Friday, August 26, 2011

Grey Areas

A friend of mine asked me the other day to explain what I meant when I said that 'you need to study religion to understand all of the grey areas.'  I don't have a perfect memory of saying this, since it was at a really long lunch when he and I talked about it, but I think I was mainly talking about how much overlap there is between the religions I have studied. All of them, Buddhism and Hinduism included. I think that religions are the way mankind tries to understand our infinite God. I think all religions have a glimpse of the God we love and want to glorify, and in that way it is hard to see them as 100% wrong. That is what I meant by grey areas. Growing up we were essentially told that Christianity is right and anything else is totally wrong and is (depending on who you listen to) evil. When you start to learn about those “wrong” religions, it is easy to see instances where they get it right. Look at the faithful prayer seen in Islam for example, or the importance of denying yourself in Buddhism.

While these are grey areas they are not necessarily proof that the religions are correct. Once you accept that every other religion could be wrong it is easy to see that we as humans may have distorted the real mission/passion/purpose of Christ. We tread in very dangerous water when we think that we have it all figured out. Our pride can get in the way of our ability to see where we have gone off track. When we as humans and religious people called “to be and make disciples” go off track, we can get in the way of what it is that God is trying to accomplish in and through us.

I know I probably sound like I am straying from God, but let me assure you that I am not. I have come to recognize that God moves in the grey areas in my life, and in the world. Take the world’s reaction to the Japan earthquake/tsunami for example; many countries rushed to the aid of Japan in that time of crisis. We all, as humans, seem to inherently feel compassion for those in situations that are worse than our own. I don’t think that is a coincidence. I think that is one of the ways we were made in God’s image. But God’s image is not as black and white as some Christians (read Muslim, Jews, Hindus, etc) would have you think.

God is bigger than any one religion or worldview. I believe that Christianity is the closest to the Truth in the lineup of all religions. That does not mean that I believe we have it all right. We have a lot that we, as American Christians (and I'm assuimg other Christians as well), do wrong and don’t understand. But we are only human. We are limited in our understanding and in our ability to see God’s master plan.
Sorry I got super preachy. Sometimes it happens and I can’t make it stop.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Time to Slow Down

This week has been really great. Last Friday I went to Springfield and got to spend so quality time with friends I have been missing recently.  It is hard seeing all of the statuses about going back to Witt, but I know I can always go visit.  On Saturday the family went up to Mansfield and visited Grandma and Poppie.  It was good to see them, but nursing homes make me super uncomfortable.  I spent the majority of my time reading The Help.  It is a really engaging book, and I enjoyed reading it.  Sunday was the Senior Send-off at the Gathering (our High School youth group).  Mom, Dad and Alex came to support Sarah since it was her last one.  I didn't do much on Monday or Tuesday.  Wednesday was the Impact (the Middle School youth group) and from that the Youth Team left for Marsha's Mom's lake house.  We spent like a solid 24 hours with each other both working and playing.  I am totally burnt and in quite a bit of pain from that right now, but it was totally worth it.  I am excited for what is in store for the youth groups in the coming year.  Today I took little brother to his piano lesson and went to hangout with Andrea M. at Kitamu Coffee.  Around 8 we were bored so we went to Lytham to see if it was open so we could cook in the kitchen.  It was, however when we got back from our epic trip to Giant Eagle it was no longer unlocked.  I called Doug and he let us use the Kitchen at Mill Run and gave us his key.  Andrea and I stopped at Michelle M's place and picked her up on the way to the church.  We "broke into" the church (as Andrea likes to say since it sounds badass) and made tacos.  Before we knew it it was 11pm.  So we cleaned up the kitchen and I drove Michelle home, dropped Doug's keys off and took Andrea back to Kitamu where she left her car.  It's crazy to me that we spent like seven and a half hours with each other.  It didn't feel like that long to me.  It was a wonderful way to spend my Friday night.

On the retreat I had a pretty strong realization that I need to slow down.  Somewhere along the lines I have become a "Martha" when I really desire to be a "Mary".  I feel like I need to do things and be places and be really scheduled to be doing what God wants, but in reality I just need to enjoy who God is.  It's like I am so busy with my life that I don't really notice what is going on around me and the way God is moving around me. 

Sometimes I fear our youth group is that way as well.  We are well intentioned, but sometimes it's like we are so scheduled and focused that we miss opportunities where we could see God moving.  I really don't want that for the students.  Some of the coolest times in my life have been those times when God's movement was practically tangible.  Those times where I could see God moving have shaped who I am, and I really want to students to have that as well.  It may be time for our youth group to slow down and take it one event at a time.  I don't really know how do-able that is, but I would be nice if we could. 

I think I'm going to start writing my prayers again.  That forces me to slow down and really focus on the words I'm saying.  I miss doing that, so I'm going to go back to it. 

Well, the sun will be up in about an hour, so I should really probably sleep before we go back up to Mansfield tomorrow.  Good night!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Love Wins

So, I just finished reading Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell.  I really appreciated what he had to say.  It is interesting, because a lot of Christians have taken the message of the book as saying the Bell doesn't believe in Hell.  However that is not true.  Bell seems to believe in Hell, he just believes that God can change a person's heart when they are there.  This idea of a postmortem conversion is one that I agree with.  Earlier this year I tried to articulate this position to friends, but none of them really understood what I was saying.  I can't really blame them for thinking I had gone off the deep end; this is not a commonly talked about theology.  At least not until recently.  Bell's book argued what I have been thinking for the last year or so. 

I'm not uncomfortable with the idea of Hell.  I know that it has to exist, because my understanding is one of a duality.  Like Newton said, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.  I think the same is true for Heaven.  If Heaven exists, and I'm mostly sure that is does, then there has to be a place opposite of that as well.  This place must be the ultimate bad place, since heaven is the ultimate good.  So, that is not something that makes me uncomfortable.  What does make me uncomfortable is when we limit God's ability to save us through the sacrifice of his son. 

God can do whatever he wants.  I have a really hard time with people saying that Jesus, who conquered death, can't go into Hell and give people another chance.  The idea that God would accept defeat that easily does not line up with the parables we see in the Bible.  When the woman loses one of her gold coins, what does she do?  Does she look around for a bit then give up?  No!  She searches until she finds that coin.  When the shepherd lost his sheep he leaves the rest of his flock and does not come back until that little lamb is on his shoulders, safely home.  Why would Jesus not do the same? 

Overall, Bell presents and argument that I do agree with.  I will admit that sometimes his writing style is a bit much.  I.
Seriously, use complete sentences.  It's not that hard.  And I do agree with one of my friends who found it entirely obnoxious that pretty much the entire first chapter was made up of questions.  Be that as it may, they were good questions.  So all in all I definitely liked the book.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Music I've Been Digging Recently

I've I have really been digging two albums I bought recently.  The one, The Medicine, is by John Mark McMillan.  The songs are so good and seem so raw at times.  I really can feel myself connecting with his worship in a way I haven't done in a while.  I totally dig his song Skeleton Bones, and when I heard Death in His Grave and How He Loves at Soma last year I fell in love with the songs.  I also love the Youtube video of How He Loves. 

This is how I wish we worshiped in our churches.  The people jumping around completely filled with the joy that comes with the knowledge of the fact that God really truly loves us.  If more of us really understood that I think we would do more than just raise our hands when we worship.  Seriously, it's awesome!

The other album that's been rocking my world is Beautiful Things by Gungor.  I've written about the title track before (here), but now that I have listened to the whole cd, I love this band.  Like John Mark McMillian, they are really hitting me where I am right now.  I love it!  One song, The Earth Is Yours, has and awesome video of the band in a forest doing an acoustive version of it.  Check it out below.
Incredible.  So yeah.  That's the music that has been rocking my ear drums recently.  I hope you dig it too.  Anyone listening to anything good these days?  I'm always looking for new music to check out.  :)