"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

Spiritual Inoculation

Posted in Day-To-Day, Theological by matt on Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Wednesday before last we met up for Fuel, our midweek meeting where we catch up, pray together, eat food, read, etc.

My attitude wasn’t great going into it, but I went anyway because I knew it’s my duty as the ‘facilitator.’ I got there, forced my smiles, and tried my best to hide the fact that I was feeling desensitized toward what is usually my favorite part of the week.

Everyone had split into smaller groups to discuss the passage, and I moved from group to group hoping to help guide the discussions. This week’s passage was the part in Mark 10 when Jesus tells his followers:

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Then one Thai guy who I’d never met before was totally amazed by this text. He got really excited and started asking questions like, “Did he really come back to life?!” and “How did he know he was going to die?”

The guy’s questions were so fresh and honest – it startled me! When I’m at Bible study I’m much more accustomed to glazed eyes, short attention-spans, and partial interest. But at the end of the night (after a looong talk about the suffering and death that Jesus requires) the guy committed himself to Christ.

But, the more I thought about his childlike eagerness for Truth and understanding, the more frustrated I got with myself. Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m enthused for him and his decision – really!

I just want to understand why I’m so inoculated toward so many things. How do we ‘denoculate’ ourself toward people, work, the Bible, etc.? I’m going to spend time thinking about this, and I’d appreciate any insights.

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Fuel – 2nd Lesson

Posted in Day-To-Day, Theological by matt on Sunday, September 6, 2009

Last week I posted and/or ranted about the midweek Bible study I’ve been leading and one of the things I’ve learned from the experience. This second lesson is…how-you-say?…a paradox, and it came as an unpleasant surprise.

Simply put: The people in our group with the most church/Bible study/religious background typically have the most trouble correctly interpreting that evening’s passage.

For the last few weeks this church-kid-trend has left me utterly flummoxed (an awesome word I found that means ‘confused’ – sweet huh?) because it seems, logically, that more study and exposure to the Bible would generally make it easier to interpret the Bible – especially the simple passages!

So here are a few of my theories as to why the church kids at our study have more trouble with interpretation than the new believers.

Theory #1 Laziness: I alluded to this in a previous post, and I think the same thing may be true of many other church kids. They depend on the prerecorded religious statements given to them by people wiser than themselves instead of actually learning how to come up with statements of their own. But exploration and personal discovery is essential for a person seeking spiritual maturity. We have to take ownership.

Theory #2 Boredom: Let’s just face it, hearing about Jesus feeding the 5 thousand for the 5 thousandth time can get a little boring. There are only so many ways a person can teach, “Willingly offer Jesus what you have,  he’ll totally handle things” before it gets a little mind-numbing. I acknowledge this, and I think the best solution to a church kid’s boredom is service. That means instead of making junk up or drawing obscure parallels that are completely out of context, those who are more mature in their understanding should become leaders and facilitators for those who are new – take ownership of the ministry by ministering!

Theory #3 Numbness: Of all the possibilities, this is the scariest. Hearts drift from God and harden, and the Bible study becomes an empty ritual revolving around the intellect. So, instead of an inward spiritual revolution, we show up to acquire worthless knowledge in hopes that it’ll somehow transform us. But the brain alone isn’t enough. We need a changed heart. This problem is subtle because it is about a person’s intentions. Do we intend to change into to be transformed, or do we intend to fill our heads w/ more stuff that’ll puff us up?

This is something I’m still processing. Please feel free to add to the above thoughts or argue w/ them as you like. I’ve definitely taken ownership of leading this group in an unexpected way, and I’m grateful to God for such an opportunity to grow with such an amazing group of people.

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Fuel – My 1st Lesson

Posted in Day-To-Day, Theological by matt on Friday, August 28, 2009

Wednesday is officially the new Friday.

A group of us meet midweek to slow down together and study the Good Book. I value this time and these people; the discussion and prayer is some sweet, clean air for my groggy lungs.  The regulars include an Australian, a Chinese refugee, a couple Brits, a Swiss girl, Americans from all over, a few Thais, an Indian, a sweet-singing Singaporean, a Filipino, and a Canadian sk8r, but there are a lot of others who pop in and out.

Bangkok’s a transient place, and Fuel (what we call our midweek meeting) sometimes feels a little like an airport. Transience has it’s ups and downs, though. On the one hand we’re constantly meeting new, uniquely-gifted people, and on the other hand we’re constantly saying goodbye to them.

Anyway, I’ve been back and leading this little meeting for over two months now, and, since it’s become such an important part of my life here in Bangkok, I thought I’d write a few posts filling you in on some things I’ve been learning and thinking about. So here goes:

Lesson #1: God’s word is relevant and necessary. In fact, it’s revolutionary. Living every week for 22 years in a Bible-saturated environment has its disadvantages that I’ve only recently begun to see. I sat under excellent Bible study teachers, preachers, and mentors, but I became dependent on them for truth. It’s like knowing everything about fish except how to actually catch them. They encouraged me to go fish on my own, sure, but why should I when they’d just do it for me? So, apart from books and the internet, this is the first time I’ve ever been entirely alone in my studies. It’s forced me to mature and to take more responsibility my own faith.

There are a lot of people my age (and in my church) who consider the Scripture, at best, as being mostly obsolete. It’s a good thing to reference from time-to-time, but it’s usually going to either offend or confuse outsiders and, thus, inevitably get in the way of ministering to/loving people.

**takes a deep breath for a rant**

That’s idiotic, and the only thing it communicates is their ignorance and, possibly, their laziness. Just because people have had bad church experiences in the past doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with God’s word and they should toss it out, and just because they never learned how to read and apply it correctly doesn’t mean it can’t be read and applied correctly.

My generation (thanks mostly to globalization) is practically obsessed with all things ‘overseas’. Just go read your facebook mini-feed for a few minutes and you’ll see what I mean. People are quickly becoming more and more international and they’re more willing than ever to live in/adapt to a culture different from their own; they’ll learn other languages, customs, religions, etc. – but what about the Bible? How is that different? Multi-lingual, culturally unique with its own history (not to mention weird), it’s full of strange stuff we have to explore and adapt to in order to understand. We can’t call ourselves a flexible, 3rd culture generation (a hot ‘buzz word’ among many of the missionaries in my church) when we’re not even willing to explore the cultural challenges of our own sacred literature.

That’s it for now. If I keep going this’ll just get convoluted and onerous, so I’ll save all that for later. Much love to you all! Find new ways to enjoy the scriptures today!

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