The Right Comparisons?

I am swamped this week. Like I am SO BUSY. So naturally, this is the best time to make time to walk to Immac and write a blog post while drinking a cafe au lait.

I’ve seen a lot of people, lots of Christians that have recently used comparisons to talk down potentially dangerous activities, political ideas, or even sins.

Here’s an example I hope won’t be super controversial. Don’t worry, I’ll offend some people in a few paragraphs (:

In the current political climate, people all over the aisle have attempted justify certain actions with statements such as, “Well that’s not as bad as what so-and-so did,” or “Hey let’s ignore this action and focus instead on what the other side did.”

Okay, even if the second action was worse, do we not see the absolute absurdity of this way of thinking?

For example, statistically cancer is deadlier than heart attacks. Obviously, I should ignore a heart attack if it comes, right? My granddad had a heart attack last week, and obviously it was a big deal.

Let’s turn the topic back to politics. Why is it so difficult for us to condemn violence by Nazis and ANTIFA? By Republicans, Democrats, and (a very minuscule amount of) Libertarians? Why does one side have to be worse? Even if one is worse, why can’t both be bad? Most agree that Hitler was worse than Mussolini, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving Mussolini the “Dictator of the Year” award, does it? (Obviously the Italians didn’t bestow that award upon him, as they executed him without trial and hung him upside down in the town square. Maybe they gave it to him posthumously?)

Let’s get more controversial.

Game of Thrones is wildly popular, even among Christians, despite its graphic nature that includes (But is not limited to) incredible violence that makes Gladiator look tame, frequent sex scenes, and more than one scene about rape.

In other words, all the things Christians supposedly abhor. Yet, we give GoT a pass. It’s “entertainment”, we say. It’s not as bad as porn either.

So were Roman gladiator fights, which often pitting Christian slaves against one another. They got a pass because they were entertainment, no?

I think we’ve fallen further and further from the correct comparisons. We compare our entertainment, thoughts, and actions against whatever makes us look best. We conveniently forget to compare ourselves to Jesus. Doing that would make us look too sinful.

Plus, doesn’t the Bible tells like 100 times that being like Jesus is just for super-Christians and the rest of us should just settle for being slightly better than the world? (Why yes, that was a sarcastic statement, how did you know?)

“But Will, Christians aren’t doing this!”

If you have time, please go read John Piper and Kevin DeYoung’s articles on GoT, comments included. There are just as many people bashing their beliefs as responding affirmatively. Both articles were published on Christian websites, with comments written predominantly by Christians. I’ll link the articles. Just a warning though, some of the comments are truly heartbreaking.

Let’s compare ourselves to Jesus in all his perfection. Remembering that we fall short, but there is grace. I’ve gone on too long, but I’ll end with two pieces of Scripture.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NASB)

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’  I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)

John Piper Blog Post

Kevin DeYoung Blog Post

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Do I love God, or His stuff?

Hi friends! No, I haven’t updated this recently, but I have a free hour (WHAT) so I figured I’d share some of what God has been teaching me.

Alright, rapid fire question answering time.

No, I do not know what I’m doing after graduation. No, I don’t know where I’m living after graduation. Yes, my roommates are doing well. Yes, Mama, I have made more friends this year.

Awesome, so now that we have that out of the way, I’m going to start with an easily agreeable statement, and take it a to a place that may make us a bit uncomfortable.

Here it is: Why would we want to settle for God’s stuff, when we are given God?

I hope we’re on the same page here. We shouldn’t choose a huge house instead of God, dedicate 100% of our time to pursuing money, all that stuff. Makes sense.

What if I said that the idols most young Christians cling to are things that the Bible commands us to love? What if I said most young Christians idolize things that are described as “good”, “pleasant”, or even “God-breathed”.

If you know me, you know I love the Reformation, and I like the five Solas — if viewed correctly — even if Luther himself would have likely wholeheartedly agreed with just 2-3 of them (The Solas were created long after Luther’s death.)

It is my personal belief that many of the shortcomings in the Protestant Church come from an overemphasis of the Solas. One in particular that divides Eastern and Western Christians is Sola Scriptura.

Sola Scriptura holds that the Christian Scriptures are the sole source of God’s revelation. (This was a fight back against the belief that only priests and other clergy could understand God). Ultimately, the result, in part, has been that Western Christians reject anything with the word “creed” or “tradition” in it. (I think these are helpful when viewed correctly, but that’s not the point I’d like to articulate.)

My concern is that we don’t even know what the Word of God is. The Word of God is not just the Bible.

Wait, what? Before you lock me up for heresy, let me rephrase.

The whole Word of God cannot be contained in the Bible.

John 1 is one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature ever, and in it, John explains that Jesus is the Word of God. Over the years, I believe many Christians, myself included, have elevated the written Word of God (the Bible) above the incarnate Word of God (Jesus Christ).

We often view the Bible as equal or even greater to God. As if he could be contained in any book. The reason we can believe and trust in the inerrancy of the Bible is because we can believe and trust in the inerrant Creator of the Bible.

It would be no less ridiculous for us to state that The Chronicles of Narnia are somehow greater or equal to C.S. Lewis. The whole of Lewis is not contained in Narnia, no matter how great that series may be. Do we believe that the Mona Lisa is somehow superior to da Vinci?

Yet, we do the same to God. The Bible cannot save, but God uses the Bible to save. We must read the Bible, for through it, we understand God, but that does not mean the book knows more than its author.

Similarly, community cannot save, but God can use community to save. I’m starting to see that if I am not careful community can and will become an idol in my life. However, community is not an end, but a means to an end — that is, Christ.

Proximity (that is, fellowship without Jesus) is no more community than wearing a jersey makes me a football player.

Or as Bonhoeffer puts it, “Christianity means community through jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ … We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ” (Life Together, 23).

When we elevate our community (or a ministry, or friendships, or a dating/marriage relationship) above the One that calls us to those things, we have missed the point. We have erred in our belief.

Our community should direct us to Christ, but our community should not take the place of Christ. After all, he is the reason for community and the reason we can have community.

The Bible and community with other believers are absolutely necessary for growth, because it is through these that God reveals Himself. But God is not the sum total of His creations.

As Isaiah so aptly puts it, Thus says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah, 66:1-2, NASB).

If Heaven cannot contain His glory, neither can His book or His people.

 

Give Me Faith

TOPIC: Trusting that the God who reigns today is the same God who reigned in the Bible.

LOCALE: Starbucks on Gervais

ON THE MENU: Iced coffee

TODAY’S ALBUM: Les Miserables

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything on here, but it seems I finally have something to blog about. (I’ve discovered that I rarely post anything when I’m in a state of blissful ataraxia, but rather in times of moderate distress).

Fear not, kind friends, this is not a time of moderate distress. Quite the contrary, I am very well.

That being said, this semester has been spiritually challenging in the best of ways. Our small group has been working through Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, a rich and theologically deep book in its own right, and coupled with our group’s total devotion to honesty and spiritual growth, the study has been incredibly edifying.

Last week, we got on a tangent regarding the 21st century church’s lack of faith. (A fact we decided — aided by Willard’s pointed thoughts on the subject — is more symptomatic of a lack of direction than a lack of passion). In talking about our weeks, several of us mentioned a stroke of good luck, or a coincidental and pleasant meeting with an old friend.

Despite our best efforts to trust God throughout this semester, we still attributed these opportunities to chance rather than an omnipotent Savior.

It seems that while most Christians have no qualms with the stories of healings, miracles, and brilliant displays of the Holy Spirit’s power that litter the New Testament, even the strongest Christians struggle to believe these things are possible now. Even small displays, like believing Christ could give someone divine energy on just a few hours of sleep, come difficult to us.

It’s pretty obvious why we struggle with this, as Jesus himself tells Thomas in John 20; “Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'” (John 20:29, ESV).

The early Christians saw Jesus, and many of the disciples, performing countless miracles, and thus, it was easy to believe the Holy Spirit could do those things in their lives. Over time, we’ve lost faith, and thus lost the miracles that can supplement that faith.

The solution, I believe though, is equally as obvious. If I wish to learn calculus, I can only get so far by reading Newton or Leibniz’s notes on the subject. At some point, I must practice calculus. Similarly, I can only slightly improve my vocabulary by reading a dictionary. I must begin to utilize the words I read, or they will never make their way into my everyday life.

I believe faith works the same way. I can read about the countless miracles found int he Gospels and the book of Acts. I can also take a more eastern approach, and study the lives and habits of faithful Christians throughout history However, to fully learn believe the words of Christ that I can do greater things than even him, I must practice faith.

If Jesus’ words are to ever have an effect on my life, I must actively seek to follow them. It would be silly to believe that I could become a great musician by simply believing in myself, without doing anything. I can’t improve my ping-pong game by simply brushing up on the theory. I must practice. Yet when it comes to faith, we sit idly, with the audacity to act as if it is Christ that has failed us.

Hebrews 11 is a perfect example of this. The entire chapter is dedicated to examples of great men and women acting upon their faith, yet we reduce it to an argument about faith and works, missing the chapter’s whole premise.

I guess that’d what I’ve been learning recently. Faith is just as much a practice as a mindset. The more I practice faith, the more faith I will have. So let’s all work together to practice faith, and challenge one another to live more difficult lives.

As the great Australian philosophers Matt Crocker and Joel Houston once quipped, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You would call me, Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, And my faith will be made stronger, In the presence of my Savior.”

New music anyone?

So, I haven’t blogged in a while, and while I really don’t have anything to blog about at the moment, I’m going to keep the blog going with new music picks weekly. Let me know what you think!

First up is Lael’s “Giants.” The stagename for Jeff Schneeweis, Lael combines haunting lyrics and raw emotion with some low-key electronic sounds. He also plays a mean acoustic guitar too, so that’s a plus.

And since this is the first post, I might as well add a couple bonus songs. Here’s “Lighthouse” by Hearts & Colors. Like any good Youtube sensation, they have several sweet covers, but this is one of their originals.

Since we’re talking about awesome covers, here’s “My Love” by Humming House. Mandolin, guitar, upright bass, and a beatboxing violinist. Need I say more?

This is different, but I hope y’all like it. If not, I won’t do it again. God bless!

Dealing with the Distractions

ON THE MENU

  • Coffee Shop: Starbucks on Main
  • Drink of Choice: None (Had dark roast before my 8:05)
  • Today’s Album: “Dear Wormwood” — The Oh Hello’s
  • Topic: Focusing on Christ
  • Theme Verse: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” —Hebrews 12:1-2

Last week was Welcome Week, the Super Bowl week of College Ministry. There’s really just one difference: I like Super Bowl week. I hate Welcome Week.

That sounds harsh, I know. It’s a necessary evil. I know the stats, by the end of the first month, most students (~90%) will have already decided if they plan on attending church for their four years of college. I do really enjoy meeting new people and often the events are great, but Welcome Week means two things: Non-stop work to meet people, plan events, and follow up with those who come, and distractions.

Welcome Week is immensely important as we work to “capture” as many students (Namely freshmen) as we can in a short amount of time. It’s the most important week of the year, and while we know that, Satan does as well.

Welcome Week means distractions. ALL THE DISTRACTIONS. Not all distractions are bad. For example, it can be a distraction when I want to spend all of my time with friends I haven’t seen in months instead of meeting new people. It can be a distraction when I want to eat food alone, rather than putting forth the effort to build relationships with freshmen.

Other distractions can be much worse. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just list a few: Fleas, flies, dislocated fingers, twisted ankles, sprained wrists, very bad sunburn (Including chaco burn), the grandiose announcement of a certain ministry’s expansion to Columbia, and inconveniently built anthills that are just begging to be stepped on by naive college juniors.

For the record, the above list is my personal list of distractions. If you were to add up all of the distractions experienced by everyone in First College Ministry the list would be daunting. Add distractions experienced by Shandon, Midtown, First Pres, Cru, BCM, Campus Outreach, and the other ministries around USC, and you have a list that even Victor Hugo would call too long.

That’s worth celebrating.

Yepp, celebrating.

It’s wonderful, really, that Satan would find us worthy of attacking. It means things are happening. To use a war analogy, the enemy does not move extra troops and supplies to areas where your side is failing. He sends reinforcements to stop you where you are advancing.

Satan moves to distract us when we are the most successful. Think about it, why would Satan focus his attacks on Welcome Week rather than some random other week during the semester?

At a camp, I was told to notice the amount of coughs, sneezes, and other distracting noises during each night of the week. There were substantially more noises in the room on the last night, the night during which the worship was loudest and the sermon was about salvation. Satan focuses his attacks during our most spiritual moments, trying to do anything he can to separate us from Jesus.

I had to remind myself at least 24601 times this week. Each setback is a chance for me to rejoice that Satan finds our work worthy of causing suffering.

I want to remember that this semester. While I might want to focus all of my energy on fixing every problem that arises, I want to keep my focus on Jesus.

What’s my Passion?

ON THE MENU:

  • Coffee Shop: Madison’s Coffee
  • Drink of Choice: Guatemalan
  • Today’s Album: “Ocean’s Way Sessions- Live” — Love & the Outcome
  • Topic: Passion
  • Theme Verse: “For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” — 1 Corinthians 2:2

So it’s been a long time since I last posted. So long that I was relieved when WordPress remembered my account info, because I don’t remember my password (Or username for that matter)

Anywho, I guess I’ll jump into this.

As many of you know, I am working an internship at Extreme Ice Center this summer. I like it. The people there love what they do, and they do it well.

I was talking with my supervisor Tuesday, and she asked me a very pointed question.

“Will, I can tell you aren’t very passionate about marketing,” she said. “You’re good at it and seem to like it, but you aren’t passionate about it. What are you passionate about?”

This was my chance — An opportunity to have a Gospel conversation. I haven’t had a ton of those this summer. After all, I want to go into ministry, so this is perfect. (My supervisor is a Christian, for what it’s worth)

“I’m passionate about ministry,” I replied. “I love teaching people about Jesus, I love leading worship, I love talking about Jesus.”

Must have been a Freudian slip, right? After all, I meant to say I’m passionate about Jesus. It was just a simple slip of the tongue, I think. This was probably just a misplaced modifier.

As I thought about it more though, I realized that I meant it exactly as I said it.

If you’re confused at this point, reread my reply. I mentioned three things I’m passionate about, three things that relate to Jesus. Yet not one of them was Jesus.

Now, I’m not writing this to beat myself up over it, but more to check my motives. I’d wager that a lot of us are passionate about things relating to Jesus, whether it be leading worship, leading small groups, meeting new people at church, our Christian community, or something else entirely.

It’s a problem that we see so easily in other people’s lives, but rarely in our own. It’s easy to say, “Those people only go to (INSERT CHURCH YOU DON’T LIKE HERE) because they like the (INSERT REASON HERE) and not Jesus.”

That’s fair, there are plenty of people who attend churches for the music, pastor, etc.

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m assuming that most churchgoers reading this love Jesus, as I do. The point is that I often find myself more passionate about aspects of the church other than Jesus.

Being passionate about things other than Jesus is not bad. Could you imagine a youth pastor that hates middle schoolers (As in all of the time, I know how you youth pastors can be. Be honest, you hate middle schoolers for at last one brief moment a day) or a worship leader that isn’t passionate about music?

The problem is when we love the music or middle schoolers (lol) more than Jesus. That’s when we get church bands playing “Chandelier” or the lead singer of a Christian rock band coming out as a professing atheist. That’s when we get pastors more concerned with being trendy rather than Biblically sound. That’s when we get seminary professors that spend more time reading books about the Bible than the Bible itself.

Now those are some drastic examples, but when we find our satisfaction, worth, and passion in things that are about Jesus rather than Jesus Himself, we can fall prey to Satan’s attacks.

In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis expounds upon this principle. (Best non-Biblical canon book ever written, by the way) When the man that Wormwood is trying to corrupt begins to succeed at abstaining for blatant sins, gets better in his prayer life, and becomes an overall better person, Screwtape instructs him to make him more spiritual rather than less. He argues that the man might not realize he is falling in love with spiritual things and not Jesus. (If you have no clue what I’m talking about, read the book. It shouldn’t take more than five hours)

As believers in fellowship, we should be pushing people toward Jesus; not church, not a list of do’s and don’ts, just Jesus.

Let’s all be watchful for false humility in our own lives. That’s really what it is — pride. Let’s not falsely believe that we are above this type of deception, but rather wage war against it and work to love Jesus more, rather than the things that relate to Jesus.

The solution, I’d say, is simple. Let’s love Jesus more. Let’s not worry about loving ourselves, or the things we like, any less, but rather loving Jesus Himself more.

This summer, that’s my goal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philia Mignon- A tender love

QUICK HITTERS:

  • Coffee Shop: Starbucks on Main
  • Drink: None, I’m being responsible after having two morning cups and a frosted coffee around 7:00
  • Today’s Album:  Shane and Shane’s “Worship Intiatives” (Vol. 1-10 on shuffle)
  • Topic: Love (Duh)

First, I want to apologize for the horrendous pun in the title, I simply couldn’t resist. It was there… I had to take it. I’m sorry.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can begin. So, in lieu of actually having to study for exams, (two open book and one on which I need only a 62) I’m sitting here marveling at how busy Starbucks gets during exam week and thinking about what I’ve been reading recently.

I’ve been in 1 Samuel, where we see the story of my second favorite Biblical character. That’s right, I’m a huge fan of Jonathan. (You thought I was going to say David, didn’t you? HA!)

“Who is this Jonathan character and why does Will like him so much?” I’m so glad you asked! Jonathan is the eldest son of King Saul and heir to the throne of Israel. A pretty important dude! Except he didn’t act like it.

Jonathan wasn’t your average, stuck-up, talentless heir. In fact, the Bible says he was a mighty warrior with incredibly good looks. He once sent the whole Philistine army into a frenzy when he decided to attack them with only his armor bearer. He downed 20 men before the Philistines fled before him. (1 Samuel 14:6-16) Cool dude.

Jonathan was in every way as awesome and Godly as David, except for one thing: He was in line to be King. In that regard he should have been greater. Except he didn’t act like it. In fact, he humbled himself.

Though Jonathan should have had every right to stand in the way of David’s ascent to kingship, he didn’t. On the contrary, most Biblical commentators hold that Jonathan realized David was God’s anointed (A title originally reserved for Saul) before David himself did. Instead of being disappointed, Jonathan loved David more for it.

Saul, for his part, reacts with jealousy at David’s success. Jonathan doesn’t.

I LOVE how the ESV puts it:

“As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” — 1 Samuel 18:1-4 (Emphasis added)

Jonathan was willing to sacrifice his right standing with his father for his friend. If you’ve read the rest of the story you know what happens next. If you haven’t here’s a quick synopsis of the next 13 chapters:

1. Saul tries to kill David 2. David calls out to God 3. Jonathan goes out of his way to save David and maintain David’s claim to the throne. 4. David spares Saul 5. Repeat 1-4

Eventually, Jonathan and Saul die in the same battle and after some minor squabbles, David becomes king.

The Bible makes it clear that Jonathan loved his father. However, at the cost of his own power, Jonathan repeatedly humbles himself and loves David, his father’s greatest enemy, with a love that can only come from God.

Aristotle later coins this love, philia, or “loyally loving a friend as a brother.”

What if we loved our friends like this? What if, at the expense of our own fame, glory, or pride, we put others first? Always. 100% of the time. Not situationally dependent. Not only when there’s mutual benefit.

Paul likes this idea:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” — Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

What if we had humility that comes only from God and treated our friends like Jonathan treated David? Nonbelievers would literally think us insane. What a witness that would be!

Challenge: Even in the midst of finals, let’s treat each other with a philia kind of love. If a friend needs us, let’s not be afraid to forsake something we may regard as important (Like a future kingship, or maybe studying for a final) and run to the aid of our brother or sister in Christ.

If everyone lived as selflessly as Jonathan, the whole world would be changed.