How our Faith Comes to Us

The bible is fairly clear about how our faith comes to us.

And so right out of the gate, many hear this above scripture and think, “I grow my faith by reading my bible.” At it’s core, this is well and true but…I believe, seriously lacks nuance… It simply isn’t doing it for most of us…and I think it’s because there’s more to it.

Allow me to explain…

Faith comes by hearing

The Hebrew idea for hearing wasn’t just listening. It was a listening with an intent to understand, and then act on that understanding. Hebrew people collapsed “hear” and “obey” into their concept of hearing. A close analogy could be when a parent asks their child if they “heard” the command to, say, clean up their toys. When the parent says “Did you hear what I said ?” They are not asking if the child physically heard their instruction, rather they are asking if the child has sought to understand…and are thus participating with the parent in their reasoning and action.

And hearing by the Word of God

I’m going to *carefully* attempt to navigate through this idea that the Bible is not the only form of the Word of God. (Clearly it’s one of the most primary forms…I’m not denying that.) But the Bible itself with all of its authority, doesn’t refer to the phrase ‘Word of God’ always as the scriptures.

First off, creation speaks forth the Word of God to a very real and thorough degree, so that people without law could still be held accountable to knowing God.

Second, Jesus in relation to the Trinity, is referred to as the Word of God. So His whole person and character, timeless throughout the ages…functions as what God is always saying to us.

Third, the Body of Christ and its speaking ministries is referred to as the Word of God. Our lives of love and our testimonies speak a form of the word of God, powerful enough as to overcome end times/enemies when paired with the blood of the Lamb.

Fourth, the Gospel is referred to as the Word of God which, I think is most important. The gospel gives us the proper context for hearing God. We always hear God within a context of our calling as His image bearers. We are to express His character and divine nature in and through us – so that everything we touch, is touched with His glory and love. Namely the self sacrificial love of Christ on the Cross. Jesus showed His sacrificial love as the Way of Salvation and the Way of Life. So it’s in this gospel context, that we are in dialogue with Him. Without this gospel context, we revert to hearing God not in love, but in the flesh…which ends up looking like this:

Fleshly attempts at hearing God will cause us to shove off personal responsibility for our lives…(Since if God tells us what to do, then we don’t have to own up to our decisions, which are to be endeavored with Him, rather than caused by Him.) Also, fleshly attempts at hearing God will cause us to go after our own selfish desires…for our own individual lives…(rather than surrendering our lives to find the greater good which is found in the communal Kingdom of God/ follower’s of Christ’s Way.) Maybe the most deadly, yet common way we attempt to hear God from the flesh, is in that we really do not believe He is good. In the flesh, we find Him mean and tricky, and so we have to compulsively hear from Him about everything in order to feel safe and vindicated. This is difficult, since in the flesh, the underlying obsession is how righteous we look (to our own peril)..rather than peacefully content in being about the good of God and others, simply for their own sake…thus putting to rest the spiritual narcissism which masquerades as zeal, which often drives our Christian life.

And so, the land is full of well meaning Christians who constantly swear by the ‘still small voice’ as the main way they hear God…(maybe outside of a some scripture reading.) Perhaps, they reduce things down a little too much, by stating that “It’s simple, you just become Spirit lead about everything.” But one can attempt to hear God from the flesh, outside of a Gospel context, and they risk shipwrecking their life and faith. (Not to mention causing tension to those around them.) (I honestly think God honors this view the best He can, speaking to them in this limited capacity the best He can…but I believe He’s hopeful that they may hear Him in a more rich and manifold way…having more forms of the Word of God come together for a clearer safeguard against fleshly mis-hearing.)

Interestingly, the same Hebrew word for ‘still small voice’ which is used in the Elijah story…is also used when the scriptures say Cain’s murdered brother’s blood cries out from the ground. And so the idea here again, similar to that of Hebrew “hearing,” is that the ‘still small voice’ is this profound and reverent reasoning to action, that comes to us, always in a context of a receiver/sharer of the kindness of the Lord, for the whole of life.

To conclude, maybe the idea of increasing our faith through hearing the word of God, isn’t a matter of how God is speaking to us…but rather asking “How is He not speaking to us?”

The Spirit is using every means He can to reach us. And the mature know this. They don’t merely walk around being lead command after command, like a toddler, at least not for long. God is not their moral text messenger service, merely telling them what to do all the time. They converse, as if with a Spouse, in a deep sense of understanding. Often through a sheer sharing of presence. They share presence with Him in the created order of things, in the community of believers and in the scriptures. They are experienced in the life of Christ, His person, and the Gospel, so that all forms of the Word of God come together, in this profound and reverent reasoning…the fruit of which is a mindset that’s of life and peace, tasting good the soul, like that of walking with a friend in the coolness of the evening.

So remember…God’s word to you is in the bible, (with all its precious and rightfully Holy authority) and we are absolutely lead by the Spirit, but these may point you to a Word of God beyond that which you may realize as God speaking to you. For there is yet another who’s blood cries out from the ground.

Guidelines For Share Time Based On 1 Corinthians 14

Whenever you gather together, each and every one of you, be prepared to share something that will be useful to all, that will build up the body of Christ.

It could something creative and art-like, a song or lyric etc.
A testimony, or story, or praise report.
A prayer.
A lesson, or even a small proclamation, something very brief but true.

If you pray in tongues please consider praying off site ahead of time as part of your prep. Pray for interpretation so that you can proclaim in English your word to the group.
Only 2-3 people should share – so that what is shared has time to be developed and explored, after being weighed by the group. (So please get comfortable with prepping something to share but not actually getting to share it. If it’s really burning on your heart and you do not get to share, the Lord probably has another time or people to share it with.)
If you choose to speak up, you need to own what you say. That means taking on the light burden to prepare so that is lucid, coherent and succinct in the theme of building everyone up.
What all ends up being shared should have a complimentary tone to it… it should all be in harmony, rather than conflicting, contradictory or confusing.
Interrupting or grinding the group to a halt with questions that challenge, or hijack the current topic, need to be asked later off site to a person you can trust to help you. If we do need clarification, the Spirit can and will give someone a more spontaneous word or comment, so there needs to be a light allowance for whoever is sharing to yield to such an appropriate interruption. There is also the slight burden and responsibility on the one who feels lead to interrupt accordingly.
No one person should dominate through sharing too much. For it’s together and that we have the mind of Christ. Just share what you have in the realest, most earnest, dressed down way possible. Avoid adding to what you have with excessive language, just try to share no more and no less of what’s dearest to your heart (that you sought during your prep time.)
These guidelines can seem constrictive, they are not, quite the contrary, they free us up for poised worship and calm, balanced discernment of God’s word.
Lastly, keep in mind, that which builds up the Body of Christ most is her center; the Gospel. That Jesus died for our sins on the cross, that God’s Love has saved us, is our life, and is making all things new.
So let’s love one another by sharing in this regard.

Big Tent Survival

“How do you read it ?” Jesus in Luke 10:26

I’ve taken several posts to lead up to this final testimony. Hopefully, if you’ve followed along, you can appreciate the build up of me stating things how I see them. There is something both strong and weak about testimony. Strong, in that hearing things personalized and actualized, can give more power than the mere postulating of theory. Weak, in that the knowledge rests  more in the person, their limited experience and opinion, rather than in vetted institutions. Hopefully, by now, it’s more obvious that collapsing these two has been the aim of much of these posts. Perhaps collapse is inevitable. Either we collapse in the manner aforementioned, or we succumb to the proverbial prophecy found in a perishing people who have no real vision. That would be a downer. Nothing like a testimony as a pick me up.

I identify with, and find solidarity in, Christ revealing God’s Love on the cross, dying for my sins. I derive a great sense of Life from perceiving that God is kind. Christ’s kindness does not get overcome by the world, rather it overcomes the world. In my mind and heart, the powers (both satanic and secular) that assert merciless dominance have been utterly shamed and exposed to the point of being defeated. And so, I live in a way that heralds this victory of Christ as effecting everything.  I find the self sacrificial love of Christ as simple and communicable revelation; one which can be stewarded both as the way of salvation, and the way of life…or put even more simply…altruism is how to live and how God is saving the world. I believe in persistent covenant-like commitment to this as conversion, and immersion into this school happens only through an open, shared life community.

I do not know, nor care about much else.

 

 

Maintence of the Main Tenets

Love is the mature bond of unity. Col. 3:14

We’ve been developing a schema that goes as follows: those who identify as the people of God, need a unifying, sustaining vision, structured in a way that remains essential, yet gives room for diversity. So, how can a church be the university of God…maintaining unity in her diversity. Or the maybe the question is better asked “What is so central that we can derive all of our sense of life, worth, and meaning…so completely…that the rest can simply be the rest, and it not matter whether or not we agree on anything else?”

Is there a bullseye that we can all hit, so that the rest can simply be the rest ?

Church history points towards such a center as the Gospel.  How we define the gospel may vary, but even a bullseye has room for some deviation. I’ll address a little of the nature of that deviation in this post, and then share my personal vision in a final post.

We would be hard pressed to argue against the Gospel as being the single most important truth that Christians should know. None of us are arguing against that per se.  I’m more interested in how we use the Gospel according to a structure that allows us to derive a sense of life and worth. Thus, we use the Gospel as our sustaining vision, in a conscience and intentional way.  In this, the deviation should show itself as benign. I believe as we do this, we’ll find that we’re in the bullseye enough for it to count and thus resist disbanding, as if we had no vision in the first place.

(It’s tempting here, to evoke the creeds, here but on a personal note, they have never done much for me. They’ve always felt a little gauche, outside of reciting them in a formal liturgy, to which I guess, is fine. The thrust of where I’ve been going in these posts deals more with, daily living and fellowship, even and especially as we commune in the great surrogate community of online communal spaces, or participate in theological conversations where everyone is coming from a slightly different background.)

Again, let me end this post by asking questions:

What vision of the Gospel do you have ? If we all shared your vision, would it bind us together in the right way, and how does that juxtapose with reality these days ?

Are you deriving your sense of life from the Gospel ? …Your sense of worth and identity from the Gospel ? Are you able to do so in such a way that everything else is just that — everything else ?

Target Practice

All have missed the mark that is God’s glory. Rom. 3:23

Previous posts have brought the idea of a sustaining a vision and how it should not be structured.

This post poses an alternative structure to that of a house of cards theology, where any point of weakness causes it to all crash down.

The alternative structure, as helpful metaphor, would be a bullseye nested in concentric rings.  The idea here being, that there is a center which utterly grounds us. We derive a sense of life, worth, and identity from this center…so much that, the rest can be categorized as “everything else” and can be left undecided, doubted even. Furthermore, we can change our minds on these things, and it shouldn’t rock us, or the community we are in, since gain, we are not deriving our sense of life worth and identity from all the outer circles of “other stuff.”

Outside of the bullseye, we can differ, we can engage with ease and poise, because that stuff does not define us, nor give us life.

This is a structure, in my opinion, which can better weather the tumult of modernity and post modernity in our scientific, hyper informational age.

The next post we’ll switch over to a content which best fits this preferred structure.

(Again, credit to Boyd and his book Benefit of Doubt for much of this.)

E Pluribus Unum

You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. Eph. 4 MSG

Last post alluded to this idea that the people of God are bound together by a sustaining revelation, or vision. (Prov. 29:18) In this post, we’ll examine what the structure should look like by negation, or how that vision probably should not be structured.

Much credit to these ideas, which are not originally my own, goes to Greg Boyd and his book Benefit of Doubt.

Essentially, one should examine the structure of their vision, to see if they’ve crafted a house of cards over the time of their life. A house of cards theology is one where any point of weakness causes the whole thing to crash down. For example, you can sometimes identify such theologies by their rejecting of one as a true christian, because, say, they do not believe in a literal seven day creation. The general prognosis would be an inner tension with differing points of view in Christian conversation, and a tendency to have no fellowship outside of your own theological camp.

If you often privately worry that everyone else is wrong, and they just need to get on with this one thing…then I’m addressing you, probably.

A sustaining vision is one that avoids this, that can flex and have great candor, and has real fellowship with those outside of your little, or big, ideology tribe.

So the structure cannot be overly systemic, and frankly shouldn’t be that hard to proclaim or grasp. If people need to have great schooling just to get the sub points before they move on to the main points of the vision that is supposed to sustain us all, well then we will probably never get there, disbanding before we do.

And the stakes remain, the dissolution of the people in the midst of a vision structured as such.

Next up, an alternative structure to the house of cards.

 

Parish the Thought

Without a vision the people perish.  Proverbs 29:18

 

I once heard a sermon in which it was mentioned that the word perish could be translated disintegrate.

There has been talk for a while now, (using, say, the legalization of gay marriage as a watermark) of the decline of evangelicalism in the U.S.

So a probable frame for this, could be, the proverb and this idea of a sustaining vision which binds us together to weather the crucibles of culture wars, policy change, or whatever.

Hopefully, several posts to come, but for now let’s start with this private/personal question…”What vision do you have ?” And perhaps how is it holding up ?

I think we all have a vision, whether or not we realize it, so asking questions is initially more beneficial then rushing to answer.

If you identify as part of the people of God, what vision do you have ? If we all shared your vision, would it bind us together in the right way, and how does that juxtapose with reality these days ?

 

The forthcoming posts will include what a certain vision’s structure should not be, what it should be, and then finally my personal reveal.