newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: May, 2014

No man is an island; (or) why my inability to maintain long-distance relationships is proof for the necessity of faith in community.

There is a quote attributed to Rev. Denny Blake which could almost be viewed as a form of prophecy for the 21st century: “I don’t know why some people change churches- what difference does it make which one you stay home from?”  My first reaction the first time I heard it was to laugh; my second was to cringe.  What this quote brings to light is the idea that the Church is not something from which people should stay away.  I agree with this idea.

But before I go on, a story:

I was married to my hottie of a wife in August, 2010.  The co-best men at my wedding were my brother Pieter and my best friend Scott.  Since junior high, Scott and I were close.  But then life happened.  We headed in different directions; his involved living in more places in one year than I have in my entire 28 so far.  But darnit, we still called each other on holidays, and most importantly, our birthdays.  And then his April birthday rolled around.

And I didn’t call.

The point is this.  I am human.  And unless things are continually in front of me, I forget them.  It wasn’t until about a month later that I realized I had forgotten to call; and I felt miserable.  I still haven’t called because I still feel guilty about it.

There is a reason why Hebrews 10:25 is in the Bible (take a moment to read it, this blog post will still be here).  There is a difference between being around people and gathering together in community under one purpose (The Church).  Being around people does not guarantee that subtle reminders about the important stuff (Gospel, grace, love, holiness, etc.) will be brought up.

Some may pose a question such as this: “Why should I go to a church if it looks nothing like the ‘church’ of the Bible?”  The purpose for the gathering of the Church then and now is the same; the specific format or “program” might look different, but that is a matter of cultures.  The point is that in the Christian life, intentional regular gatherings by people united under the same cause should be a part of the that life in order to maintain personal growth and development.

I would love your thoughts and feedback.  Leave a comment, a Tweet, or feedback to keep the conversation going.

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Yawning at Tigers: Not My Usual Read.

Most people do not enjoy being told what to do.  And for that small sect that does, counseling services are available.  Yet, many of those same people who do not like taking orders find themselves right at home in a legalistic church.  As an ex-fundamentalist, it has taken years of reconditioning myself to not feel like God was going to annihilate me for swearing when I stub my toe.  However, getting out of an environment all about rules moved me completely the other way into is call antinomianism where it’s all grace and the rules don’t matter.

Books that address an almost militant necessity for “holiness” both interest me and make me uneasy; much of the uneasiness might be because I feel like the author will step on my toes and I won’t like what he or she has to say.  Drew Dyck’s newest book Yawning at Tigers puts forth a resurgent call to holiness without trying to use condemnation to coerce the reader into seeing his point of view.

What I appreciate about the book is his passion for an important aspect of faith which many in the “grace” community (intentionally or unintentionally) overlook, the idea that as we grow in grace, that idea of grace should move us closer to true holiness and viewing God with a sense of holiness.  Through Bible, extended metaphor, and personal stories, Dyck emphasizes why the call to holiness is still relevant today.

Reading Yawning at Tigers did leave me frustrated at some points.  Questions I had throughout the book were ones like:

-What does having a reverent holiness for God the way Dyck describes look like for the common person?

-What steps does a man take to move past a desire to live with a holy view of God?

-What were Dyck’s personal struggles with the topic that make him the credible source on holiness?

Drew Dyck presents a compelling case for a resurgence of holiness.  He leaves some holes which this reader may or may not feel would make his thesis stronger if they were to be closed.  Ultimately, Yawning at Tigers is a good reminder that grace and love should be pushing us towards something.

 

Disclosure Notice: I received my copy of this book for free from BookLookBloggers in exchange for writing a review of it.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  The opinions contained in this review are my own.

 

When We Were on Fire.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a female, do not have kids, and do not typically read memoirs written by women.

But at the onset of this review, let me say: If you were are in your late 20’s to mid 30’s and are/were a part of “evangelical” America, read this book; especially if you have had or do have a cynical view towards the Church. There is so much that Addie Zierman discusses in When We Were on Fire that resonated with me. From the almost cult-like feel that fundamentalism can have, to the way that Teen Mania and other youth movements did (probably) more psychological damage then was intended for many of those involved, Zierman is not shy about any of it.

This book is filled with honest, sincere, insight from a woman whose involvement in the Church in her teens was the catalyst for unforeseen problems later in life. I identified with Addie throughout this book though, because I could see little pieces of what I experienced growing up reflected in her work. I shudder at reading review from others who want to brush off what she shares in When We Were on Fire, because they were not there and clearly do not understand it.

This book is one that I would recommend for people who have belonged to the Church since the teen years. It is a powerful read and I got a lot out of it.  This book is worth a read, and you can find out more about it here.

I received my copy of the book for free from the publisher in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

Voices from this Generation: Bad Things in a “Good” World

Last time Ms. Richardson and I started with what many would consider to be an easier topic to discuss.  This time, as the next installment in the “Voices from this Generation” series, we look to meditate on the guiding question, “How can bad things be allowed to happen in a “good” world?”

 

Gerrit:  

When I was a young tike, I believed I was just one in a line of superheroes.  My Opa emigrated the Netherlands after World War II with my Oma, the kids, and a trunk full of possessions.  All while my Opa had an appendix on the verge of bursting.  My Dad was my Dad, and he was capable of doing anything.  Then he slipped and threw out his back, forever plaguing him with back problems.  And then my Opa suffered a series of strokes and eventually I saw him choking on pureed chicken.  Neither of my heroes were in fact superheroes.

 

They were ordinary.

Men.

 

What gave them their status was my incorrect perceptions of them.

 

It’s the idea of incorrect perceptions which so often guides and informs every area of our lives.  For example, how do we come to the conclusion that this world is “good”?  I would like to offer three notions that are a divergence from incorrect perceptions in which I was implicitly raised: the Earth is not good; God is not the “Old Man in the Sky who grants wishes”; and I cannot affect the fact that bad things happen, but I can affect the circumstances around them.

Genesis 1:31 (ESV) reads that “And God saw everything he had made, and behold it was very good.”  If anyone has the ability to qualify Earth as initially good, it’s probably going to be God.  Unfortunately, the story of Life does not end at Genesis 1, it only begins there.  After Adam and Eve are introduced into Eden and eat from The Tree (it doesn’t matter whether this was a literal action or a metaphor for something else, the point is that they did something which was not desired or intended), the Garden and Earth is initially corrupted through their decisions.  We can see the result of that first action today with mankind making decisions that negatively impact the planet every day.  While Earth may have been created as good, what exists now is nothing like the original; how can we still qualify it as good?

I wonder if one of the incorrect perceptions we have about God is that he physically acts on his own in every facet of life.  On the one hand, perhaps every favorable occurrence is a miracle.  But on the other, I refuse to believe that the man who goes to the store and buys his wife the last quart of strawberry ice cream because God had his hand on that quart to reserve it for him, really experienced God working on his behalf when that evening a boy and girl are going to get killed by a drunk driver on the way home from their senior prom.  This just does not compute in my internal computer.  If it does yours, I need you to explain that to me why.  Romans 8:28 (ERV) says that “We know that in everything God works for those who love him.”  The verse doesn’t say he works on everything but in everything.  That means that God is not forcing an outcome of good, but that God is working through all events to move them towards a good outcome.  God is hoping along with humanity for a positive ending, not because he is powerless, but because he put all of Creation under man’s dominion (Genesis 1:26).  A truly good God would not take back a gift or change his mind about who is in charge of this planet.  If you the reader do not like the idea of God being one who hopes and wishes, how do you account for 2 Peter 3:9?  Yes.  I want you to stop now and read it.

I believe in hell.  Sometimes my belief in hell is not in a spiritual, eternal hell, but I believe in hell.  A teenage girl who tries heroine, not realizing how hard of a drug it really is, who spends the rest of her life as an addict who crosses into other self-harming behaviors experiences the literal reality of hell every day.  If Genesis 1:26 is accurate, then this does mean that for a person in these circumstances, I have the power to be able to reach out and love this person, and loving them like Christ would save them from hell.  And this idea about loving others does not stop with people, it should also be applied to our planet.  I have the power to be Jesus and help heaven meet Earth; my only hope is that someone will do this for me when I need it.

Truthfully, I do not have one stinkin’ clue why bad things happen on this planet.  I also don’t understand why they seem to happen (unjustly) more often to people I think are good.  The only thing I can do is consider the situation, how I am viewing it, and ask myself whether I am being influenced by incorrect expectations or assumptions.

 

Ms. Richardson:

 

Earth was created to be good, but the Earth is just one big test. Evil was brought to the Earth when Adam and Eve gave into temptation and ate the apple, which was the creation of sin. Everyday people are tested and put in temptations way, and even if we pass the test and do the right thing why does God still punish us? This is a question that many have asked, but no one really knows the answer.

To help answer the question of why God punishes good people, the question ‘is man naturally good?’ has to be answered. A philosopher by the name Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote a paper on the idea that man is naturally good, but everything that is not natural has corrupted man. This makes a lot of sense because if God is good and everything that comes from him is good, then man has to be naturally good too. What makes man evil is all the temptations and expectations that are in peoples’ lives. For example, when people feel pressure to do things that betray their conscience. The feeling that one knows that what they are doing is wrong is natural, but the pressure that is being put on him to betray his conscience is not. So why doesn’t God stop us from doing the wrong thing? It’s because he gave us free will. Free will means that God gave us the ability to make our own choices whether they are good or bad. God tests us so we can learn from our mistakes, and part of learning is making the wrong decision and dealing with the consequences.

Man is punished for his wrongdoings, which is logical; if you do something wrong you should have to deal with the punishment. So why are good people punished? Of course no one’s perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but the people who try to always do the right thing, and make up for their wrong doings seem to be punished the most. The logic behind why good people have to go through the harshest circumstances baffles me.

I had a cousin, John, who was five-years-old and was the most innocent and kind souled person that I have ever known. He was the type of kid that if he was playing with something, but someone else wanted to play with his toy, he would give his toy to the one who wanted it. He was his sister’s best friend and loved anything that had to do with farming. John just loved life. At four-years-old his parents realized he was having trouble with his vision. When they took John to the doctor they found that he had a brain tumor. As he went through his treatments he never once complained, but then again he wasn’t old enough to realize what was really going on. Time went on and things got worse. Eventually he ended up being in a coma and inevitably passed away.  Ever since I found out that my little cousin had cancer, I couldn’t fathom what that child could have possibly done wrong to deserve what he had to go through.

But that’s the thing about God, a lot of what he does or doesn’t do is all for a reason. Like I said before, bad things or punishments are meant for us to learn from them. This could be why bad things happen to good people, because they are a lesson. Even though it’s hard to understand why a five-year-old was given cancer, my family has gotten stronger from it. After the death of my cousin, my family tries to get together more and we are more involved with each other than we were before. Also, to me, my cousin is an inspiration. He enjoyed life and got all that he could out of it. Even though there isn’t really an answer to why bad things happen to good people, we shouldn’t dwell on the reason why. We should try to take bad situations and learn from them, because God has a reason for his plan; it’s up to us whether we learn from God’s’ plan or not.

 

Voices from this Generation: What is the “gospel”?

The word “gospel” is a derivative – ultimately coming from the Greek word euangelion – which means, “good news.”  In this, the first addition of a dual-perspective blog written by two people trying to find where we stand on matters of the Christian faith, Ms. Richardson and I respond to the question, “What is the ‘Gospel’?” As this is the first part in the series, a coin toss has designated that this week Ms. Richardson has the first say on the matter.

 

Ms. Richardson:

In the Catholic faith the gospel is special because it tells about Jesus as a person and the message he had to tell us. According the gospel in the Bible, while Jesus was on Earth he spread the word of God, which was to let people know what it takes to reach salvation. It’s true that the Bible doesn’t have clear cut step-by-step directions on how to reach salvation; it’s open to interpretation. Even though this is true, you can still look into the reading and find the basis of how God wants us to live so that we can reach eternal life.

To most, being saved means finding Jesus and believing in God because the bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), but there is more to being saved then that. Being saved doesn’t just mean that you opened yourself up to Jesus, but it means that you are following his footsteps as well. To follow his footsteps one should be kind, selfless, honest, and stand up for what is right. When I look at what is considered a “good” Christian, they possess these values. But life is dynamic, and it’s a lot easier to say one should live by these values than it is to actually following through with it.

God gave us free will for a reason, and it’s to make mistakes and learn from them. My personal belief and what I have been taught is that anyone can make it to heaven by having a relationship with God, and as long as they learn from their mistakes and try to change their behavior, so they don’t make the same mistake again. Because God is forgiving, I feel like if one is truly sorry for the wrong they have done then it doesn’t excuse their behavior, but one gets another chance to prove themselves.

The point of following Jesus to be saved is so one can reach the final goal of eternal life. Eternal life is often defined as reaching heaven and living an everlasting life in the presence of God. Getting to heaven is the ultimate goal, but eternal life isn’t something that just starts when one dies. Eternal life can happen for a person right now in their life on Earth. The key to Eternal life on Earth is stated in the verse John 17:3 and it says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Knowing God doesn’t mean just knowing him intellectually, but knowing him on a personal and intimate level. Having this kind of relationship with God isn’t something you have to wait to have in heaven. Trying to get to heaven is more than being forgiven for our sins, but it’s having a strong relationship with God.

The gospel talks about salvation and eternal life, and it was done through the story of Jesus. God gave us the gift of his only son to lead the way and teach us how to live a Christian life. Without Jesus and the gospel, we would not know how to be saved or how to reach eternal life. We would not have the Christian faith without the gospel, because the gospel is the basis of Christianity.

 

Gerrit:

When I was seven years old, I got my first Game Boy.  I became bored with Tetris, Super Mario Bros., and Donkey Kong Land.  As a Star Wars fan, I wanted more than anything the Star Wars game and was convinced that once I had it in my possession, I would need no other game.  When I beat it the first afternoon I had it, that sense of desire for more which I thought I would no longer have to deal with was back before I knew it.  The Church is guilty of turning the Gospel into a product and giving it false packaging.  Ms. Richardson shared what the Gospel is.  I am going to address what I see the Gospel is not.

1.  The Gospel is not a complex series of steps to be followed.

Paul makes it clear in Ephesians what it take to be saved…nothing.  In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he writes: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:8,9).  Grace is something you cannot accept or reject, it just is.

Brennan Manning (who you should ready everything he has ever written on the topic) describes grace as vulgar.  And it is.  It’s vulgar because it is given without merit to all, from Mother Theresa to Hitler.  The Gospel, a declaration of salvation for all of humanity, is something for all.  It’s not about what prayer a person says, how many Bible verses he or she has read, how many times (if any) a person goes to church, or about how many swear words a person said.  A person does not have to believe that the Bible is inerrant or that God is an “agent” in the daily affairs of the planet Earth.

The Gospel is that humanity is saved from itself through grace by faith in Christ crucified and Christ resurrected.

2.  The Gospel is not about the hereafter, but the here(and)after.

Every altar call at every convention, special service, etc. always involves the same two-part sales pitch.  Part B we will look at in #3, but Part A sounds something like this: “Friend, if you choose Jesus today, your place in heaven is assured.  The Bible says ‘The angels rejoice over one soul that comes to the Kingdom.’.”  I have many problems with the whole idea that committing one’s life to the idea of a liberating gospel message is simply fire insurance.  If the “good news” were to be about that, then wouldn’t Jesus have made the centrality of his teachings about how to avoid hell after Earth instead of about bringing the Kingdom to Earth?

Sometimes I struggle to believe in the existence of hell.  Before I get written off as a universalist, let me also state that I also struggle sometimes with believing in the idea of heaven too.  It’s because I can’t see them.  Their existence as real places is not something which can be proven beyond a doubt; what can be proven is “Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:3).  “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).

To be saved does not require the belief in a Heaven OR Hell.  It takes believing that a man named Jesus through his life and death, provided a way for us to experience life and life more abundantly (John 10:10), and life happens NOW while we are living.

3.  The Gospel is not about the satisfaction of our desires (thank you, Peter Rollins).

The word “peace” appears in the NIV translation of the Bible a total 250 times.  If you look up any verse that discusses God’s peace, there is a harmony to any of them.  God says peace will be present in the midst of troubles, not that he will take them away and make life better.  The gospel says nothing about desire being fulfilled because in Jesus, desires are not fulfilled.  Jesus is not some “uber-fulfillment” that meets all desires, but as the very site of desire, abolishes desire so that it becomes impotent.

The gospel is not about Jesus taking our desires (sinful or not) away, but that they are robbed of all their power, which liberates us to live a life of Love.  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born in God and knows God. …. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:7-12).  For at the site of Love is the site of God.

 

Of course, if this were the end of the discussion, then this topic would be closed forever.  This just a beginning.  What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment or share this blog link on Twitter.  Until next time.