Category Archives: Guest blogs

Why Faith Matters…..Vulnerability & Courage.

It’s been a privilege and really great to read the responses from others about “Why Faith matters” to them.  Guest blogging works!  But, I realize, as I conclude that section of my blog, I haven’t given folks my own answer.  And honestly, I hesitate to do so.  There are a lot of reasons I suppose….I figure no one wants to hear that; it seems like I’m giving the “right” answer; I have to get the last word.  But if I’m really honest, the reason is….because I’m scared.

My whole life, I’ve struggled with the notion of being in control.  I think that’s why I loved sports so much growing up: I loved the idea that I could work towards success, and I seemingly had complete control on whether that success happened.  I could train harder and run a faster time; I could win more wrestling matches.  I like success, and the feeling of being powerful that comes from it.  I like knowing I was able to make that happen.  Disclaimer here: What I’m not going to say is that success and control are evil, that I saw the error of my ways, or that I’m ashamed of my pursuit of power.  I’m ok saying that because for the most part, my issue with control, power, and success didn’t work exploit or harm others (at least intentionally, or that I know of).  It was more because deep down, I wanted to supress that dark feeling, a really powerful feeling, that honestly….I was powerless.  I wasn’t in control….if people knew my weaknesses, if I showed them, I’d get exploited in the end. Scared.

And throughout my life, that has had a serious effect…mainly on my relationships with others.  Because in the end, I felt like letting anyone in, being vulnerable with others would lead to the inevitable conclusion that I’d be rejected in the end.  I’d be a failure.  To be honest, it’s why I probably didn’t acheive what I could have on the wrestling mat, it’s why a lot of my relationships in the past failed, it’s why the isolation I feel more than I admit to often turned into a reality.  I chose to close myself off, not take risks – because being vulnerable lead to exploitation.

That was a bit lengthy….but necessary for answering “why faith matters.”  Faith matters for me because the Gospel, the good news, is that we are assured of God’s enduring presence, a relationship, through all things in life – moments of death and resurrection, isolation and friendship, sorrow and joy.  That’s it.  The gospel message of the Christian faith is nothing more than this truth.  We’re promised no matter how we perform in the game of life, God will remain in relationship with us – one that doesn’t exploit or shame us at that.  To be certain, we experience serious consequences of our actions of rebellion, we are held accountable for our actions and attitudes towards God and other people, (that is a dynamic of not only faith, but with relationships in general) but the relationship remains intact always.  The point of faith isn’t whether God will bless me with his presence or not.  The point of faith is that has already blessed me with his everlasting presence. 

That’s comforting for me, hopeful.  I find life in that.  Faith matters to me because if I’m assured of that relationship, I can actually be vulnerable – with God, with others; in my life and in the world.  I can take risks in relationships, I can dare to use my talents and gifts to bring life into the world, I can be honest with others….and I can dare to expect the same from others.  In short, this faith in a God who is always present with us – fully revealed in Jesus Christ – compels me to be courageous in being vulnerable with others, because it’s in and only in being vulnerable can we ever expect to share true, abundant life with others. 

Faith matters….so that I might have the courage to be vulnerable with others.  So that I might be life-giving as a person, so that I might give life to others.

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Why Faith Matters…..Challenged to Believe.

Wes Kimball is a former youth of mine, starting his first year at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.  Wes is a young man I think, who’s pretty wise and insightful beyond his years.  I think he highlights something important here: we all believe in something; it’s how we’re wired.  That may be ourselves, God, the world, etc., but we all believe in something.  The call is to examine what we’re believing in, and whether that is life-giving and hopeful to us in all moments of life.

To me, faith matters because it challenges our beliefs. If we lived day to day having God give us messages directly the way he did to Noah or Moses, there would be no need for faith. We’d have solid proof that God (and through Him, Jesus) existed. However, because we don’t get that divine phone call, we have to rely on our beliefs, and our faith.

In our daily lives we are challenged by everyone, scientists, friends and family, about why we believe what we believe. The easy answer is our faith allows us to believe it, but for those without faith, this only brings up more questions than answers. My faith has been founded because God has gotten me through annual trials and tribulations for the past thirteen years, and to this day had never let me down, or left me in a worse position than when I started.

Everyone’s faith is their own, and as much as we can try to relate with those of others, we cannot connect with theirs’ because it is between them and God. I was talking to an incoming High School student last week, and he believes solely because he has grown up in a Christian family; however he has never had any reason to doubt because he has never been tried. As he gets older, he’s going to face death, drugs, abandonment, I pray that he doesn’t but the odds aren’t in his favor. His faith has a foundation, however if he stops culturing it, when the trials come, he’ll be washed away by the storm.

That is why faith matters. As terrible things happen in your life, you need to have that spiritual support to make it through the challenges. It’s like a woman who lives on an island in a river with her child. One day a terrible storm comes, and the raging river engulfs the island. She tries to get to shore keeping he child above the water the whole way, but as the child get to shore, the mother drowns. Jesus died to save us from this storm, and our faith in him needs to be there to get us through the storms, so that we don’t drown.

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Why Faith Matters…..Breathing.

Over the course of my “vacation,”  I received two other reflections on “Why Faith Matters.”  Here’s one from Kerri (Wadzita) Clark, a Seminarian on her internship in Boone, NC (she attends Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, PA).  I’ve known Kerri and her family for several years now…and faith definitely runs through and through them – essential, like the air we breathe.

Faith, to me, is like breathing. Essential, but not always conscious. There are certain times that my breathing is thrust into the center of my attention, like at times when I’m swimming laps and the distracting things are all blocked out. Instead, my focus is on a pattern – stroke, stroke, turn head, breath. Other times my breathing is less labored, such as when I’m falling asleep, and I take deep breaths just for the curiosity of feeling how big my lungs will go. Still other times my breathing is joined with others’, such as in choir, when breaths are noticeable for their absence of sound, and we are all one breathing unit guided by the director.

My faith is this way, too. Sometimes it’s just me. I look at a sunset, at a storm, and feel God’s majesty. I hear sad news of a professor’s diagnosis with brain cancer and have the freedom to ask why and the comfort to not always need an answer. I read Scripture and reflect on hymns and check in with God every so often to see if this calling to serve God’s people as a pastor is still where I need to be. Other times, really most times, my faith functions as one breath among many. I pray and read and recite and sing alongside others, some who I know well and others I’ve yet to meet. I share work and conversations that open me up to so many new stories, and even when we aren’t specifically talking about God or religion or salvation, that’s still part of it.

I can’t imagine life separate from faith; it’s like breathing. I don’t know why I was raised in the family I was. I don’t know why faith “stuck” even through the tricky growing-up-and-exploring years. But I know that God loves us, and that I’m blessed to learn new ways to share that and also receive it from others. My faith is not something I’m conscious of all the time, but, like breathing, it gives me life.

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Why Faith Matters……Connectedness.

Eric is a friend & is currently finishing up his pastoral internship in Arizona.  I have to admit, Eric & I wouldn’t have gotten to know each other if it wasn’t for my fiancee and his wife being good friends, but even though we’d both agree we’re on different parts of the spectrum in terms of how we see the world, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Eric and calling him a friend.  

You can also check out Eric’s blog here.  His witness and words are good ones.  Enjoy!

“Why Faith Matters”

Eric Clapp

Last week, some scientists claimed to have found the Higgs-Boson particle – “The God Particle” as some have named it. It explains how mass comes to be in existence, making some scientists claim that this is how the world was created. Right away, the claim was that this makes believing in God obsolete. On Facebook and Twitter people were bashing on religion left and right saying this discovery proves that God didn’t create the Universe, then they make the leap to “God must not exist.” Now, I’m not here to debate the finer points of physics with you because, frankly, physics is hard. But I think this does say a lot about how we relate to our faith.

For a lot of people, faith matters because they believe we were created by God and, because we were created by God, that means all the other stuff in the Bible must be true. In essence, many Christians think that to disprove our creation disproves our faith. But if I’m honest with you, that’s not the reason I have faith at all.

My faith matters to me because it connects me to something greater than myself – my community. Going to church and being part of a worship community continually reminds me of two things. The first is that it’s not about me. The second is that it’s about my neighbor. My natural inclination, as a human being, is to be selfish, greedy, and to be on top. But, for me, faith is about emptying myself of those needs so that the people around me can be served.

As a pastor, this can be hard because I spend a lot of my time giving – whether it’s time, attention, or energy. A lot of times I come home pretty depleted. But I have friends, a community, and a God that gives me energy to do it all over again the next day. Faith gives me the courage to look outside of myself and see how I can help my neighbor. I think that if everyone in the world started their day by thinking about how they could best help their neighbor today, and then actually did it, we’d be in pretty good shape.

There’s a rabbi named David Wolpe who wrote a book called Why Faith Matters. In it, he writes, “Faith does not ask ‘Which medicine will cure this disease?’ but ‘How can I use the experience of illness to help others?’” That’s ultimately what it’s about for me. That’s why my faith matters. It’s not about proving or disproving science. But faith calls me out of myself to use my experience as a broken human being to ease the suffering and pain of those around me.

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Why faith matters…..Stories.

Here is the first of what I promised….responses on why faith matters.  Adam is a friend of mine, also in seminary, also wanting to be a pastor.  He’s currently doing his pastoral internship in Denver, CO.  He grew up in the Western suburbs of the Twin Cities area.  You can check out his blog here. Adam speaks about what faith means, from the place of his own story……

I’m almost always hesitant to tell people why faith matters to me because I’m almost always positive it’s going to come off as a load of crap.

I’d like to tell you all sorts of reasons why faith matters to me because of my belief in God, my belief that Christ went to the cross for me to free me from the power of sin and bring me to eternal life or my belief that the Holy Spirit continues to work through me and in the world and gives me that faith. For me, that is all true. I believe every one of those words.

I just don’t think it’s why faith matters to me. And for some reason it feels wrong to say so.

Maybe a better question than, “Why does faith matter to you?” would be “Why haven’t you given up on faith?” or “What keeps you rooted in faith?”

My favorite Bible passage comes from Colossians 2:6-7 and goes like this: “So therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

I think why faith matters to me, why I haven’t given up on faith, is because of how faith has been taught to me. I don’t mean taught as in the classroom or Sunday school kind of teaching. I mean the way faith has been taught to me through the relationships and the people who have shown me how faith is lived out. I have a few stories that I’d like to share to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Shortly after my grandmother passed away, I attended my high school youth group on the following Sunday night. I was doing just fine until we sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and I couldn’t hold in the sadness any longer. I left the room, went and sat on a nearby staircase and cried. A youth minister I had become close to came and sat next to me, put his arm around my shoulder and sat in silence as I cried. After close to five minutes he turned to me and said, “I just prayed for you,” and he got up and returned to the room. Faith mattered in that moment. It’s all we had.

My parents and I were cleaning out some closets in my grandparents’ old house and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. In one of the closets was a safe and in the safe were stacks and stacks of old checks that my grandfather had written. Thinking not too much of it, we began looking through the recipients of these checks and began to notice a pattern. Hundreds and thousands of dollars over the course of years given to local churches, charities and funds my grandparents were involved with and supported. There were even a few written out to their grandchildren. As a young teenager, I learned what faith looked like lived out in the world. I got a glimpse of why faith mattered and why it continues to matter.

I have a friend who doesn’t believe in God. He doesn’t believe in much of anything when it comes to religion, especially not what Christians are putting forward. We’ve had many conversations about why this is and it always comes down questions that begin with, “How could I believe in…?” Believe in a God who lets these things happen. Believe in a church who believes these kinds of things. Believe in a book that says what it says. How could I believe in that? Amen, brother. I’ve never met a man who was more faithful to his family than he is. I’ve never met a man more faithful to his best friend, his wife-to-be. I’ve never met a person more faithful to the people he loves and to the things that mean the most in his life. Faith matters to him, it just doesn’t look the same. I learn faith from him.

I don’t give up on faith because faith is so embedded in my being that I’m convinced that without faith there would be no life within me. Faith matters to me because it matters to those whom I love and respect so dearly that to let go of faith would be to let go of the very relationships that give me that faith in the first place. I remain rooted in faith because of the way I have been taught faith, through Christ, yes, but through Christ in others, through Christ in those who may not believe in Christ.

So therefore, just as I have received Christ Jesus as my Lord and Savior, the Son of God, I will continue to live my life in Him, rooted and built up in Him, but strengthened in the faith that I am taught not only by Christ but by those whom Christ works within, those who change the way I look at the world, those who show me what faith really means.

And I will abound in thanksgiving knowing that sometimes faith just matters because it matters. And that answer is sufficient enough.

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