Monthly Archives: April 2012

True Joy in the words of Elton Trueblood

Let us be free from the silly pressure of maintaining a fake happy face in all situations (as shown in my earlier post on grieving), by knowing the difference between happiness and joy. One is an emotion, while the other is a gift of God. Elton Trueblood argued that the Christian does not have to choose between sadness or joy, but can live comfortable between both worlds, giving validation to one, while maintaining anchor in the other. We call this being authentic.

The Christian is [delighted], not because he is blind to injustice and suffering, but because he is convinced that these, in the light of the divine sovereignty, are never ultimate. He is convinced that the unshakeable purpose is the divine rule in all things, whether of heaven or earth (Eph. 1:10). Though he can be sad, and often is perplexed, he is never really worried. The well known humor of the Christian is not a way of denying the tears, but rather a way of affirming something which is deeper than tears. – Elton Trueblood (The Humor of Christ, 32)

What he is saying is that Christians can simultaneously experience joy and grief, when their underlying hope is in the resurrected Christ. Have you ever been grieved, yet felt strangely warmed by the presence of Christ?

5 wrong ways to comfort hurting people

It is inevitable that we will have “trials and sorrows” in this life (Jn. 16:33, NLT). If it hasn’t, wait until you live a bit longer. Many of us are aware of suffering, and even have a collection of beloved Scriptures to warn or exhort us for when it transpires. Surprisingly, not all Christians know how to behave or act when someone else is going through difficulty. Below are five of the most common ways Christians attempt to comfort others who are suffering. They are all wrong. Listed is each type, followed by an example, and an interpretation of what the grieving person actually hears.

1) Correction

Example: “Don’t be sad; God is in control,” “this happened for a reason,”  etc.

Interpretation: being sad is not biblical, and feelings are sinful unless they are super spiritual, so buck up, worship God, and move on with your life.

2) Hijacking

Example: “You know, I had a similar experience once…let me tell you all about it.”

Interpretation: Your situation isn’t that bad; you should sympathize with ME. 

3) Explanation

Example: “God is sovereign, and he has a reason for doing this.”

Interpretation: You’re doomed by God, so stop crying, because I don’t want to listen. 

4) Enthusiasm

Example: “God is good!!!!! It’s gonna be OK!!!!!! Praise the LORD!!!!! Hallelujah!!!! Wowie!!!”

Interpretation: I am not in touch with reality, or your situation, because I read romantic, fictional novels all day long, and frankly, your sadness is depressing and is making me uncomfortable. I am going to numb the pain of awkwardness by singing worship songs to myself.

5) Preaching

Example: “The Bible says in Romans 8:28…blah blah blah”

Interpretation: Your pain is my opportunity to impress you with my extensive knowledge of the Bible, and of 16th century hermeneutical discussions of the doctrine of predestination and church history. Also, I want to sell you my book, but at 50% off the shelf price, since you are going through a dark night of the soul. 

Though some of these are over the top, this is how hurting people receive such “encouragements.” I’m sure we are well-intentioned when we give them, but we must recognize that good intentions without tact may actually cause more harm than good. Here’s why.

It communicates judgment and not compassion

Because we are not listening to them (Jam. 1:19).

Instead, we are waiting for our turn to shine by fixing problems instead of empathizing with people in their pain. Jesus never sought the spotlight. He listened to people’s plight, even those who deserved the trouble they were in (John 4).

Because we are belittling the human experience.

To be more specific, we are belittling their experience–and a painful one at that. In any of the five responses I mentioned, we are indirectly correcting others for feeling the way they do. But Jesus never belittled human experience; He entered into human suffering, even going through it with us. To offer comfort without sharing the sufferings of others, is as far-removed as the self-help books on the shelf of the corporate book store; it will only add to their pain the fresh sting of a friend who is grossly out of touch.

Lastly, we are ignoring God’s command and example…

The Bible tells us to share in the sorrow of those who are grieving

  • Romans 12:15Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”
  • Psalm 35:13-14 “Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered. I was sad, as though they were my friends or family, as if I were grieving for my own mother.”
  • Job 30:25 Did I not weep for those in trouble? Was I not deeply grieved for the needy?”
  • John 11:32-35When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept.”

Instead of elevating ourselves as the hero, we are to lower ourselves like Jesus, in times of suffering. 

Though it seems second-nature to develop a heroic posture when suffering arises, it is neither biblical nor effective. Sometimes, silence speaks more powerfully than words, as too many words can dig us into a hole.

You may object,

Yeah, but, they are not thinking straight, because they are in pain! I need to lovingly exhort them, or at least tell them how the Bible addresses their situation.” 

But remember, Read the rest of this entry

Breathing in the Resurrection: A light dawning

“Born again” is the term sometimes used by the Scriptures to refer to conversion (Jn 3:3; 1 Pet 1:3, 23). I used to think of being born again like a wall-switch being flipped on, and the room lighting up instantaneously. But as I look at my experiences in light of the Scriptures, I see more nuance (and beauty) in the Christian life.

Being “born again” is like the dawning of the sun. 

Imagine you are stumbling across the street in the early morning darkness, unaware of the cars coming straight at you, when suddenly, the sun peaks over the horizon! You are able to immediately spot the silhouette of oncoming traffic, and avert yourself before a fatal collision. In Christianity, we call this change of direction “repenting.” But then something else happens. As the sun continues to rise, it emits more light, disintegrating shadows, and forming detail in the undistinguishable objects of nearby trees. By 7am, you are no longer being functional. In addition to walking the right direction, you are now being swept up in the beauty of your surroundings—the ocean waves, the kids wrestling in their front lawn, the birds flying…

You have moved from survival to delight.

Peter spoke of the divine inspiration of Scripture at the hands of God’s prophets, when he exhorted us to take them seriously, saying “…You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19, emphasis mine).

You were given life the moment you were born again, but this is only the beginning! Now He is teaching you how to breathe. A powerful and mysterious way of “breathing” is to read the Scriptures until the Jesus dawns in your heart. You may not understand every detail, but as you read them in faith, desiring to gain Christ, he will be found by you!

Enjoy Jesus.

Easter with Reality | Montage

Easter with Reality. A short montage of what took place at La Playa Stadium in Santa Barbara, Ca.

A special thank you to our volunteers who helped make this day possible.

Music by: The Brilliance // The Sun Will Rise

Resurrect

This was Reality’s theme video from yesterday’s Easter service…

This is a story about broken things being restored, a picture of the beautifying work of Christ’s resurrection.

Video was a collaboration between Venture Visuals, Reality Media, and Reality SB.

When people leave churches

I have gone to my local church since 2005. In that time, I have seen a few people come and go. Some were new believers, freshly awakened to the faith. Some were looky-loos who were caught up in the hype of a new church, but quickly got over it. And others were dear friends who I have known very closely…those were the most difficult.

Here are a few reasons why people have left over the years…

  • multi-campus
  • video feed of sermon
  • sermon delay (because of video feed)
  • leadership structure
  • speculation
  • tithing brought up in a sermon
  • disagreeable sermon
  • congregation is too big to get to know people
  • unsatisfied
  • not getting fed
  • hard to make friends

Looking at some of these, I can understand why and how they would be difficult (while others I am baffled by!). I have faced difficulty in my family on several occasions; as any spouse would be able to testify, amid even the most loving relationships, the journey is still fraught with trial and disappointment. It is this way because we are in relationship with real people, not robots. And this is the same truth about the local church, albeit, on a larger, more eternal scale.

Church is a family. 

A family of people who would not choose each other given the opportunity, yet are brought into each other’s lives by the new birth. In a family, we hurt each other, disappoint each other, and even do things that we don’t agree with. This sometimes creates tension, arguments, and perhaps even fisticuffs! But on rare occasion do we ever see siblings abandon their family because of a communication gap, or a disagreement over family leadership structure. Why then do people leave church families over similar petty trifles? Perhaps we have a small view of what “church” is.

My suspicion is that we think we are leaving a country club.

When you join a club, you need only to pay your dues, and in return, take whatever you want as long as it fits your need. When it fails in this, you can disconnect membership without the inconvenient (and awkward) challenge of confronting real people in meaningful relationships to hash it out. This is also known as consumerism. And this is what we’ve made church. It is cowardly. Few people would ever do this to their own family. But we do this in local churches all over Southern California, because we have a small, “country club” view of the body of Christ. Read the rest of this entry

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