Thursday, November 27, 2008

Youth and Theology

"The seminar I taught was why I believe we need to teach youth about some of the tougher theological issues while they are still in high school. So when the graduate, they perhaps won't be caught off guard when they go to college and not know how to respond to varying viewpoints that they will discover and be challenged with."

I was surfing around reading blogs and the post by Dan Kimball is one worth reading and reflecting on. I really resonated with what he wrote and the thing about teaching youths tougher theological issues. This is important and vital, I believe because of the challenges that youth will face while leaving for college or university.

One of the things that has been bothering me on youths and their faith is that, almost always there would be defused interest in all things spiritual after the transition of secondary school. I am speaking generally here and I know this is not true for some youths but there is a disturbing reality to this and it has become my concern.

Scot McKnight also posted on the dwindling numbers of those in their 20's attending church services on this particular post you can find here. I think what Dan wrote and what Scot wrote has connections although it might be one of the reasons (a small piece of the pie) that those in their 20s are not attending church.

Because of this I would like to just echo Dan's thought provoking post; we should teach more on the important stuff to our youths, and there can be no apologies. It is true that at their age level, some of them, things spiritual are considered boring isuues but it should not be an excuse for us to shy away from them.

I found this response from Tony on the comment I made from Dan's blog post to be very helpful in how we are to integrate a more theological focus in what we teach our youths. I value this person's response. I hope we can chnage the way we do youth, mainly in what we teach them.


I think you have to start somewhere with your kids, and diving deep into theology all at once is not the answer. Think about it this way, you have 6 years or more with some of these kids, and the truth is you have to start slow and basic in theology and build from there. I believe we need to make sure our core group of kids "get it" first and then start to build on some of the theological issues Dan was talking about. In other words, if you just keep it loud and light 90% of the time and then try to hit them with the theology stuff 10% of the time, they will not buy it...but if you always make theology an important part of your student ministry, even if it is more involved in Small groups than your main will see how much easier it is to reach them even when your talking theology and not about the stuff they "want to hear". Besides what good is telling them what they want to hear when they leave the church and their faith as soon as things in their life don’t go the way their youth pastor told them it would! I think what Dan is saying also is we need to recognize that when they leave our youth rooms and move into college or living on their own, have we prepared them enough for the challenges and questions life will certainly bring them…maybe we as a church need to anticipate some of these challenges and questions and address them now rather than wait until they are faced with them and doubt has moved them to unbelief; or worse yet distrust because their leaders in the faith just were not honest enough with them when they were 12-18.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christianity practicing PlayStation Ethichs

"Christianity in contrast to many other religions believes in the concept of grace. That is the radical idea that no one is beyond the love of God. That you can be a mafia hitman and if you commit your life to Christ your sins will be forgiven. This is the Christian idea of salvation. But I am noticing that this idea is getting a slightly bit skewed. Many have failed to realise that whilst grace allows us to be free from sin, grace does not give us a free pass from consequences."

I have been musing on this even before reading this blog post by Mark Sayers on this particular post which i found interesting and helpful. I am somewhat disturbed with the mindset that believes a mere confession would be enough to defuse wrongdoing or sin. I have been looking for a definition for this a was wondering if it existed until today! It is termed "PlayStation ethics". PlayStation ethics is the belief that when something has been done (always the bad) an easy way to fix the problem is a simple push of the reset button, and bam! we start all over again clean.

Mark Sayers goes on to explain that "Thus it is no wonder that many struggle to understand that whilst grace covers a multitude of sins, it does not press the reset button on the consequences of our choices." I agree with him. We should not think that whatever we have done wrong in this life a simple confession would erase everything. While God promises to wipe the slate clean, it is not without consequences. Take David for example. After he committed a series of sins and later confronted by Nathan, he confesses his sins. God forgives him but the consequences were not removed. We could understand this thus by saying while God forgives unconditionally, the rules on this earth is different. We suffer the consequences of our sins or wrongs. It is like being relieved that our parents still love us after we wrecked the car but still having to go through the punishment of being grounded, that sort of feeling.

I think it is important that we make ourselves clear of this. Otherwise we might treat our way of life carelessly. Thinking that if we just confess we defuse our wrongs. This is irresponsible to say the least.

God forgives us unconditionally but our wrongdoings will always require a price to pay

Blameless...clearing some air

I would just like to clear some understanding on what the word 'blameless' means(reflection on a biblical perspective). I'm doing this because I don't really agree wholly to the meaning of the word given during a sermon that I heard. I think the definition given to the meaning of 'blameless' spells out something else as you shall see.

This is what was said (not word for word but I think I have enough of the main details of what was said):

Earlier though it was explained that people are not perfect and we make mistakes. So how does being blameless work for people like us, though Christians but have weaknesses? The answer to this is: Blameless- a person going to the library doing what people do in the library (study, read books). After doing that the person packs his stuff and goes back home. Unbeknown to the person, he/she accidentally packed a library book that was not borrowed with his/her other stuff. Being honest, this person goes back and admits his/her faults to the librarian on the mistake that was done. This thus frees the person from accusation, and thus the meaning of being blameless.

My understanding of treating blamelessness in the manner explained above is simply implying that if we have done something wrong the 'easy' way out is just a simple confession. And in doing so we defuse any accusation that might come our way. I don't think this is a faithful definition of being blameless.

Being blameless in this perspective is more like
a person knowingly shutting the doors of accusation, by confessing what she/he had done. Knowingly because the person knows the wrong/mistake/sin that he or she had done. And when he/she realizes this, if the person is an honest person, the person goes into confession. In doing so 'defuses' accusations because he/she had taken the step to confess.

I must say that this is not being blameless. This is simply being
honest. Being blameless and honest are two different things. There was a statement that I heard from a speaker once. He gave a definition of integrity and honesty. Integrity he said was- doing what you say. Honesty is- saying what you do. From the illustration that was given in the sermon on being 'blameless' it sounds more like being honest. What then is the meaning of someone being 'blameless'?

Like the statement on integrity that I mentioned above 'saying what you do', being blameless falls into that category. Being a blameless person has a lot to do with how a person lives. A good depiction of a person being blameless is the story of Daniel which you can read in Daniel 6:1-28.

Daniel 6:3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Daniel was a normal man just like us. He was neither a pastor or someone 'serving' in a religious institution. He was rather someone in the secular world, working as an administrator to the king, he was in fact named among the top three men under the king. But what distinguished him amongst the others was that there was 'no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.' We can say that he was constantly living in this manner. He did not require an avenue where he had to cover his bases to diffuse accusations to be blameless. Being blameless was indeed his lifestyle.

But as we all know, in this story people had to create something to entrap Daniel. Of all things, they used his devotion to his God as a means of accusation. But Daniel was vindicated because God was on his side, and in the end it was made evident that Daniel was indeed blameless.

To me, the depiction of being blameless in the sermon does not hit the mark. I just wanted to clarify that I don't really think it shows what being 'blameless' means. Let me render then that, being blameless, a person who is blameless is simply to live your life in integrity. A finer picture of showing what being blameless is from Daniel. I guess we should try to find stories in the same reign.

In the end, being a blameless man/ woman is not just about telling the truth. It is about living your life so well that there is simply no way for people to conjure up a trustworthy accusation. Just think about Jesus' life.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prayer...another dimention to it

There is an interesting post on prayer written by Scot McKnight. I have to say that this may not be so familiar to the denomination that I come from which ravels in personal composed prayers. Not that this is wrong or anything. Personal composed prayers or prayers we simply 'come up with' at a given time are good and we also should have these types of prayer, because it is justifiable that if one has a relationship with God, then there are bound to be times where we just speak words that just come out of our mouths. We read a lot of examples of this in the bible.

But then again I think the christian circles in my part of the sphere have emphasized this to a scale that it implies that it is only praying in this manner is what real prayer is. Well this is the implication that I always get, and I just recently (a few weeks ago) heard a certain pastor (not one in Miri for that matter, and totally not all pastors but a certain pastor) simply state that we are not to recite the Lord's Prayer because it is not real prayer but something that was created. He said (in my own words) that real prayers are supposed to be said out from the heart of the person rather then reading out prayers. Well lets just say that I don't really agree with him on this.

Ever since my walk with Jesus, prayer has been a struggle for me. Not that prayer is something that I don't believe in, but I guess it takes time to adjust to it. I guess there are too many access baggage in our understanding of prayer that its meaning has been muffled and it's beauty disfigured.

Reading Scot's post on prayer give me hope in prayer because we can use prayers in the bible as aids for us to pray. There is also a dimension of prayer that follows a rhythm, things like ancient prayer hours. To me these are new concepts but only because we have been ignorant about them. I think our church would benefit much if we would venture in this direction. This could be an answer to the constant question asked by new believers, "How do i pray?". I am totally supportive of this direction an am interested in finding out about it to 'salvage' my prayer life.

Do you agree? Do you struggle with prayer? What are some methods or patterns that have helped your prayer life? Do you know of any other ways to help people the how's of prayer?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Waking up to the Matrix...

I don't know if this is a prevalent thing or not but, have you ever entered the church premises and felt, an aura that people are not connecting to you? Not that I am criticizing any church for that matter, but what i would like to address is the fact that Sunday, and the service thing has become more a religious ritual to me. Not that I don't like listening to sermons, singing songs during worship and all that, but what i feel lacking during that particular time is connecting with God and one another.

I want to address because when I was in my final year in bible school, I was struggling with the issue of 'going to church' because it is simply just going to a service, to sit down most of the time, occasionally stand, occasionally open our mouths and speak, we listen or look like listening, and at the end we pray in between of the things and we would go and have refreshments. This is the typical scenario that we go through. To me at that time it was just a cycle. Just a note, when mention all these things please don't label me someone who is just hooked on feeling and exiting praise and worship songs. I am more of the person who wants to think and read 'boring theological' books
so please stop the stereotyping.

I think and believe when we have reached this stage of thinking, rather than interpreting or understanding it as a problem period, I would rather contend the transition of thinking as a progress forward. Dissatisfaction like this does not necessarily mean we are on the brink of loosing our faith. I believe it more like out growing our preconceived cocoon. I see it as a healthy period and applaud it heartily.

Why? This seems unimaginable and rather contradictory.

Let me explain as clearly and simply as i can. When one is going through this period he/she is like a person being approached by Morpheus, giving us the decision of knowing reality or still stay in the comfort zone of things going on in its random circle. It simply unlocks the possibility of fresh expressions of the Christian faith coupled with the desire to understand ancient practices and the biblical narrative. It opens an avenue of asking tough questions with a general contention of friendly debate on opinions. It also is a healthy transition for fresh reflections of how the church should actually be-her mission, existence and direction. It is also a welcome period for people to know Jesus for who he is.

Just a note for the leaders during this period of time, build conversations and relationships during this period. Do more listening that just giving advise. Don't be fast to down play their ideas, but rather work around their ideas and frustrations, seek to understand them.

I believe that when we work things out in this manner we would be able to build on the transition of change in a more progressive way, and it would also minimize frictions and bad arguments.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tolerating the wrong Way

There is something really weird happening that I am noticing on a progressive basis lately. Weird neither explains the happening to its real extent, I think a better word would be disturbing. Another word that I would like to use is controversial, and no, I'm not talking about the profane nature of words. It's more like a word that makes the sensitive heart gnash their teeth, clinch their fists and scheme their schemes. Let me just lay it on the line...'leader(s)'.

If i were to bring in another word like 'church' and combine it with the word above (leader) it would conjure up explosions of all sorts. But regardless I would use them both for this post and combine them both with the title above 'Tolerating the wrong Way'.

Tolerating the wrong way comes when people become dualistic Christians. Why?

People leave reason behind and say that in the province of faith, reason should be left behind the church building premises door.

People contend that God can do the impossible. This is true. But we must not create the avenue or situation where God should act. God is no genie in the lamp ready to do our every bidding.

People contend that submission is to keep quiet and follow without questioning. Leaders in the church are anointed and should therefore not to be questioned. Because of this contention, people just follow without proper reasoning even though the leader is leading the community to an edge of the cliff.

People in church basically just open their ears and shut their brains out, the only thing to do is to take in everything because the leader is anointed and has a proven tract record. Did Peter, James and John have proven tract records? Did Jesus choose people on that basis, or did he choose ordinary people with no tract record whatsoever to start with. Let me put in a more in your face tone; Jesus chose the scum and made them wise and shamed the wise and really showed that they were actually the real scum.

Basically I mention people because we (me included) sometimes act like unthinking people when we enter the church building premises. I say this because we are in denial of things that are going around, things that should not be tolerated. This denial leads to spiritualizing acts that are detestable and somehow sanctifying them with God's name by explaining their nature in spiritual language. Sometimes we do this too much until we become a tolerant people, who does not know right from wrong.

My contention is, we should be responsible members of the church; a responsible community. We lose the responsibility when we tolerate the wrong way; some leader is leading us to the cliff, we cannot question him where he leading us because he is the anointed and in authority. We should ask hard questions, often controversial because we care about the direction of the church. We should not keep quiet. If we do we become irresponsible followers of Jesus because we are allowing the wolves to tear the church apart. Listen...hopefully, you will.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back to the Blogging board...

I'm finally back to the blogging board after some time off. I was teaching at a camp for a few days and that was fun. Got to polish my Bahasa Malaysia, which is not that good if one were to judge. But the main thing was meeting people and getting to know them, I guess in camps that is what is important (not that I am down grading the teaching or ministering parts but I am simply saying that it is important for us to connect with people).

I was talking on three topics and I think i would post them on my blog, well maybe something like a summary of the topics that I talked on. The three topics were Music and the content of Worship, BGR, and Leadership. I think I will post them when I am finished polishing them.

Anyway, the start of next month will be a new era in my life so right now things are somewhat messy in my mind. Sorting out issues, setting my sails, transitioning and a whole lot of thinking to do. Believe me this is not a place where I would like to be but as decisions have been made and signatures have been signed the only possible direction to go is ahead, regardless.

There are things that I have learned along the way and they seem confusing and somewhat hurting but non the less experiences that would be part of me, ingrained in me. There are still a lot of things that i do not understand but one thing is for sure, we learn along the way.

I'm learning that;

1. We have to be careful that what we are speaking 'against' is not towards the person, but just the ideas of the person. If we are not careful we will walk the line of bitterness and hate. Know what you are speaking out about, don't attack the person.

2. Be careful when we use the phrase 'this is what God is saying, direction, vision, thoughts...etc'. Sometimes our ideas get intermingled with them. This is to avoid us from saying later that 'it was not God's idea after all' and with that made God to be some sort of a liar, or worse lose our own credibility.

3. Try to find out what does it mean to really follow Jesus and being a Christian. We confuse them too much with just appearance, status, wealth and being disengaged with the world (being dualistic). When you have found out what it really means to follow Jesus asses yourself then whether you really want to follow him. To me this a serious consideration.

4. Never speak out or ask questions or brand new ideas if you don't want to seek change. Change is hard to go by if people are unwilling to act on it. Change will also be opposed by higher powers. So those vying for change have to be ready to suffer their 'personality being assassinated'. Know the consequences and if after you have known what is at stake take action with wisdom.

5. Transitioning will never happen if we are lazy, make excuses, don't make somber assessments of our actions and ideas, take no responsibility, make no effort to change your weaknesses, and cannot get along with people.

6. Leaders must know when to act up. Christianity is not always being kind and soft and show a flowery sense of 'unity'. When there is something to be dealt with one must rise and deal with it. Otherwise the leadership is in jeopardy.

7. Always maintain your relationship with God, regardless.

8. Questions or opinions does not make anyone the enemy. They make us reflect on ourselves and others whether we are hearing God or is it just us.

The list could go on but these are just some of the things that I can think about at this time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Who Will Hear

My plea goes on unheard when fickle men pass their drinks,
They mend their schemes and wander as the sun sets,
To whom should I give my voice
When all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Ears and eyes they know
when the left hand tries to hide its way
In plain sight they make their move
their thoughts loud they rise like open voices
But all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Our toils are cast into the common purse
for use together to toil for his kingdom
But once they fall on the feet of the gravel
Like water they evaporate, and toil is no more to be heard
But all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Those who stand and hunger for the way
their mouths get muffled their eyes are made blind
They cut them like a knife cuts through meat
Yet they smile and laugh when people cry out in pain
But all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Who will wake the masses and cure their blind eyes to see
Who will wake the masses and cure their deaf ears to hear
Who will wake the masses and cure their stone heart to feel
Who will wake the masses and cure their minds to see the truth
But all that hear are walls and towers
lifeless toils of the mighty...

Who will hear?

Hopeful Theo

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OIL TOWN, SWK, Malaysia
I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations