"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

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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Difficult Questions for Life’s… Easy Answers?

Posted in Theological by matt on Thursday, July 17, 2008

For about a month now I’ve been attending the Evangelical Church of Bangkok (ECB). It’s a pretty cool place. People from all over the globe get together a couple times a week to worship as a body; everything from youth groups from the States, medical missionaries from Africa, various Asian ethnicities, and all sorts of denominational workers from Australia, the US, Europe, and India. I love it.

The current sermon series is titled “Answers to Life’s Difficult Questions from Ecclesiastes”, and this week the pastor talked about the question, “How do I fit into God’s plan?” I’m sure many of you will recognize his central verse:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29.11 (NIV)

Now, apart from the fact that it’s not even in Ecclesiastes and the fact that he threw out an obscene amount of coffee cup platitudes (“The safest place to be is the center of God’s will!” or “Everything you need to know about how to live your life can be found right here!” [pointing to the Bible]) I’d like to voice a few frustrations to you in the form of a question: why is this verse so popular?

Is there some evangelical unwritten-rule about women over the age of 40 having this verse on a plaque in their living room, or at least in their bathroom? All you Thomas Kinkade fans know what I’m talking about…

It’s a nice verse, and I believe God is the Great Comforter, but I don’t think people know the whole story; at least, they’re definitely not told the whole story. After allowing a junk-load of Israelites to die from foreign invasion, God handed His people over to captivity for almost 70 years. And then, in a letter written by Jeremiah to the exiles, God gives the encouraging words found in vs. 11.

I know this is one of those ‘cynical’ posts that some of you don’t enjoy, but I’ve just gotta vent a little. Hearing a message where context is completely neglected is one of my biggest pet peeves. The Bible obviously has practical application (and encouragement!) for our everyday lives, but that doesn’t mean we can get sloppy about how we interpret it. As Dad says, there has to be a tension between comfort and retribution. That tension is found throughout the Bible (the cross!) and can’t be avoided.

Ok I’m done. Promise.

Oh! I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my school and what goes on there. The word that comes to mind is ‘chaos’, but I thought I’d provide some visuals. So there are a bunch of new pictures and some goofy videos posted of ‘school life’. Hope ya like!