Premises and ascension

I had a conversation with someone the other day about coming to church.  They seemed interested but they were holding back for some reason.  I asked them what was keeping them from coming and they told me that we expected him to believe too much.  I thought about this and questioned a little further.  Ultimately, it was not time yet.  You see my friend was very logical minded and could not yet ascend to some of the teachings of the church.  Of course, I bet you cannot find one person in any denomination who does not at least doubt or ponder at least some of the faith.  If you do, they are either lying or are not engaging anymore.  How can you ascend to belief in a total mystery without some questions?

The problem my friend was having I have had myself.  When I left the Catholic priesthood I questioned everything.  I really only had one premise: there was something beyond me that I want to figure out.  The problem with coming to any church is that there are a multitude of premises.  A premise is the base of an argument or a theory.  It is the part all parties must agree upon before logically proceeding with an argument.  If someone were not to agree with one of the premises, then the argument is lost on them.  Before coming into a Christian church building there are several premises that usually have to be agreed upon:  there is a God, the bible (or holy book) is an accurate revealing of that God, the service presented is in some respects the way God wants to be recognized, and the creed (and some theology) is a given.  The interesting thing is that even in the early church the first premise is all that was widely agreed upon.  Anyway.  That is an awful lot to have ascended to when a person first has a “God” experience.  Now, some will tell me that that is where faith comes in.  I agree to some extent.  But, like me, my friend was hurt by the institutionalized church.  Faith in God is one thing but faith in a structured organized theology is difficult.  So, let’s start with the premise we can agree upon and go from there.  Is it better to push him away or take him where he stands and walk the healing road?

That is ultimately a question I struggle with.  Jesus asks us to have faith in him, not councils and Thomas Aquinas or Calvin.  These things have a place but I wonder if we allow space for people to grow and discover?  Do we allow God to work in God’s time or do we insist that it’s all or nothing?  I think much of our problem is that we do not allow growing and breathing space.  We force people to ascend to premises they haven’t worked out yet.  Some people may never work out certain things.  But, are we at church to worship God or correct each other?  I know some churches feel both ways, but no matter how someone feels worship should be the priority.

Mystery of sleep

I am laying here in the dark doing the worse thing you can do to try and sleep: think about how to fall asleep. My ponderings are my insomnia most nights. So, I decided a better way to stay awake is to ponder the mysteries of the universe. I guess this all came from a question earlier last week that i finally answered today: what have you read and what us your education background? It has taken five days to come to an answer. Why? Because, I couldn’t figure out why the question was relevant to the situation. Once I decided it could have some relevance (probably more than not it is a probing question of why I was there to begin with) I had another issue. I have read hundreds of books. Which ones were important? What genre, what depth? I decided to answer with pictures of my various book shelves (7 in case you wanted to know), because those are the books I kept. Then, I explained my degrees. The problem then, as anyone who has complimented me has probably figured out, I was uncomfortable with my answer. Why? Because, I did not want to come off as a know it all. My degrees are not that impressive: MA in theology and philosophy with a concentration in comparative religion and social justice, and an MA in English education (yes, and I still write like this). These are not very lucrative, nor do they make me many friends. The thing I have learned from my constant education is that more knowledge does not equal more answers. Unfortunately, mire knowledge just produces more complicated questions. So, I lay wide awake. I think, however, the answer is the hardest thing to do, just be. How do I just be? I think the difference is between doing and doing. Ha! I’m not that sleep deprived. Doing can be actively trying to be doing or it can be just doing, like Nike. So, how do you live, by just living. How do you do? By just doing. How do I just be? Just be. How am I going to sleep? Stop trying to sleep and just sleep. I think I’ll dream of “burnt out ends of empty days” (thank you T.S. Elliot. Good night.

A parable of dualism

There were two kingdoms constantly at war. Each side held firm to their ideology. Between these two worlds was a rope that was so worn by the tug that only a single atom held it together in the center. The atom was strong and it was determined to keep a link between the two sides. Each kingdom, therefore, sent out a delegate to proselytize the atom. After much debate, the delegates asked a simple question: Why are you holding onto the string? Why not choose?

The atom thought about this question, but the answer was obvious. It could not decide. So it replied, “I am struggling to determine which of you are correct. I hold the rope between material and spiritual, here and not yet, mind or no-mind, God or no God, being or non-being. I hold two worlds together. I embody the struggle.” Then, a thought came to the atom and the two worlds quickly disappeared. He was floating in space. He chose to let go.

Idealism and religion

Something I’ve been thinking about for a while now is the ideal that Christianity is supposedly an idealism religion. The definition of idealism religion is one that emphasizes the spirit against materialism. At least in all the people I read, that is the definition. So I’m going to speak to that definition. I think I’m practice this seems to be very true. I have heard lots of statements about “I wish the Rapture would be here soon” or “when we get to heaven it’ll be all better.” But is all that necessarily true, fair, and compassionate. I knew someone once that prayed every day that today would be the day for the rapture. I asked them if that meant that they did not want to see me saved. At that time in my life I was not by any means in a position to survive a Rapture by definition. The person was taken aback a little bit because they obviously did not want to see me in hell, but realized by their own definition I would be there. I think many people hold the ideal that this world is a bad place and that we are only here to get to the next world. But, I find little purpose in that sentiment anymore. I think that lets us off the hook for many things and causes other things in our life to become less important than they are. I don’t think many people sit around like I do and wonder about the implications of everything they say. But, the implication here is that this world is not worth our time. Now I know some people are going to say hold it, hold it, no I never said that. But, in a way that’s what it all means. If our goal is to get out of this place then what is the point of this place at all.

The other side of this coin are people who take the position that we’re just material and that this is all we have. This idea also seems a little sketchy to me. I am by no means anti-science. But, there seems to be areas in my life that seemed to go beyond a scientific description. We can make the case for determinism. That just means that I was meant to write this and I had no choice because of the chemical environment that I’m created of and my world is created of and it made me do this. This is a little simplistic but it gets to the point.

So what does the Bible and our Christian thoughts say about this? If you look very carefully we do not live without a body for very long, especially in the light of Eternity. We also don’t really reside in heaven for very long. In the Book of Revelation Heaven is described as the place where God dwells now. But in the same book God leaves heaven and acsends back to A New Earth where we all will be living. There will be a new creation and we will have new bodies. So it seems that we are somehow incomplete without a body. I know lots of people like to think that when we die we turn into Angels but that doesn’t seem to be theologically true. So that then becomes a transition between one physical state and another. That doesn’t seem to be what is preached. So this world that tends to be looked at as not perfect is actually part of the Kingdom that is here now but not yet. And the world itself cries out for recreation in the Psalms end in the New Testament. So the world around us will be redeemed as well, in some sense.

This is actually good news to me. This means that the people I love and the things I like to do and everything about me that makes me me and the things that make me human will be there after I die. So what I do is just not part of the plan to get us out of here with as many people as possible, like the Titanic sinking. Somehow what I do and what I like to do and my passions here in this life prefigure my next life. So technically we experience a little Heaven everyday right here and right now. So it is worth while to make this place as best as we can. Escapism just feeds the idealism of spiritual over materialism. But if we are human with bodies and spirit that seem to be connected in some intrinsic way then escapism becomes problematic. Theologically we have placed ourselves Above the Rest of creation, or maybe God has done that. But, theologically we may have placed ourselves too high above creation.

So, I try to live everyday looking for the heaven in my situation at hand. Sure there are things in this world that need to be better. And there are things that I am looking forward too in the crossing over, like no disease and sickness. But, I am not convinced idealism or escaping is what the message should be about.

Well, a little stream of conscious today and heady.

What is Real?

My sermon prep this week has me pondering what makes things real.  I could go on for hours with philosophical perspectives on what makes things real.  The context is the end of Luke.  Jesus walks into the room and the gathering thought he was a ghost.  Jesus tries to reassure them that he is not a ghost but “real”.  Now many people are of the opinion that ghosts are real and if I saw one I would believe what I saw was real.  Jesus is trying to convince them that he is flesh and blood.  So, he asks for something to eat and allows them to poke at him.  So the point of the story was to convince people that Jesus rose bodily from the grave, not just spiritually. Sometimes we are so caught up in the spiritual we forget that the physical world is part of our religious experience also.  For Jesus to be “real” do we have to be able to touch him.   Let me share a story I hear somewhere (if you find the source let me know).

A person was walking along a road and suddenly tripped and fell flat on their face into a ravine.  Obviously this was a painful fall and it seemed that the person had broken a few bones and needed help.  a passerby looked down into the ravine and said, “let me call an ambulance.”  The injured one just looked up and said, “No thank you. Jesus is the only one I put my trust in.  Please pray he comes quickly to help.  That is all I need.”  After a little dispute the passerby decided there was no convincing this person, so they left.  After a few more minutes a person comes around the corner and sees the injured and proclaims, “I’m a doctor!”  But the injured once again argued that Jesus is the true doctor and the doctor moved on.  After about an hour, the person was close to death.  Several people offered help, but he was waiting on Jesus.  Close to death and coming to the conclusion that Jesus was not coming to help, the person looked up to heaven, cursed God saying, “You did this to me.  I curse you.” And with those words the person died.

What is real?  The pain I feel right now is real.  The joy I feel right now is real.  The problem I have right now is real.  And my dialog between faith and doubt I have right now is real.

But what is also real?  The card of encouragement I got in the mail that sits on my desk is real.  The hand holding mine at this moment is real.  The love and concern from those around me is real.

So is there a “realness” about Jesus?  Is there a flesh and blood to his existence in our lives?  I really believe there has to be.  But I think the problem sometimes is that we don’t expect him to look like us.

Faith?

The last of my three-part pondering is on faith. This is the one I had to think the most about. Because this is the one the other to depend on. Whatever my faith is will determine my community and my structure.

I think the first thing that I really went on was the fact that faith and belief aren’t necessarily the same thing. There are many things that I believe in, and there are many things that I don’t believe in. For me belief is the subset of things in my life that I have absolutely no doubt about. So I believe I have two children, I believe I have books on my desk, I believe nature Works a certain way, Etc… but that’s not what I mean when I say I have faith in God. I think faith and doubt go hand-in-hand, whereas, belief and doubt are opposites. So I have a set of beliefs about my experience and my religious expression. And it’s also interesting to me that my beliefs don’t have to be proven. No one goes into my office so only I know what books are on my desk. I could be lying about that but if you know me you know I’m probably not. It’s also very interesting to me how many things fit into this category of belief. It is actually amazingly small. This will make a little more sense when I start talking about faith. So, before I do that, let me Define belief as those things I absolutely know to be true in my world and perspective.

So then what is faith? Faith is different because faith is more of trust. There have been a lot of Articles recently about how the early church saw faith. Most of the Articles agree that Faith was not an Ascension to believing a whole bunch of stuff that they never experienced but trusting what Jesus said was true. This aspect of my life has a huge amount in it. I can say I believe that Cullen is in class right now, but really I’m only guessing and hoping it’s true. I can say that I believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that my wife loves me, and there’s very little doubt there, but they’re still that .0 1% that could make a fool of me one day. Even in my job I have to have faith that I’m doing the right thing for the people who come to me. Sometimes I don’t, but I have to have faith that most the time I do. So from my perspective of my performance as a pastor I have to rely on the fact that other people are telling me the truth. That is faith. So faith is a choice. Faith may be freely offered but it’s my choice on whether to take it or not. That is really my definition of free will. So what I choose to take on faith I cannot necessarily prove at all. I can’t prove Cullen is in class. So most of my interactions with the outside world are based on faith. To take it a little further I have faith that the cars around me aren’t going to smash into me every time I drive, yet, a year ago I was rear-ended on a straight away. Which brings me to another aspect of faith. Faith seems to have degrees. Even though the person hit me on the right of way I still have faith in most of the other drivers. So my faith isn’t necessarily that all drivers on the road will not hit me. My faith is that I will be relatively safe if I follow the law and watch the other cars. So that Faith relies me to question constantly the motivations of the other cars around me. Interesting.

So if that’s how I see faith, then what do I mean when I say I have faith in God. First, it’s something that I choose personally. This faith is not based on any book, Church, or anything that tells me what I need to believe. This faith is based on my own experience and desire. I choose to have faith that there’s an act of God in my life. Every religious expression that I have actually worked through from Christian to pagan to Islam to Judaism, all Express that God is ultimately a mystery. So, my faith is based on my experience with that mystery. I do not see how 1 religious system can tell me everything I need to believe when God is a mystery. I also cannot believe that any religious structure can tell me everything I need to know about my particular path that God has me on. So my religious expression is a close approximation of my faith experience. Notice it’s not an equal expression of my faith experience. As I discussed in one of my other blog post my religious expression actually almost made me lose my faith. The reason it almost made me lose my faith is because I thought I had to fit the expression and structure perfectly or I would not be on the correct path to God. So, my faith in God has an aspect to it to where I’m always looking around at the structures and judging them based on my experience. I can’t say the structures are totally off base but I can say there is occasionally times where I feel like I’ve been hit from behind on a straight away.

It is interesting that my background gave me a very difficult upbringing to allow me to trust. And if I Define faith as the thing I put my trust in that I can’t necessarily prove, then my upbringing is a primary reason that it took me so long to come to Faith. Primarily because I had to come to trust before I could come to Faith. That makes it very difficult when you’re talking to someone about faith when you haven’t discovered if they even know how to trust at all. That’s one of the reasons why I have so much trouble with the neo-pagan magical elf, Santa, and the neo-pagan rabbit that brings eggs, the Easter Bunny. Terry Pratchett, a very interesting science fiction writer to read, summed up the reason why we teach the Santa myth two children is so that they can believe bigger myths when they get older, like Peace, Love, and truth. This was in his book called hogfather. I don’t necessarily believe that if the rest of a child’s life is based on trust and that trust is proven worthy that these things necessarily harm a child. But for me it was just another thing my parents lied about. So my wife and I went back and forth, and she won, but I make sure I’m very authentic in the rest of my dealings with my children. I want them to be able to know how to trust. If they can’t trust they can’t have faith, by the very definition.

So I guess including these three post I think that we have to former selves to feed our faith. How we do that is in a community called The Church primarily. And then secondarily we communicate in that community via a structure called religion. So I guess I’m not a very religious person in that sense. But I do think that religion is necessary. There needs to be some structure for us to be able to gather and to be together we’re on very different paths sometimes. I think the church is very important, meaning the people, because they can act like a mirror to show me who I truly am and how I’m truly living. And coming together to worship the commonalities is also important. It expresses a part of us, not the whole, but it does show our connectedness in this thing that I have faith in called God.

Religion?

So, I’m sitting here pondering my second subject, religion. After establishing what church means to me, the idea of religion has to have some connection, but what connection is that?

When I think of the word “religion” I instantly think of rules and regulations and structure. Is that all that religion is about? Is there a good reason to have these rules, regulations and structures?

I think the hard part about this, for me, is that my entire experience of God has been connected to some sort of religious structure. It hasn’t been until recently that the religious structure has taken a behind the scenes purpose. Throughout my youth and experiences, especially in Catholic priesthood, I was wrapped up in how the structure was going to help me find God. The problem was it never did. The more I struggled with the structure the more I realized that the structure is secondary. Throughout all of its inconsistencies and just and unjust statements it seems that in order to live with the structure there has to be a primary experience that allows one to interpret it. So, the structure has to be secondary. It has to flow from somewhere.

If the structure is secondary, then what is this primary experience and is the structure solidified once it is Created from this experience? For me the primary experience rest in relationship. This relationship is built on my private time with God in prayer, and my communal time with the church, which I discussed last time. I always struggled because that relationship never fell squarely into any of the structures. And, when it fell out of the structures I found my faith was lagging because I was still looking for the structure to define my relationship. And the more pastoral ministry I do, the more I find other people have the same experience that I do. So, is there only one path to God with only one structure that will work? I don’t think I’m going to be able to answer that question here but it is something I think about. Of course, the answer my more conservative Christian friends will gave me is that Jesus is the path. But what if Jesus actually wanted me to go on a path that was different from the religious one that the structure offers? It’s unfortunately the same problem I have with hats. I’m not belittling the process, but every time I go to get a hat, the one-size-fits-all hats are too small for me. They only go up to 7 and half hat size and I wear 7 and three quarters. It’s close, but still doesn’t fit. I think once we define God and create a one-size-fits-all religious structure, we’ve automatically eliminate somebody who may be truly on the path that Jesus has put them on.

So then what is the purpose of religion? For me the structure is supposed to be a help, not a hindrance. The structure should give us a commonality and a starting point for a conversation. It should create a space for common worship. It should be the most basic of things that point us in the correct direction, but doesn’t become the vehicle for us to reach the destination. I think that’s hard for someone, like me, a pastor, to really embrace sometimes. Because, our jobs truly do rely on the structure. But I’ve always used my role as a pastor more as a guide then a dictatorship. I always preach to myself first, then take what God wants me to share out of that and preach to the congregation. And, I’m not telling people how to live every second of their lives. Life is too complicated to have one rule apply across all circumstances. So, if religion is supposed to be very basic then why all the rules. I think somewhere along the line power became more of a guiding force then discernment. When we started telling people what to do, instead of teaching them how to discern what to do on their own, I think we did a very great disservice to the world. Also, I think theology and religion, in spite of being theories, have truly tried to make statements about Mysteries that cannot truly be proven. Sometimes, I truly do believe that the structure has overstepped its bounds and created itself as a god.

So what’s the answer? For me it’s living a life where the experience that I have in the relationship with God and my fellow Christians informs the religious expression. And the religious expression does not define my relationship with God. Ultimately, at the proverbial Gates, God’s not going to ask me about anyone else. God is going to ask how I followed the path that Jesus set me on. And truly the path has been very windy and bumpy, and occasionally I ended up in the weeds. But, changing perspective has given me peace and place. Putting my relationship before my religious structure has given me a stronger faith. But don’t get confused, I still need the structure to share that experience.

Church?

The announcement from the Methodist judicial council came out last week about strengthening our stance on the LGBT+ issues in our congregation. I have to address the statement sooner than later. But I wanted to retreat into my foundation first. Not to avoid the issues but to know I am standing on ground, I deem through discernment, to be the ground God wants me on. Three pillars came to me: church, religion, and faith/belief. I want to explore these three before I figure out how to handle the ruling.

I start with Church. Not because it is a priority but because it gets tangled up in the other two. I will probably have to return to church at the end (double entendre is just a coincidence).

So what is Church? I believe we have been too loose with this term. When you say Church to someone, they initially go to the building that they pass on their way to work, or their way to baseball games, or their way to other things in their life. But I really don’t think that this term should be used to express a building. Ultimately a building cannot be a church. Sure we use small and upper case letters to correct our language issues but that is essentially meaningless. The building should be where the church Gathers,not considered the church itself. So the first challenge to myself is to start calling the building by what it is: the worship place.

So then what makes a church? It is obviously a group of people, but what group of people. Here’s where I’m probably going to have to return to this after faith and religion. I think the Gathering called Church is really a collective of people of Grace.

Hmm. What does that mean? Because in my tradition Grace is the thing that really holds everything together. Even someone who would not consider themselves part of the church still has prevenient Grace according to Wesley. So I guess I’m going to have to refine my definition. How about, a people who strive to live by grace? So what does that mean? For me that means people who are searching for what God wants of them, and is open to learning and developing according to the grace God gives us and the presence of God’s spirit in our world. So that is a pretty wide definition of what church is. That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is at the point of actually attending a worship space, or even at the point where they’re ready to ascend to any particular Creed. So that begs the question, does someone need a religious structure to be part of the church? One of the questions I have to think about when I discuss religion with myself next time is that question: is a religious structure necessary for salvation? I think I already know what the answer is in my mind, but the whole point of this exercise is to challenge my mind and my belief.

I think one distinction I need to make is who is not part of this church. I think the important thing is that to be a part of the church we need to be on the journey with the church. That means some active response to Grace. So the person who tells me that they go to church on Sunday morning in their living room while they’re watching pregame football may not necessarily fit that definition,if they’re not doing anything else, or even thinking about God at all. The clue for me there is that I don’t think Sunday is the only day the church follows Grace. And I think that someone who attends the worship space on Wednesday, because they have to work on Sunday, or for any other reason, like not being able to be in large crowds or community that may have hurt them, is just as much a part of the church as a regular Sunday attender. There’s a parable that says something about people getting paid the same regardless of how long they worked. And I think the key to that is that God’s grace is infinite so you can’t give part of infinite. But that’s something for another day.

I think this broader definition of church makes it harder to judge our neighbor. Because we really have to know them intimately like God in order to be a judge. So I don’t question people’s Journey, but, I offer them what I have and what God gives me to help them on their own Journey, whatever that may be. I do believe at some point, if God really does work through us, in order to grow, we need to learn how to work with each other. And that is one aspect of coming to the worship space on Sunday or any other day of the week that it may be offered. If someone doesn’t want to be challenged about what they believe, is their belief on solid ground? Hence, why I’m doing what I’m doing. But, this also kind of destroys the importance of congregationalism. The supposed hierarchy of congregations that exist in people’s minds should be crashing to the ground, if, we truly accept that Jesus is in charge of the path.

Anecdotally, I have someone going to another church that used to go to our church. And whether I did something they didn’t like, or there’s something else wrong, or just wasn’t a fit for them at this part of the journey, it doesn’t really matter to me as long as they’re continuing their Journey. I still love them the same as I did before. If, part of the church is help being each other grow, then they also may have deprived me from a growth experience, if it was something about me that made them leave. I know most people don’t think that way. And it’s not a comfortable place to be in. But, sometimes it hurts to grow and I think that’s what the problem is with a lot of people not wanting to come to the worship space. I think also sometimes people think they have to believe everything that everybody else believes in that worship space at that time to be a part of it. But, if we are on different paths then there is no church anywhere that has full consent of belief, and Creed, and Doctrine. No one is going to 100% agree with their neighbor on how things need to be done when the rubber hits the road. So, there’s no such thing as a church that is totally cohesive in this life. We can have Doctrine from the top down tell us and shame us into believing things and the Doctrine may be true or not true depending, but faith is what saves us and God is in charge of faith. So we can determine doctrines and we can determine what people need to believe in our religious structure but does that necessarily relate to Salvation. But again, that’s next week. I think the important thing is that we can come together and worship on a Sunday in the worship space, and once that worship begins, we need to become Church, and no longer a congregation during that time period. If, we are truly there to worship, then there should be no divisions mentioned at all. The church should gather as of people on different paths, with different experiences, and with different needs, to worship the God that they are trying to find and follow. I think our worship space should also offer different styles of worship to honor the different paths people may be on as well.

This is now getting too long for me to think anymore. I think though I’ve come to some conclusion. I really don’t know, as I’m walking down the street of Frederick Maryland, who among those walking with me is church. I don’t know how God is working in a particular person’s life by looking at them. I don’t know what God is doing in someone’s life even if I can look at their activity and agree or disagree with whether I think it’s Christian or not. So, as I go off today to do a funeral of an unchurched lady and visit with her family, I am going to treat them with the same dignity as someone who is church. Because regardless or whether their church or not they are still made in God’s image and my job is to honor that image regardless.

So, I’m pretty content with my definition. A church is a group of people who, despite their place on the path, have accepted God’s Gift of Grace and are allowing God to transform their lives.

Christian Maturity?

I was at the local used book store yesterday.  I had a few minutes before meeting my wife and kids.  I was in the midst of the “religious inspiration” section answering the titles on the book out loud (no one was around and I caught myself doing it quite accidentally).  “A Handbook for salvation: Have you been saved”: I am assuming because I feel no need to read you.  “Are you living the good life”: most days.  “What is going to happen to you at the rapture”: fly or die.

As I was browsing I ran across a book that gave me pause.  After all of the old pop Christianity books I just browsed through looking for the pearl of great cost (I did interestingly enough find Immanuel Kant’s essay on Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone among the Joel Olsteen books) I ran across a book that I haven’t seen in years: A Handbook for Christian Maturity: A Practical, easy to follow guide to the Exciting Adventure of Joyful Christian Living by Bill Bright.  It was once a popular apologetic catechism. Basically, believe everything in the book and you will be on your way.  While I think there is certainly a place to learn about doctrine, biblical interpretation, and theology, I have a problem with naming that “maturity.”

I think there is a huge difference between “knowing what you believe” and “believing what you know.”  I try to teach my kids not to take things at face value.  I know someone is going to say, “what about the authority of scripture?” and my response is going to be that there is nothing in scripture that says I can’t have a beer, nothing.  There is something about drunkenness.  But I have been in churches that use the “authority of scripture” to tell me I can’t have a beer.  This is where I do agree with the Evangelicals: we do have christian liberty, meaning we can do what we want, that is not specifically forbidden by our own situation, alcoholic for instance (not me just an example, I haven’t had alcohol for years really), or by the bible, drunkenness (don’t get drunk and out of control), and don’t do things to scandalize others  (I often fail on that last one).  So how then does a book that tells you how and what you are to believe offer you the skills to exercise the liberty we have received in the new covenant?  How is not knowing other sides and not going through the relationship and learning process in any way helpful to when you are approached by a skeptic and need to explain your faith: well on page 101 of this book it tells me I need to believe so and so.

I really believe that maturing in our faith means deepening our relationship.  That is learning more about God for sure.  This book can help somewhat.  But it also doesn’t mean a life of apologetics.  It is a life of practice that is not “easy” or “quick.”  Anyone who has tried to live in this relationship Monday through Saturday will know that sometimes these doctrines reach their limit.  Doctrine is human language to help explain a mysterious God.  I think we have done a disservice by teaching  “blind faith” as the first defense for our relationship with God.  That is not even biblical.  People in the bible questioned.  Even Moses thought God had the wrong person.  All “blind faith” does is push people out when what they blindly follow doesn’t work in every situation.  Even something as simple as “thou shall not kill” becomes mediated in the fact that God had people lead armies, Joshua. It only goes so far to say that Joshua was only being used by God and God was the actual one killing.  That makes it even more of a mess.  And what about self defense?  And how does adultery really work when you have five wives?  Basically, men can’t commit adultery in that scenario.

So to my point.  I think “maturity” definitely has something to do with knowing your stuff.  But it definitely has to do with knowing your stuff in the context of relationship.  It is knowing you stuff in practice.  It is knowing how to read the other beyond what the text can give us.  I would never discourage learning but, especially lately, I never want to leave a class I am teaching without the participants knowing how to use what we learned in real situations.

Oh and as for maturity, I strive for it, but I am also content on being a child in the hand of God.

The root of evil

What is the root of all evil? Money? Technology? Envy? Greed?

I have come to a very different answer these days. I am sitting here writing this with my eight year old screaming at me because I took away his internet. Well, he voluntarily gave it up by choosing to stay home from school by my perspective. He has been screaming for hours. “There’s nothing else to do”,”I’m so stupid”,”I hate my life”,”you’re the worse dad in the world.” Addiction is a terrible thing. I really need to cut back the usage and I will. I will be the best “worse” dad I can be because I love him too much for him to be this miserable about YouTube. But what is the root problem here?

About two and a half months ago, I decided to ditch almost all of my smart phone apps. I ditched social media, news, and games. Funny thing, I don’t feel any less informed or disconnected. Matter of fact, I actually feel more calm and able to deal with my screaming child. I also noticed that I had more time for things I liked and my job got done better. But I also found i had to be more connected to my self and initiate world. That was hard. After several depression and anxiety attacks so what I really found was that my phone habits were distracting me from me. I really think that is the root of my sins addiction to his YouTube. He hasn’t learned to be with himself yet.

Evil for me is the misuse of power. I think much of the time we give away our power to be misused. We give power to a piece of paper over us to fulfill happiness(money) and we give technology power over us to force us to be distracted. Nothing is innately evil but we create it by giving these things unreasonable power in our lives. If we can’t be happy with out a phone in our hand how can we be happy at all. The power of happiness is given to an inanimate device that could break, the battery could die, it could get lost, etc… Do we really want that much power to be given away to something that really could care less about us because it can’t care about us.

I have discovered and want to teach my children that their happiness should rest in them, not other things. And one we find who we truly are we find the Spirit living inside us that does care and can have a true two sides relationship with us without stealing our power to be happy. It only enhances that happiness.

How many people use their phones and technology to enhance their happiness? You will definitely know when the proverbial lights go out.