The Changing Times

I grew up in the analog age. “Digital” meant counting your fingers and toes, not computing ones and zeroes. I was late in the game to get a computer and very late with a cell phone. I was one of the last ones to do email. Only a few years ago I scoffed at the idea of a tablet with a screen that was also a keyboard.

Not anymore. It’s the way people communicate now. There are no keyboards. Times have changed. Now even email often doesn’t connect with the people I need to reach. It’s time for me to change.

I’m still behind the times, but I’m trying to catch up. A few months ago one of my sons got me a smart phone on his plan. Unfortunately we can barely get a signal with that company’s tower. It’s not reliable in this part of the state. So I mostly use my reliable old “dumb” phone for  phone calls. It’s reliable because it connects with a tower just a couple hundred yards from our house. I wish the new phone could work with that tower, but it doesn’t. So far I’ve been too stubborn to dish out the big bucks for a plan on our local tower. It seemed like a waste. Maybe it’s not.

I still don’t have a Facebook account. I still don’t know how to tweet. But just a few minutes ago, for the first time ever, I initiated a group text message to the church. Already there have been three responses. That’s huge. In the past I’ve often sent emails asking for a response, but hear little back. It makes sense. Many people now go days without looking at email, especially at a desk.

I’ve been out of touch with the changing times for too long. If I still have 10 or 15 ministry years left, I have to do whatever is necessary to connect with people. That raises a scary question, “What else must I change to keep up with the changing times?”

Oh, no! Is it really Facebook time? Or is that dated, too, already?

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The Endurance of Faith

If you hang around any church long enough, you discover there’s a drop-out experience for some people of faith. We don’t talk about it much, but in truth some people not only start believing in Jesus, they also stop believing. You probably know somebody like that.

Maybe they believed when they were a child and gave up their faith in high school or college. Maybe they came to Christ through a dramatic conversion as a young adult, but fizzled out a short time later. I’ve heard of Christians who were active in their church for decades, then they chucked it all—their faith, not just their church. Some wander for a while and then come back. Others never return. Some, but not all, had bad church experiences involving mistreatment. Some, but not all, rebelled and fell into habitual sin, which destroyed their faith. Some, but not all, asked honest, deep questions, but received only glib, superficial answers. Some, but not all, were disillusioned by religious people around them who had lost their first love and were just going through motions of empty faith.

Does that describe anyone you know?

Theologians have argued for centuries how and why people lose their faith. We’re not going to solve that problem in a blog. But one thing is crystal clear in the New Testament: God’s wants our faith to vibrantly endure to the end of our lives. In the New Testament losing one’s faith is not normal. In the New Testament losing one’s faith is not necessary. In the New Testament losing one’s faith is not negotiable—it’s not an option for God’s people.

But it still happens. If you’ve lost your faith, I’d love to hear your story. Would you be willing to share it with me? If you’re trying not to lose your faith, would you share your struggle with me? I’d love to walk beside you, just to listen.

We’re going to talk about losing our faith–or better–hanging on tight this Sunday in Clarkfield. I’d love for you to join us and enter in the discussion.

A Gangster and Faith

When I was a kid, I ran a morning paper route seven days a week for over six years. I’m grateful for the discipline and relational skills it built into my life. There are some riveting paperboy stories stashed away in my memory: delivering newspapers in blizzards, fruitless attempts to collect from people who couldn’t pay, two dog bites, and one memorable encounter with a gangster.

At least I thought he was a gangster. It happened one day when I stopped to collect at the home of Miss Sharp, a 90-year old spinster who had taught English at the local college. She had no family and in all my years of delivering her newspaper and collecting, I had never seen another person at her house.

To my surprise, a man answered my knock. He looked to be about 60 years old with a mustache, bowler hat and pinstripe suit. I thought, “This looks like a gangster.” I think maybe The Sting had just come out, a movie about the Chi­cago mob. The man had a crooked smile like Humphrey Bogart. His voice had a nasal accent. He paid me with a $20 bill, which was much more uncommon then than it would be today.

I was immediately suspicious. I examined the $20 bill at home and asked my parents if I should call the police. It was exciting to think that maybe I had a counterfeit $20 bill in my possession. To their credit, my parents didn’t take my anxiety seriously.

Finally my dad flattened my excitement completely with just one sentence, “If it’s counterfeit, you can’t spend it.” I hadn’t thought of that! But it was true. Counterfeit money is worthless.

So is counterfeit faith. It’s worthless. Counterfeit faith is as old as the story of Cain and Abel. When it comes to faith, we need the genuine item.

We’ll talk about discerning real faith this Sunday at New Life Church. You’re welcome to join us.