The Importance of Being Earnestly Christlike

Those that know me have noticed that I’ve mellowed quite a bit over the last few years.  I haven’t lost my zeal or fervor but I have learned (and am continuing to learn) that there is a time and a place to offer a counterpoint to those who I disagree with; those places rarely include Facebook or Twitter.  Remembering what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:4 helps considerably in that effort – I often repeat it over and over to myself so that I don’t fly off the handle when facing a topic that is especially important to me.

Love is patient. Love is kind.

It breaks my heart to see so much hatred in this world – at times I almost want to remove myself from it all and be a hermit so that I wouldn’t have to encounter so much brokenness.  Pain and anguish is all around us and I am torn between wanting to give the victims a big, Iowan bear-hug or to go straight at the offenders to give them a piece of my mind.  I don’t like seeing injustice and my parents can attest to that worldview being part of me for my entire life. Continue reading

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Spiritual Growth: Understanding Hate

hate

I’m not convinced that the concept of “hate” is such a bad thing.

Wait a second – hold on.  Don’t click away from the page…just hear me out.  I’m not talking about ALL hate – racial, economical, gender, or other such things used a basis for such a strong feeling is bad in my book and I’m not endorsing “hate-crimes” or other such nonsense.

Continue reading

Being Holy: Environmentalism

Calvin & Hobbes - Environment

It seems that a large number of Christians I come across are against being environmentally conscious.  I’m not exactly sure why this is and the attitudes seem to range from mocking those who recycle to being outright hostile towards those who try to be “green”.  And that’s not even counting the anti-global-warming crowd who are offended that anybody could even think that the world is being affected by how we live – apparently it’s all some liberal conspiracy.

This isn’t a post about the benefits of being “green”.  I’m hardly the one to speak on that; however, I do want to share some theological pondering on the issue which will hopefully get you to keep thinking about this topic long after you’ve finished reading my thoughts on the matter.

When I posted on my alma maters Facebook group about this topic, one student said: “I think this is one of many areas that Christians could take ownership on but we have largely left it to others.”  I think that insight hits the nail on the head precisely.  To be perfectly honest, I have never heard a good reason as to why Christians should not care about Creation.  I’ve heard many opinions over the years but none of them compete with the reason why we should care.  The simple fact of the matter is that stewardship of the earth…of God’s creation…is not an option for believers.  It’s a biblically mandated job – and we are failing at it.

Genesis 1:28
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”

The most popular reasons I’ve heard for why Christians should put their focus elsewhere besides the environment circle around politics, bad theology, science they don’t agree with, or the fear of “being liberal”.  The worst part of it all, in my opinion, is that American believers seem to think it’s ok to stay quiet or even be actively opposed to “being green” because we assume someone else will take care of it.  We think some other group or government will do our job.

I think it can be boiled down to fear; we all (myself included) are afraid of what the ramifications are of recognizing that God commanded humanity to take care of his creation.  We’re afraid of how that job will impact how we live which means we may have to actually think about what we’re buying and where it comes from or about what we’re eating and how that food was cultivated.  If we think about those things, we may have to examine how we can be so ungrateful for all the blessings we have.

That thinking may force us to do more than recycle cans or drive an electric vehicle.  And that’s not a bad thing.

I’m not saying all fear is bad though: there is legitimate fear in taking “being green” too far; we don’t want to come across as “Gaia is Earth, our Mother”, New Age people who take our job of being stewards of the planet and turn it into Earth worship.  Authors David Clark and Robert Rakestraw in their book “Readings in Christian Ethics: Volume 2” said the following about our reactions to that fear:

“Because of deep ecology [worship of the earth], some conservative Christians wrongly associate any environmental concern with New Age thought.  Some cult detectives, probing every viewpoint for New Age influence, reject any ecological viewpoint.  In other camps, those with interest in end-time biblical prophecy question any activity except ‘soul-saving.’  If Christ is coming back soon, why waste energy slowing down pollution of an earth that is destined for destruction anyways?” (p.383)

In my opinion, we have under-reacted to some issues and over-reacted to others.  Out of our desire to not make the earth into a false god, we have swung to the far other side of the spectrum and forgotten that the very first command God gave humanity was to rule over what he had made: to care for creation.

We are temporary stewards of this place and I firmly believe we can fulfill that job without failing to keep God as our center.  Being “green” won’t turn us into earth worshipers as long as we don’t put the creation before the Creator.  Being environmentally conscious will, however, honor our Father in Heaven .  As Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

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If you’d like to read more on this topic, I highly recommend the book I mentioned above.  Volume 2 specifically has essays written on both sides of hot-button topics such as environmentalism, wealth, abortion, and more which help the reader to think more clearly about the issues.  Little bit of a warning however: it’s not light reading.  Also, buying used is much, much cheaper.

Spiritual Growth: Prayer

Prayer

I think I took life at Multnomah University for granted. I was constantly around others who loved God and that rubbed off on me – I didn’t have to try hard at keeping my focus on spiritual matters. Now that I’ve graduated and am not on campus anymore, being purposeful in my daily spiritual walk is not as easy as it once was; I had never understood why people would put such a heavy emphasis on having a daily devotional time or starting out the day in prayer or other spiritual growth habits because, honestly, I was already doing those things regularly for school. I didn’t have to think about it – it was a requirement to get good grades.

“Spiritual Life” was a college class. No, really…it was. I took a class my freshman year that was called that.

I’m reminded of a sermon I once heard at a church I was attending back in 2006. The pastor was preaching about “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:5-14) and said that Jesus wasn’t teaching his disciples “prayer 101” but “prayer 401”: advanced prayer. These were men that knew about spiritual matters – their whole society was focused around being spiritual. He stressed that too often we look at that particular passage as something for children when in reality it is much deeper. That message has stuck with me over the years but over the last couple weeks it has really sunk in: prayer is an advanced spiritual growth practice.

I’m currently a security officer and patrol multiple big warehouses and office buildings; thus far, I’ve only been scheduled for graveyard shifts which means that it’s dark and I’m on my own while on patrol. I’m not going to lie: my job scares me – I already don’t like the dark but being in those giant buildings can be terrifying when you let your imagination run wild! To cope with one particular building that is full of twists and turns and general creepiness, I started doing what now seems like the obvious choice: I started praying while walking around on patrol. A few weeks ago, my thought process went something like this:

I do not want to be working here. I have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours over the last 6 years going to school in order to be trained for youth ministry. That is what I want to be doing with my life. That is what I have been working towards. I’m not going to be happy until I am working in a church again.

Looking back, I can see just how incredibly narrow minded I was being. Don’t get me wrong: I still desire to work in a church and minister to youth. I very much do. But to take the attitude that there was nothing good that could happen in life unless it was by the course I had laid out in my own head is just…stupid. Prayer helped me realize that.

I’m thankful to have my current job and I’m happy to see growth happening in my understanding of God even though I’m not currently in a “ministry” role. I hadn’t thought about it at the time but it’s been on my mind recently: during my interview, I mentioned that I was still looking for Youth Pastor positions and one of the bosses said

That’s cool that you want to do ministry. God knows there are people around here that could use a little of that.

Even when it’s not our plan, God still has a purpose and a role for us to fill; perhaps, for the time being, mine is to simply be a reflection of Christ towards my coworkers. I think what we all have to ask ourselves is this: are we so focused on what we want (no matter how good that plan seems to be) that we don’t see the opportunities right in front of us?

 

Communication

Very Good Conversation

I’m fairly positive that I have a “theological debate sensor” located somewhere in my body that tends to go off whenever I come across an opportunity to get deep with someone.  A difficult topic gets brought up (such as God in the Old Testament not seeming to match up with our modern sensibilities) and I’m buzzing! I’m all like “Lets go! Lets discuss! Lets figure this out! Lets get heated and emotional and confused and elated! Lets talk!”  More often than not though, those times come when I’m online.  Facebook and Reddit are dangerous places to be when you’re someone that likes to pull no punches in theological discussion.

And then I remember that online communication doesn’t convey tone or facial expression. It just doesn’t communicate our communication the way we want it communicated. I then get sad because the opportunity is gone just as quickly as it came.  I can’t help but wonder if the effort of setting aside time for debate is worth it.

Side Note:  Debate is such a dirty word: I bet when you think of debate you’re thinking about getting so into a conversation that feelings are hurt afterwards and neither party sees the event as a success unless Team 2 changed their stance to more accurately reflect Team 1.  Am I right?  I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about respectfully engaging with another person’s ideas and where, even if you have not changed your position at the end, you are still thinking about what the other person said.

After thinking about it, I have to conclude that discussion and conversation are worth the effort of engaging in.  Part of the topic that spurred on this post was that of the “angry God” of the Old Testament and how he doesn’t fit in with the God of the New Testament  (loving, forgiving, etc).  Lets be honest: this is a hard topic!  Because, when you really sit down and read the Bible, there are parts that don’t make sense on the first, second, third, or fiftieth read-through.  But we (generalizing the American church culture here) don’t like to think about those things – those things aren’t easy to digest like a 20 minute Veggie Tales video.  We’re not sure of what to make of those topics so we explain them away and shrug off those who have real questions.

We don’t communicate.

Or worse, we COMMUNICATE. PERIOD.  (You know what I’m talking about: those posts on Facebook that make you think “yea, I’m not going near that topic.”  When confronted with an honest question (or one that it just meant to get a rise out of us) we tend to leave no room for discussion which then solidifies the world’s view of Christ and his church: that we’re pious jerks who will sooner post some snotty religious picture on facebook than communicate face to face.

Actually, maybe I’m wrong: we do communicate…but what we’re communicating is garbage.

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The above image is taken from the film “The Last Samurai” during a scene which is ended with Katsumoto (the one in the background) saying “I have introduced myself. You have introduced yourself. This is a very good conversation.”
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