skeptic

The Praise of Doubt by Michael Nichols

The story about Jesus calling Peter out to walk with Him on the water is commonly used to tell people to trust God. That's kind of the point, right? But how quickly do we gloss over what's really going on there?

What Peter experienced made absolutely no sense by human standards. We are heavier than water, so we sink. Storms are huge, so how could we be expected to hold our ground within them?

The problem is not that walking on water makes no sense. Jesus is the Lord, right? All things are possible through Him! The problem is that it makes perfect sense, but we believed something else. What doesn't make sense is sin. It doesn't matter if it's the perceivably "little" white lies or the thefts or the abuses or the addictions or the perversions or the violence or the murders or the genocides. It's not just what we do, and it's not just others have done to us and each other.

The adversity for we who now live is that society tells us to question everything, and the fact is that, yes, there really is merit to skepticism, but the amount of that merit is much smaller than we think. Bear this in mind as I speak to you, though: I'm not condoning naively putting oneself in absurdly dangerous situations without a worthy cause.

As followers of Jesus, we believe that everything that we were meant to be is now working in reverse, meaning that we do not live by reason or sanity but rather by lust and psychosis. Our worldview flipped nearly instantaneously in Eden from being sustained by an omnibenevolent God to questioning whether or not His word was true and what He was holding back from us. (Now, whether or not our initial motives were pure cannot be determined, but it can be reasonably assumed that we were as guilty as lucifer of arrogance and lust for power upon temptation.) Now, we live in a world inhabited by three kinds of people: those who prey on others, those who merely try to survive, and those who think that there must be a better option than either.

Jesus is the better option. His death in our place for our sins and His resurrection overcoming the punishment for the same sin is the single most revolutionary act anyone has ever done. Had we never exposed ourselves to sin, this fact would make sense to us all. We wouldn't view the world through the murky lense of fear. The idea that there is a perfect Lord of all would not seem so idiotic, because it isn't! In fact, it makes the more sense than anything in this world! Our problem is that we base our perceptions on what we've seen and heard, and what we've seen and heard is nothing but the evil proceedings from man's heart!

So when Peter was called to walk with Jesus on the water, his lense was already murky. He already had doubts, but they didn't surface until he refocused on how many ways walking on water could possibly go wrong. In a world where man had not chosen corruption, he would have understood and not doubted that this call from Christ were absolutely possible and that it was going to happen.

The real kicker here is that Jesus didn't just call Peter out on the water; Peter asked Him to do it! He already doubted that it was Jesus on the water, but he had learned so far that Jesus had a habit of doing things that were, by human judgments, completely insane! So if Jesus called him out with Him, shouldn't he have understood that it was going to be a little crazy? Yet he doubted Him anyway! I'd bet he didn't mean to do it, but he did. How could you not when there's a hurricane raging around you, right? But Jesus is Lord of the hurricane and the water!

I dare you, reader, to ask God to do something absolutely insane with you, and even more, I dare you to trust Him to lead you in the correct way. It's our disbelief that is insane, not His sovereignty over all things, because the reality is that He is the most sane thing alive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw

Extent of Encouragement by Michael Nichols

Think for a moment about everyone you know or have known and can still recall. Think. Think slowly, clearly, and thoroughly. Okay. Good. That's enough of that. Now comes the difficult part. I want you to pick which one of them most adamantly denies encouragement. Yeah. You've got it. You know.

During high school, I was definitely that kid. Despite constant bullying and exclusion during elementary school, I still had confidence in certain of my abilities, primarily academic. That having been said, between 6th and 9th grade, a transition took place that I didn't understand was even happening, nor did I recognize until recent years. That transition was into self-consciousness. It was the point where the back of my mind slowly began to realize that I was different, and that either made me invisible or a third-eyesore to people. I don't say this to mope, but it truly was the reality in which I lived.

During this transition, what I once perceived as mere perfectionism morphed to become self-enslavement. If I caught flak at some point, I gave myself hell. If I missed a note, I gave myself hell. After feeling that burn for enough time, you start to lose your senses, your nerves, your feelings. What once was self-enslavement turned into apathy, and I was still enslaved.

By the time all of this change had permeated my heart, I was in high school, doing my own thing, taking care of my studies and branching out into fiction writing, music (privately), and a little bit of art (sculpture, painting, etc.), so naturally when a few [crazy] people paid me compliments--well, frankly, I didn't care because there's no way those compliments could have been real, right? Certainly these people were simply setting out to deceive me, yes? But were they?

I remember one specific instance of denying someone's encouragement. More specifically, I remember their reply: "Just take it," said anonymous with a smile.

Those words stuck with me. The skeptic I'd become didn't believe in genuineness, yet aware of [and despite] my skepticism, anonymous insisted that I just take the encouragement and run with it. This person acknowledged that I didn't believe her, yet didn't try to convince me of her transparency, nor did she overcompensate by smothering me with more compliments, nor did she take back the words she said. What really happened is that she saw the bigger picture of who I was and what I was going through (even though she didn't really know specifics nor were we particularly close, but she understood what was happening). This allowed her to truly and genuinely encourage me in the best way. She knew she couldn't force me to believe it, yet she wasn't going to deny the truth, either. That's the bigger picture.

One can only encourage another to the degree to which the other accepts the fact that there are bigger things at stake in life than the problems we face in a day or even a lifetime. If that degree does not exist, our attempts are in vain until the person in question is shown otherwise. In that moment, I was the bigger thing at stake. It was my soul she was after, that also Christ in her was after. I encourage you to recognize something bigger in the moment that you're in, that the truth is the truth regardless of whether or not you believe it. This is true philosophically, scientifically, theologically, but most importantly personally. Take it. Run.