Saturday, December 8, 2012

Faith Bio

When I was a child I was into music in a big way. Friends that I had back then whom I now tell that I play bass guitar are not at all surprised. From those years, the other interesting part of the story is that I was Roman Catholic, from birth until I was about 16, and was also an altar boy during much of that time. That part of my life was very influential I believe in terms of shaping my view of God. A key question I recall having back then was how God could have both no beginning and no end. I remember thinking at the time that the idea of anything without beginning or end was illogical.

After a few years of not taking faith too seriously I had a few experiences that helped bring me back to being a disciple.

My mother in law has been a Nazarene for several years. I had been to church with her a couple times in her hometown with my wife; during one of those trips she had us meet with an evangelist. When she came to visit my wife and I in California in about 2004 she asked me to find a Nazarene church for us to go to. I found one by looking online for the closest one to where we lived. After my wife, mother in law and myself went there for two Sundays, my wife and I continued to go there afterwards. When I was a child, a teenager, I had not really studied the differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs; studying these and the worship style differences are the biggest issues I dealt with early on.

I had a coworker from 2000-2003 that did the same job as I did in a neighboring city. At one point I went to his office to meet him for a purpose I don't recall. What I do remember is getting into his car and some Christian music or talk started playing on the radio. He quickly went to turn it down, but I had already recognized it as Christian and told him to leave it on and it wasn't a big deal. We started talking Christianity and eventually worked our way to my illogical query above. We had a chat that went something like this. He asked me, you believe God made everything, right? I responded yes; I don't accept the something from nothing atheist position. He then responded with something like this; well if you believe that do you think God exists outside of space and time as we understand it? This friend is a pretty smart guy and we had already had some physics chats, and I had also studied some physics in college an an engineering student, so this wasn't a totally implausible idea to me. After additional study on the attributes of God, I really discovered this is one of the things that makes Him God. Some have argued that for God to really be omnipresent He would need to exist in many more than the usual 3 dimensions of space and one of time (x, y, z, t) that we normally think of.

While Purpose Driven Life was a very popular book, Barnes and Noble had it on display. I came across one of these displays and read some of it in the store, not realizing until I picked it up that it was a Christian book. Reading the first couple chapters in the store really struck me strongly. I suspect that this book had that impact on several people. After reading some of it I was ready to go to a different church for a weekday study of the book while continuing to attend the usual church on Sunday; several churches were doing that back then. After talking with my pastor at the time about this, I was given the opportunity to lead a group read and study of that book and really enjoyed it. This was my first Christian teaching opportunity.

I enjoy interacting with people of various faith backgrounds; I am willing to have at least an initial conversation regarding faith with pretty much anyone. This has led me to encounter people of widely varying faith backgrounds. I also over the course of my life have gotten to know many Orthodox and Messianic Jews, so this also has added to my ability to speak to folks of many backgrounds.

At this point, most of the ministry work I do takes on the form of either music ministry at the church I attend, or acting as a small group leader, either in person or online. My Twitter participation is largely focused on Christian faith talk. At the church I attend, Mount Carmel Church of the Nazarene, in Rancho Penasquitos, California, which has this website, I recently obtained a district license after having been a locally licensed minister for two years.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts on Against Calvinism by Roger E. Olson

I have read the introductory pieces and first chapter of this book so far. Here are some initial thoughts.

He is largely writing this to address the young, restless, and reformed crowd. He believes some of their thoughts regarding God's absolute control and creation of all things, including evil, is problematic. Since God cannot stand to be in the presence of sin, I would happen to agree. This is why we need Christ after all.

I have been researching the Calvinist vs. Arminian perspective for a little while now. This is not the first time that I have heard that Calvinism may not be properly summed up via the TULIP acronym. I have been thinking of reading the Canons of Dordt; I believe I will need to do that to more properly understand the keys of the Reformed faith.

When the author discusses freewill, he seems to be mentioning examples like Hitler and the Holocaust. I don't for a moment think that that horrifying sequence of events is from God.

It seems like the author so far is not clearly separating justification vs. sanctification. I believe most but likely not all would agree that there is a level of freewill involved in decisions that we make that are likely to impact sanctification, rewards, or eternal treasures in Heaven. However, what about freewill in the saving act? I await reading more of the author's opinion there.

Moving on to chapter 2, we now get to the first key. With any substantial debate, there is always the question of definition. What does it mean to be reformed? Many would argue that the TULIP acronym is the key. The author points to some older confessions as the basis including the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic and Westminster Confessions. These in addition to the above Canons of Dordt are the basis for this branch of the Christian faith according to the author.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why I Hate Religion Videos

There is a video going viral now on Youtube regarding religion. Some portions I agreed with, and some I didn't. Several friends pointed it out to me, the first of which is a D.Min. student and former pastor of mine. A Messianic Jewish Rabbi friend asked me what I thought, so here we go. I was also reminded of this Mark Driscoll video I saw previously. Many of these thoughts really could be a chapter in a book, hmm..

Jesus is greater than religion is more or less true, depending on how you define religion. What is religion? To me I view it as a belief system based on God's special revelation to us via the Bible. I think what both of these people are objecting to is a set of rules to live by.

Did He come to abolish religion? Once again I think there is a religion definition problem here. He and many of His followers were Jews. He came to fulfill The Law.

I do realize folks who label themselves as Conservative Christians sometimes do both groups a disservice. If we spout beliefs with hostility or angst, that is incorrect. We are called to be His ambassadors; we need to do that.

We all have planks in our eyes, sins and problems that we struggle with; we need to not be looking down our noses at others.

Religions have started wars because people have taken the task of conversion entirely too far. I would say that people who call themselves Christians that have done this are not adhering to the teachings of Christ, and might need to question their faith. That is God's job, not mine.

Why does religion build huge churches? Especially since I am an Ex-Catholic, I will confess this is a tougher question. In part I would say folks have obeyed the idea of giving greatly to God for the sake of an excellent location for a worship service. They likely missed out on what we would call a Christ centered life in today's language, being too focused on the facility and Sunday service. By now I am hearing the Organic/Missional/Frank Viola/Brian McLaren message pretty clearly in this video.

Why are the poor not being fed? They are by some community organizations, at least here in San Diego, though hunger is still a problem. There is a relevant Bible story about helping the poor or disadvantaged. We should contemplate this story and the poor.

We can't be looking down at the single Moms. I grew up in a household like that; those Moms are putting in serious work. They may or may not have have sinned to get in that situation. We don't know all the facts. I think all we should do is present God's Word to them in a kind way and let God work on them.

Regarding the way we act when we are believers, I think we would all agree there are always some things we don't want the world to know, that only our closest friends should. If we get to a point where we are taking the false facade too far, we can wind up like the Pharisees. Are our hearts circumcised as we see in Romans 2? Our lives should be visibly different as believers. I would personally hope that as we grow closer to God we would sin less, though I know perfection in a sinless sense is only attainable by God.

God has done great things with people who have sinned in very big ways. Repent and believe is the basis of the Gospel; we need to do that. Once we realize what He has done and can do for us eternally, we should be overflowing with joy.

Christ did come for the sick, we need to be sure to not exclude them from our assemblies of believers if they are moved by God to investigate and perhaps come closer to Christ.

Once we realize it is all from Him our faith is from Him and not our actions, that is a very freeing experience.
We need to be careful of disregarding rules; there are some things we are told to do or not do in The Bible. If you aren't sure, research it or ask around among your believing friends. Once again I think there is the issue of what kind of ambassador are we being. Sanctification and rewards also come into play here. Do we want treasures in heaven?

I suspect the video is right, that many of us would not let Jesus in, or we would at least look down at Him tremendously, if he showed up with 1st Century appearance and odor? He is also very right regarding Jesus not supporting self righteousness. Once again, modifying our focus off of ourselves and onto Him is what we should do, and this really should be a pretty fundamental Christian teaching.

While religion is a man-made system, assuming we have proper Biblical texts to go by, this man-made system should be based on God given ideas. Do we screw up, absolutely. Repent.

Religion is an infection if you miss out on the self righteousness lesson above, and become too much about either the system or the institution, and not enough about Him.

Slave is a word with substantial negative connotation in the USA. However, we were bought at a price. The Greek word doulos is best translated as slave; we often see servant instead because of these negative connotations.

Jesus does make us see; He is the light as John 1 so clearly states to us. Does a religious institution make us blind to Him. I would argue that may or may not be true depending on the group you assemble with.

I believe that both God searching for man AND man searching for God can occur. Ideally, as we grow in faith, we continue to search to know more and more of His truth. The last 50 seconds or so is excellent, until the very end when hatred for religion is repeated.