Faith and common sense work together

Have you ever sat in a chair that couldn’t hold your weight? There’s nothing like that terror as the legs wobble beneath you, and you freeze, paralyzed with uncertainty, because if you move at all, it might collapse and hurt you. At the very least, you’ll look like an idiot. My friends, welcome to faith.

That’s an encouraging thought, right? Faith is like a cheap plastic chair that you aren’t sure will hold your weight until you sit in it. That’s what it feels like sometimes, and honestly there is some truth to that concept.

If you rest your whole weight on a chair that’s too flimsy to support you, it’ll collapse beneath you. That’s just the way gravity works. That’s also the way cheap plastic works too. And to a certain extent, you won’t know if it will hold you until you try sitting in it.

God doesn’t ask for blind faith

Yes, sitting in a plastic chair takes faith. But faith doesn’t have to be blind, and anyone who tells you differently doesn’t really know what he believes in.

Do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit.... There are many false prophets in the world. - 1 John 4:1Personally, I know there’s a lot of me to hold up, so I usually test a chair before I sit in it.

That’s not a lack of faith. That’s just common sense.

And I think that’s where a lot of folks gets confused, because faith and common sense don’t have to be at odds with each other.

Even the Bible says that we’re supposed to think about what we believe and why we believe it (1 John 4:1). Jesus never commanded us to turn our brains off. In fact, He said the opposite. (1 Peter 5:8)

Now, does that mean we’ll understand everything?

Instead of answering, let me ask another question. Do you understand everything anyway?

Faith isn’t an exclusively religious concept. Everyone has faith in some form or another, whether we’re talking about relationships or job positions or the integrity of a plastic chair’s design.

Most of the important questions of life can’t be answered without faith. Granted, maybe your faith is in science, but science can’t explain everything either, which is why some supposed sciences are accepted on faith. (And if you’ve been paying attention to the scientific community over the years, you’d notice that science continually proves the Bible is true. But that’s another blog post.)

The point is, you don’t have to sacrifice common sense to have faith.

You don't have to sacrifice common sense to have faith. - A.C. WilliamsIf a cheap plastic chair doesn’t look like it’s going to support you, don’t sit in it. If a pastor on YouTube is promising success and prosperity if you donate to his organization, you don’t have to do it if you don’t think he’s on the level. If a charity demonstrates a lack of ability to monitor their accounting, you aren’t required by faith to give your money to them.

Don’t turn your brain off. God doesn’t ask you to be blind. He’s gone to painstaking lengths to prove who He is through His Word and through the experiences of people who’ve followed Him.

So ask Him questions. Ask His followers questions. Examine Him. Get to know who He is for yourself, not just the picture that other people paint. He’s waiting for you.

Try it His way and see what happens. You might be surprise how common-sensical following Jesus actually is.

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God’s way and common sense aren’t always the same

I got all turned around yesterday, which isn’t exactly uncommon, but it’s a funny story. Wichita has three really excellent movie theaters, all owned by the same company. One is east, one is downtown, and one is west. I was meeting a friend at the theater to see Ant-Man (great show, by the way), and since I was going to be in town, I figured it was a good time to hit the store and pick up some prescriptions and some groceries for our upcoming camping trip. My preferred grocery store is on the west side of the city, and it just made sense, because there was a theater out west. I could stay on the same side of town to do my shopping. Great plan, right?

Well, what my overworked brain neglected to remember is that we had planned to see the movie at the east theater. So much for efficiency. After I got off at the wrong exit, I had to turn around and book it out to the east side as fast as I could. I made it just in time, but it was close.

From where I was sitting, it made sense that we should see the movie at the west theater because the rest of my errands were on the west side, but I planned my errands after we planned the movie. So it didn’t matter where my errands needed to happen, because the place I needed to be was at the east theater.

How many times in life do we end up in this situation? We tell God that we’ll follow His lead and do what He says is right, but one day we come up with our own list of needs and requirements that take us in a completely opposite direction. Maybe everything we’re doing is good and helpful, but that doesn’t mean we’re going the direction God wants.

27PNUR3Z83_1502x991Today’s verses are Psalm 18:30-32.

God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
God arms me with strength,
and he makes my way perfect.

Sometimes it feels like doing things God’s way doesn’t make sense. The way He tells us to live makes it easy for people to take advantage of us. Forgiving people who hurt us, loving our enemies, sacrificing for people who will only turn against us later on–following Jesus isn’t an easy road, and many days it’s not even a fun one.

On the tough days, it would be so much easier to follow common sense instead of Jesus. If someone hurts you, hurt them back. That way, they’ll know not to hurt you again. If someone steals from you, steal from them, so they’ll understand how you feel. Can you see how that way of thinking could escalate?

Common sense is great, but it’s based on a human code of morality that will change with time. Common sense that isn’t rooted in biblical truth is fickle. So sometimes following Jesus will go against human common sense. Common sense tells us that turning the other cheek in a personal argument will result in more beatings, but Jesus says it’s how we’re supposed to live.

It’s easy to rely on our common sense, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what Jesus says should take priority. Maybe it’s more convenient for you to beat up the people who’ve been bothering you, but that’s the exact opposite of how Jesus says to handle the situation. In that example, common sense will take you in the opposite direction of what Jesus says to do.

They can’t both be right. So it’s up to us to choose which way we’re going to follow. Our own common sense is as flawed and misdirected as we are, though, so how far do you really think you can trust it? Wouldn’t it be better to trust God’s way? God has a pretty awesome track record, after all. Maybe it’s not easy to follow Him, but it’s never boring. And the Bible says it’s perfect.

So if God’s way is perfect and it goes against our common sense, who has the better chance of being wrong?

Pride makes us stupid and keeps us that way

A bill I paid online went through yesterday. That was good. But I realized I’d paid the wrong company. That was bad. Yes, I’d issued a credit card payment to my cellular phone provider. And it was no small amount either.

What was my first thought? Quite honestly, my first thought was that I was an idiot. I should have been paying closer attention. And, no, it wasn’t the end of the world, but it was going to take some clever cash maneuvering to get things to even out.

But my second thought was to contact my cell phone company to see if they would issue a refund. After all, it’s not like I’m behind or my payments. Or that I’ve ever missed a payment. But would they do that? Could they do that? Was their system even set up that way?

I almost didn’t call. I almost let it go, willing to figure out how to make it work on my own. But I decided to go ahead and try. And guess what? It wasn’t a problem. I talked to a nice lady who had all the answers I needed, and she informed me that I’d be receiving a full refund in about 10 days.

Thinking back on it now, it was silly to assume they couldn’t do a refund. We did refunds at the libraries I’ve worked at, and I’m sure this wasn’t the first time some dimwitted customer issued a payment to the wrong company. Recognizing that they would probably issue a refund was common sense. Most people do.

funny_signToday’s verses are Proverbs 3:21-24.

My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment.
Hang on to them,
for they will refresh your soul.
They are like jewels on a necklace.
They keep you safe on your way,
and your feet will not stumble.
You can go to bed without fear;
you will lie down and sleep soundly.

Our world doesn’t place much value on common sense anymore. Have you noticed that? Everyone is too busy running around and getting in trouble to even think about what common sense looks like. But the Bible considers it valuable–so it must be.

I’m not sure if you can cultivate common sense of if it’s just something you’re born with. Either way, if you have it, don’t let go of it. Common sense is a gift that will help keep life simple.

If you want to have common sense, though, the best thing I can say is not to ever assume anything. Just because you think you know what will happen, don’t stop asking questions. Don’t give up because you think life is going to go one way or another. You don’t know.

I would have had to go through some really complicated money shifting between bank accounts if I hadn’t made the call to my cell phone company. But I was willing to do it because I assumed they wouldn’t issue a refund. But I swallowed my pride at asking what could be construed as a dumb question, and I asked anyway.

I think that’s the key. We don’t want to sound dumb. We want to sound like we’re in control. We never want to ask questions that we don’t already know the answers to. At least, that’s the way it works with me. I’m getting better. Working as a journalist in an industry I didn’t understand helped me with grasping the fact that I still have a lot to learn.

It’s our pride that makes us stupid to begin with, and it’s our pride that keeps us stupid. So let go of pride. Who cares if you ask a dumb question? If someone gives you crap for asking a question you genuinely didn’t know the answer to, their opinions don’t matter anyway.

If you don’t know, ask. It’s common sense. Don’t lose sight of it, and your life will be much simpler.

 

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

If common sense were a gift, everyone would have it.

Some people are born with more common sense than others. That’s something I’ve heard said numerous times, but I’m not so sure it’s true.

Is common sense something that you’re born with? It certainly seems like some people have more of it than others, but does that mean it’s connected to their personality? Or is it something they learn over time? Is it the way they’re raised? Or is it something they are given?

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

Stone face at Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Proverbs 2:7.

He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.

That sounds pretty clear to me: common sense is a treasure God gives to people who are honest. But what does that mean? And how can that be? Because I know a lot of honest people who have a decided lack of common sense (just being honest myself).

Just for grins I read this verse in the Message, but because the Message has a lot to do with concept and context, you usually have to read more than one verse even if you are just looking for one:

Proverbs 2:6-8 says this:

And here’s why: God gives out Wisdom free,
   is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding.
He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well,
   a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere.
He keeps his eye on all who live honestly,
   and pays special attention to his loyally committed ones.

The context of this verse is talking about God being a mine. In earlier verses, this chapter talks about searching for wisdom like you would search for silver. The Message actually uses the phrase “like a prospector panning for gold.”

Do you find it hard to look at common sense like a treasure? The longer I live, the more I realize how precious wisdom really is.

Common Sense is still valued on some level in our culture, at least in words. But in actions it’s becoming less and less preferred. With movies and television shows that glorify people who make foolish choices, our culture is wrapped up in rejoicing in the misfortunes of others. We are taught that foolish choices are entertaining, and I think in many cases Reality TV has influenced true reality so much that there’s no dividing line anymore.

We revere celebrities who have destroyed their families and their lives. We elevate people who make foolish decisions. We raise people who can’t tell the difference between right and wrong on pedestals and display them as monuments to our great society.

And the people who choose wisdom are regarded as backward. The people with common sense are called stupid and uneducated and mocked. That’s the world we live in.

If Common Sense were a gift, everyone would have it.

Salvation is a gift; Common Sense is something you have to dig for. It isn’t something you obtain when you’re born. And it isn’t something that’s just given to you with no effort on your part. If you want Common Sense, if you want Wisdom, you have to look for it. You have to search for it like you’re searching for treasure. And digging isn’t easy. It takes dedication and work and sweat. You’ll get blisters. You’ll get blisters on your blisters. But it’s worth it because Wisdom is treasure.

And just like any other treasure, you have to know where to start looking. If you want Wisdom, you have to go to the source.

If you want Wisdom, if you want Common Sense, read the Bible. Even if it’s just a little every day, it will make a difference. And if you have questions, keep reading because oftentimes the Bible will interpret itself. You don’t need a scholar. You don’t need a pastor. You don’t need a priest. The Bible isn’t complicated, but it will hurt because it strips away any righteousness we think we deserve.

I’ve posted about the ruins of Tikal in Guatemala before. That’s actually where today’s picture came from. It’s this stone mask just sitting on a chunk of rock on the walking path. One of the amazing things about Tikal is the number of temples that are still unearthed. All throughout Peten, if you go digging around in any random cave in a mountain you have a good chance of finding ancient Mayan artifacts. You don’t have to dig long, and you don’t have to look really hard. It’s a rich mine of history.

The Bible is the same way. God is the same way. We can find wisdom without a lot of effort. We can get common sense without a lot of pain. We just have to be willing to look for it.