The Missing: Light

In the years before laptops, e-readers, and iDevices dominated my technological library, reading most often required possessing actual physical books. I would lie in bed at night snuggled deep in my blankets, with my lamp on, book in hand, consuming the paragraphs, pages, and principles being communicated through the written word. My wife and I are completely different when it comes to our lighting and lamp preferences. I would always point the lamp above my head so that the light might reflect off of the wall and illuminate the object of my concentration, whereas Jamie prefered the light to shine directly on whatever she was reading.

Recently we decided to rearrange our bedroom to accommodate the impending birth of our firstborn son. A result of this new arrangement is that my side of the bed is now right next to a window. A window covered by a curtain. A window covered by a curtain that doesn’t reflect light very well. I found this out firsthand tonight as I crawled into bed with an old book I’ve been revisiting. It was too hard to read in that light, and considering earlier in the night I had spent a significant amount of time in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, thoughts of light were fresh on my heart and mind.

And it hit me. Not for the first time. That a lot of what we’re missing in our “modern” worship gatherings is light. The Light. Capital L. The kind of Light that John writes so beautifully about in that first chapter. The same John which the authors of the other gospels label as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” The same John which wrote three incredible epistles. The same John God chose to author the Book of Revelations.

John, above every other human author of scripture is uniquely qualified to describe Christ as the Light. We know light as this miraculous wave of energy which radiates from a high energy source and reflects off of stuff, and is then interpreted by our eyes, and processed into what we see. John knew light as the Light. He knew him by name, Jesus, by the sound of his laugh, the heft of his handshake, and the depth of his incredible love for the wayward and marginalized. He witnessed his wisdom, marveled at his miracles, and basked in his presence. For us light is a description of electromagnetic energy whereby we see, but for John Light is a description of his friend, teacher, Savior, and God. We see via the reflection of light. John saw via the experience of Light.

I can’t help but feel like a lot of what is going on in many churches today, or at the very least, many of the ones I have attended, is way too similar to me trying to read by the poor reflection of my little lamp shining upon the curtain. We need more of the Light, and less of our feebly manufactured substitute. We need to be a people of the Light, living in Light, shining forth the incredible love and truth of Christ to the darkness around us.

The best and easiest way for us to become that kind of people and for our churches to change into launching points for light bearers instead of bomb shelters where we attempt to hide from darkness, is for us to experience the Light for ourselves. Not a manipulative, crocodile tear inducing, guilt driven experience that happens around the front of a sanctuary after someone gives a stirring (or not so stirring) oration; but a day-by-day exposure to the absolute truth, person, power, and love of Christ. Miracles can happen in a moment, but disciples take time. John knew the Light because the Light was the Word and the Word became Flesh. John loved and lived in the context of Christian community with Christ.

We need a return to Christ-centered discipleship that offers a context of authentic Christian community. We need to see the Light of God, experience the light of God, and be the Light of God for those around us; anything less is unacceptable.

10 Awkward Things Only Health Practitioners Can Get Away With Saying

Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

Jamie and I have spent a lot of time around doctors the last nine months. We’ve had some awkward conversations with healthcare professionals. Here are some of the awkward things that we could remember.

1. Do you feel it when I touch you here?

2. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna sneak up on you.

3. You may feel a small pinch.

4. Are you allergic to latex?

5. I need you to undress and put this on.

6. When was your last bowel movement?

7. Pee in this for me.

8. Would you like a circumcision?

9. Don’t worry, it will fall off in one to three weeks.

10. I need you to bend over and put your elbows on your knees.

The Missing: Questions

I’ve worked through some intensely personal faith questions in the last year. Some questions were earnest inquiries brought to me by the passionate students I am so blessed to be able to interact with. Many were thoughts formed or posed during times of personal prayer, study, fellowship, or church attendance. I take notes endlessly; at the grocery store, laying in bed, and even in the middle of worship services– pretty much anytime I have a legitimate question involving my faith.

For regular readers of nathanology, you have been privy to some of these questions–but not all. For those who do not know me, you should know that I proccess knowledge through questions. I approach my faith in much the same way, but where a fact (such as multiplication tables or important historical dates) can be memorized in order to add the information to your repertoire of knowledge; faith is a kind of knowledge that is only ever truly gained through experience.

I experiece God in many ways. I find that I think most often about Him while engaging in the arts, outdoors, in the company of loved ones and close friends, through reading and study, and through stories, but my most intensely personal experiences with God always come during times of prayerfully inquisitive contemplation.

For a thirty-one year old man, I have read the bible very consistently for the majority of my life. Above all other things in my life, this is a practice of spiritual discipline that I never waver in, except for late in the summer last year when I had surgery on my mouth and missed a few days. I read it Christologically; meaning that I believe pretty much the entire collective work points to the Christ and that Jesus embodies the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (not their abolishment) and that He is our only means of reconciliation to God.

For the last few weeks I’ve been reading and studying the Gospels, but before that I spent several months–actually most of the last year, studying Old Testament Law and Prophecy. I don’t write these things as some kind of badge of honor or in a shallow attempt to elevate or promote myself, but as a sort of foundation to support the heart of what I want to begin to address with these next few entrees on this site.

The more I read and study the Bible, the more I realize that much of the stuff I have experienced, and continue to experience within the confines of a physical church property are sorely out of touch with God. We live in an age where Christian religion has become a sort of polarizing spiritual taboo, even among Christians. You have one camp that likes to quote James 4 and talk about how terrible religion is as a permissive sort of smoke screen so that they might live as some kind of spiritually empowered free spirit. On the other hand you have another group that is nearly hopelessly consumed by the traditions of what has gone before or the assumptions that they derive from those blind traditions. I believe that God’s truth lies somewhere in the middle, and I’m going to spend the next month or so trying to unpack my thoughts about it here for all to see.

It starts with this question: What is missing?

10 Things I Can’t Wait to Do with My Son

Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

My son will be born any day now. This is my list of ten things that I’m really looking forward to doing with him. This list could have been soooooooo much longer. Thanks for reading.

1. Shoot a weapon.

2. Write and illustrate a kids book.

3. Watch Toy Story.

4. Talk about God.

5. Shop for mommy’s birthday.

6. Play video games.

7. Build a Lego castle, spaceship, and other speculatively creative construct.

8. Sing and play music.

9. Basketball

10. Share the meaning of his name

10 Annoying Social Media Quirks

Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.  Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

Social media is dominant in our society.  Facebook is quickly approaching the 1 billion accounts mark.  Most of us use it and love it, but not everything is great.  Some things people do or say on social media are just incredibly annoying.  Here’s my take on ten of the things that annoy me most about social media.

1. Profile pics: The “Bathroom Mirror self portrait.” Really?!? The “This is my cute kid, but not me,” “This is my favorite sports team,” and “this is my political affiliation” profile pics. No, it’s supposed to be a picture of you. Use your cover pic for the rest of that crap. Actually, no, don’t do that either please.

2. Facebook social game apps.

3. People who cry every time there is an update or change. Seriously guys, timeline is not the end of the world.

4. People that try to be clever, and fail in a way that’s not funny enough for the rest of us to laugh about.

5. Creepers.

6. Shared accounts. Please, please, please, MrandMrs Sharedaccount, just stop. We all know it’s really Mrs that does all the posting anyways. It’s kind of confusing and weird. When Jesus said you would leave your mother and father and become one flesh I’m pretty sure he didn’t have Facebook in mind.

7. My Space, LinkedIn, and Google +.

8. Slutty Twitter whores that unexpectedly follow you and tweet random virus riddled links with your name in them.

9. People who comment on trending topics just to show up in the feed. Even worse, people who double dip by putting multiple trending topics in one statement.

10. People who actually think online drama is real and then threaten to delete their Social Media accounts in order to gain attention. This really is the “grown up” version of running away.

Water the Flower

Spring is a wonderful season full of flowers, and although it’s still not technically spring for a few more days, we all know that nature doesn’t wait to do it’s thing simply because men decided to stamp a name on a calendar.  Spring also happens to be my favorite time of year.  All the signs of life creep up all around us and blossom into serene visages of warmth and color.

The other day I was chilling on the couch and happened to catch movement out of the corner of my eye.  A quick peek between the curtains and I saw our dear elderly neighbor walking off our porch, a flower-filled vase left on the small decorative stool my wife keeps near the front door.  It was an incredibly sweet gesture.  She returned a few minutes later to ring the doorbell and let me know that the flowers were there and that they needed water.  I thanked her, engaged in a few moments of small talk, and then returned inside to my Xbox and the quiet morning.  The flowers went to the windowsill.

The next day one of the flowers had fallen off the stem.  The whole thing just fell completely off.  There was still one pretty flower left, until the next day.  It fell off too.  Then it hit me.  I had completely forgotten to water them.  Oops.

When people first come to faith in Christ, they are often fully blooming.  They are excited, they are full of life, they often want to share their story with everyone around them.  Over time this often changes, not always, or even in every situation; but many times Christianity just becomes a kind of status quo.  One so full of religiosity that all it really does is replace the previous state of misconduct and sin that the person previously existed in.  This is unhealthy, unnatural, and depriving.  New Christians need help in their early development.  They need encouragement, accountability, instruction, and deep relationships.

For those of us who are already in right relationship with God, it is our mandate to help shape, disciple, and encourage those new to the faith.  Jesus spoke in John 4 about wells of eternal living water, we’re not that…and never will be; but we might be the gardener God uses from time to time to help pour into someone fresh in their faith.  Think about it.  Have you helped water any flowers lately?

Jeremiah 6:14 Today

Lately I have been studying the Old Testament book Jeremiah during my quiet time with the Lord.  While reading through the sixth chapter the fourteenth verse really jumped out at me.  As I sat in my office I couldn’t get this verse off of my mind. So I decided to share my thoughts.

They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. – Jeremiah 6:14 NASB

For the last couple of weeks I have written several different pieces examining Jeremiah 6:14.  In this final entry I would like to address what I believe all of this means for you and I in our present situation.  I have posed several questions throughout all of this, many of which may have pointedly targeted parts of your faith, but maybe none of it really landed to close to the mark for you.  I won’t assume or presume to know your situation, your heart, or your depth of maturity (or lack thereof) in the Christian faith.  I do, however, hope that the final addition to my thoughts on this passage at least gives you a moment to pause and reflect on where you stand and how you approach your faith.

There is a palpable arrogance hanging heavy over much of the evangelical Christian movement.  This saddens me.  I realize that for some this might seem ironic coming from me.  I am often known as one who can be overtly blunt in my delivery.  However, I believe that in the realm of Christian thought and the arena of evangelistic communication there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence.  Confidence comes from asking hard questions of yourself and your faith, developing your thoughts on God, and developing a deep understanding and trust for the Almighty that stretches far beyond simple rationale, logic, or mental contemplation.  Confidence in Christ is a developed sacred trust forged from trial, testing, and triumph.  Arrogance on the other hand is the result of a lazy approach to faith that is a bastardized form of assumption and bad religion (yes, I believe there is a distinction between good and bad religion).  It is born out of insecurity, the twisted need to control, and the desperate clinging desire to reassure the fragility of one’s faith through grandiose gestures and sweeping blanket statements.

I believe arrogance spreads it’s jagged maw and spurts its wretched message in two forms these days.  The first comes through those that constantly pander their message in a way that they know will be pleasing to those listening, and I’m not talking about style of delivery.  They shape the content to suit the audience’s expectations.  In simple metaphorical terms, they tickle the audience’s ears with pleasing platitudes.  The second disastrous voice of arrogance is that chord made from those harsh tones of superiority combined with the dissonant absence of humility.  Many Christians in their fervor to assert the innerancy of Scripture have completely missed the fact that we often err.  We are so far less than perfect.

I could go on and on about how annoying arrogance can be, but this whole thing is beginning to sound arrogant itself.  I am starting to sound as if I am attempting to posture my non-arrogance in an incredibly arrogant way, and I hope that is not what you might take from this.  I believe, very simply, that we can find truth, communicate that truth, and care deeply for those around us without seeming belligerently self-righteous, and confoundedly pompous.  The Old Testament prophet Micah put it pretty well.


He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  – Micah 6:8 NIV

 

See the rest of the series here.