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Tag Archive | "faith"

Far more than a medication


By Ronnie McBrayer

I am sometimes suspicious of how we employ our faith. Don’t get me wrong, faith is important to me, and I have given my life to it. But sometimes I treat my faith like it is a medicine cabinet or a pharmaceutical, going to it only when something is wrong, or if I am looking for a quick remedy.

“My head hurts,” so I go to the cabinet looking for a pain reliever. “I have a stomach ache,” so I reach in for a spiritual antacid. “I feel so uncertain,” so I explore my therapeutic options. “I’m feeling a bit anxious,” so I look for something that will serve as divine Prozac.

The faith that is peddled by many pulpits today is little more than a sedative. It helps people to forget their pain and suffering, helps them sleep at night, and keeps them hanging on for next week’s dose of tranquility; but it does very little to move people to a place of growing, spiritual health. Thus, we can easily succeed in converting our faith into a first-aid kit, only turning to it when something hurts, and leaving it in the cabinet otherwise. Yes, when life hurts I want relief. Yet, the real power of faith is not its ability to magically stop our pain or to provide a fix to get us through a rough spot. Faith simply doesn’t remove our troubles and worries, offering bubble-gummed-flavored baby aspirin and cartooned-band-aids.

Rather, faith offers us a new way to live, an opportunity to change our lifestyle. It does more than medicate our boo-boos or make us happy when we have been made sad. On the contrary, faith has the power to transforms us, to shape and fit us for life, making us whole and well. It would do us well to hear some of the earliest words of Christian faith, written by the Apostle James. He said, “My friends, faith that does not lead to change is a faith that is dead.”

It is possible to find great inspiration in our faith; to be comforted and reassured that or faith rests in the right place. Yet, if such beliefs do not have transformative power in our lives, then we do not have faith at all. Instead, we are addicted to a spiritual tranquilizer that blinds us to the reality of our world and the renewal God seeks to produce.

 

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author. His books include “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus” and “The Jesus Tribe.” Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

 

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We can’t forget, but we can forgive


Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

There is fascinating new research now being conducted in the field of “Superior Autobiographical Memory.” Researchers have found a small group of people, only about a dozen or so here in North America, who remembers almost everything about their lives—truly, almost everything. For example, there is Louise Owens, a woman now in her late thirties, who can recall every single day of her life since she was 11.
I would love to have a few conversations with this small but remarkable group. I would love to see them put their near super-human powers to work, and I hope we learn a great deal about the human brain from them; but I do not envy them. No, I have a hard enough time trying to forget some of the things from my past as it is. I can’t imagine the mental anguish if I had superior autobiographical memory.
The things that lodge like splinters in our brains the deepest are those times and occasions when others have hurt us badly; when we have been wronged; or when we have been violated, mistreated, cheated or harmed. It is impossible to forget these things no matter how many times we are told that “time heals all wounds” and no matter how many times we are counseled by our pastor, priest, or rabbi that we should “forgive and forget.” Forget? No amount of counseling, therapy, hospitalization, or medication—nothing short of a lobotomy—could erase the pain from our memory banks.
The answer to this pain is not in the forgetting. The answer is in the forgiving. I don’t use the word “forgiving” or “forgiveness” glibly, because forgiveness isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t some buzzword from a sermon or a trivial, corny bumper sticker that says something like “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” No, forgiveness is the only answer because it is the only thing that truly deals with our deep, bleeding, and unforgettable hurts.
Forgiveness deals with these profound hurts with the unconquerable power of love, love that “does not demand its own way. Love keeps no record of being wronged.” Purging the records doesn’t mean we forget. It means we give up on keeping the score, and we give up on our desire for vengeance. Then we might just find that in letting go of our need to retaliate, we can also let go of so many of our painful memories.
Ronnie McBrayer is the author of “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus.” He writes and speaks about life, faith, and Christ-centered spirituality. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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Keeping the Faith


Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

Seekers Wanted—Organized and Otherwise

My children are organizationally challenged. More bluntly, they are slobs. Left to themselves they would wear the same unwashed shirt for a month, inches of rust would gather behind their ears, and mold would grow on their teeth. And spontaneously cleaning their rooms? Forget about it. They simply do not care about orderliness, sanitation, or hygiene.

If you don’t believe me, come have a cup of coffee with me some morning and watch them leave for school. They head out the door with their pencils, lunch money, and supplies dropping from their hands, pockets, and backpacks like scattering birdseed. And their notebooks look like a three-ringed junk yards. Notes, homework assignments, flyers from the book fair, old report cards: All this scrap and crap is hanging out everywhere.

Yet, they are eager, excellent students, so I have to learn to set aside some of my “cleanliness is next to godliness” obsession and just help them where I can. Besides, I would rather have them be willing-and-curious-but-cluttered students than orderly, tidy slackers.

The same can be said about those who seek a relationship with Christ. Not all these seekers can be found inside the church or at the regular scheduled time of weekend worship. This doesn’t mean there is no value to what happens in our houses of worship on Sunday (or whatever day one gathers), or that gathering in community isn’t important.

It simply means that some very sincere seekers of Jesus may not come to us wearing their Sunday finest and polished wingtips. They may not have a big, red, memorized Bible tucked neatly beneath their arm. They may not have all their beliefs hammered out.

On the contrary they may be confused, conflicted, or plain clueless when it comes to life and their beliefs. Their personal, relational, and family lives may be a disastrous mess (with scrap and crap everywhere). They may be rusty and moldy. But this doesn’t mean these folks aren’t seeking God or that God isn’t very busy in their lives.

The more we understand Jesus, the more we must realize that people encounter him all the time, and all over the place, even before they realize who he is or how to call his name. They hunger for, and we pray for, that moment of recognition. And when it comes, we rejoice that God has rewarded another eager child who has come diligently seeking.

Ronnie McBrayer is the author of “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus.” He writes and speaks about life, faith, and Christ-centered spirituality. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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