The Internet Impossibilities

2364b98bc293049f75580f87ff08b495We have easy, fast access to information. If we have a question, all we have to do is search for it. Our phones are rarely out of reach, so we can sit or stand wherever we are and find an answer. We don’t even have to type the question or read the answer anymore; we can speak into our phones, and we get a spoken answer.

But not all questions and problems have easy answers. Being able to search the internet for quick solutions might make it even more unbearable when we face the impossible, when we’re confused and overwhelmed. We can spend so much time searching for the perfect answer to our dilemma that we waste time we could spend solving it. We waste time we could seek God’s presence through the struggle. Not that He always gives us an answer, but if He doesn’t, maybe there’s something even more important we need in order to deal with the impossible. Maybe the search and the trust we give God through that search is much more important.

In fact, I know it is.

We can’t make the impossible possible with an internet search. Of course, we can find some tips and ideas, and I’m not suggesting we stop searching for those. In the past 24 hours, I’ve searched how to properly dispose of dry ice, common issues with a phone model, and comparative prices while shopping. But Google has its limits.

God does not.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Truth Takes Humility…and a Lot of Steps

It happens often. A verse gets pulled out of context. Someone’s intentions aren’t always bad. Perhaps it’s a verse that spoke to her at a specific time, and she feels by sharing it, she’s sharing the same reassurance, teaching, or challenge she experienced through it. But out of context, what if we’re not truly claiming the truth of the verse? Instead, what if we’re distorting it to apply where it isn’t intended to apply?

When people share a verse out of context over and over again, it begins to fossilize in isolation. The impressions it leaves along the way aren’t accurate of the truth behind it.

tall-exterior-1The only way to know truth is to seek truth, and that requires humility. We need to be willing to be wrong. Sometimes, it’s simply because our understanding at one point in time was limited. What we knew about Jonah, Gideon, Joseph, Jesus, or Paul might seem complete when we’re in elementary school, but as we get older, we learn more, and our picture changes. As we continue to read and listen, God opens our eyes and hearts to new details and truths, and He changes us through them. But we have to be willing to stand corrected.

We also need to not be the truth police. In His sovereignty, God is much better (and accurate) at defending His truth than we can ever hope to be. We don’t back down from the journey, but we realize that, just like the people we encounter, we are seeking truth and learning, too. Instead of finding fault, we can begin discussions. Instead of “Well, do you actually believe that…,” ask “That’s an interesting perspective. I’d like to hear more about how you reached that belief, and how you reconcile that with…?”

Refuse to retaliate with accusations. How would you respond if the tables were turned? Stop the cycle. Invite others to let down their defenses by letting your own down. Start conversations. Build relationships. Honor God through the process.

Why Ask Questions?

Few things can be more frustrating than someone asking a question, then spending more time telling his or her own thoughts, or explaining the answer he or she already knows, instead of listening. If the asker is a teacher, it’s okay, even expected. But in everyday life, everyday conversation, everyday relationships, it seems condescending, insensitive, and rude.

A question should be an invitation to share and discover. Listening is difficult. It takes patience. But we learn in the patience of listening. We get to know the person. We better understand his or her perspective, so we’re better able to share what we think, ask follow-up questions, and encourage the person. And we show respect.

When we ask God questions, how patient and attentive are we? How much do we try to talk through the answer? Do we pause or do we fill space?

He certainly wants to hear what’s on our minds, but He also wants to answer our questions…in His timing and wisdom, of course.

When Google Can’t Answer

It doesn’t matter what resources we have to find answers. We still have questions, and we’re surrounded by people who have questions. We might think that we need each other less and less, because all we need to do when we need a piece of advice, solution, or fact is enter a few key words in a search engine and click. We live in a time that gives us an abundant access to information.

Yet, we still need each other.  photo index_zps5b4an4fo.jpg

I use search engines a lot as I’m writing, but I know I have to be careful. I can find any information I want to find…even if it’s false. I need to discern. And many times, I need to involve others to find the best information. I need to ask for help. I know I’m not alone, because I see posts every day on social media–friends asking for ideas for supper, questions to clarify start times and locations of events, and feedback on books, movies, and stores. We could probably find all the information we want, yet our need isn’t just for information. It’s for connection and relationship.

When we reach out to others, we need to be careful. We can’t just reach out to get affirmed, to find the information we most want to receive, to connect for the wrong reasons.

We each search, but we search together. We need to be discerning each step of the way…as we personally question, reach out, and respond to others. People need help with the searching process, because we all have questions.

We don’t have all the answers. God does. Yet He brings us into each others’ lives so that we can search together. We need God. No one else can fill that need, but God weaves our lives with others to fill needs along the process. Only God has the answers to all our questions, but He uses us in each others’ lives to confirm, explore, and debunk. It’s not just our opinions. We can’t guide each other well based solely on what we assume or want to believe. But we can let God guide as we help each other.

People might have access to massive search engines, but they’re not comprehensive. They might contain more information than we have, but they can’t use wisdom to discern. We can only do that when we trust and rely on God.

He is bringing people into your life today who you can help and who can help you. Whether your time together is brief or extended, fully lean into Him. Trust Him to guide you as you ask the right questions and believe the right answers.

Are Christians Supposed to Be Counter-Cultural?

Counter-cultural was one of those trendy phrases a few years ago. I still hear it often, especially as a call to Christians to be counter-cultural.

I get it. Our lives are supposed to reflect truths and choices that run against the flow of the world, but…

We still breathe the same air, swim in the same water, use the same roads, work in similar places, and so on.

Many groups and movements have used the phrase counter-cultural through the years. Google it, and you’ll find it listed alongside words, people, and movements in history, such as Woodstock, Vietnam, race relations, middle class, and much more. At its very root, counter-cultural simply describes a subculture’s rejection of a mainstream way of doing things. In a sense, perhaps Christianity has always been counter-cultural, but we need to be careful in wearing it as a badge of honor or identity.

People already know what we stand against. In fact, many people make assumptions about what we stand against because of some active, vocal, and even fanatical individuals and groups that stand under the umbrella of Christianity. I may have some things in common with some of those people and groups, but I think I have more not in common with them. When we respond with hatred, legalism, and judgment instead of humility, compassion, and discernment, we are not living as counter-culturally as we might believe. But we may be living counter to Christ.

Yes, we as Christians are called to be different than the world. We are set apart. But we still share the world with others, including many who do not believe what we believe. We can certainly speak out against some things, but we need to be certain we only do so in the context of what we are for and who we believe. We don’t stand on a platform. We stand on Christ.

We must be significant within the culture we live. Being set apart isn’t the same as separating from. Just as Jesus told us, there will be times we shake the dust off our feet and move on, and there will be times when we ask questions that help people explore where they are and what choices they face.

Be different because of who God created you to be, not just for the sake of being different. Refuse to jump on a bandwagon. Know Jesus well and follow Him. Refuse to let what you’re against cloud Who you’re for. Refuse to be more familiar with what you oppose than with whom God intends you to be.

Why Do You Help People? Why Do You Ask Questions?

It’s important to ask good questions, not to pin somebody in a corner (because that usually only makes the person fight with every defense possible to escape) but to help them explore the reasons behind the decisions they make.

For example,

Person #1: Why do you help people?

Person #2: Because it’s the right thing to do.

Person #1: But who says it’s the right thing to do?

Person #2: It just is. Do you really believe it’s not the right thing to do?

#1: I’m not saying that. I’m just curious, because, personally, I believe it’s the right thing to do because God instructs and leads me to help people. It’s His way. I do it to honor Him. But you don’t believe in God, right?

#2: Well, I’m not sure I would go that far. He might exist, but I’m not a fanatic about him, you know? I don’t revolve my life around him. I don’t think he is the ultimate authority who guides everything.

#1: I get what you’re saying. And I’m still curious. If God or someone else doesn’t say it’s important to help people, but we–and many others–agree that it is, where does that value come from?

#2: I see where you’re going with this. We’re about to get into that “there must be absolutes and so God must be in charge” discussion. But I don’t think it’s all about God. I like to help people. It makes me feel good!

#1: If making people helps you feel good, then is helping people more about them or about you?

#2: Well, them, of course.

#1: It’s just an interesting thing to consider, I think. We’re not going to solve this or agree on everything, but isn’t it good to ask ourselves why we do what we do? I mean, what assumptions, beliefs, and misconceptions do we have? And I’m not just talking about you. I need to constantly ask myself questions, too, if I want to grow. I’m confident in a lot of things, but I certainly don’t want to ever assume I have all the answers and should stop exploring.

#2: Yeah. I think we can definitely agree on that.

Sometimes, as Christians, we can excel at picking apart people’s behavior. We can find fault in their logic. But can we find patience to interact with respect and authenticity?

I hope so.

Are You Available to Help?

2015 PurePurpose.org
2015 PurePurpose.org

Yesterday, I shared my experience of grocery shopping in an unfamiliar store. Besides prompting an online search to find out more about jack fruit, the store spurred something else–a reminder to be available.

I don’t think I ever walked more than two aisles without finding a store employee, always willing to help. The majority spoke to me, asking me if I needed any help finding something or simply greeting me and asking how my day was going. I didn’t feel as if the employees were reciting a rehearsed script, although I’m certain they had been given a bank of possible interactions in their Customer Relations 101 course. Since I was just exploring up and down the aisles, I repeatedly told employees I was just meandering and didn’t need help right then. However, when I came to the end of the aisles and still had a couple necessities unfound and unchecked on my list, I approached someone. I felt completely comfortable walking up to the nearest employee, even though he hadn’t personally spoken with me yet, because of the ease with which the others had interacted with me. They weren’t bothersome. They weren’t sugary-sweet. They simply spoke to me, made eye contact, and let me get on my way if that’s what I chose to do.

How available are you to help others, and how do you respond when they prefer to get on their way? As Christians, do we work together even though we’re living separate lives, planting and nurturing seeds that we might never see mature? Are we responsive to noticing and helping people we have never met or poured into? How well do we do our part without trying to control the situation? How well do we stand our ground because it’s where God has placed us, not because it’s where we are most comfortable or because it’s our right to stand where we want to stand and say what we want to say? Are we authentic, or do we sound like a recording from our Christianity 101 training, complete with lingo from past decades?

We have a part to play, but we’re not the only ones working for and serving God. Be available. Be willing.

But don’t be annoying, robotic, or controlling.