Friday, February 26, 2016

Probing God

So to wrap up that last blog, its time for Know thy God.

A lot of this has to do with my post just a little a while ago, about asking questions. The key is that you cannot let questions about God, the Bible, souls, Jesus, or salvation go unanswered. These questions are more important than any other questions there are; these questions deal with eternity.

That's kinda a while.

And you have to know what's going to be happening for that while. It's not the kinda thing you can just put off for later; "Oh, I'll just think about whether or not I'll be around for forever some other time, it doesn't really sound important." That's clearly ridiculous.

And it's exactly what Satan wants. He wants you to be complacent, and just accept things as they come. He wants you to think that eternity is a problem that can be left for later -- you know, after you type that paper, or beat that level, or text that friend.

But it can't.

I don't think any question about God is too small or too big (other than the patently ridiculous, such as the rock He can't move or whatever).

Do you wonder if animals have souls? Seek an answer. You may not find a clear one, but to just ignore the question is very similar to what many do about human souls.

Do you wonder about how the Trinity really works? Seek answers. I really don't like when people say, "I will never understand x about God!" because it can seem like they are dodging questions. They aren't necessarily, and there are certainly things we cannot truly understand about God, but that is no excuse not to try. After all, "Nothing is impossible through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).

That is why I like to theorize about time (see my post about the time/space bubble). I cannot on this Earth come to understand exactly how time works, but I can progress closer to God's truth about time. Just because the ideal is impossible does not give anyone an excuse not to strive towards it.

So don't let anyone tell you a question about God is too small or too big, or unimportant. If it concerns the nature of the all-powerful, eternal, omnipresent God, then it's worth seeking an answer. If you seek in prayer and in wisdom, the Counselor given to us, the Hagios Pnuema, the Spirit that lives in us, can lead us into truth, and knowledge of The Truth.

Song of the Day: The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Realizing Why

I'm going to expand upon something I said this morning, when we recapped Vision4Life in chapel.

For those who don't know, Vision4Life is a program Concordia does every year, where we split up into guy/girl groups, then go out and serve somewhere for a day. While the guys are serving, the girls stay at CA and hear some messages, have worship time, and play games that require teamwork and cooperation. The next day, we switch, and the girls go out and serve while the guys stay at CA.

Then, on Thursday we have an extended chapel, in which we have an open-mic session, meaning anyone who wants to can go up and speak about something God has done in their life, or hard times they've gone through, things they've learned in the past two days, or shout-outs to people they appreciate.

I ended up going up to the mic first, and I said something that, quite unintentionally, helped to set the stage for the rest of those who were led to speak.

Basically, I briefly covered three things that I have found to be of paramount importance. They are, in short, Know thyself, know others, and know thy God.

Know thyself
The first one is "know thyself" from the ancient Greek saying, "gnothi seauton". You have to know who you are, and more importantly, why you are who you are. Examine the things you do, and figure out why you do them. This doesn't mean you second guess yourself, but try to know. Why did I get angry at that thing? Why did I respond with sarcasm? Why do I avoid certain people? Why am I afraid of what people think?

Don't be harsh on yourself, just try and honestly answer those questions. Do you respond with sarcasm because it's simply funny (that is a valid possibility!)? Did you get offended by that comment because it was actually cruel? Do you fear what people think because you wish to be the best you can be, or could it be that you've never known acceptance?

If you know yourself, then you can begin to change yourself, and shape yourself into the person God wants you to be. If you leave these questions unanswered, then you'll be trying to build a house without knowing what the foundation is made of. You might even end a sentence with a preposition.

Know others
This comes next, because it flows right out of knowing yourself. Take those same questions that you asked yourself, and apply them to others. Is someone loud and obnoxious? Maybe think about if they've gone through intensely difficult times, and are trying to find a way to cope. Does someone always look at the negative side? Maybe they've been continually disappointed, and fear having their hopes dashed one more time.

Now, you shouldn't assume you know the answers to these questions unless you've heard the person themselves confirm them. Your reactions to different experiences can certainly give you insight into why others might act the way they do, but two people's experiences are never exactly the same.

The key is that you ask the question, at least in your own head (it may be slightly rude to go up to someone and ask, "Hey do you do x because you've been terribly hurt?"). If you ask the question, you will find it much more difficult to judge that person. And, if you end up knowing them more deeply, then you will be able to truly love them much more easily.

Jesus commanded us to love one another as ourselves. If we can seek to truly understand other people, then we can truly begin to love one another. To love someone, you don't technically have to know them, but if you do know them, then you can discern how to love them best. If they are antisocial because they simply like having time alone, then you might love that person differently than someone who is antisocial because they've been hurt.

Know thy God can wait until next post -- as the most important part of the list, it deserves a bit more.

Song of the day: Start Somewhere by TobyMac

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Problem with Bernie Sanders

Here's the thing:

I like everything Bernie Sanders says. Free college? Sounds awesome! $15 minimum wage? Hey, I'll probably have a minimum wage job in the coming months, I'd like that extra cash! Getting big money out of politics? That sounds fair to me. Equality for everyone? Of course I want that.

However, I don't think most people realize what the fundamental issue is behind everything Bernie says. It's not that he's a 'socialist' or that he's old, or that his speculation tax won't work, or whatever.

I propose that in fact, it has nothing to do with his policies at all.

It has to do with worldview.

Okay, into a little background. Last semester, I took a college Introduction to Literature course, in which we read Red Plenty. It is basically a 400 page group of stories about communist Russia, and how the Russian government aspired to an ideal but failed miserably. At the same time, I took an advanced Readings in Theology course. In that, we talked a lot about worldview, and how a messed up worldview can lead to a lot of other issues. In How Now Shall We Live, Chuck Colson suggests that there is a fundamental worldview issue that has invaded our world today. I connected these two classes, and came to a realization about the underlying reasons why communism will always fail, and what this pervasive worldview is.

It has to do with human nature. Today, many people believe that human nature is basically good. As a philosophy, this is generally called Humanism. A lot of this in the modern era started in the 1700's, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. Many people like to think that, as a whole, humans are good, and that they naturally will be good. They believe that society, money, lack of education, or traumatic events are what make them do evil.

Don't agree that this is everywhere? Then ask yourself - why do we always try and explain away the bad? Someone murders? Oh, they had a bad childhood. A father leaves his family? Oh, he had a mental disorder. A gunman shoots up a school? Oh, society failed him. Yet no one tries to explain acts of great goodness! I  mean, why would they? It's human nature, isn't it? No one looks at a person like Mother Theresa and says she has a mental disorder. They say things like, "Faith in humanity restored!" as if it was what all humans were naturally meant to do.

This, in fact, is the philosophy that gives rise to socialism.

Capitalism, and America, is founded on the idea that man is inherently evil. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, which he used to defend the Constitution, "Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without restraint."

Capitalism is built on the idea that people will be greedy, and try and cheat one another. However, under the free market system, the goal is for this cheating to balance out. For example, if one person tries to raise prices to an unfair level, another will lower theirs and benefit.

However, socialism does not conform to this fundamental truth about human nature. Socialism tries to say that, if we just set up society correctly, people will naturally fall in line and work together for the common good. Give them free college, and they'll tackle the big issues. Raise their wages, and they won't waste the money.

This truth can be found in the Bible, but it can also be found in human history. All of human history is plagued by evil. Egypt was screwy, the Greeks were sickening, the Romans watched people get eaten by lions, the Middle Ages were a disaster, the Catholic church started the Crusades, the French Revolution was... revolting... Even America, who some believe to be the greatest country ever, had slaves and destroyed millions of natives.

And Bernie tries to come in and say, "If we just throw off the mantle of the rich oppressors... If we just educate everyone... If we just do this... we will be good!"

I wish it was that easy. I wish, if we just set people up, that they would just do things right. I wish that solving our issues was as easy as educating people. But what do educated people do? They flock to Wall Street. They build the atomic bomb. They scam those who don't know enough to stop them. I'm not saying they always do these things - but education does not make a moral person - just a smart one.

So, in summation:

My problem with Bernie is that his misconception about human nature causes many of his ideas to be flawed, no matter how much I wish they weren't.

Song of the Day: I Will Arise and Go to Jesus - Michael Card's version (I think this is close to the version I recently heard at Bethel University's Bethel service)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

? <-- The Backbone of Intelligence and True Faith

I think a lot of people view Christians as this blind group of people who never question their faith. People think that Christians are just spoon fed beliefs as children, and eventually that's all they know. Yet these same people will often go through life without ever actually asking the question, "Is God real?" and if they do, they already have an answer before they begin to seek one. It's like if I were to ask, "What is 2+2" and only accept 3 as the answer.

Asking questions is everyone's most powerful tool, believer or non-believer. We must ask questions. If we sit in the pews, and simply accept everything the guy up there says, we will never really know truth. We may hear it or see it, but it will never really be within us. If we sit in science class, and just accept that nothing condensed into everything randomly exploded and became something, we won't seek out any other possibilities.

These questions can, and should, spread across all sorts of topics. Did Jesus exist? How did the universe start? What is the evidence for evolution? What should the pattern be for marriage? Does God love everyone? When should we be baptized? How does time work?

Now, I'm not saying you should call into question everything a teacher/pastor/leader says. But you should certainly investigate for yourself. The Bible has answers, science has answers, friends have answers, parents have answers, pastors have answers, teachers have answers... Answers come from a variety of places.

But ultimately, they all came from God, just as all truth does.

One important reason we must ask questions about what we believe is so that we are not surprised by them when someone else presents them. If someone asks about the validity of the Scriptures, and you have never asked that yourself, you may lose a chance to defend your faith, or your own faith might be damaged. If someone asks about the Resurrection, and you've never explored the history behind it, you may be at a loss.

The bottom line is that we must stop letting others determine what we believe, whether they are Christian, Atheist, Muslim, or politicians, and we must start thinking for ourselves. God gave us this incredible mind - let's use it to know Him and His truth.

John 16:13 "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come."

Song of the Day: Wake Up Sleeper by Gungor