think in those terms.  Or I didn’t at least.  I am very good at procrastinating.  “Don’t do today what you can put off till tomorrow” has been the procrastinators motto.  And one I have lived out fairly well.  Maybe I am just getting older but the weight of unfinished tasks are now beginning to feel pretty heavy.  Or as William Jones said “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” And the opposite is true I am finding.  Nothing is so relieving as the completion of a task.  Crossing off those things on our to do list is very satisfying.

I have come to learn, like most of us have or will at one time that “Some day” doesn’t exist, never has, and never will. There is no “some day”. There’s only today. When tomorrow comes, it will be another today; so will the next day. They all will. There is never anything but today.” Jeff Olson   We have this “round toit” mentality that one day, maybe.  And then we wonder why we never accomplish anything with our lives.  There is no such thing as a “round toit” so we need to stop looking  for one and get on with getting on.

I have begun to rethink my days, again maybe just cause I am getting older, and have realized that minutes count.  I cannot relive them, and can never get them again.  We only get to pass this way once.  To quote my father-in-law and my friend “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”  We don’t ever get to pass by this way again.  We are born and from that moment the clock starts counting down.  None of us know how much time is on our clock.  We like to think that there are years and years.  The obituaries are full of people whose clocks ended before they thought they would.  There is no reset button and no restart.  So what are we doing with our minutes?  I know I have wasted most of mine.  I can look back on my life and can see that for the time I have been alive, most of my time has been a waste.

But that can change.  One of the greatest capabilities we have as humans is our ability to see wrong behavior and learn and change.   So although we can never go back and relive past minutes we can determine to make the rest count.  I know I am going to start.  When my clock runs out one day and I stand before my maker I would like to hear “Well done.”  And we all can make that decision no matter how much of our lives have been spent.  To quote a very wise man

Though you cannot go back

And make a brand new start, my friend

Anyone can start from now

And make a brand new end.”

Test of Character

There seems to be a shortage of good character now days.  Everywhere you look people seem consumed with the idea of getting everything they want no matter what the cost.  There seems to be no respect for anyone or anything, especially among today’s young people.  They way people talk to each other and treat each other is a sad commentary on the current state of our society.
And yet when we meet people who show great character we look up to them and admire them.  Those that stand tall even if the face of adversity and opposition and do what is right no matter the cost.  “A man’s reputation is what other people think of him; his character is what he really is.” People strive to have a good image in life and to have  the nice  things in life, and yet all the while they are lost inside with no sense of direction and purpose.  We see it often when public figures fall from grace.  The most current would be Tiger Woods.  Although I would rather not hear about him constantly on the news, my point remains.  Someone who had the admiration of millions of people whose true self was revealed in scandal.  And he is not the only one.
What is important in our lives is a need for character and integrity.  Character and integrity are who you are when no one is looking.  And your character is always revealed when the pressure is on.  Your true self comes out when life begins to squeeze.  This is where true character is formed as well as revealed. “I have no regrets in my life. I think that everything happens to you for a reason. The hard times that you go through build character, making you a much stronger person.” Rita Mero
Recently I had an opportunity to grow in character or to resist the opportunity and stay the same.  Character is always formed in the fire so is never easy, and my opportunity was not an easy one either.  In my past I would tend to hide my mistakes unless they were found and then I would try to excuse and minimize them.  Not really a good character trait to have.   In this instance in my life I made a sizable mistake at work.  And one that was costly as well.  And no one would have known, as I work on my own and report in to my office at the end of the day.
So I made a costly mistake and could have followed my regular pattern of covering up and minimizing the mistake.  But I felt God challenge me with the opportunity to grow and change.  And although it definitely wasn’t easy I stepped up to the challenge and confessed my mistake and prepared myself to make it right.  It was a large moment in my personal life.  And a large change for the better.
Our opportunities for growth come on a daily basis.  Everyday we are presented with the challenges and decisions that will limit us or cause us to grow.  We all have people in our lives that we admire.  People like Winston Churchill or Mother Teresa.  Or maybe Mahatma Gandhi or another great individual.   Each one of these people had strong character that was formed in the fires of life.   And each one of us has the same potential in us for growth.  Our choice is will we rise to the challenge or settle for what is comfortable.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”