Friday, October 27, 2017

Complexity part 9: another aspect of diversity

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the concept of unity in "diversity." Otherwise known as the body of Christ. How our unique talents and skills can come together for the common good. Yet, there is another side of it that gets addressed even less often than the main point of the body of Christ concept. Ignoring it may lie at the root of many a failure in building the church Jesus intended.

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. -1 Corinthians 12:22-26

Our God given diversity's primarily value may have to do with talent; and there should be equality between common and uncommon gifts. However, with those different abilities also come very different needs. While that may sound like a rather simple point, but our neglect of it has led to some complex problems in the church.

Differing gifts mean different strengths. This also means different weaknesses as well. But, if we do not recognize that, then we assume what is easy for us, should be easy for everyone. This may lead us to look down upon people who lack the same strengths, instead of sharing our strength with the church. We should absolutely share the strengths we are gifted with since we all have a weakness in a different area as well, a shortcoming that we need to receive help for from our church family.

In an ideal church everyone would share their gifts without keeping score. Yet be humble enough to accept the help of others graciously. Unfortunately, we often fall short in being that selfless. We can be rather greedy with our strength and gifts. So we tend to keep it all to ourselves. Or be so greedy with the help we desire that we drain the people helping us, which makes the drained individual less able to help the rest of the church. On the other side of it, many are too proud to receive assistance. While they often think of this as a virtue, they often do not mature as disciples in certain needed areas. Which ultimately means they have less to offer the church, which affects everyone. The dynamics of church community, if we don't follow them as intended we make our spiritual journey that much harder. This leads to our churches becoming that much weaker.


Have you ever revealed something or told a story to someone, and they just didn't believe you? They can't accept that you would behave or do as you described for the simple fact that is not how they would respond to the same situation. This is an example of what I refer to as "wearing your heart on your nose." Or looking at the world through the filter of your emotions or self, to state it plainly. Which causes people to unconsciously assume that everyone thinks, feels, and finds satisfaction in the same things as they do, or at least should. This causes us to believe that what is good for us, should be good enough for everyone. Such attitudes lead only to distorted interpretations, and the misunderstanding of others. This often leads to judgmental, critical, insensitive, and ultimately unloving behaviors. This should not be found in the church at all. Yet, we do see it in the church with all too much frequency, because we fail to see and value the depths of the diversity that God instilled in us. This has become a huge liability to the church universal. Especially in our ability to unify the church in all our talents, as well as the needs

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Complexity part 8: Challenged

Matthew 5-7 is what is known as the sermon on the mount. Jesus' only documented sermon, and arguably one of the most powerful passages in all the Bible. Jesus speaks on many subjects, but the overall theme is one of challenge. Specifically, he challenges our understanding of God, his word, and what it means to be holy.

With the beatitudes, he challenges our notion of what it means to be blessed. It's not simply a warm and fuzzy picture of prosperity, comfort, and ease that we want to be true. Then, he goes on to address many familiar subjects to the people of the time, many of which he starts with the phrase "You have heard. . . " Then proceeds to tell them how what they have heard is not entirely right. Yet, there is the implication that we need to be more active in our own understanding, to not simply follow what we have heard, but to seek truth for ourselves. As complex a task as that may seem to those who just want it explained to them, I know you are out there. It does not stop there either; he goes on to challenge our motivations in following the truth. Do we truly do it to honor God, or merely to impress people, or avoid their judgement.

Which begs the question, are we simply taking the easy way in and accepting the word of others on what people tell us about the truth, and risking incomplete and inaccurate information? Or are we taking the complex path and confirming it for ourselves? How might Jesus challenge us today? What subjects would he address when challenging our understanding of God and his word? Where might he indicate that we are applying truth wrong? In what areas would he address when challenging our motivations?

They are all valid questions in any age, but especially now in the age of social media. Where everyone is adding their two cents on every issue imaginable in rather impatient, unkind, rude, critical, unloving, and ultimately questionable ways. Where we can display our actions before everyone. In the midst of this information overload can we sort out the unfavorable facts from the desirable fiction, sincere actions from posturing, reality from mere feelings? Can we ask ourselves objectively, why am I sharing this? Are we sharing it in true humility or mere pride? Are we trying to do what is right, or just be right?

Are you up for a challenge, or is Jesus’ challenge too complex for you?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

a person jumping over a mountain
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Complexity part 7: God's Holy Spirit

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” -John 3:8

If you were to go to seminary, you would have to take a class called systematic theology. Which in all honesty, I find absurd. I liken that to phrases such as systematic marriage, or systematic romance. You never hear such things because it would be ridiculous. It would be treating people like mechanisms not living spiritual beings. Yet, somehow we think it's okay to think of God as a lifeless mechanism.

Yet, there is one part of Christian teaching that cannot be made systematic, mechanized, or simplified into a rigid definition. Which would be the Holy Spirit. An important player in the life of a true disciple, for he is our connection to God, his strength, and his wisdom. Someone we very much need to deal with the many variables found in the human heart, not to mention our complicated culture. Since the spirit cannot be defined simply, he is often overlooked by many in the church. Yet, followers who ignore him wonder why their faith lacks true power.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. -2 Timothy 3:1-5

I honestly believe true understanding of the Holy Spirit cannot be achieved by just having him explained to you. He can only be understood by experiencing him. Which means you got to seek him out for yourself. Not the simple, systematic, or formulaic answer you were probably looking for, but a true one. People keep telling me; they just want someone to explain it to them. Do you ask someone else to explain your relationship with your spouse to you? That would be absurd, just like wanting God's spirit explained to you wold be absurd.

A place to start, every one of the verses reveals something about the spirit.

John 14:26

Acts 1:16, 2:4, 7:51, 8:29, 11:12, 13:2, 16:6-7

Romans 8:26-27

1 Corinthians 2:10-11, 12:11

a person consumed by holy fire of the spirit
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Complexity part 6: Facing issues

Forgiveness is an important part of the Christian creed. Even among those who have a hard time accepting it, like the idea, and want to believe in it. (At least as far as it applies to self, not so much when it applies to others.) Yet, many people seem to believe that forgiveness somehow excuses us from having to face and deal with our complex issues that lead to the actions that we need forgiveness for. That seems to be how many people are applying it at least, if not in actual words. But is this perception true? Well the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-26) and the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-29) seem to indicate otherwise. In both cases, Jesus puts a proverbial mirror up to their hearts to reveal exactly where they were lacking, and ultimately what they had to deal with. Which begs the question why? This Old Testament passage is a strong clue.

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 
-Numbers 33:55

Forgiveness is of great value in being able to move forward. But that in itself does not prevent these same destructive patterns of behavior from recurring and having a negative impact upon our lives. These issues that we try to avoid often become barbs in our eyes, and thorns in our sides if we don't face them, and eliminate them at the root.

Obviously, the woman at the well looked to relationships for hope, and amassed many ex's; as a result. I'm sure it doesn't take any explanation on how past relationships can become a set of virtual thorns in the side. She would have done well to seek another source of hope. The rich man clearly looked to riches for hope. If the never ending cycle of celebrities dying young has taught us anything, it's that fame, fortune, and achievement are no guarantee for wholeness and peace of mind. We need to seek the eternal wholeness that Jesus offered, not the temporal things of this world. All the things that we try to avoid, stand in the way of finding that completeness. An obstacle that we refuse to acknowledge is no less an obstruction after all.

With that being said, what complex issues are you avoiding? What do you look to for hope other than God himself? What is keeping you static and unchanged? What issue do you need to face to move forward as a disciple.

A person unsatisfied with who they are being consoled by Christ.
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