The Joshua Harris Fallout: The War Everyone’s Forgetting (Or Never Saw)

Few days of history compare to the last day of the World Wars. Millions danced in streets across the globe.

But those scenes seem far removed from today.

“Why continue torturing myself? Why not just forget God and get on with life, like most of the rest of the world? Instantly I felt a sense of relief and freedom, like I had just passed a final exam … I picked up my Bible and a couple other Christian books and walked downstairs and out the back door. I shut the door softly behind me, so as not to wake anyone. In the backyard was a brick barbecue grill, and I piled the books on it, sprayed them with lighter fluid, and struck a match. … at last I had peace. A great weight had lifted. I had been honest with myself. Any pretense was gone, and I no longer felt the pressure to believe what I could never be sure of.”

Sunrise Sky Battlefield

These aren’t the words of Joshua Harris, nor those of Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson, who this week declared his own critical struggle with his faith.

The words are from Richard, a young man whose conversations with author Philip Yancey served as the backbone of Yancey’s book Disappointment with God.

They’re becoming familiar. Within the battle reports offered by these leaders, there’s a pattern:

“I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.” – Sampson

Though Sampson goes on to cite intellectual conundrums, I sense an undercurrent of feeling in his words. It was similar with Harris – in his case, internal conflict over a doctrine that’s particularly costly for certain Christ followers. He couldn’t reconcile, so he took the path of least emotional resistance and found himself outside.

And I get it.

I know the weight they’re talking about, the Gordian knot deep in the chest year in and year out. It’s the “oh, come on” knot, that just won’t accept paradox and longings deferred and the constant tension of cultivating a relationship with the unseen. People hit their forties and start realizing that “that thing” won’t just evaporate by itself, isn’t responding to simple prayer or maturity, and might never resolve in this life. A final straw.

That’s why I’ll decline the usual “let Scripture matter more than your feelings” line that John Cooper offered.

Not that he’s wrong. Our generation has forgotten to trust Scripture. Or never really heard it.

But remember that we are refugees in war-torn lands. Not all of us found trouble as adults; some were born into it. Into families that didn’t get us, that fell apart while we were still in high chairs, that carry unspeakable secrets. Right from the opening credits, we were beleaguered. Those feelings do not simply go away. They matter.

So the part of Scripture we might most need is the part where faith is a war.

Many Christians seem to have assumed that proper belief is one long, unbroken catharsis and inner resolution (and anything else is failure). There is partial relief to be had. I’ve found much.

But Scripture tells us that complete relief is not our present (Romans 8:23), and misdiagnosing reality is always dangerous. John Eldredge said, “It’s the equivalent of arriving on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, with a lawn chair and a book to read. It is a drastic misunderstanding of your situation.”

Read the Biblical accounts of the faithful. Does any of it look easy? Yes, Jesus is a God of victory, but victory implies war. Paul often uses military analogies. Ephesians 6 outlines spiritual weapons. Your life is a war.

It would explain some things, wouldn’t it? Look around you. See it as a war, with sides and weapons and tolls, and it makes an ugly sort of sense.

So the dragon was furious with the woman and left to wage war against the rest of her offspring–those who keep God’s commands and have the testimony about Jesus (Revelation 12:17).

It also explains the weird way life suddenly gets better when faith is jettisoned. Of course things got better – you abandoned your post. You stepped off the front lines and experienced the flooding relief of not being shot at. Of course you’re surrounded by “positive and affirming” thoughts now. Of course you have a fiancee now. Of course you no longer have theological quandaries to wrestle. You aren’t in the line of fire anymore. Already Satan has retasked his resources towards the next guy on the line. Why would he bother with you now? You’re right where he wants you.

My friends, there is relief to be found in this life. I fully believe it. Though weapons must be shuffled through and strategies shifted (and God allows the process), I believe it can be found.

But I suggest the theory that if you find yourself struggling to love Jesus through your disappointment today, it means you haven’t surrendered. The Christian life is unnatural to the fallen soul. Always was. And the war that results is brutal.

Satan is furious that Jesus has a death grip on you that cannot be dislodged. This Jesus never will let go, as long as you don’t. And remember the mighty thrust of his truthful words: that reward is not found fully in this life, but the next.

Morning is coming. Hold on!

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Co-Opted by Fear: Adventures in Overthinking Prayer, Part II

fear(This ended up becoming a series. Here’s Part 1 and Part 3.)

The Neurotic Self-Examination Department is still hard at work, somewhere back there in my brain, outperforming their quotas for the 131rd quarter straight. I’d love to know what productivity methods they’re using, because I could make millions sharing them – I just cannot stop thinking about stuff. For example…should I include the nine months before my birth in that quarter count? If so, it’d be 134.

Anyway…

My pastor belted out another terrific sermon last night. I could sum it up in one sentence of his: “Gratitude doesn’t just sit there. It accomplishes something in our hearts. Gratitude gives way to hope.” It was about reminding oneself of God’s previous works and displays of power in our lives to gather hope for the future – relying on his prior and proven faithfulness to reassure ourselves for tomorrow.

And  thought, that doesn’t work for me. Not for matters in this life.

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7 Ways the Enemy Wants to Poison Your Singleness

(Part 2 of this incoherent rambling can be viewed here.)

desert-dry-path-track.jpgIn The Screwtape Letters, as he narrates a fictional demon teaching a protege to draw humans away from God, C.S. Lewis takes a fascinating turn in his view of love:

Leave them to discuss whether “Love”, or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or education, are “good” or “bad”. Can’t you see there’s no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us.  …this state of falling in love is not, in itself, necessarily favourable either to us or to the other side. It is simply an occasion which we and the Enemy are both trying to exploit. 

Fascinating. Maybe a bit of a downer to we who dream of “God writing our love story”, but Lewis’ view – that sometimes things just happen, and God and Satan engage in a cosmic tug-of-war to turn it to their uses – does carry one marked advantage. It opens our eyes to Satan’s involvement. It keeps us from being “unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Bringing Satan into our travails sounds unpleasant, certainly inconvenient, and possibly melodramatic. I understand. (I also would say that that’s his first line of attack – “I’m not here”). But we need not be disturbed or worried by his operations in our lives. (That fear is his second line.) We need only be informed, and respond with the truth of Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard that Satan attacks marriage. That’s easy enough to believe – just look at the institution now. The divorce rate, the poor reputation – it looks like Mordor. You, Christian single, have already committed yourself to beating the odds there. You know a God-centered marriage will thrive.

What you might not have heard is that the enemy also attacks singleness. I’ve seen this to be true in my own celibate journey and that of many others. Basically, he’ll use anything he can get his hands on. I say this not to frighten but to equip. God has given us everything we need to resist Satan. But you can’t resist an attack you don’t see.

My testimony: I allowed Satan to poison my singleness for many years before I let God open my eyes to the symptoms. I want you to avoid the same traps. Here I will list three of them, four in the concluding post, and I agonize that I have only two blog posts’ length when each of these could merit its own book.

But the occasion for joy and relief and bouncing off the walls? Each of these lies has an antidote, formulated straight from God’s Word.

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On God, Doors, and Enemies: The Story of a Friend’s New House

AClosed_door_01 while back, a friend of mine was trying to buy a house.

At first things were falling into place. Then, as so often happens with a home purchase, they started stampeding south. Renovation needs were discovered. Her loan officer bolted. Inspection after inspection failed. It became a drawn-out trial, and the burden was greater than living arrangements. She was trying to escape a demoralizing roommate situation; she needed to get out of her apartment for the sake of her heart.

But as the obstacles stacked up, Christian friends and advisers in her life started falling back on a familiar refrain: “These obstacles are probably God trying to stop you. You should let go of the house.”

Deep breath.

Okay. Let’s start at the beginning.

As Christians, we know God does place obstacles in our path to turn us aside from unforeseen dangers and bad decisions. Given our limited visibility in life, we should always keep a weather eye out for these signs.

But it was striking how these Christians in my friend’s life arrived at their assumption – that it must be God doing the blocking – so quickly and naturally. It’s a sign of another assumption, one shared by a lot of believers, especially in the last few generations of the church: the idea that God is the only source of opposition in this world.

It’s not a true assumption.

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