This is a PowerPoint presentation I put together to help explain what's happening in the Churches of Christ based on Joe Beam's article in Grace Centered Magazine.
Let me know what you think. Is he right? Where do you see yourself on this spectrum? What do you see in the future?
Friday, September 13, 2013
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
In Mark 9:24 a distraught father, at the end of his rope, cried out his final plea to a God who had failed him: “I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
That father was in the midst of a crisis of faith. He had tried everything he could think of to heal his son, but nothing worked. He’d even come to Jesus’ disciples who were supposed to be able to do things that no one else could do. When they failed too it seemed like the end for this ever hoping, yet hopeless father.
Then Jesus walked up. He started to dig into what was going on and learned of the disciples’ failure. He made it clear that anything is possible for one who believes.
That statement is life and death.
When faith is easy, it’s a joy to know that God is on your side. It adds to strength to consider that God makes anything possible. When the blessings are flowing, faith flows with them.
But when faith is hard, the idea that anything being possible for those who believe feels like another boot to the back keeping you down. It’s just another indication of how hopeless you really are. If you could simply have enough faith, God would provide. So the failure is yours, not God’s. It’s your lack of faith. Your disbelief. Your failure. Your death.
But that desperate father wouldn’t give up. Even though faith was hard for him and he was filled with unbelief, he didn’t see just two options.
We live in an either/or world that likes to divide things into neat piles. It is either this or that. It’s either here or there. It’s either conservative or liberal. It’s either science or faith. It’s either logical or emotional. It’s either faith or unbelief.
The father refused to be bounded by either/or. He claimed both faith and unbelief. He scattered the neat piles and destroyed the divisions. So Jesus smote him. Smote him good.
No, Jesus loved him.
It’s almost like a Kobayashi Maru, the fictional test for Starfleet officers in the Star Trek universe. It’s a no-win situation. No matter what option you choose in the test it turns out badly. It’s designed as a test of character to determine how potential officers react to real-life no-win situations.
Captain Kirk didn’t accept the rules. He denied that there could be a no-win situation so he found another way. He reprogrammed the test.
The desperate father didn’t accept that there could be an either/or situation. He wanted both/and. And Jesus gave it to him. Happily.
Jesus healed the boy. The father’s son was well. The faithful unbelief of the father was rewarded.
The idea of faithful unbelief isn’t often explored. We usually read the bible from an either/or perspective. Either people are faithful or they are unbelievers. We don’t usually have categories for the both/and, for the faithful unbelievers.
Yet that happens all the time. Faithful unbelief is something that everyone deals with, if they’re honest. Death, loss, divorce, sickness, bankruptcy, unemployment: doubt-causers. For the desperate father it was the incurable sickness of his son. For others it might be years of unemployment. Or mental illness that won’t flee from medicine and therapy. Or a relationship that is so broken mending it seems impossible. Or a death that comes suddenly and leaves broken hearts in its wake.
Doubt-causers will strike every life. Guaranteed.
So what do you do? How do you cope? How do you process through a doubt-causer in a faithful way?
What does Faithful Unbelief look like?
Join us for thirteen conversations exploring faith, doubt, questions, answers, and how to have faithful unbelief.
- Being Uncertainly Certain
- Why what we think we know isn’t always what we know.
- Cognitive Dissonance
- The power and danger of thinking two different things at the same time.
- The Cycle of Learning
- How our reason, experience and emotions combine to create knowledge
- Asking Questions
- Exploring the different motivations for asking questions.
- Asking Logical Questions
- A brief overview of logic, its questions and potential answers.
- Asking Emotional Questions
- How feelings spur questions that logic may not be able to answer and what to do about it.
- Searching for Answers
- Ways to begin processing questions: study, conversation, experience, journaling, meditation, counseling, etc.
- Searching for Meaning
- Touching on the difference between answers and meaning and what each one can offer.
- Discovering Truth
- How will you know when you know what you know?
- Big T Truth versus Little T Truth.
- How finding your truth may or may not have anything to do with Truth.
- How to use both feelings and actions to create change, and why you should do it.
- Cognitive Consonance
- Re-aligning your brain to a new reality is painful and rewarding.
- Re-Engage the Questions
- The cycle of faithful unbelief continues. Learn how to keep the process going in a healthy way.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
It was easy to start the process. The first few miles were close to the phone company and a natural extension of what was already happening. But the farther from the phone company, the more spread out the people became.
Still, getting to the towns wasn't terribly difficult. There were highways that led to most of those. What was the real issue was that last mile from the towns to each person's home.
I struggle with the last mile in almost every project I do. I want to hurry up and start things, but I don't want to finish them. The minute details. The endless polishing. The last, lonely, long mile of it.
But the last mile is the difference between a professional and an amateur.
It's easy enough for anyone to start something, but to go through all the thankless effort of finishing well is the mark of a true professional.
My first published book wasn't professional. People read it because, I think, the content outshone the flaws.
But instead of rushing out my next book. I'm forcing myself to walk the last mile. To re-read what I wrote and others have read.
I really don't want to do this. That's why I must.
How do you deal with the last mile in your work?
Friday, July 26, 2013
Vast and constantly swirling.
But it doesn’t swirl like the eddies of a river seeking chaotic balance. It doesn’t swirl like clouds forming a funnel of violence. It doesn’t swirl like flames erupting from a pitch-filled knot on a log tossed into a fire.
No the swirling is fully random.
That may not seem a differentiation, but it is.
Everything we see that we think is chaotic isn’t really. It’s order that we can’t fully perceive. The swirls of sunflower seeds are arranged according to Fibonacci’s sequence. So too the shell of the nautilus. The clouds obey patterns of wind. Fire is defined by thermodynamics.
The pseudo-chaos we see is not chaos but our inability to understand. The flowing river is in perfect order that we could see if we knew ever molecule of water, every fish, every plant, every gust of wind, every stone and every footfall of a deer slaking its thirst at dusk. It all goes where it ought to in precisely predefined patterns.
This unending, swirling, chaos-incarnate is wholly different. Not in degree, but in kind. There is no analogy. Laws do not define it. Understanding cannot contain it. Vision cannot circumscribe it.
You stand at the edge as if on a cliff before the raging sea. It writhes, alive and seeking. You can sense its cold purpose yet no words exist to describe it. As color to one born blind.
You fear it, as you should, but slowly something dawns on you. The realization creeps up your spine and lodges in the base of your skull. It is felt, but not yet known. Your fearing, lizard-brain, fight-or-flight knot-in-the-pit-of-your-feet locks you in place.
Your blood pressure rises. Sweat embraces you. Breath escapes you. The chaos is growing, coming, seeking to destroy you.
Panic cries out, begs for your obedience.
But with Alexander’s blade your gut-thought cleaves the Gordian coil.
Entropy fears you.
You fear it. As well you should. It desires that all should be like it. Everything should fail, crumble, topple and rust into oblivion. It devours worlds, stars, galaxies and hearts.
But it fears you too. As well it should.
You stand before it defiant. Its all-consuming chaos is not death to you, but life. It is from whence all things come. Not willingly, but eventually.
You wrestle with Entropy.
Each match is a titanic struggle laying low one or the other opponents. You know not if you will succeed or fail, yet you stride forth into battle. Into chaos. Into death-life you wade knowing that you can drag out of its vast, swirling depths some order.
But not the order that can be understood, contained and explained. No, the order you draw forth is other. Like Entropy is other.
Your order is something new, something wondrous. It is Creation.
What was not now is. Because you stand, fight and overcome Entropy.
Do not diminish the heroic act with petty labels.
Those are but orderly, understandable, circumscribable labels for those who stride forth, like you, and wrestle Entropy into submission in order to bring a Creation forth into the world.
You should fear Entropy, but so should Entropy fear you.
You are mighty. You Create.
Monday, May 06, 2013
For most of the things I did in the last calendar year I have no measure of success. By any quantitative, objective standard I'm a failure. I made less money. The church I was working with closed down. I didn't publish a book (after publishing 2 in 2011). My writing business ended up writing off more than it made.
All that really makes me want to feel like a failure.
But I'm reminding myself that productivity isn't my goal. I don't want to be a productive writer, teacher, minister, or husband. I want to be better.
Instead of looking at 2012 through the lens of productivity, I'm trying to look at it through the lens of improvement. Am I better?
In 2012 I started developing my craft as a fiction writer. I joined a critique group and a connection group for writers. I've been able to give and receive feedback on writing that is thoughtful, helpful, and not personal.
I started teaching in 2012 and I've been working to develop my skills to communicate ideas over the long-term and to translate my thoughts into concepts that can be understood by all the different types of thinkers.
I helped a church see what true ministry looks like, how difficult it is to be a disciple-making-disciple, and to come to the realization that they no longer had the energy to do what they were called to do. Even though the church closed, the members left with a better understanding of God's calling for their lives.
My wife and I have kept working to improve our marriage. We revisited our marriage mission and vision in order to make it more closely align with who we are and what we're doing. We experimented with new ways to express love to each other, kept having conversations about how we can improve and have just worked hard to be great at marriage.
If I evaluate 2012 based on the standard of productivity, I failed. But in 2013 I'm a better writer, teacher, minister and husband than I was in 2011. So I'm doing my best to not feel like a failure.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
For one thing, it's a logical fallacy to assume that there are only two possible answers to most questions. In nearly every discussion there are multiple answers with varying levels of validity.
It also immediately puts the discussion into the realm of right vs. wrong, which isn't a helpful spectrum on which to operate. If we are only concerned with being right, we won't entertain any other possibilities which actually increases the probability that we'll be wrong (more on that in a bit).
It's also a relationally destructive paradigm because conversations are reduced to competitions in which one party is the loser and the other the winner.
Both/And thinking offers more hope and certainty.
Looking at how both views can be right and wrong allows ideas to be placed on a continuum rather than set up as diametrically opposed. Seeing the continuum, or even a web of thoughts, provides not only a fuller understanding of the issue, but a better way of disagreeing.
Instead of pitting right versus wrong, a both/and view allows the strengths and weaknesses of different ideas to be expressed. However if you're stuck defending the "right" answer, you are likely to never see its inherent weaknesses nor to discover the strengths in other points of view. This is, in essence, what the church did with Copernicus and Galileo. Their emphasis on being right blinded them to the strengths in the argument of another. So they were unable to admit the weaknesses in their own argument and therefore drastically reduced their chances of being right.
Ultimately, both/and thinking seeks relationship over rightness. But that doesn't mean that rightness is sacrificed. Rather, when the relationship takes priority, it allows a forum for more ideas to be heard and a fuller understanding of the ideas to develop. Oddly, emphasizing relationship increases rightness.