Friday, September 12, 2003

Goodbye Johnny Cash

Today is a sad day, the man in black is dead. A man who's music abilities and perspective on life has yet to influence the number of people it will. Go out and buy a Johnny Cash CD this weekend, and wear some black, but not for Johnny, rather for the poor and broken down, the criminal, and the dead. AND go read Cash by Johnny Cash. One of my life dreams is now laid hopeless- to have seen Johnny play music in person would have been amazing. So long Johnny Cash.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Oh please no...

While I was planning on responding to a number of things that Andy and Dusty pointed out, Dusty's last post means that I have only one thing to talk about. I don't care what the goal of the ad campaign is, having Jesus in a Santa suit will primarily inspire in people the belief that instead of asking Santa for material things they should be asking Jesus for them. Plain and simple, that's what the add says. It's the prayer of Jabez book in a picture. There is a second, perhaps more interesting negative reinforcement here as well. I turn it over to my dear friend Robert Capon.

Thanks Jake. here's something I wrote about God and Santa.
"The Messiah whom Jesus' contemporaries expected- and likewise any and all of the messiahs the world has looked to ever since (even, alas, the church's all-too-often graceless, punishing version of Jesus' own messiahship)- are like nothing so much as religious versions of "Santa Clause is coming to town." The words of that dreadful Christmas song sum up perfectly the only kind of messianic behavior the human race, in its self-destructive folly, is prepared to accept: "He's making a list; he's checking it twice; he's going to find out who's naughty, or nice"-and so on into the dark night of all the tests this naughty world can never pass...Jesus, thank God, is not Santa Clause. He will come to the world's sins with no lists to check, no tests to grade, no debts to collect, no scores to settle. He will wipe the handwriting that was against us and nail it to his cross. He will save, not some minusclue coterie of good little boys and girls with religious money in their piggy banks, but all the stone-broke, deadbeat, overextended children of the world whom he, as the Son of man- the holy Child of God, the Ultimate Big Kid, if you plese- will set free in the liberation of his death."

I hate Santa. I hate reinforcing the idea of good behavior in the sacrament of gift giving. Death to Santa. Death to manipulation (if you're good then...) Long live pointless gift giving.

With great love, Jake.

Jesus and Santa???

This is fishy, but it should be worthy of conversation. Perhaps, relating to what Andy just mentioned at the end of his post...

I couldn't get the link to work, Brian if you want to fix this to make it a link that is cool...

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Let Me Clear My Throat...

Actually, let me just clear up a little bit of what I was saying...then after I let the rest of both Jake and Dusty's posts really sink in, I'll hit on some of that (probably in like a year or so...)

I am quite interested in diving into the idea of God's Grace and Silence, but in regards to what I said in my last post let me point out a few things that I may have believed were understood. Scripture is quite clear on what activities Christ Followers are to be participating in. I won't say there are five purposes in our life, but I would say that in searching through the Scriptures we can understand that we are too about reconciling the lost to God and meeting the needs of those around us (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). Now in searching the scriptures and meditating on what they have to say I guess there is not a road map laid out for us, however I do believe that God may speak through these methods. When people ask "what does God want me to do," I want to point them back to 2 Cor 5, or the great Commission and the Great Commandment, and say "I think He's kind of laid that out for what's that mean in your life." Maybe this is too vauge, but understanding that everything we do as Christians we do by the Grace of God, and that anything good living in me is not me at all but Christ who lives in me, I believe that we have to stop looking for "the thing" that God wants us to do, but instead start doing what He's already told us RIGHT WHERE HE'S ALREADY PUT US! Maybe then we are blocked out (like Paul, as Dusty pointed to), or maybe God uses our obedience to further push us along the path. However, if a person asks these questions, is NOT obeying even now, I say they're quite a far distance from what God wants to do...and I don't mean in circumstances or time, but rather in obedience.

Now onto my cliche` of the night. When I posted the verses Jer 19.11-14 I knew Jake would jump all over me. I even wrote something about how I am taking this out of context, but I thought it would be more fun this way...and it is. I do know that this verse is often taken as a comfort verse, "that GOd will bring good will upon my life forever, b/c that's God's job" mindset. I however do not believe that this is a correct interpretation for all the same reasons that Jake says. The part that I fall back on quite frequently is the part I put in bold print, that speaks of finding God when I seek Him with my whole heart. If I am unclear about what God has for my life, if I am not able to participate in the ministry of reconciliation where I am today, I'm guessing that it's not because God's will won't allow it, but rather b/c I am not seeking God with my whole heart. Does this mean that I'm sure that I'll find all the answers that I need. No. It means that even if God is silent, even if He leaves me right where I am for the rest of my life with NO explaination, I know that I will find God (not "His will for my life") when I seek Him with all my heart, and that I can be obedient to that which has been laid out in scripture.

One final note. Jake talked about the fact that I may believe that Jer19.11-14 means that I will live a life of prosperity and purpose in a worldly sense. He went on to talk about failure and loss, even living a life that is not focused on one's individual passions, but is ultimatly successful in the purposes God had for their lives. I would like to say that is exactly how I believe this verse to play out in a life of a Christian today (out of context or not). I think that this assumption is one that is made because of the way this verse has been marketed to the masses as a "promise". However I don't remember a roof, a bed, and three square meals ever being something that we're promised in scripture. It is abundantly clear that prosperity and purpose in regards to the Gospel has ABSOLUTLY nothing to do with financial wealth, security, and 5 year plans. Maybe when we're done talking about God's will we could explore what it means to prosper in regards to living a life that is SOLD out to the truth of the Gospel.

Here comes the Blasphemy Train...

Jake, great post. I can tell you put thought into it, which I think is what we are hoping happens here.

To further discuss this point, however, I will stick by my guns...and throw in a touch of good ol' evangelical theology (because I, too, cannot quite get it out of my system). I am more comfortable saying that I could have just as easily been in "God's will" at Geneva or Waynesburg or Spring Arbor, than saying that this I am positive that of all the things in the world I could be doing, I am absolutely positive that I am doing the one thing that I am suppose to, in regard to my occupation. It seems to me that people that try something and then claim "it is not God's will" may be mistaken as well. What leads people to draw these conclusions. If it's not comfortable or easy, does that mean it is not God's will. Or on the other hand, just because it is comfortable or easy, it is God's Will? What do we have to measure God's will in specific circumstances in our lives?

I believe that God will hinder something from us if it is not His will (such as when Paul was hindered from visiting certain churches at specific times), but we should still try to work towards it if we believe it could be God's will. Possibly God's will is just to learn from the process of attempting to discover God's will. Should we be throwing out fleeces for God to show us his will??? Well, that may have just been more examples of what I already had been saying, but I think it relates to Jake's post because I think at the heart is how do we know when we are doing God's will? I am not comfortable with the concept of Christian hedonism (Piper), but I think the things that we are gifted in are often things God wants to use for His purposes. See the life of Henri Nouwen to see someone who went to a place where his gifts were being "under utilized" from an outsider perspective, but the change on the inside with him was immeasurable, which I think illustrates Jake's point as well.

I guess I have gotten all the way down here just to say, the question is not just how to discern God's will for the future, but when were in a situation is comfort the best measuring stick of it??

That's it for now,


Andy said something that I don't think he meant to say and then used a verse of scirpture in a way that I thought would be worth adding as a dimension to the discussion.

"I think people spend way too much time saying, "what does God want ME to do,"

and then later;

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD , "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD."

Although a popular verse in evangelical Christianity, used frequently to comfort a believer struggling with understanding what God is doing with their life, the original intent of the verse is dealing with the elected people of Israel. That being the case, God had a specific plan for the people of Israel, one he directly revealed to them on a very consistent basis; to create an intimate relationship with them (which they already had when Jeremiah prophisies) and to bless the whole world through them. Thus, for the Israelite, the word of the Lord is encouragement here, knowing that while the people of Israel may currently be ridiculed and viewed as the lowest of society, Yahweh will indeed be doing great things, prosperous things for them.

Now then, two points of aplication.

1. Twisting Andy's words to fit the context of this verse, where should a vision of God's will be focused? According to this verse there is an emphasis on God implimenting his will on behalf of a community. Thus, it may be best used to point out to the church that God has a plan to use the body of Christ to exhibit himself to the world around them. So, in this sense, Andy is right to say that we should move beyond the entire What's God's Will for ME? question, not necessarily ignoring the first but at least not limitting it to that. What is God's will for the American church? What is God's will for Huntington College? These are interesting quesitons that seem to lead to have all the complexities of the individualized question.

2. God's specific plan for Israel was for them to be prosporous and to be the people through whom Christ would come. They were to usher in the king. To use this verse to say that God has specific plans to prosper anyone else is filacious. There is, however, a president for insight into our conversation. According to this passage we are promised to find God if we seek after him, yet this does not make any promises on God revealing his will to us.

Let me further explain. It sounds in both of your posts that you're hesitent to believe that God indeed has something that he wants me to do. Rather, God is more concerned with me seeking after him and maximizing the abilities and passions he has given me. I disagree. This is, if anything, a lurking sense of a cultural deism and an overendulgment of freedom. It feels like we as evangelicals are saying that God has very little interest in what steps I actually take with my life and that so long as I'm seeking after him it is impossible that I would do anything other than what he desires.

To Dusty's very practical and perhaps most wise suggestion that we should seek after God and seek after our passions and needs around us- While this is perhaps the easiest way to live life feeling as though we are completing God's will, what about the possibility that God desires us to play a seemingly meaningless part in life that is only meaningless in our immediate circumstances. It is, indeed, possible that God would desire me to do otherwise then that which I'm passionate about simply to bring about something much larger then what my passion fulfilled life would fulfill.

To Andy's at least refrencing to the idea that God has plans of prosperity and happiness for our lives I believe that I can point out many circumstances where exactly what God has called individuals to is suffering and failure. While sometimes these failures are wraught so that the individual can experience true success, often they may have a "bigger good". This, then, confirms the idea that God works all things to the good but denies that he is working all of my life to my own personal good.

What am I getting at? It seems like the easiest answers to this question are unsatisfying. On the one hand I am entirely displeased with a viewpoint that says "whatever happens is God's will" yet on the other hand I feel like saying "so long as I seek after God I will be in his will" is almost short changing God having a specific plan that includes the sort of specific planning as seen in the Gospel retellings of Jesus' life. I think that both Andy and especially Dusty have done a good job at showing how we live out a life seeking God's will but have presented a limited perspective on what God may in fact be willing. I believe that chasing down an idea of what God wants me specifically to do seems foolish compared to just seeking Jesus, that is until life puts us at points where these decisions must be made. Then I find that following after Jesus fails to provide the clarity of God's calling that I desire. I suppose that this is where the conversation splits into two other topics- God's silence and God's grace. For whatever reason, if God is desiring specific things from my life he is not very obvious about that and further we must believe that God is gracious toward our failure to comply with what he may be desiring us to do when we fail to follow on that. Enough for now, sorry for the long post.

Monday, September 08, 2003

I'm not really sure what to say about God's will. This is something that I don't really think through enough I would guess. Here are my thoughts though. I think people spend way too much time saying, "what does God want ME to do," as if God is going to lay out a "third testament of Jesus Christ" that is just for me. I believe that God's will is that we particpate in the ministry of reconciliation, and that He'll direct our paths as we go. I don't think that we'll ever find the answer by just sitting still. I think that we must be actively pursuing what God has already laid out for us, rather than sitting back complaining about not knowing what God has in store for me. I don't really know if I'll ever know if God works from the "I've got one specific path marked out for you" or "as long as you're pursuing Me, it's cool" camp, it's really hard for me to say with any sense of conviction. I do fall back on this quite frequently though...
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD , "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD." Jer 19.11-14

Thursday, September 04, 2003

God's Will

This is an interesting question, and I am not sure I will do it much justice. However, one place in scripture where it makes a statement about God's will is I Thessalonians 5:16-18, where it says pray continually and be joyful, this is the will of God...That is a paraphrase, but I think this relates to God being more concerned with who we are as people then what titles or positions we assume in our lives. Is there only one place I could be working right now and be "in the center of God's Will"? I don't believe so, however, it is kind of silly to look at it like that because we only have the ability to be in one place at a time, so how do you test it?

As far as selecting a career or whatever, I think there are tell tale signs that are given in our personal make-up. There is that quotation about your ministry being where your deepest passion meets the world's deepest need. I believe that God has given us interests and abilities that if we seek ways to develop and use those we will find a place to live out God's will. Relational ministry, genuineness in relationships, and living in community are very important to me. So I took my experiences in youth ministry, matched it with the needed education to be respected in the field of Student development, and bam>> Here I am living with 140 men, developing relationships, challenging my brothers to think, and encouraging them to minister to those around them. Am I in God's will? I think so. However, I still need to pray continually and strive to express the joy that I have found in my relationship with Christ...