Category Archives: ramblings

My Plausible Solution

Listening or thinking?

So for those of you jumping in on this blog post, this is a continuation of my last post. So to sum up, I essentially mocked (well, not really but kinda) the use of the question “What does my heart sense God is saying to me?” I said what I said about it because nobody in the Bible ever had to ask that question. If God wanted to say something to someone, he said it, and the person receiving the message didn’t have a doubt about what God said, or that it was even of God. It’s very cut and dry. Just go read the last post.

Okay, now that you’re up to speed, I also said that I think there’s actual worth in the question, though not in a way that most people look at it. Most people mean or understand that question as an actual listening for the voice of God, or looking for an idea impressed on their mind, or SOMETHING at all involving a possible tie to God, and assuming it is God giving them a revelation.

And now that I’ve thought more on it, I think that I was stretching it when I said I think there’s worth in the question. Instead, I’d like to offer an alternate (and easier) solution to this quandary. And I think that this solution is what actually happens most times when people think they are listening for the voice of God.

So there’s this thing called a conscience. One also possesses a brain, and theoretically some amount of wisdom. Also the Bible. Why in the world would God give us these things if we were merely supposed to listen for God to tell us what to do? Why would God give us the capability to solve problems if the only problem solver should be God?

Just so you know, those questions are rhetorical.

Look, we have a moral compass, called a conscience. This isn’t the Holy Spirit, this is a (almost) built-in feature of the human. Atheists have a conscience; one doesn’t need to be a Christian to have one. Yes, Christians tend to keep their consciences in better shape than atheists, but that’s because we have a reason to. The conscience is a feature of our ability to understand that sin even exists, which came into existence starting with Adam and Eve. So we have a conscience, which is from God, but not God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit, in my opinion.

We have a brain (mind, rather), which is great for using to solve predicaments and problems. I think of this as the objective part of our spiritual self. We can analyze a situation and know what is the best thing to do. Wisdom is acquired over the course of one’s life, and not an inherent part of us. Thus we can grow in wisdom and further our capability to think, which can be used to advance our spiritual walk with God. Again, this is made by God, but not God himself.

Finally, there’s the Bible. The Bible is the handbook of the Christian. The Bible is full of wisdom and insight, and holds much of the history of Jews and Christians, giving us historical accounts to look back on and learn from. There are important principles for Christians to follow, and they are all right there in the Bible. This is wisdom and knowledge preserved and handed down from God, so that we can learn and develop as Christians. This is from God, but not God himself.

You bring these things together and you have a powerful set of tools to use in divining the best way to go. The trick is to be able to trust ourselves, and be as honest with ourselves as we can. And you don’t have to trust just yourself, there happen to be other Christians in the world to bounce things off of. I don’t think God gave us all of this so that we can ignore it and just ask him for all the answers.

When I got into my teens and later, my parents gave me more and more freedom. They allowed me to start making more of my own choices. I usually had the option of getting advice from them. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I had to make my own choices, making up my own answers. Sometimes I failed, sometimes it worked. But I certainly became more mature quickly when I started taking responsibility for my own choices, because suddenly, I had to think for myself. My parents instilled in me the knowledge of the basics, but I didn’t take those lessons to heart until I put them in action in a previously unencountered situation. Figuring out how to use what I know is the fastest way for me to learn something, because I can’t just suck off of Mom and Dad’s expertise anymore. Yes, I get their advice, but I’m the one who ultimately chooses what to d0. And that’s the best way to mature and grow, in my opinion.

I think it’s the same with God. God gives us the knowledge in the Bible. We get to draw on the history of the Bible to study the stories of different people who made certain decisions that ended in certain consequences. These accounts can sometimes relate directly to a situation we may be in, but not often. We have to deduce and decide for ourselves what is most prudent, and sometimes we may be wrong, sometimes we may be right. But then we now are putting what we know into practice, and our faith becomes ours instead of being the faith described in the Bible. I think we learn the most when we fail. I certainly do.

I simply think that it makes more sense for God to have us decide what to do using the tools he provided us with, rather than provide us with powerful tools and have us sidestep them.

Now, what I am not suggesting is that God never speaks anymore. I just think he doesn’t actually speak to us as often as people would like to think.

It also depends on what people think about when they talk about God speaking to them. God can “speak” through the Bible, meaning that God provided the Bible for us as His word, which contains the truth of God. However, there is a difference between God “speaking” through the Bible as in the conveyance of moral truths and God actually using particular passages of the Bible to speak directly to the reader. And that’s actually likely going to be another blog post yet. Involving misusage of certain verses in Jeremiah that talk about God knowing the plans he has for you. But again, another blog post.

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So I wrote most of this post a week ago, and I’ve tried to proofread it a couple times but had too many other things going on in terms of missions trip preparation (and taking care of the girlfriend :) ) to really set aside time to do that. So I’m not entirely sure if I stayed exactly on topic or even ended up on the same conclusion that I started with, but I had promised this post to you a week ago and never got it to you. So I figured I should, in whatever state it may be in. Feel free to critique it, smash it to bits with your razor-sharp logic, or feed it to a friend who would think this post is heresy, and let me know how it went. Or even post it on your Facebook wall and make fun of me. Seriously, this is me partially reasoning out loud so that I can cement thoughts in my head and get opinions on it. So tell me what you think. Even if it’s a “That’s stupid and you’re wrong.” Or a “I really dig it, man. Totally groovy,” even though that pretty much tells me nothing. If there’s a concept that I started but never seemed to get around to finishing, or if I was just too plain confusing about something, ask me to elucidate. So yeah. Anything. Go for it.

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My Unpopular Opinion

So for one of my missions trips, I received a big ‘ol package of preparation material and such. I haven’t really thoroughly explored it until recently, and when I did, I noticed a prayer journal they encourage you to use to “ignite” your prayer life. So I opened it up and started looking through it.

Week One, Day One- Time With God

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

Okay, cool. Good verse. Talks about being honest and real when you’re praying to God, and not to be showing off or whatever for the people around you, because this is contrasting to the hypocrites mentioned in the previous verse. Then I keep going.

Jesus didn’t mean that we must go into a room and shut the door. He did not do that when He prayed. But He did find ways to be alone with God, and that’s what He is telling us to do today.

Oh. Really? That’s what the Bible’s saying right there? Ummm, so what about in Matthew 6:5, where Jesus says to not be like the hypocrites, who love to pray to be seen by men? Is the solution really to just be alone with God? This passage isn’t about necessity of praying when you’re alone, it’s about the perspective one needs to have when engaging in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God, whether in a group setting or by yourself. But prayer is about God, not about you. That’s what the verse is saying.

So I skip down to the journal part of the devotion, and the first question goes like this:

What does my heart sense God is saying to me?

When I see this question, I picture myself when I was younger, closing my eyes and concentrating as hard as I could to try to hear what God was saying. I would try to keep my mind as blank as possible, warding off any possible distracting thoughts, and I would curse Satan when he wouldn’t let me hear what God was trying to tell me. I eventually figured out there was something wrong with that.

My beef is with the idea of needing to ask the question. If God is saying something, your heart doesn’t need to be uber spiritual at the time. You don’t need to be prostrate and fervently praying before God to be able to “sense” God saying something to you.

Exhibit A: Numbers 22. Balaam and his donkey. If you recall the story, Balaam was pretty much blind to God. But God had something to say to him anyway. And God made sure that Balaam heard it and followed it.

Exhibit B: The book of Jonah. This time Jonah was vehemently opposed to doing what God said, but God got through to him anyway.

And take into account every true prophet in the Bible. They didn’t give a message saying, “This is what I sensed God was saying to my heart.” They would know beyond a shadow of a DOUBT what God was saying, and they didn’t need to even ask the QUESTION! God just said what needed to be said, and nobody had any question about whether it was God or not. Why would it be different for us?

I do think there’s a good reason why that question is so popular though, and I may blog on that next (I’ll give you a hint, I think it actually is productive, but not in the way people mean it or take it). However, right now I have Bible verses and a testimony to memorize, and I need to train my evangicube skills. So I need to go do that. But I’m doing prelim forming of the next blog post in my head already, so expect that sometime in the next week. It’ll also likely be a long one.

So yeah. Discussion is definitely encouraged; in writing this rather strongly weighted opinion, I don’t want to discourage other perspectives, so discuss away!

(Btw, here’s the next blog post in the series.)


Woof.

What a weird week.

Grandma went to the hospital last week, and was diagnosed with pancreatitis, as well as had some stones in her gallbladder or something. So Mom’s been keeping her company in the hospital this week, and it feels like the house has been empty without here. But surgery was today, and was evidently successful, and Grandma pulled through like a champ. So there’s that.

Also, the big pine tree in the backyard cracked over in half because of the insanely huge storm last night. So we’re gonna have to get rid of it. It was so big. The landscape in the back yard looks so weird now with it gone. I wasn’t here at the time when it blew over; I was over congratulating my graduating friends at Calvary Church at the CHALC graduation. The storm sounded crazy even from inside the church. Also, I can’t help but think of the imagery of the tree in Jane Eyre. There’s really nothing in my life that would be symbolized well by the tree, but it’s definitely a “BAM.” moment. A nice landmark in the course of my life, anyway.

Our bathroom is currently all torn apart, because it’s getting revamped. Just another thing adding to the weirdness of this week.

Also, there’s something else that may or may not happen that you may or may not hear about. It’s exciting and yet caught me off guard something fierce, even though it’s been on my mind for a little while.

There’s some other stuff that happened this week too that aren’t necessarily related to the above subject, and aren’t incredibly interesting, but have been just more things that have been different about the week, that just made it stand out more.

Also, countdown to my various missions trips are getting closer and closer to zero. There’s less than a month until I’m at Joni and Friends, and then the rest of the summer will be a blur from South Africa to Burkina Faso.

I’m pretty sure I will remember this year in my life, from what I hope is going to happen this summer overall. I hope God will stretch me and challenge me in ways I have no clue about, and I hope I survive everything he throws at me. I know both will happen. I’m just sorta nervous. But it’s an excited nervous. A happy nervous. A determined nervous. Really, it’s mostly just me being uncertain of what’s coming and plunging into it anyway. YAY!

Oh, and it’s my birthday tomorrow. So happy two decades to me.

That’s really it. I don’t have anything groundbreakingly philosophical this week, though I have been working through some really good books. I haven’t read for awhile, it was rather refreshing. One more thing different about this week.

So it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed this week, it’s just that this week has been completely out of the ordinary. Which is awesome, and….weird.


A Rave About Radness

So I just finished Half-Life 2 Episode Two yesterday. For those of you who don’t know anything about video games, it’s a video game. It’s set in the future, there are aliens from another dimension that are trying to essentially enslave and wipe out humanity, and you are a part of the rebellion as Dr. Gordon Freeman. It all starts back in the original Half-Life game, which I never actually have played yet, because I don’t have a PC to play it on. (I’m hoping Valve gets around to releasing it on the Mac sometime this year, as they have with the HL2 games, Portal, and pretty much every other game in their catalog.) But, I have played HL2, and HL2 Episode 1. And the series is incredible.

Now, I haven’t played a lot of games, I’ll say that much. But there is something so incredibly wonderful about the games Valve makes. Everything in a Valve game is as real as it can possibly be constructed to be. And I’m not necessarily talking graphics-wise, though there’s some pretty bangin’ graphics. The characters are real. The voice actors, animators, and directors all see the characters in as authentic a way as possible, and it works really really well. By the time I ended Half-Life 2 Episode 2, I realized I was way more involved with the characters than I thought I was, because Valve got me to cry at the end of the game.

Portal is a very different game, in which you never get a gun to shoot anything with. But you are often confronted by armed enemies. What you get is a portal gun, which shoots portals onto walls which you can travel through and create havoc with physics. There’s so much fun to be had with such a simple idea, and the storyline is awesome and riddled with really quirky humor. Short, but it was also a “test” game. Can’t wait for Portal 2 to come out. Already preordered it.

For me, Valve is like the Pixar of video games. They concentrate on making a GOOD GAME, and that’s it. Valve is notorious for pushing back release dates of their games, something that’s annoying but ultimately a happy thing, since Valve probably just didn’t find the game perfect enough yet, and had to add that little thing that most of us wouldn’t notice, but makes the game that much more playable.

So I didn’t really have a point that I was aiming for, I just wanted to talk about Valve. So nothing very deep today. But if you are inclined towards maybe wanting to try out playing video games, start with Portal and then Half-Life 2 and sequels. And then everything after that will be a disappointment.


Facts


Facts are interesting things.

Facts are what the world is built off of. They’re true statements or concepts about how stuff works, and when we find one and become confident of its validity, we trust it.

But facts don’t become facts when we believe they are. Facts are facts, whether we know they are or not. If a fact hasn’t been discovered yet, that doesn’t mean it’s not a fact, it’s just unknown. Believing in something doesn’t make it a fact.

From there comes the question of what makes a fact a fact. How can I definitively say that a fact (the thing itself, not the word) is what we say it is? Here’s the very simple answer: it just is, because that’s the nature of the thing. It’s not a fact because the human race says it is, it’s a fact because that’s the way it is. It’s a law, of sorts.

You may find this all elementary (or simply confusing, since I’m bringing it down to the lowest possible point of analysis possible), but in all honesty, I swear people today have issues with understanding the idea.

You may have heard of (or know) someone who is a relativist, or perhaps a conspiracy theorist, or possibly just someone who believes something because they have “faith” (the interpretation of faith being essentially wishful thinking). These people all have something in common: a misinterpretation of what facts are, and how they should be used.

A relativist thinks in facts, even though he may not think he does. The very basis of being a relativist requires one to accept the concept that everything is relative as fact. In reality, he is not a true relativist, since he has to adhere to a specific rule. Otherwise his whole premise falls apart. I astounds me how many people are so open-minded that their brains fall out, to quote the fantastic Steve Taylor.

The conspiracy theorist always thinks in “what ifs”. There’s usually not many actual facts floating around in his brain, just concepts he accepts as facts. Often his worldview is built off of rumor and doubt of what is obvious, because to him what is obvious must not be true. He looks at an earthquake, and instead of seeing a natural shift in the earth’s tectonic plates, he sees the work of an alien civilization that has been hiding underground for centuries, closely studying the human race. They find random articles on the internet that support their view and with one or two confirmations, they immediately accept it as truth.

The person who has “faith” is another breed a little like the conspiracy theorist. They believe things without question, mostly because a lot of other people believe it (which isn’t always bad, just as a disclaimer). They don’t know the facts, they don’t know why it’s supposed to be true, they just believe it because they like the idea of it being true. Never mind that there may be actual proof against it, or philosophy (which can also be convincing proof) showing otherwise, they just believe it because it’s right for them. Which is bullcrap.

There is truth in the world. There are facts. Believe what is true. Not what is rumored, not what is nice to think about, not what you think should be right. Base your worldview off of fact. Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and hope is knowing something will happen because of evidence.

Now we don’t know everything. We don’t know every fact the universe has to offer. But the universe does run off of facts. And facts are inherently true. So when there is a new fact discovered, it has to fit with everything else in the world. If there’s a fundamental conflict between facts, it’s either that neither of them are true or that one of them is true. They can’t both be true.

Thus ends my ramble.