Broken-down Poetry: September 2008


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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Everything, everything.

A light and fluffy blog because I don't feel like thinking.

It's been a long day. There is a reason why most people avoid 7:50 classes. I understand that every morning when I hobble out of bed and nearly fall into the shower, turn on my Jon Foreman music, and doze off on the plexiglass shower door. Trust me, I regret my class schedule every day.

But, before I get too far off on a tangant, I wanted to share with you all my long-term goal as a college student. A mission statement, if you will. (Side note: the concept is there, but the rhetoric hasn't been perfected.)
I want my college experience--my going-to-class, homework-ing, studying, note-taking--to be my spiritual act of worship.

This is what I am doing, and whatever I do should be for God's glory. Thus, I am going to worship God via my devotion to my studies.

Seem a little twisted? It's not, really. God wants me to live to my full potential (my favorite NLT verse: "I want to be all that Jesus Christ saved me for and wants me to be"). Right now, I am a student. All that I can be right now is a follower of Christ and a student. ("Student" is pretty broad, really. But let's not go there. I'm tired, remember?)

So there.

What does that look like? It looks like me studying for my COM115 class, no matter how much I don't want to. It means reading the goshawful OTH book and taking notes on it. (Bleh.)

Anyway, just some food for thought. I'll end with a verse from The Message. (Sorry, Paul.)
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him." Romans 12:1

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why do you believe?

I'm debating on what I should talk about. What's been on my mind lately has been relativism. But I don't think I'm ready for THAT blog. I have a lot to think about still. Don't worry, I'll get back to it eventually.

In light of relativism, however, I do want to explore the age old question of Why Do I Believe What I Believe? Because, to be fair, I can't tell you what I believe about relativism before I understand why I believe what I do.

So back to the basics.

I believe Jesus is the Son of God because...

As Pastor Paul would allude, there are different stages we're at in our Christian journey: Childhood, Adolescent, Young Adulthood and Adulthood. Each stage answers that italicized question differently.

The Child:I believe Jesus is the Son of God because the Bible says so and my mommy and daddy told me that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and they said that if I say I'm sorry I will go to heaven and heaven is really cool. My Daddy said there I can eat aaallll the cookies I want. I love cookies. And cookie monster. I love Sesame Street.

Interpretation: The Christian child (and I'm saying that they're a physical child as they are spiritually) believes Jesus as their Savior because their parents did first, or possibly a Sunday school teacher or camp counselor. They do not go "searching for Truth" as a teenager or adult would--it's presented before them. I think it's fair to say that a seven-year-old will put his trust in Jesus if his parents told him to. That's the nature of a child: to believe what Mom and Dad say.

Also, a spiritual child (I'm going beyond the physical age of a child, but one that is new to Christianity) tends to have limited knowledge of Christianity. Their focus may be on salvation only or the forgiveness of sins, rather than any more complex Christian concepts.

The Adolescent: I believe Jesus is the Son of God because the Bible says he is and I have put my trust in him. So far I haven't had any reason to doubt him. Most of my friends believe in God too, and they go to my youth group. The ones who don't believe in him I try to get to go to youth group. I love learning about deeper stuff in the Bible like eschatology, the gifts of the spirit, angels, prophecy, and those crazy stories in Judges about fat kings and women with tent pegs. Sometimes I don't like youth group because it's dull and the music sucks. My friends and I like to come up with ideas on how to change it so that it won't be dry, but that doesn't really work.

Interpretation: The adolescent Christian (again, I'm speaking of age rather than just spiritual maturity) has an understanding of what they believe more than a child. They understand the basics and then some. Whenever there are trials, there seem to be only two responses: they either run to a friend or youth pastor for Christian guidance (and thus stick with the faith) or search for God in something different than religion (drugs, sex, friends, video games, pop-culture, etc). I don't want to say that all teenagers' faith is flighty, but even I had to rely on my peers and my mentors to keep me from falling from Christ. I needed Tom to remind me who I am (a leader!) and Ashley to keep me from willful sins.

A teenage Christian's spiritual undulation tends to reflect that of the youth group. Pastor Paul said this to the college age group, and though I hate to admit it, I think it's true. When one person felt dry, the rest of the group did. I remember Ash and I wasted hours of sleep talking about how we were going to "fix" youth group because it felt so dry. Everyone felt dry. And when we were on spiritual highs, everyone else was as well.

The Young Adult: I believe Jesus is the Son of God because not only does the Bible say so, but because I have committed myself to him, and I have seen the work he has done in my life. I don't always understand why I still sin sometimes or why evil is so prevalent in the world, but I will still rely on Christ. Sometimes it's annoying that I can't logically explain or understand God, but I guess that's where faith comes in. It's hard, but I'm going to trust Him anyway.

Interpretation: A young adult Christian has a firm foundation for what they believe. They have let God move in their life enough to see it in themselves, not just in the ebb and flow of the youth group. Young adults have the questions; they know they don't always have the answers. Some may struggle with always needing logical evidence for what they believe (i.e. ME) or others struggle with understanding why bad things happen to good people, but they are okay with not having all the answers. (Or, well, mostly okay.) They ask the questions, look to the spirit for guidance, but rely on faith to get them through.

And so comes the "Adult Christian." But frankly, I am not one and I don't think I could explain thoroughly because of that. I could make some guesses as to what an adult Christian is like: one that has solidified their faith enough to accept answer-less questions, or one that can expand other spiritual "age groups" to understand others. I don't know. If you have answers, feel free to comment.

I guess I just want to understand where I am at and where I am heading. I want to know my questions are normal. I want to know why I believe what I believe. Is it because of my Sunday school teachers, or my youth group, or truly because I believe it?


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Liberal Christianity

Let me start off with a verse: "It is God's will that you should be sanctified..." (I Thessalonians 4:3a)

We have talked a lot about this verse this week, in chapel and in this (goshawful) book I'm reading for World Changers. God wants us to live a blameless life, free of willfull (intention) sins. That makes sense.

God can and will save us even if we sin intentionally (which is where Grace comes in), but God really, truly desires us to be free from all sins. Especially ones we realize. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." (James 4:13)

So let's talk about what I call "Christian Liberalism": the act of doing what culture says is fine, but many Christians have problems with. Not the blatenly sinful (adultery, murder, unforgiveness, rebellion) but the grey areas. The nitty gritty.

What about cussing? To me it's a personal conviction not to cuss. I don't like it. I don't think Christians should cuss. But honestly, to use Todd's argument, the Bible doesn't specifically say "no cussing." And Jesus does call the Pharisees names. But it's not a heaven vs. hell issue. Words hold power, as my COM 115 prof tells me, but to be honest, saying heck instead of hell isn't much better. Think about it.

In Jacque and Ricky's Bible study we talked a lot about how one man's convictions may not be another ones, like my issue with cussing. I, for one, have no problem watching R rated movies. I like a lot of them. But I know people who won't watch them or are very careful in choosing what to watch.

Who's right?

I think about back in King David's time and how men practiced polygamy. I think it's interesting that God never made a law about that. (Or did he?) I mean, God created one man to be with one woman, right? But good ole Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Is that practicing sexual purity illustrated in the New Testament? Not so much. Did God just "approve" because culture did?

That I don't have the answers for, but it makes me want to look at issues like cussing and movie watching in the same way. What makes sin a sin if God doesn't step in and tell us one way or another? Can we really just rely on personal convictions?

There is a Christian journalist I greatly respect, who after years of being a youth pastor then a writer, decided to move away and pursue a job as a bartender. Yes, a bartender.

Since I have built up respect for him, so to speak, I don't see anything wrong with his career choice. So what if he serves people alcohol for a living? But I know some people would be morally against this.

But what if this guy used it as a ministry? Or what if he's just surrendering to the culture of this age?

Who knows, and frankly, who cares?

I guess my question is, where is the line? How holy does God want us to be? Perfect, I know that answer, but what makes one thing acceptable for one but not another? Can we justify "cultural sins" like polygamy in the OT days or, say, pirating music in ours?

I'm just asking the questions, I don't really have an answer, nor do I expect my audience to give me one either.

Maybe I'll come back with more in a few days.

Until then,


Saturday, September 6, 2008

First things first

First thing's first.

Indiana Wesleyan's "Verse of the Year" is Matthew 6:33: "Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and all these things will be given to you."

On our first chapel, Umfundisi talked about how we need to get our priorities straight. What's consuming our time? Are we worrying about who's on Facebook instead of schoolwork? Are we watching volleyball games out the window instead of reading our Bibles? (Heh. Heh.)

I decided to commit myself to this, signing a piece of paper and everything.

Then Wednesday night happened.

I am having a blast at college, really, I am. But I had a rough night on Wednesday. I was writing my first paper (yes, it was loads of fun) and out of nowhere my "c" key just started typing. I had random c's all over my letter to Shane Claiborne. (And yes, that was my assignment.)

It was 11:20 at night. I had class at 7:50am.

So I took the key off.

In hindsight, not the best idea. I have taken keys off before--I had a sticky m a while back--but usually I get the suckers back on. This stupid c would not go back on.

I spent a half hour trying to get the thing back on. I failed.

The next day I went to IT. Right when it closed.

The c's kept appearing. The key was still off.

And God said to Lauren, "First things first."

I let things escalade too much. I got the wrong book for a class, I need more school supplies, my ice tray can't fit in my freezer, this chinese food is too salty!, c's fall off... and I make a big deal out of them all. Oh please. Get over it, girl.

This is my first semester of college. My goal is to not be overwhelmed with stress, to be on top of my homework so I never have to pull all-nighters or cram for tests.

For those of you in school or have full-time jobs, I challenge you to do the same. Don't let the little things get you down. "Don't sweat the small stuff," as they say. When you start to feel overwhelmed, talk to God. He values rest. He created a whole day for it, actually.

Forget about all the c-keys in your life, keeping you up late worrying. It's not worth it. Trust God.

First things first.