Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Do days matter?

What if there were two religions, with diametrically opposed faiths, that had days of observation that were a week apart, and the governor of the land that observed these two faiths, in the interest of calming unrest, decided to merge the second to occur on the day of the first - does it matter? On the one hand, regardless of your faith, you're still observing your particular religious observation, regardless of which camp you fall into. You're acting in accordance with at least the observation of the event itself. On the other, usually days for a celebration are important.

Let us assume that you are a new American, and in your original country of CountChokula, and a believer in NewFaithia, you observe "the Scavenging", a time of great joy when, on December 17th you would be allowed to visit any and all farms within a 50 mile radius and take whatever goods you could carry away in your own hands. The day was not arbitrarily chosen - it occurred on the 350th day of the year, a day of particular religious significance to you. In your own country, it was a source of pride for your entire country for a man to carry more than his neighbor. In fact, your very definition of a faithful CountChokulan REQUIRES you to faithfully observe this on December 17th. In America, for the sake of political expedience, they moved it to December 25th and decided to allot particular farms for your use.

As a new American, you have some degree of religious freedom, but the national expression of this religion has deviated massively, observing it on December 25th. As an observer of "the Scavenging", and a member of the NewFaithia movement, you would be horrified if it were moved arbitrarily for the sake of political expedience. If you were truly faithful to your faith, you might teach it to your offspring ... but eventually it is likely the initial fervor for the particular day of the year would die out after four or five generations.

What if you are a seventh generation American, and a 'tried-and-true' NewFaithian, and learned to observed your "Scavenging" on December 25th. Then, when you became 21, you learned that the original observers of "the Scavenging" practiced the holiday on December 17th. Would you be true to the original ideals of the faith and, after having done sufficient research to document the veracity, observe the holiday on the original day, out of respect for the actual meaning of the holiday? Would you decide that the spirit of the day was more important than the observation of the actual day, disregarding the original holiday because of your personal convictions? Would you decide that no day in particular needed to be the day of observation, and occasionally observe it on December 25th, sometimes on December 30th, and sometimes not at all, based upon availability and resources?

What say you?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Baptism - I

One of the most destructive things we can be tricked into doing is to say things that have import that we know not of.

In a religious sense, one of those words is baptism. As such, the original usage - in Jewish religious ceremonies, will likely always color the meaning of the word - to include immersion, being set apart, and in fact some of the feasts were associated with the word. Likewise, if you come from a Christian background, you will likely assume it relates to either some degree of immersion (between a personal dunking to an impersonal sprinkling by a member of the clergy) to a physical representation of a spiritual event - the personal acceptance of the Holy Spirit.

If you research the word without a preconceived notion of what the word means - it paints a rather interesting picture.

So the question is - what does the word baptism mean to you?

Monday, March 03, 2008

The face of beauty

I am fascinated by faces. Mostly I'm fascinated in the sheer variety of faces that exist - no two people have exactly the same faces. Each of us have a different combination of hair, eyes, skin, nose, skeleton, limbs, and a plethora of other body parts that only medical students ever really get a working knowledge of names. Or perhaps students of medical terminology. Regardless, the variety of face options is so large that - even if you were to clone someone, they would have a different face as well. They may LOOK exactly the same but their faces would be distinct.

And we are trained (either inductively or deductively) to value the difference between faces. Sometimes this value comes from comparing a particular attribute to a perceived optimum. Likewise this value can come from comparing a particular attribute to an assumed worst character. In fact, without a subjective standard with which to gauge something, no one face, set of hips, smile, or any other attribute is particularly ugly or attractive. As an example:

Please define the following attributes:

Beauty Grace Age Happiness

for the following object

A pickle, floating in a black room, hanging in mid air.

The point is that these attributes are separate from the objects themselves - we carry them with us and assign them based upon our subject standards.

Hopefully you can see these standards we hold are flighty, temporary things.

Now juxtapose these with the love God holds for us - it is unwavering. A constant.

  • · He loves us enough to care about each individual hair on our heads.
  • · He cares whether you take a shower.
  • · He has an opinion about whether you eat that jelly donut.
  • · He may have suggestions about your political stance in the coming election.
  • · He may wish you to take the left or right fork.

Regardless of venue, decision, or environment, you can get guidance from God. And this guidance will never contradict scripture.

The challenge - of course - is to prepare yourself before deciding. Because it is ever so much harder to empty a boat that is filling with water than patching the holes before the boat starts filling.

I challenge you:

1. Find something that you care about - something for which you have an opinion.


    • lying,
    • what clothes to wear,
    • who to vote for,
    • when (or if) you should fast,
    • who to hang out with,
    • whether you should offer someone help
    • who to marry
2. Then assume God has an opinion about it - and thus has included information on that point in Scripture.

3. Pray (that God will show you what His will is on that topic)

4. Delve into scripture daily (perhaps fifteen minutes, perhaps three hours), researching God's will on that topic.

The Challenge: Spend enough time in scripture until you have peace that God has no opinion - or you learn His opinion. Then act on it.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The imaginary part of God is more real than we are

One of the more fascinating trades I have discovered is that of a scholar - in particular a student of mathematics. And the reason is simple: the more one studies tools available for those fields, the more one has powerful tools to understand and relate to facets of God that other people don't discover.

My favorite example is the concept of multi-dimensionality. With respect to God, this is the idea that there are certain facets of God which exist in a way we don't understand ... perhaps in a different dimension. Engineers learn to deal with certain imaginary properties that have literal and direct effects upon tangible objects - even if those imaginary realities are not directly capable of being discerned. They do so with tools available in mathematics.
(For a fairly good tool to learn or teach multi-dimensionality, try Flatland: the movie)

In short - the study of God is recursive: - the more we learn and understand of God, the more we have tools at our disposal to evaluate and understand the information we have available, the more we realize that God is so profoundly amazing that the more we know, and the more we know the more we don't understand.

Save for the profoundly simple:
God is real.
God isn't mad at you.
Your move.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

What has He done for you lately?

One of the easiest traps one can fall into - especially in America - is to catalog what God hasn't done yet. It is a simple thing - you list one thing, then another, and the focus can thus turn into a kind of perception of God's apparent eternal incompleteness. As if the only thing He can do right in your world is to knock just one more thing of the list of things He owes you.

I find myself there sometimes. And I inevitably turn into a kind of martyr.

The resolution is to change your paradigm.

Choose to begin the list with a least five of the things God has done in your life that has fundamentally changed who you are. You may not even be aware of some of them - if so, ask God to reveal them.

Here are some of mine:
God saved me while I was in boot-camp.
God erased pain and anguish from a huge volume of my memories.
God gave me grace to learn how to begin to be the kind of man my wife needed.

Ask God to reveal to you what He would like you to expect Him to do.
Then, ask God to give you grace to wait for that thing.
And wait upon the Lord.