Sunday, November 28, 2004

teaching lessons...

why is it that i always feel the need to teach someone a lesson when i feel wronged?

an everyday example occurs in driving. i see this happen frequently (yes, i must admit that i want to do this but i honestly cannot recall if i have ever done it) - a person who is cut off on a highway decides to drive ahead of that person and then cut them off. why? in order to teach that person a lesson. what is the lesson? i see it as "i want to teach you how much it angered me that you cut me off!!!".

in a different arena, i tend to do this in relationships as well. someone will do something that frustrates me or angers me and my response is to immediately try to locate another time when i can do the same thing to them. my goal is to show that person what it feels like have that happen to them AND then (somehow) to have them understand my frustration.

does this ever work?

i haven't seen it work. instead, i never seem to be able to sit down to talk about why i acted that way. i am never able to relate my "payback" action with the original action. at the same time, i do not see how that person would learn anything if i actually was able to speak to them about why i acted the way i did.

this plays out in many ways. i label this as people trying play God by teaching lessons to others who have wronged us.

maybe that is why Jesus said "so in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

the 'golden rule' is often overlooked because it is overused. or is it? do we actually live this out? especially, in the situations like driving or in our closest relationships... or do we try to go around this command in order to take control and 'teach' others...?

Friday, November 26, 2004

discipleship - a lost calling?

what ever happened to the focus on discipleship? did the word scare people because it was to churchy? did the idea grow old so people abandoned it for more flashy terms?

no matter what, Jesus called disciples, is calling disciples, and left us with the mission to make disciples.

i realized this past week why i haven't focused on my calling as a disciple. i came to relate to discipleship with following rules or the law. the focus on grace by many of my teachers and pastors led me to eschew focusing on the commands in the Bible. even moreso, one teacher explaned of the sermon of the mount as being a sermon to people who were still under the law, and, therefore, not meant for us to live up to. his point was to show that Jesus was setting up the people to ask the question "what must i do to be saved?" and that Paul would later bring the gospel of grace in order to account for the unreachable commands.

this led me to, consciously or unconsciously, disregard the entire sermon on the mount as a source of commands that i was expected to obey. an entire set of commands on anger, lust, telling the truth, loving enemies, going the extra mile, prayer, fasting, and more and more was lost. this led to an overall discounting of many of the commands of God in order to avoid falling into the trap of the law. "christianity is a relationship, not a religion" is the phrase that came to represent this thinking.

there are elements of truth to that pastor's explanation of the sermon on the mount and to the view of Christianity as a relationship. the danger, however, is that people will focus only on God's grace without realizing that they are called to discipleship which includes obedience. the pharisees hid from God behind the law. i more easily hide from God behind grace. each person needs to consider which one, and to what degree, he or she uses to hide from God. right now, i am on the grace-heavy side.

what opened the door on these thoughts? Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets but he came to fulfill them. Jesus fulfilled the law. if I am in Christ, then I am connected (vine/branches) to the one who fulfilled the law. this means that i am now capable, with God's working, to live out the law as well. granted, i will fail but that possibility or, better put, opportunity is available.

this is not the following of commands in order to earn adoption. this is an opportunity to grow as a disciple after a person is part of the body of Christ.

disciples learn from their leader. disciples grow into their leaders.

do i take Jesus' commands seriously? my prayer is that i will do so.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

my new way of learning

6 years in the tech world is the bridge between my first college experience at uva and my current experience at princeton seminary. i used to learn by writing everything down over and over. i used to write papers by hand and then type them.

now, i can't even imagine doing any of that. i still write things down at points in order to practice recalling information through a different medium. however, i now type everything.

in fact, i studied for my 2 midterms by creating a basic (admittedly 1995-esque) website with all the information. i picked up on a lot of the information simply by interacting with it as i put the site together. even better, i then could quickly jump from page to page to review the material.

i have come to realize how my brain has been trained to take in information via the web better than any other medium. it makes sense. it shows how much has changed in the past 6 years...

so what does that mean for the people that i some day want to teach? shouldn't i take into account that most of them (assuming the audience has access to the web and can use it) learn through that medium as well? is hearing the best way to learn anymore??? not for me...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

religion of no religion

religion is a term that is under fire by many christians because many christian teachers in evangelical churches point out that christianity isn't a religion but, instead, a relationship. there is a lot of truth to that statement but to a majority of people outside of churches, christianity is still a religion.

one working defintion of a religion is a set of ways that a person orders his or her life based on a set of motivations. we are all motivated by something. one motivation for followers of a religion is fear. a problem exists in the form of fear and they embrace a religion which provides security from that fear. fear should not be the primary reason for following a religion, and perhaps it shouldn't play into it at all. in the christian context, some follow christianity mostly because of the fear of going to hell and the security of going to heaven. this motivation is the weakest of all, especially in terms of people going beyond an "i'm in" or "i'm out" mentality. let me be clear, there are superior motivations to fear/security but i am pointing out fear/security to show why manner people flock to religions for reasons that are not deeper than a pure reaction to a extremely negative outcome.

there is a religion that many people do not see because it is not an organized, visible religion. this religion is, what i call, the religion of no religion. the same attributes are included this religion as others - fear and security.

the religion of no religion includes a fear of commitment and the security of non-commitment. Why do people fear commitment? There is a level of uncertainty with commiting to something. People are also scared of being burned. Finally, people have witnessed many bad examples of commitments that have failed (marriages, other relationships, financial decisions, etc). The fear of commitment is one side of the issue. The other side is the security of non-commitment. What does this security offer? Non-commitment provides people with control, power and the ability to leave options open. The Bible describes this as one aspect of pride. The response "I will not let anyone control my life because I know better than anyone else how to run my life" sums up this pride.

The religion of no religion is the combination of this fear and security.

A gift certificate is a fitting analogy for this religion. I love and hate receiving gift certificates for my birthday or christmas. I love them because I have the ability to select what I want to buy with the certificate. However, I hate them because I often feel paralyzed by them. Why do I refuse to use them? I always feel like there may be something better out there to buy. I also do not want to regret my purchasing decision. Overall, I lose the sense of purchasing power that I have when I redeem that gift certificate. A specific gift certificate, such as Best Buy, is tough enough. A gift certificate to an entire mall is even more difficult.

I think you get the picture. Our search for a religion is similar. There are many choices but if make a choice then we lose our 'purchasing power'. All the other feelings associated with commitments, as listed, come into play as well.

What are we to do? We could sit and do nothing. However, there isn't an option to sit still in this life. The Bible speaks specifically to this. The Bible doesn't tell us anything new that we do not already know or have experienced. I am more convinced every day that the Bible describes the reality in which we live but it pulls together these realities into the greater story of how God works in this world. We are all part of that story.

Romans 12:1-2 describes a decision to leave the religion of no religion and to commit to being a follower of Christ. The author, Paul, challenges the readers, in view of God's mercy, to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as a spiritual act of worship. This is a decision (who makes that decision is a discussion that some love to talk about for years).

The next part indirectly describes what happens if we do not make that decision. 12:2 states that we should no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world. Inherent in this statement is the reality that we are being molded into the pattern of this world. We are being formed like play-doh. Do you ever feel like you are being pressured to become something that you are not? This pressure can come from all kinds of places.

Advertising is an example of how this works. Advertisements are not looking out for your good. They are designed to manipulate you so that you buy the product. Your attitudes, desires, and eventually purchasing habits are being conformed to a specific pattern. In a similar manner, the Bible describes the world system as a similar conforming agent that is shaping you whether you know it or not (much like advertising). Advertising is definitely an ingredient in the world system recipe.

The choice of following the religion of no religion is not a neutral choice. You are choosing to remain as a target of the world system's molding without any response.

The decision to follow Christ (make a commitment, offer your body as a living sacrifice) is SO much more than following a religion based on fear and a need for security. There is a reality of heaven and hell but the motivation of the fear of hell is not what leads to a deep commitment to Jesus Christ. The God who created the heavens and the earth is weaving a story and you are part of that story. God, in his passionate love, sent Jesus to live a perfect life, die on the cross and be resurrected so that you could believe in this love, commit to following Christ and become a new creation and be a part of the community of those who are equipped with the ability and the Holy Spirit to push back against the world system. 2 Cor 5:17 describes this as a transition to becoming a new creation. Philippians 1:6 describes this as God being the one who began a good work in you and will continue that work until the day of Christ Jesus.

This work is a process that begins when you commit to following Christ.

The religion of no religion is equivalent to not using a gift certificate. You may feel like you have power, options, and safety from regrets. However, you simply letting the opportunity to use the certificate pass and you are not realizing the value of what you could buy. For Christianity, you are not buying anything. God bought you at a high price through the death of Jesus. Instead, the purchasing analogy is that you can make a decision to start following Christ now and then begin to realize the benefits of being in relationship with God and in relationship with the community of those who are also following Christ.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


i have nothing in the tank. nothing. i can't remember the last time i felt like this. there is something strangely great about not having the ability to think. my brain is fried. i honestly think i can get more out of watching sesame street with my daughter than trying to think about anything else...

i don't know if anyone reads this blog but i felt like sharing my thoughts (whatever is left of them)