Friday, February 16, 2007

What is our Foundation?

If you haven't read the book pictured to the right, "The Secret Message of Jesus" by Brian McLaren, I would highly recommend. I'm currently only about halfway into the book so maybe I should wait until I'm finished with it to fully recommend it, however I can't imagine me not feeling any different once I'm finished then I do now. The reason I've fallen in love with this book, and with most of McLarens writings that I've read so far, is because in McLarens books I find a man who is struggling with many of the same things that I am.
Much like McLaren I have really been struggling with the American churches concepts of Jesus, salvation, faith, and Christianity in general. McLaren describes this struggle in another of his books, "A New Kind of Christian". As a pastor he was quickly getting burned out because of the fine line he had to walk as a leader of a church who was having these struggles. He felt as though he was not allowed to question many of these issues, so he felt like he was merely going through the motions. And that is a feeling that I can definitely understand. Not that I'm at the point where I'm going through the motions with my involvement in church, but I do feel like in American Evangelical Christianity we are not allowed to question some of the tough issues of our faith. We are merely supposed to accept them as true and if we even begin to have doubts we are immediately thrown under the bus as a heretic. Ok, that might be slightly extreme. I feel like in order for me to truly understand why I believe what I believe I must go through a time of questioning, and perhaps even doubting many of the tough issues.
One of my major questions about modern Christianity is what are we really following. I fear that somehow over the centuries we've replaced Jesus with our Christian doctrines. Without realizing it we've allowed Christianity to be our God. I'm someone who highly respect the ancient Christian doctrines. I find the creeds immensly interesting. I love the fact that I can read them and connect myself with generations of Christians that go on before me. Anyone who knew me in college knows that I love theology as well. Calvin, Grudem, Wesley, Wright, Bruce. . . I love to study the teachings of these men. I think that our systematic theologies are vital to sharpening our faith. I love to debate issues such as end times, predestination, creation, and cannonicity. The problem is that somehow I lost my view of Jesus in all of this. Somehow Jesus became irrelavant to my faith, as crazy as that sounds.
I see this as a major problem in the church right now. McLaren describes it as putting together a puzzle. We have all the pieces, which would be the Bible, and particularly the words of Christ. But we're having difficulty putting them together correctly. Some just dont seem to fit. They're shaped wrong, or the colors just dont seem to line up right. So we start to tryo to force pieces together, or maybe we try to trim the edges to make them fit, or perhaps at times we may even discard a piece or two altogether because it just doesnt seem to fit our puzzle. But the problem is not in the pieces. The problem is that we are looking at the wrong box cover. Instead of elevating the pieces, the words of Christ, we have elevated our theologies (the box cover) and our religion. We are trying to view Christs words in light of our theology rather then the other way around.
For a couple of years, it got so bad that I rarely even read the Gospels. Jesus' teachings simply did not make sense. I stuck with Pauls writings mostly. And i want to be careful how I say this because I definitely believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, but even in reading Pauls epistles I think we need to remember that Christs words are supreme. We must always use his words as the foundation of our understanding of everything. The problem is we start at everything but Christs teachings and then try to force them into the tight little places we've designated for them. I have become much like the foolish builder and built my house upon the sand. Christ is not my foundation. And I fear the same is true for the church. And we are experiencing the storms that Christ promised would come. Where do we get our understanding of how we handle issues such as homosexuality, war, poverty, social injustices, divorce, false teachers, and the list goes on and on. What is our foundation? These issues are killing our churches, and I believe the fundamental error is that we are going to our theologies rather then Jesus for the answers. We've created a system to replace God.
I'm concerned about where my hope and faith lies. I'm concerned about where my foundation is really placed. I want to know Christ, to truly know Him. And as I read the Gospels I realize that so often I dont.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I've had a hard time knowing what to post lately. More than anything I've started to use my blogspot more as a homepage. Some of the links may never be used by anybody but me, but some of these sites are pretty interesting. One link that I wanted to point out, and this might show my strangeness, is the one labeled Eye on Africa. Its an actual live web cam of a watering hole in Africa. I thought it was somewhat strange when I first found the link on another blog, but once I looked at it I was hooked. I check it from time to time... havent seen any killings or anything like that yet, but I have seen an elephant and a bunch of some kind of deer. You have to look at it before noon though because after that it starts to get dark.
So many things have been on my mind lately, and its hard to try to put my thoughts in words. Most of my thoughts have been questions. Why is the focus of American Christianity on what we believe rather then what we are doing? What is the role of the Church? What does it mean to be a Christian? If the Kingdom of God is really here why do we not see more evidence of it, and how can I be involved in it? If Jesus really said that we would do greater things then he did why aren't we? These are just a few.
To me it seems like I am missing the point in so many of these areas. And I think it comes from my misunderstanding of God. Sometimes I question whether I really know God. How often are my prayers or even my thinking focused on knowing God. Too often I read the Bible for application for my life. My prayers are a dialogue of a list of requests. When was the last time I was filled with wonder as I come before God. I think our mindset is wrong, and it is infecting everything.
I just finished up a month long fast. I was intending to go for 40-days but I didnt feel like I had the energy to make it. I picked a bad time to do it because I was not able to get the rest that I needed or spend the extra time in prayer that should go along with a fast. Unfortunately I dont know of any time that would actually be slower. I learned alot during this fast, more then anything I think that I learned that I do not live my life in a way that is dependant on God. God is merely a side issue. My life is the center. How do we reverse those two? I've been intrigued with Psalm 27 over the past week. As I read it, I feel like I'm reading a love poem. In this psalm we see a man who is so obsessed with God that everything else has fallen to the way side. And this is not simply a man who has had a rough life and really has nothing else, this is the King of Israel. Yet when it comes down to it, God is at the heart of Davids focus. One commentator described David as being preoccupied with God and His will. That is so beautiful! Does that describe my life? How do I get to that point? We dont understand that when we come to Christ we are not simply signing up to a set of beliefs. Its a leaving behind of the old and signing onto a totally new way of life. I'm so tired of half-hearted Christians, and I'm tired of living that way. How do we make ourselves understand that its all-or-nothing. You cant simply have a little bit of Christ.
My questioning simply leads to more questions. I have no answers. But sometimes I think that the problem is that Christians have created answers so the questioning stops. I think the more questions we ask the deeper, and the closer to God's heart, we go. I'm trying to learn to open my mind and allow myself to question things. To doubt things that I've always held as truth simply because its what I've always believed. For far too long Christians have been scared to allow themselves to interact with new ideas because they think that somehow those ideas will tear apart their faith. My question is if something can prove God wrong then is it really God that you're following.
Well my ramblings could go on but I will end with that. Check out some of the links and blogs if you have free time.