Saul of Tarsus

Posted: November 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

Saul was passionately serving who he believed was God. He wasn’t a down-right hater of religion or faith. In fact, he was such a religious person that the Bible dedicated half of a chapter to proving how religious he was.

The problem, was that his knowledge about God was incorrect-therefore his actions and beliefs were wrong. That’s why when Jesus appears to him on the road, Jesus says,”Why are you persecuting ME?” The One that you thought you’ve been serving-the One that all of your morality and religious fervor has been spent on…it’s ME! All of a sudden, Saul begins to realize that there needs to be a drastic change in the theology that he has found his home in. All of a sudden, his experience of God realigns the his direction in life and corrects the errors that his knowledge of Scripture have left him with.

So, an incorrect view of God and an incorrect knowledge of Him leads us to be an enemy of God, it doesn’t matter what your motives are. A correct view of God and a correct view of Scripture can be the difference between being an enemy of God or being His devoted servant. We must always be learning, always be questioning, and always open to a new, more correct understanding of the science of God.

A Lesson in Blooming

Posted: September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

Multiple blog topics stormed into my mind while I was contemplating ways to alleviate my boredom at work. I thought about listing the confusing words or phrases that are found to be very common place in Christianity. Phrases like “press into Christ”, “dig into the Word”, “called by Christ” and so on began to pop into my mind as I thought about how we have created our own language and how this language has entered into my vocabulary without me realizing it and how outsiders sometimes have no idea what we are talking about. I also thought about dedicating a lot of time to working through a beautiful conversation I had with a friend of mine about our views on discipleship and how spiritual growth is caused by God working His work in us rather than our forced disciplines being the source of true growth. I realized that this topic however was too expansive for my ability in the field of literary exposition and would raise more questions and concerns then it would create positive insight for the reader.

Therefore, I decided on a topic that has been developing in me, both in thought and character, and will continue to develop as I write this post. My entire thoughts have branched from this tweet that I wrote before the summer started:

“In a dating relationship one finds out how wicked and selfish they really are. It’s such a santifying process.”

While in the great state of Oregon, I began to realize the value of companionship. Even though I was fairly busy hiking mountains, floating freezing rivers, mountain biking, and doing church work, I couldn’t get around the fact that having someone with me, sharing life with me, is becoming more important to me than experiencing the sweetest geographical features alone. I mean, its fun to travel and experience different cultures and settings, but after a few weeks the scenery remains the same and you head back to your house alone. Even though I enjoy being in airports and people watching is always fun, its hard to sit there and watch as you realize that most people are talking to family or friends and you are left looking at the Facebook news feed on your smart phone.

Needless to say, during these moments, my appreciation of intimate relationships increased. I began to long for those moments that are recorded as a video on your iPhone because you know you will want to have evidence of what you’re experiencing. I wanted stories, memories, things you can tell your children, subjects that you can recall as you sit on your front porch with a cold drink in hand while the sun is setting. I wanted to share my life.

I look back on the dating relationships that I have had in the past and I have been realizing a common theme. For each relationship I have noticed the various ways that I wanted this person to satisfy my needs. Whether these needs are emotional, physical, or spiritual, I have always had the mind set that this person is going to make me better-they possess something that I want, and they will fulfill it. Obviously they don’t, so a break-up ensues.

With this in mind it is no wonder that eventually that person looses their draw or attraction. Because your desire for self will never be quenched by a person and when you realize this, you find it easy to distance yourself or find satisfaction outside of him/her. But this is common right? We are humans and human relationships are messy. So how do people make it?

What I wrote above, my appreciation for relationships and companionship, is my attempt to explain how this shift has happened for me. I do not believe that because of my discipline in forcing myself to love people or hanging out with people that I don’t like that has changed anything for me. I believe I was/am in a season in my life that causes you to grow up and actually learn things that you have been instructed all your life. Maybe its God developing you or maybe its just life teaching you maturity. Regardless of where it came from, all I know it that it came. Here is what I learned:

I actually care about people. Now I don’t think I can say that I care about people more than I care about myself. So if I am pressed or frustrated, I am not saying that now I will react beautifully every time. But I have realized that for whatever reason, when I see someone, I have a genuine interest in their wellbeing. I have interest in their goals and actually want them to succeed in life more so then I have ever in my history of relationships.

So this translates perfectly into dating. I’ve found that my views and motivation to have a girlfriend are more like I’ve been told that they need to be or the way the Bible talks about a man of God being. So, instead of viewing her with the mindset of how can she satisfy my needs, or how am I viewed because I am dating her, now I have begun to think of the smallest ways possible to encourage her to grow and “blossom”. My desire is to be a springboard for her instead of her for me. I am not saying that I don’t want to be fulfilled as well or want this mindset to be reciprocated, but that is not my main focus.

All this seems boring a methodical right? But where the gravity of what I am saying is found when one really understands that this mindset of WANTING to be this is drastically different than MAKING myself be this. So I care about people because I WANT to care about them, not because I am unwillingly submitting myself to obey a biblical or relational commandment. And that is something worth writing about. That is worth celebrating. That is a joyfully freeing idea. And its even more mind blowing because its not something that I developed myself into. It has been a gracious gift. Beautiful.

Sports Center

Posted: September 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

There is a story playing on Sports Center today about a player from the New York Yanks that pretended like he was hit by a pitch. To the naked eye it was pretty obvious that the ball did in fact strike the player near his elbow and his reaction was expected. However, “upon further review” (good football term) it was pretty evident that the ball actually bounced off of the end of his bat and did not strike the player at all.

The game continues on and the Yanks begin to make a come back. However, if this player would not have been granted 1st base and had been honest about the fact that the ball didn’t strike him, then the outcome of the game could have been very different. This event was so catastrophic that Sports Center dedicated a good 20 minutes reviewing the footage and having professionals comment on whether they thought that this incident was cheating or was it part of the game- part of a competitors responsibility to win.

I found this story very compelling because of all the airtime it was given. There has never been 20 minutes dedicated to whether or not a soccer player was cheating or not when he did a fake dive to try to fool the ref into blowing his whistle to award a penalty kick. There has rarely been any talk condoning soccer players diving (other than by football players who think they are weak for falling to the ground, or by american’s who do not understand the game but think that they do).

Acceptance is not a universal idea. For some people, one needs to use any advantage possible to gain ground over an opponent. And for other people (people of a different sport) it is not right for someone to take advantage of the different situations that come a players way.

The very same idea is true in the practice of faith.

What one group finds ok in practicality, another group in another location may find that very thing heretical. The matter of dispute doesn’t have to be one of great weight either. I am not talking about doctrine or anything foundational to religion. Rather, I am more so speaking about preference and practice.

I didn’t know that this way the case to the degree that I experienced when I spent some time in the Northwest. The foundations of the faith were the same in doctrine and belief but there was just a completely different feel. A more sincere attitude when it came to faith. I don’t want to bash the Bible belt completely, but in this instance it is an example that sheds light on the situation. I don’t want to give specific examples about the difference between here and there in this post, rather I wanted plainly to point out the fact that some ideas, even though completely different, can be whole heartily accepted depending on who and where you are even though to one group its almost sinful action. It doesn’t make the other person wrong for feeling this way. It comes down to preferences. It comes down to how someone was raised. It comes down to what has been socially accepted. It comes down to perspective. And as far as perspective is concerned, the field of vision is wide open.

Community Observed (Pt 2)

Posted: September 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

The previous post compared a secular organization’s effectiveness in developing relational community to the common small group’s effectiveness. Due to the lack of social interactions of the small group and the need for a more comfortable atmosphere, the small group is proven less effective in developing lasting relationships. The previous post was able to unpack in more detail why this is the case so I will not dedicate any time in proving WHY, however, I do want to take a look into why ministers continue to push for their students to be involved in small groups.

It is the church’s responsibility to institute programs in order to attempt to gage its effectiveness- how many people have been baptized, how many decisions have been made, how many members are in the church etc… This isn’t a bad practice at all and proves to have some benefit. However, there is a problem that rises to the surface because a majority of the work done by the Church (the actual people) cannot be measured by programs. Thus developing my first argument.

Having small groups in another way for the church to gage its progress year to year. The first year you have four small group homes with about 15 members in each and then the next year you have 10 small group homes with 10 members each- you’re growing, you’re being effective, you’re doing you’re spiritual duty of shepherding people…well, perhaps.

Growth of an event or organization is an indicator of effectiveness. It means it has a component that is really beneficial to its clients. It can be trusted, its fruitful, it grows. However, in the world of spiritual growth, numerical value doesn’t always translate into effectiveness. People are more attracted to small groups because the leader has a relatable personality or looks cool rather then it being a spiritually challenging venue.

Growth can be deceptive.

Now there are two problems presented with small groups- 1) its attempt at developing legit community is fairly weak and 2) just because the number of groups and attenders may grow, this doesn’t mean its fulfilling its purpose.

I’ve found that in this present day in time, there has been, in my experience, a form of developing spiritual maturity that happens outside the walls of the church. The instruction of pastors, at least in the Bible Belt, is so available and publicized that its getting to the point for non-christians to lose trust in someone who is getting paid to say what they say.

As a result, it has been my experience over the past few weeks that people with serious questions or doubts are more inclined to have a one on one conversation with a lay person then they are entering the corporate worship scene. After the conversation this person leaves with three things: 1) a more intimate relationship with the other person, 2) a greater desire to continue to pursue the things of God- the very thing they’ve been wanting to do for a while now and 3) a trusted personal counselor to walk with them.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. It is my opinion that pastors do not trust their congregation to enter into the beneficial one on one conversations on a normal basis and therefore have to set a time each week where they can assure themselves that spiritual chatter with happen. It doesn’t matter if its forced or not. It goes down in the record book as the church completing its spiritual requirements. We’ll measure its effectiveness by if it grows or not.

A church isn’t able to measure the one on one conversations that go one each week on the school campuses, coffee shops, pubs or restaurants. Even though this practice is one of the most beneficial of all Christian discipleship, it is often over looked.

Let me clarify, I believe in the importance of corporate worship. Believe it or not I even support small groups. However, I wanted to give the importance of one on one discipleship some airtime because I believe it brings a very important component to the table that the other two are incapable of producing.

Find a mentor and be a mentor.

Community Observed (Pt 1)

Posted: August 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

The following was derived from a conversation with @collin_miller:

It is the nature of human beings to be in relationship with each other. Even the most quiet, introverted, solitary person I know will admit that they value the genuine relationships that they have. Whether it is family, friends, or a shrink, we all need someone to be in the room to share our thoughts with, tell stories to, or recall memories with. Just a person’s presence in a room is satisfactory.

With such a natural importance placed on relationships, it makes sense for the Church to recognize this powerful substance when it comes to human/spiritual development. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the first few chapters of Acts referenced or taught on for the subject of biblical community. “The essence of Christian discipleship is lives lived together.” I’ve heard that…I’ve heard that a lot.

Our attempt at developing community takes the form of small groups. A gathering of 15-30 people in one room for about an hour once a week. Generally this group gathers to talk about what they learned from a passage in the Bible or from a Christian book that gives modern-day commentary on the Bible with the attempt to make the Bible cool and relevant.

In my college days I was part of the fraternity that was known for two things: athletics and partying. I would like to comment on what this secular organization taught me about Christian community.

The partying lifestyle is shallow and meaningless unless you observe the depth of the relationship created therein. On average this group meets twice a week- generally on weekends. They show up, party items in hand, at around 10:00 pm or so. As the night progresses on, a slew of social games take place. Some games are for a total of 4 people, some for 8, and some for 10 or more. Meanwhile, those who chose not to partake in the games find themselves in conversation. This environment is totally centered on social interaction. A lot like small groups, however in small groups I found myself in conversation with people to avoid the awkwardness because not knowing anyone leads itself to shallow conversation but standing by yourself in the corner is very embarrassing.

Stories are created as the night of partying progresses. People do stupid, yet funny things when the night continues on. I guarantee someone will throw up on the floor, 2 other people may find time to go have private time in the closet, and the couple on the beer pong table will be crowned champions after their 17th win in a row- now thats something to brag about. People tend to loosen up and become more vulnerable after a good two hours of hanging out and vulnerability leads to bonding.

The week goes on and this group of people find themselves constantly hanging out- playing fifa, basketball or jacket golf. The eat lunch together, sleep together, and get in trouble together. But everything they do is together. This group runs in social circles that constantly overlap.

The small group setting on wednesday nights at 7:30 pm has the purpose of developing community. The people involved want to connect with other Christians. They want to tell stories, laugh, and feel a connection with another human being on a level that goes well beyond the icebreaker questions.

The people who show up are told that if they go to the small groups then they will be challenged and grow close to other believers. As soon as they walk in the door they are introduced to the regular attenders and small talk is created. Some places have a pool to swim in and music playing in the background- a pretty nice hangout spot. After a few minutes of hanging out, those who are in the pool are told to dry off and come in and everyone sits in a big circle, forced. The person in charge of the small group welcomes everyone and thanks them for coming. All of a sudden there is a huge shift in the environment that one finds themself in. The first question for discussion out of the mouth of the small group leader changes the feel of the room from fun and chill to serious and reverent. Awkward….

The next hour or so is filled with a majority of the room sitting in silence because the 3 dominate personalities in the group want to talk about what happened to them yesterday that made them mad. The rest of the time is given to a discussion of spiritual topics where everyone in the room is encouraged to share what they think the verse means. At the close of the event, most people get up and slowly make their way to their cars and drive off. Best friends ride with each other and there is always a few solitary people who ride by themselves because they aren’t socially skilled enough to be popular.

The week goes on and the social circles represented on the Wednesday night of small group rarely overlap. Everyone has their own group of friends outside of the small group people. They don’t have lunch together, they don’t get into trouble together, they don’t play sports together. They merely have shallow Christian conversation one night out of the week for an hour. That is community being developed…

More thoughts to come, be patient with me. Part 2 will address why my experience of small groups aren’t very effective in college yet why ministers continue to encourage it.

A Problem with Pastors

Posted: August 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

Logistical reasoning and critical thinking continue to develop as life progresses. One does not stop learning after they have received an overpriced piece of paper upon their graduation. We all find ourselves learning, however, now we are students of life rather than students of any specified institution.

I no longer have professors stimulating my intellectual interests and the probing questions of fellow classmates has dwindled. As a result, it is left up to me to continue in this learning process. Any depth in thinking has to be fed to myself by myself on my own time. Here is what I discovered:

I am very weary of pastors. Let me explain.

I understand the biblical role of pastors and I am not opposing this role in the least.

What I have found myself to be in opposition of is the motives behind an individual desiring to fill such role. With the fact that pastors are now the ministerial equivalent of celebrities, I have begun to question those individuals who desire to repeatedly stand in front of large numbers of people. Yet they claim its for Gospel purposes.

Here is what happens to some. The desire for recognition (which everyone possesses) is far greater and therefore outweighs the emotional fear of the stage for some men. Therefore, even though some men may not naturally enjoy speaking, they are far too infatuated with the emotional appeal of being “popular”-having followers on Twitter, a Facebook Fan Page, 2,000 friends, and a speaking schedule that fills their Spring calender with D-nows.

****Disclaimer: Everything I am writing has been the product of introspection-its what I’ve found in myself.

In my brief season of being a speaker, I found myself repeatedly preaching from the Bible without the necessary understanding of the implications of what I was doing. I wasn’t moved by the text. I knew what I was teaching was correct because that is what I was taught, but it wasn’t my own.You can teach the Bible without being moved by its teachings. I hate that.

I firmly believe that there is a great number of teachers, speakers, pastors who know what to say because their education has equipped them but lack in the actual understanding of the spiritual implications of the text that is being taught. For example, “The first will be last and the last will be first.” That will mess you up if you understand it.

Also, I am just now coming to understand the gravity of the pastor’s role when it comes to judgment. Most young men want to be pastors because they want to do what So-an-So does. Because of this I would argue that no one should WANT to be a pastor. Some men will be pastors, yes, but I would say that the legit pastors are the ones who fight off this “calling” as best as they can. Why would anyone want that pressure?

Even decisions that appear to be right are tainted with self-seeking motives.

I’ve been told that if one complains about a problem then they must submit some form of a solution or else they are wasting their time. I’ll dedicate two lines to this:

Don’t use the stage to fulfill a desire to be recognized. Be aware of your motives and understand the biblical requirements of a Shepard.

Oregonian Occupancy

Posted: August 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

I learned some things about life in the Northwest. Here are a few examples:

Most people don’t care much about you unless you have something that they can benefit from.

One of the keys to conversation is to get the other person to talk about themselves-not to constantly talk about yourself.

In your pursuit of God, He will command you to make some unbelievably hard decisions.

There are people in the United States who live like I want to live and it’s not sinful.

A lot of couples fall out of love yet stay married.

Whenever people think of social justice, the image of the continent of Africa comes to mind or the face of a black child looking oppressed.

After 22 years of life I still haven’t found the one thing I want to dedicate my life to.

As a scooterist, I feel like traffic laws do not apply to me.

Happiness is a city goes well beyond a sweet view and other commodities.

Motorcyclist always wave to each other.