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Posts Tagged ‘God’

Apologetics

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I was struck by this post, called An Open Apology, which Joe also read in church this week. He essentially proposes that the best form of apologetics is apologizing – demonstrating that God is real by apologizing up front for the things people have done in his name, rather than by careful reasoning and arguments (which also have their place). I identify with this expression of faith much more than what the word evangelism is typically taken to mean.

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Is Morality the Goal?

December 10, 2010 5 comments

I found this quote today, attributed to Gandhi:

“The message of Jesus as I understand it, is contained in the Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole. If then I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘Oh, yes, I am a Christian.’ But negatively I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount.”    ~Mohandas Gandhi

I really like this quote (and other similar things he said). Gandhi seemed fairly adept at calling a spade a spade when it comes to the hypocrisies of Western Christianity. In that regard, I am totally with him. From an outsider’s perspective it sums up pretty well how we Christians aren’t quite living up to Jesus’ call, and have headed down our own paths to the Kingdom of God enough that the term “Christian” tends to call to mind someone pretty well opposite of the kind of person the Sermon on the Mount describes.

On the other hand, I think in saying this he may be understating Jesus’ message. The Sermon on the Mount is a picture of how followers of Jesus should live, a personal and cultural code of conduct showing them how to relate to God and be the “light of the world”, a people who embody God’s love on the earth. Jesus was calling a new people out from Israel just as the Mosaic Law called Israel out from the nations. (To be fair, Jesus was calling all of Israel, whoever would listen to him.)

But to say Jesus’ message ended there misses the point I think. I am thinking (and rethinking) through many of these things, but here is where I am at right now. Jesus didn’t just say “here is how to live, now everyone go do it,” he actually showed the way, which involves a whole lot of humility, holding your tongue, and putting yourself after other people, among other things. And, most importantly, Jesus went first down the path through death and resurrection. The promise of his teachings isn’t just a moral and loving society but a world reconciled to God in a complete and permanent way. His message in the Sermon on the Mount (and everywhere else he taught) is “the kingdom of God is here.” His message in the cross and his resurrection is “follow me to enter it.” His actions paved the way for everyone else to follow, and somehow provided the ability for us to do it.

This is an incomplete thought right now. Jesus made statements and actions that I think pointed to himself as inexorably connected with his message but I am still sorting those out. And then there is the question of why he seemed to knowingly march straight into the custody of his murderers as if his death was not just inevitable, but chosen and necessary. In any case, he doesn’t seem to consider himself as just a moral teacher, but something more than that, and by extension he wouldn’t consider his teachings to be separable from his life.

Discovering the God Imagination Online Class

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Jonathan Brink, author of Discovering the God Imagination, has offered a free copy of his book for helping promote his online class. I’ve followed his blog for a while and found his perspectives on relating to God to be intriguing and often helpful. I can’t recommend the book, having not read it yet, but with this post I intend to rectify that. Below is originally from his site:

 

Many of you have asked me what resources are available for Discovering The God Imagination.  I’m pleased to announce that we’re finally announcing an online class with BeADisciple.com, a division of Southwestern College.

Title: Exploring a Postmodern Gospel

Dates: January 3 to February 18, 2011

Cost: $69

The class will explore the book over seven weeks and will include online interaction with those who are also reading the book.  If you’ve read the book and want to explore it in dialog in community, this is your chance to do so.

This seven week class is limited to the first 20 participants, so if you’re interested, I would encourage you to sign up today.  I’m really looking forward to the dialog that will happen over the seven weeks.

The class takes place online using Blackboard’s classroom technology.  If you’ve used it before you’ll know it’s really simple to use.

 

Chunks of Brain

October 29, 2010 1 comment

Friday, 4pm.

I am lonely at my job. That is not my job’s fault. I want more out of life, that is the problem. What I want out of life is not the big, life-dream, I-was-made-for-this-moment event. I want connection. And reality. Something meaningful to someone else, or several someone elses. This week I thought I would probably feel pretty fulfilled as a stay at home dad. Not because I got to stay at home but because I would be investing my days in something that really matters to me.

Alas, that’s not an option. But a nice thought.

Conversation is key to my spiritual experience. Like the life dream, connecting with God is not the big calling, leave thy home and go forth to a land I will show you connecting. It is every day. Like a friend of mine put it this morning, it is another relationship I make time for and maintain. It is the accumulaion of a lot of little things over time, not a big one-off Word From God that changes the world. He never does that, I think, Jesus included. He wants relationship before obedience. Am I writing theology here? I better move on.

Life is crazy when no one is home in time to make dinner. Not that dinner is the point, but it is the last stop on the road of mantaining the house during the day. And lately we have had popcorn and corn chips for dinner about once a week. Which actually has been strangely freeing. Family movie nights are becoming a regular event, mostly because there are precious few other family events in our week. So tonight we are eating Dominos in the living room and watching Snow White. And maybe Toy Story 3 after that.

Happy weekend.

Fun and Games

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

So we went to Disney World for a week, which was awesome, with my parents, who are awesome, who have been married 35 years, which is super-awesome, and stopping both ways on the way to stay with my brother-in-law and his family, who are also…what is the word I am looking for…ah yes. Awesome. Four days of driving, six days of walking in the Florida sun (melt), and one unforgettable family vacation.

So here’s my wookiee of the day. And by wookiee I mean Chewie, and by Chewie I mean what I have been chewing on. But you followed that anyway, right? Perhaps it is a bit of the post-vacation downers, the back-to-reality blues, but I’ve been thinking on a deeper level about my life, as in my lifestyle and how it pertains to my faith, and vice versa.

A and I were talking the other night about purpose, and big dreams, and how they look very different these days (when they show up at all) than they did seven years ago – i.e., before we had kids and careers. We both attended a church for several years that encouraged us to think big, and live radically, and expect big things in and through our lives through our faith. Which actually isn’t all that far-fetched, especially if you’ve read much of the Bible at all.

I bought it then in the context of my life and that community, and I think it’s fair to say that in some fashion I’m still sold on this. I remember thinking once we had moved to Ohio and begun looking for a new church community to call home that I had been “ruined” for church since there don’t seem to be many other churches out there that share this bigness of vision, at least not in a balanced and authentic sort of way.

So what is this disconnect? Is it really all fun and games when you’re young and untethered enough for a life of risky faith, and then you grow up, settle down and have kids and have to get on with real life? In a sense maybe so. There are things I was free to do in my youth that are much more difficult for me to consider now – quitting my job, starting a new career, moving halfway across the country, giving away all my money. Yup folks, that was my twenties.

But maybe it’s that the game has changed. Having a career, a house, a family are not bad things to be sure. And I don’t believe that they necessarily prevent you from living a life of dynamic faith. Although that’s not what my life has felt like lately, which of course is what got me started thinking about all this in the first place.

So how do you stay connected to a faith that is alive and life-giving when so much of life seems…not bad, but….routine? Is a life of faith really not about having a significant impact, but something else? If so, what? Being happy? And if not, then is this stage of life a waystation on the journey to significance?

Significance sounds a bit haughty when I use it like that. Like I wanna be somebody, get famous or influential. That’s not what I mean. I used to mean that, I think, or something like it. Influential, maybe, is right. Have a positive impact on as many people as I can. Which is different from being a celebrated author or successful leader. Usually.

So what does this purpose, for lack of a better word, look like? Is it measurable through external means at all?

As in how many people my faith and love affect, or how deeply a person or people is affected by it? Is it aspecific task or event that a person is born for, as with the tiny title character in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany? (If so, what if you miss it? Or what do you do with the rest of your life if it happens when you’re 33, like with Jesus? OK, don’t answer that one.) Or is it not an event, but perhaps a number of events, or a faith-vocation of sorts? Or on the other hand is it just to live the most loving and faith-filled life as you can, seeking God as much as you can, even if no one particularly seems impressed?

The Song That’s Stuck In My Head #6

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

“After the Storm”
Mumford and Sons

These guys have fast become my favorite band lately. Their breed of Irish folk-rock is like brewing hope and angst in a slow-burning cauldron deep in my belly. No other band I can think of makes me want to connect with God and smash something at the same time. This one is more understated than most of their songs, but is perhaps one of the best expressions of determined hope in the midst of loss and desolation that I’ve ever heard: “That’s why I hold — that’s why I hold with all I have — that’s why I hold.”

And after the storm, I run and run as the rains come. And I look up, I look up, on my knees and out of luck, I look up.

Night has always pushed up day; you must know life to see decay. But I won’t rot, I won’t rot — Not this mind and not this heart — I won’t rot.

And I took you by the hand and we stood tall and remembered our own land, what we lived for.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears, and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

And now I cling to what I knew; I saw exactly what was true – but oh no more. That’s why I hold — that’s why I hold with all I have — that’s why I hold.

I will die alone and be left there. Well I guess I’ll just go home, oh God knows where, because death is just so full and mine so small. Well I’m scared of what’s behind and what’s before.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears, and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears, and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

10 Things I Hate About Me, or, The 21-Step Program, in Which Is Examined the Command to “Be Perfect”

July 16, 2010 1 comment

I’ve had several conversations this week about a sermon I didn’t hear, or rather a topic addressed in the sermon, specifically a challenge the speaker had taken on for himself based on a principle which in truth is not a new idea to me, nor to modern mankind in general, as, according to the vast cloud knowledge of Wikipedia, it was first written about 50 years ago and since repeatedly referenced and revered throughout the self help industry by gurus like Zig Ziglar. (I don’t have much idea who he is beyond name recognition, but it’s such a silly name I had to write it down. Zig Ziglar. Say it out loud to someone out of context and you will see.) The principle under discussion is the idea that a habit is formed (or unformed) in 21 days, and the conversations I’ve lately had have been of the very specific and practical sort, as in, “Hey, let’s pick a habit and change it in 21 days.” The examples in the sermon were complaining, criticism and gossiping – how each of those is defined and exactly why it is undesirable enough to spend weeks changing is certainly up for negotiation. But the 21-day idea, as those more learned than I have demonstrated, is a sticky one.

So after just recently spending 1000 words describing how impossible the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are simply to practice, I’ve decided to try and put them to practice, or at least some of them, or at least one of them which essentially includes all of them: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

That’s right, 21 Days to a Perfect You. Or me, that is. And by perfect, I’m thinking changed, and by changed, I’m thinking in one particular way at a time. So perhaps not perfect in 21 days, but it wouldn’t be a self-help program if in the end it didn’t deliver anywhere near what it promised. The point perhaps is that though I’m not intending to go through the Sermon on the Mount point by point, there are certain habits, certain responses and attitudes I’ve picked up over the last several years, and others that have been with me quite a while, that have not exactly made me a better me, and I believe I’d like to change them now, one at a time.

I didn’t hear the sermon (the one that is the subject of conversation, that is, not the Sermon on the Mount, though I didn’t hear that one either), and I haven’t read any of the eminent self-help tomes, so don’t call this method well-researched, but the idea is this: Pick a habit and don’t do it for 21 days. Start over if you mess up. Simple; hopefully effective. As one friend of mine pointed out, doing it this way could of course take three years if you keep screwing up. And perhaps by then I would have quit, though I would at least be more practiced.

It’s not the most original idea, and not the most profound. But sometimes what it takes is a reminder, and a few people to do it with. Actually, for me that is often what it takes.