Why Not Believing in Something is Like Not Breathing – You Were Created for Faith!

breath

Human beings must develop meaning and purpose in life. We’re “meaning making machines” and can’t escape this task no matter how fast we run from it by distracting ourselves with a multitude of activities. In fact, psychologists would say without meaning and purpose human beings cannot thrive. Eric Maisel for example has done extensive work demonstrating the therapeutic value of using meaning and purpose to help clients with depression, anxiety, addictions, etc. In his book “The Vangogh Blues” Dr. Maisel demonstrates the power of creativity and how it can be used as a mechanism for creating meaning and purpose to overcome depression. Victor Frankl is a foundational figure regarding meaning making and psychological well-being and his work is seminal for understanding how important meaning making is. He developed an approach to helping people based on his experience as a survivor of the Nazi prison camps. Victor Frankl was a Jewish Psychiatrist imprisoned in the death camps like so many other Jews during the Nazi reign of WWII. While in the camps he noticed those surviving the atrocities were people capable of finding meaning and purpose in their suffering. Based on these experience Frankl developed a whole system of understanding human behavior and flourishing rooted in this motivation to find meaning and purpose. Frankl proposes motivation for meaning is a core aspect of being human and when one no longer finds meaning and purpose the individual degrades into a poor psychological state that can even lead to death.

If you still have doubts regarding the importance of belief in meaning and purpose than just consider this simple fact. If someone living a healthy life contracts a fatal disease like cancer, what’s the first thing you ask yourself? If a young child goes to school one day and the school is tragically attacked by a gunman killing this young boy or girl, what question immediately comes to your mind? Most of us ask the question “why?” We all want to know why this happened to people who seemingly were doing all the right things. This need to answer the question why is ingrained in our human condition. It’s perfect evidence that demonstrates our need to make meaning of life’s good and tragic experiences.

As all my readers know I like to write about how to live a flourishing life with passion, resilience, and purpose. I believe a key aspects for doing that is recognizing you’re a creature of belief needing to find meaning and purpose in your life. That means its important to take care of your spiritual life. You need to be intentional about understanding what you believe, why you believe it, how it motivates you, and how it impacts the meaning and purpose you place in life. Too many of us are walking around with an indifference toward spiritual things. Some of us have totally given up on the idea that spiritual things matter. Think about it this way; since you were created to breathe what would happen if you decided to just quit breathing or to breathe in whatever junk you wanted? How well would you thrive in life if you did that? Probably not too well. The same goes for your spiritual life. You need to care for it, be intentional about what you believe and how you practice these beliefs. You have to care about matters of faith because all these things feed into the meaning and purpose you develop around your life experiences.

Let me close this brief post with this proposition; if you have a faith life go and find out what that means. Really dig into your belief system and try and understand the meaning and purpose it provides in your life. If you don’t have one, start developing one. I’m a Christian, and my belief system impacts how I think of other people, why life matters and how it should be lived, and what my ultimate purpose is. The reason I want you to explore your belief system is because whether you know it or not, it shapes a great deal of your experience of reality. For me, I know I was created to give and receive love. I know I don’t do that well and neither do other people so we need to be forgiving. However, I believe by being connected to God I can be transformed to be an active agent of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation in the world. I believe God has blessed me with talents to use for the purpose of love, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. My belief system challenges me to be an active agent of love, even when that’s the most difficult thing to do. In the end, my belief system shapes my world and gives me a sense of purpose so when I lay my head down for the last time on this planet I will do so knowing I did what I was created to do.

If you want a life of passion, purpose, and resilience recognize you were created to believe in transcendent and meaningful things. Then, fill your mind with those meaningful beliefs and live them out. And if you interested in how Christianity can help you with that, just ask me, I love to talk about what energizes me everyday!

Charismatic Healing- More Than a Miracle

healthy-cure-healing

We frequently talk about healing in the Christian church from a reductionist and compartmentalized perspective.  For so many Christians healing is simply about miracles in which terminal diseases disappear, impossible cures are discovered, and crowds of people press against a stage where a minister stands extending his or her arms toward the crowed proclaiming great things in the name of Christ.  Healing is considered miraculous and intended for the physical realm.  I do believe in the healing power of prayer, the gracious gift some men and women have to perform miraculous healings, and the active outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the charismatic gifts.  I just believe there’s more to the biblical understanding of healing than the manifest miracles we fixate upon because of their extraordinary quality.

I believe just as the secular materialist too easily dismisses the spiritual realm many Christians too easily dismiss the importance of other realms of being.  One must care for their physical well-being as intentionally as their spiritual well-being yet many spiritually minded people are quite content to ignore their bodies because they believe them to be less important.  To ignore your physical health is to ignore an aspect of who you are.  Likewise, if you ignore your emotional, cognitive, and social relationships, you’re not caring for yourself in a holistic way.  Healing, when it occurs, touches all these spheres of being human.  Sometimes healing addresses one sphere of human need more than another, but healing impacts our whole being when we make ourselves receptive to its power.  When our bodies are healed in some way our souls are healed as well.  When our emotions are disturbed our bodies, minds, spirit, and even relationships suffer because of it.  Disease impacts the whole person, not just one sphere of the human condition.  To be fully healed means to be touched at all levels of existence, and sometimes the healing is less obvious than the great physical healings we look for.

I did a presentation on healing at a lovely church in Virginia Beach called Holy Apostles.  They’re doing a whole series on healing in the Christian tradition.  When preparing that presentation, I was struck at how the bible addresses healing.  Healing is often presented as a holistic experience; one in which not only are bodily issues addressed, but intellectual, emotional, relational, and spiritual issues as well.  For example, the end result of healing, what we call health, is usually described as “shalom.”  We frequently translate that word to mean peace which isn’t wrong but doesn’t seem to capture the whole meaning of the word.  Yes, it does mean peace, but it also means a great deal more.  It’s not only the type or peace which implies a lack of discord with others, it also means to be complete, to have soundness in body, mind, and spirit.  It means to experience safety and to have contentment.  It’s a holistic experience.  In short, it’s a true experience of health.

Another thing important to remember about healing is it’s always an ongoing process.  Perhaps this is more obvious in the mental health field than in the medical field.  When someone comes to see a therapist much of the healing work is done outside the meeting and at the client’s pace.  Even after intense emotional discomfort passes many clients continue to work on healing over a period of time. In this life healing is part of the process leading us to experience the ultimate healing found in our salvation.  Healing is after all, the restoration of what disease, caused by sin, has separated and broken.  Both personal sin and general sin have impacted who we are and have created a situation in which people need healed.  That healing experience begins in this life at the cross.  We read this in Isaiah:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our inequities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Historically, Christians have identified this passage as pointing to the sacrifice of Christ.  In Christ’s sacrifice God gives us salvation which brings us peace (Shalom) and healing (Rapha).  I have already discussed the word shalom, but let me break down the word Rapha as well to continue demonstrating the holistic nature of biblical healing.  Rapha means the following:

  • To make healthful
  • To sew together, to mend, to repair
  • It means the healing of people but also of other elements of creation such as the land and the water.
  • It means to comfort the broken hearted and the lonely

If we take the Isaiah passage to be a prophetic witness to the crucifixion of Christ, then in it we see the salvific sacrifice of Jesus as more than providing a path for our souls to get to heaven.  The sacrifice of Christ becomes a way of mending and healing our whole existence in a holistic way; a way allowing an internal healing of body, mind, soul, relationships, and spirit as well as an interpersonal healing with God first, one another, and the created order.  Healing is more than the experience of a miracle removing disease, it’s a holistic experience, a “sewing together” of that which sin has pulled apart.  Remember, sin divides.  It divides humanity from God, people from one another, and creation from humanity (Read the curses of the fall in Genesis chapter 3).  Yet the grace which flows from the cross is a uniting force in the world.  It’s a healing force.  It heals the division between God and humanity and it restores human beings so they may experience the fullness of life when Christ returns.  We may still die and become separated from our bodies now, but the restoring work of the cross promises us when Christ returns our bodies and souls will once again live in a restored integrated condition.  Lastly, the work of the cross heals all of creation and once again, when Christ returns people will live in harmony with creation (see Paul’s letter to the Romans, particularly chapter 8 verse 22).

A further word to explore connecting healing with salvation is the Greek word “sozo.”  This word occurs 120 times in the New Testament and is often translated as “salvation.”  It does indeed have this meaning but can also mean “to restore the spirit, soul, and body.”  This connection between salvation and restoration, particular of body and soul, echoes the themes found in the Hebrew word Rapha which we discussed above.

While it’s certainly appropriate to exercise the charismatic practice of healing and prayer, it’s also important to remember just because we don’t see a visible physical healing it doesn’t mean healing isn’t occurring.  God chooses where to start the healing process and sometimes that starting place may be a spiritual issue needing resolved, an emotional issue, a relationship issue, an intellectual issue, or a physical issue.  If we focus too much on the most evident manifestation of the miracle of healing, we miss the subtle miracle God is doing in other spheres of someone’s life.  Remember, even if a physical healing is experienced we’re “cured” of something but not necessarily “healed.”  Being healed is an ongoing process experienced while living in a relationship with Christ.  Healing impacts our whole existence even though we’re cured of particular instances of pain and suffering.  If healing is intimately connected to salvation, then only when the complete fruit of our salvation is experienced at the second coming of Christ will we, as well as all of creation, be truly “healed.”  This is attested to in scripture and professed in the Christian creeds as a core part of what Christians believe.  I will close with that hope filled passage echoing these very sentiments from the book of revelations:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

 

 

Addressing the Spiritual Nature of Racism

racism

If we listen to the news over the past few weeks we can’t help but be disturbed by the high levels of racial tension rising in American cities everywhere.  We’ve seen so much black and white discord over the past few months we question the efficacy of any advances made during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.  Racial issues aren’t just social issues; they impact every aspect of being human.  Yes, race is about skin color and physical features, very intimate parts of who we are.  All of us recognize race as physical and social aspects of our existence because these are the most obvious areas tensions among different races emerge.  We discriminate against someone because of how they look and develop social systems unfairly treating one race as inferior to another based on how we think, feel, and relate to the differences we see in people not like us.  What we forget is race impacts our spiritual lives as well.  There’s a reason one of the most racially divided days of the week is Sunday.  Deep within our very spiritual lives we struggle to meet one another on a human level.  Somehow we let what’s different about us divide the unity the Spirit beckons us to embrace.  Racial issues impact ALL of who we are thus they’re spiritual issues as much as they’re physical, social, emotional, and cognitive issues.  The question we need to ask is how can we temper the negative spiritual issues destroying us and build upon the positive elements racial diversity provides?  How can men and women charged with the spiritual care of others help them identify a holistic remedy to what’s often viewed as merely a social problem?

Let’s start with a brief reminder regarding the Christian faith and its relationship with creation.  Christianity is a faith in which the visible becomes the starting point for knowing and experiencing what is invisible.  Creation is good and beautiful because through it we come to know the one who is true and holy.  For some Christian churches this is the whole foundation of the idea of “sacraments”; visible signs the make us acutely aware of an invisible grace God bestows upon us at particular moments of our lives.  Through the water of baptism, we experience the grace of new birth, the anointing with oil gives us a physical experience of an anointing of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine broken and shared provide us with a unique experience of Christ himself who was broken and poured out for us.  Christ, through the incarnation is the invisible Word of God made visible through his human nature.  The Christian cannot embrace a spirituality that abhors the created order because through creation (The creation which God has declared as “Good”) we come to know the beauty of the creator himself.  In order to remedy racist spirituality, we need to first see that which God has created, the many different races of people, is intentionally good and meant to be diverse and different.  God intends a diversity among creation as all elements of creation somehow speak to him.  Human beings are meant to be different, no race is better than the other, because within the diverse human experience, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, etc. God is encountered.  To believe one race is superior to another is not a Christian approach to understanding people, it’s a distorted sinful understanding of the gift of diversity within creation and the human condition.  Like the Trinity itself, the diversity of each person is in no way inferior to the other, rather it emerges as a unique experience of the same divine essence.

A second point to make clear is that within a proper holistic Christian spirituality racism cannot be tolerated because within it is the assumption that somehow a human being can be relegated to a thing.  If each of us is created in the image of God regardless of the diverse way God has elected to create us, we can never be something other than a human person.  We are not an object to be used as the means to another end, we are always a human being created with human dignity that reflects the image and likeness of God.  When I encounter a person of a different race, I encounter another human being first.  The race of the individual is the visible sign of the diversity and beauty of God who is made manifest to me through the encounter of this other person.  I must first see the divine spark, the other Christ in my fellow human being before I see the other’s race or differences from me.  When I first seek what is common and unites us I can appreciate the differences each of us have and know the beauty of the creator God.

We often marvel at the many shapes and colors an artist uses to paint the most beautiful artwork on canvas.  We might even describe this experience as an encounter with the divine as our eyes drink in the colors and combinations of geometric shapes placed together in ways we may never have imagined.  If we can be moved to such awe and wonder by looking at what a fallen human being has created how is it we don’t see within the diversity of the human condition the deep mystery and beauty of God.  My friends, don’t be drawn into the evil elicited by the sinful need to identify ourselves as something unique based on our color or facial and body shapes.  These are only beautiful, important, and essential because they point us to a common human condition which reflects and makes visible the invisible and beautiful God.  I will choose to love the whole Christ as he is made manifest in the diversity of people which make up his body the church.  Perhaps by starting with these spiritual truths and experiences I will not see other people as white and black objects to be used, tossed away, and targets of anger and aggression but rather fellow human beings made to give and receive love.  Perhaps this spiritual understanding will keep me from forming my hand into a fist and instead extend it as an open invitation to friendship and love.