Out of the Box

Getting creative with Christianity, crafting, cooking, copious usage of alliteration, and the rest of my life

Rules August 2, 2010

Filed under: Theological Thoughts — Grace @ 3:57 am

Rules are not what Christianity is about.

I know it’s easy to get that impression. Even when people stress the fact that we’re saved by faith alone, they quickly add on a long list of rules that Christians supposedly should follow. We have to read-our-Bibles-daily-and-pray-a-lot-and-go-to-church-and-give-money-and-do-evangelism-and… the list goes on. Not that these things aren’t good ideas, but for goodness’ sake, are they really the point? Does it do any good to weigh people down with lists of commandments to keep that will supposedly make them good Christians?

This idea that following rules would make you right with God – isn’t that what Jesus spoke against?

Look – Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment was to love God with every fiber of your being. The second was to love other people as much as you do yourself. He went on to say that these two commandments were the equivalent of all “the law and the prophets”.

So tell me, where in there do you find the concept that pleasing God requires adherence to a bunch of rules? The answer: Nowhere. Jesus clearly said that those ARE the rules. Where in there does it say that homosexuality is wrong or that women can’t preach or that you have to be baptized a certain way or that you have to have the gift of tongues or that church has to happen on Sunday mornings with deacons and a choir and a half-hour sermon? Nowhere. So where did we get all of those ideas? Are we turning into Pharisees? God forbid.

Can it get any clearer? This is not about religion, not about rules – it’s about relationship. It’s not about laws, but about LOVE. Is this so hard to understand?

If you love God, you don’t need rules to tell you to spend time with him. If you love people, you don’t need rules to tell you to be kind to them. That was Jesus’ point. So why is it not ours?

Think about it.

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Calling July 23, 2010

Filed under: Theological Thoughts — Grace @ 4:11 pm

So what am I going to do with my life?

I’ve been wondering this for quite some time now, as everyone does. Once I thought I would be a writer, but then I found that I’m not very good at writing and don’t even like it that much. Then I thought I’d be a veterinarian – until I realized that I wouldn’t be playing with cute, fluffy animals; I’d be giving them pills and shots and they wouldn’t be happy about it and they wouldn’t like me much. Other dreams have come and gone, but eventually I came to realize that whatever else I did, I would have to live as a full-time Christian, as all Christians should. (Never mind that I presently stink at that. :P) As to what that would look like… well, I know that I’m easily distracted, so I might be able to be more effective in some sort of inherently Christian career. All of this led me to seriously consider planning to become a missionary.

No, for those of you who might wonder, I haven’t felt a “call to missions” as such, but it just makes sense. And I haven’t been “called” to anything else, either, so what in the world exempts me from the Great Commission? (Hint: The answer to that question starts with an “N” and ends with “ot a darn thing”.).

I basically thought about three possibilities: A) North American missions (career or lifestyle), B) International missions, C) Bible translation. This summer that list has been refined a little.

For starters, at a conference here in Toronto, a former missionary to the Philippines told me some shocking statistics about the percentage of resources spent on North American missions vs. what goes to unreached people. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was ridiculous. Anyway, North America is getting more than its fair share, so I think I should go elsewhere, preferably to some of these unreached people who will otherwise remain so.

Then I started thinking about Bible translation. I fully support it, just as I do North American missions, but in the same way, I now believe that it’s not what I personally should devote my life to. Is it what Jesus or the early apostles devoted their lives to? Didn’t the early Christians (and early Jews, for that matter – Abraham, etc.) get along fine without a Bible? Not to mention that I’m still trying to figure out where I stand on Biblical inerrancy and all that stuff.

So – international missions. Just like those three emerged as the possibilities that made most sense, this one makes the most sense of the three. It honestly looks like that’s where I’m heading.

The next step is figuring out where. The world is a pretty big place, after all. One strong possibility is the 10-40 Window. (I’m a little confused about that page’s “Historical and Biblical Significance” section and why in the world that matters, but the rest of it has a lot of information.)

Don’t tell my dad that I might go somewhere dangerous. It’ll scare the heck out of him. 😉

Anyway – this is all just speculation, but hey, maybe someday I’ll really go to the 10-40 window – maybe to the Middle East or to North Africa or to China or somewhere else entirely. Then again, maybe I’ll go somewhere outside the 10-40 window. Or maybe God will tell me to stay in North America. Or maybe they’ll find life on Mars and I’ll be the first interplanetary missionary. Whatever. There’s no way for me to know now what’ll happen in five or ten years.

Since not much is certain, I think I’ll stick with the strategy I’ve been using. Graduate high school. Go to college. Continue to study language, because I love it and because I can use that knowledge anywhere in the world – yes, even here. Prepare for as many possibilities as I can. Learn how to live this missional lifestyle, because I won’t get far as I am now. And wait. It’ll be clear when it needs to be.

 

Differences of Opinion June 26, 2010

Filed under: Theological Thoughts — Grace @ 6:16 pm

It can be hard being theologically liberal (or should I say progressive? Or should I say rational?). I won’t go into detail now, because that would only tick me off. Suffice it to say that I keep getting into arguments debates over various issues. I try to keep the right attitude through it and not let things get personal, but I often don’t succeed.

But come on, everyone – “because God said so” is not a reason. It’s not proof of anything. For goodness’ sakes, there were plenty of people in Jesus’ day who were unwilling to rethink their concept of what the Messiah was supposed to do and be. “The Bible says he’ll bring peace to the earth, that he’ll be a conquering king,” they argued. Sure, but not yet. They missed out because they couldn’t comprehend that there might be another possible interpretation (in their case, the interpretation would be “He will, but not until later.”).

For the record, I will not stop thinking; I will not stop questioning; I will not blindly accept something that doesn’t make sense to me. I sincerely hope that I never stop delving deeper and trying to truly understand. I also sincerely hope that I never close my mind on any subject. Even now, I could be persuaded to change my mind. So to those who have been the target of my arguments: Guys, I’m listening to your side; I really am. I just haven’t heard anything to convince me. If I do, then I’ll have no choice but to agree with you. But if there’s any doubt in my mind over the rightness of a view that seems oppressive to some, I will not accept that view. This seems only fair.

I’m sorry if this post seems antagonistic. That wasn’t my intention. I think I should stop writing now before I get angry. That won’t be beneficial to anyone.

Anyway, I’m thankful that even if my friends and I don’t agree and perhaps never will, they love me anyway.

 

About Soil June 4, 2010

Filed under: Theological Thoughts — Grace @ 5:18 am

You may have heard of the parable of the sower. If not, or if you want to refresh your memory, here’s one version of it.

3“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”

14“…The farmer sows the word. 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”

Mark 4:3-8, 14-20

I’ve always found this parable interesting because it describes various stages of my life. I was like the path when I was young – I just didn’t get it. I thought I did, but I didn’t at all. Then for several years I was like the rocky soil. I would follow God for a few days at a time, and then when things started to get hard – when I decided that I didn’t want to resist temptation and serve others anymore – I would walk away, only to come back after a few months and repeat the cycle. Now? Well, now my life looks most like the thorny soil. I’m not at all happy about that, but I haven’t gotten anywhere trying to fix it.

But back to the parable. I’ve often heard people teach as if the first three types of soil all represent non-saved people, and the last one is the only one that represents a true Christian. But look more closely. Did you notice the distinction that was made? The seeds that fell on the path never got a chance to grow. The seeds in the rocky soil sprouted, but the plants died. The seeds in the thorny soil, however, grew and survived – nowhere does it say that they died. The problem is, even though the plants survived, they didn’t produce any grain.

Think of the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). It’s a similar situation – getting distracted from what matters. Jesus didn’t respond by telling Martha to repent or anything like that. He merely corrected her. He didn’t treat her as a nonbeliever, but as a believer who had slipped up – and isn’t this the same as the parable? Granted, the parable seems to describe a more prolonged situation, but still. Taking all of this into consideration, could it be that the thorny soil is a representation not of someone lost, but of someone saved who has lost their focus? Is it possible to be a Christian who “bears no grain”? Apparently it is.

However, clearly this isn’t what God wants from us. The good soil is held up as an example. That’s what we should be. But sometimes – or if you’re like me, most of the time – that’s not what we are.

Do you ever feel like this? Like you’re struggling along in your life as a Christian, sticking it out, but never really getting anywhere? Like you may not be getting worse, but you’re not getting any better either? Like you’re not really doing anything for God – bearing no grain? I know I do.

If this is the case, maybe it’s time to think about what “thorns” may be causing problems.

Unfortunately, recognizing the “thorns” doesn’t make them go away. For me, school can become a distraction, taking up so much time and energy that I lack the motivation to focus on God. The things I do to have fun and relax can also become “thorns” if I don’t keep the right perspective. A word of caution: When you find yourself putting off spending time with God because it’s no fun, or you do other things instead because they’re more fun, Satan’s getting into your head. I do this repeatedly, and then when I finally relent and go read the Bible or pray or whatever I had not wanted to do, I enjoy it. (Likewise, I find myself getting caught in the same habitual sins over and over again, and they always leave me feeling worse than before, but I never seem to remember that when the next temptation occurs. Odd, how I never seem to learn. But now I’m about to go off on a tangent, so I’ll stop while I still can.) Seriously, do it even if you don’t feel like it; you won’t regret it. That’s actually a pretty good mantra for general life.

Once more I have to realize that this is hard. And there will always be distractions. SO. MANY. DISTRACTIONS. *screams into pillow* Better now. Anyway, I guess we just have to learn to keep things in perspective. We’re on a mission, guys. We can’t afford to get sidetracked.

Now if only I were better at following my own advice.