Friday, April 13, 2018

Anxiety or Prayer?

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

God has been dealing with me on my response to difficult situations. I have a tendency to stress myself out trying to figure out a solution to a situation then, after everything fails, I finally remember to pray and bring it to God. By this time I've already been dealing with anxiety over that situation for several days, weeks, even months. 

Why does it take so long for us to remember to pray?

We have a tendency to approach situations with an attitude of, once I've exhausted all my resources and ideas I'm left with my last resort of praying. But praying should be our first resort, our first response. 

When we pray we have no need for anxiety because we have given the problem to God.

When we pray we relinquish control and put it in His hands. 

I think this is sometimes why it is so hard for us to pray. We want control. We feel that we are supposed to have control. As Americans we are constantly bombarded with this value of independence. We are told that true freedom is being independent and taking control of our own lives. But this is not a Biblical idea.

Christ shows a way of relinquishing control in order to receive freedom from Him. 

"Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, and you will find rest for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

By coming to Him with our labors and are burdens we relinquish control of these and take on His burden which is easy and light. We yoke ourselves with Him and allow Him to help us through the process. As long as we hold onto the value of independence ingrained in us by our culture, this is difficult to do, however, once we do it we find peace and rest like never before. 

Don't wait for the last resort to pray. Next time you are facing a problem bring it to God immediately and let His Spirit direct you on what to do. Even if His direction is to "wait and see" rest in the knowledge that God's got this!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Discussion Post Regarding Sexism and Homosexuality

Sexism and Homosexuality have been hot topics in today's society and in today's church. Often the church is accused of promoting sexist beliefs, and it often has, and the church is at the forefront of the fight against homosexual marriage. In fact, many non-believers find that they can not even consider Christianity because they feel that they could never agree with the church on these issues. This last week in my Social Problems class we went over these issues and I had to post a response to a video in which our professor interviewed another professor on some of these issues. The professor interviewed, Dr. Susan Shaw at Oregon States University, has actually focused her research on feminist theology and feminist biblical criticism which I found to be an interesting direction on the topic. If you want to watch the interview you can find it here. Whether you watch it or not I felt that my response was worth posting here. Feel free to read and comment if you disagree with anything I say. The book that I am referencing in the post is Introduction to Social Problems by Thomas J. Sullivan. The following was my response to the interview.

Sullivan defines sexism as "an ideology based on the belief that one sex is superior to and should dominate the other sex" (Sullivan, 208). Dr. Shaw states that her research is based on feminist theology and feminist biblical criticism (1:05) and how gender works in religion (1:20). She then later mentions behaviors and actions promoted by the Southern Baptist church specifically that she would label as sexist (2:40). As a Christian, and a life-long studier of the Bible, I would be interested to hear more about her thoughts on this issue specifically. I would be interested to get a hold of her book Reflective Faith in order to read more about her views on the subject (2:00). It is already clear to me that there is a great misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the scriptures when it comes to a female's role. Many people read the Bible as if it was written directly to them, in their culture and time, and forget that we have to read it through a lens of thousands of years ago in multiple cultures and settings. For example, when Paul makes the statement to "let your women keep silent in the churches" (1 Corinthians 14:34) it was to a specific church in a specific culture and was never meant to be a rule applied to all churches. When the culture of Corinth is studied there were specific reasons why that was said. The Bible as a whole shows many examples of women in leadership and in teaching positions all the way back to Deborah who led all of Israel in the book of Judges. So I entirely agree with Dr. Shaw when she states that it is bad theology to say that due to Eve being first in the fall, women should not be pastors (4:05). There isn't much in the book about sexism in religion so it is difficult to find a direct connection. However, with the prevalence of Christianity in the foundation of our society I do think that these misinterpretations of Biblical passages have been a huge part of the sexism in our society. For example, the Biblical idea that women should submit to men is a foundational concept in why men tend to be preferred for managerial tasks in the workplace (Sullivan, 218) or why there are so few women in political positions (Sullivan, 225)

I was also very interested, and saddened, to hear the discussion about the 'Christian' couple and their treatment of the lesbian womenasking for a wedding cake (10:39). Growing up in the church I have always heard the same argument of "religous freedom" for issues like these that Dr Shaw mentions (8:46), but I never heard the details of how these people treated the woman and her mother. It's very possible that if they had simply said from the beginning that they were not comfortable making a cake for that wedding the woman would have found another bakery and we would have never heard about the incident. However, they had to go beyond that and ultimately shower hate towards the people in the name of Christianity (even though Christianity's foundation is love) and then try to make it out ot be a case of religous freedom. I've asked the same questions that Dr. Shaw has about the Christians vehement opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage. Why is this the only issue being focused on? It is true that the Bible lists homsexuality as a sin in many places but right along side it is divorce, sex outside of marriage, and even lust. As Dr. Shaw mentions, why doesn't that couple ask people about whether they were divorced and the reasons behind it (9:20)? To add to that they should be asking questions like, "are you already living together outside of marriage?", "have you slept together yet?". Of course no one would ever ask these questions because, despite our moral beliefs, they recognize that those things are none of their business. Yet they feel they can make these decisions based on someone's sexual orientation. I feel this is related to the title of the last section of the chapter this week, "Masculine, Feminine, or Human?" (Sullivan, 237). The section discusses "androgyny" which is defined as "a condition where male and female characteristics are not rigidly assigned and there is a blending of the traits, attitudes, and roles of both sexes." (Sullivan, 237), but to me the question "or Human" is what truly stuck out. I think we can change the terms and ask "Heterosexual, homosexual, or human?" As a Christian I will admit outright that I don't agree with the homosexual lifestyle but whether I agree with their lifestyle doesn't change the fact that they are human and that as a Christian I am to love them as God loves them. There are a lot of lifestyles that I don't agree with and, when it comes down to it, there are many things I do myself that I don't agree with, but I am still called to love.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 - Another New Year!

"Behold I will do a new thing, 
now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? 
I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:19

Why do we make such a big deal about the new year? Of course it is an arbitrary date that man has made in order to help make sense of time. Some cultures even have different dates for the start of the new year. In Ethiopia our September 11th is there start of a new year, in China they will be starting their new year on February 16th. So really there isn't much to be said about the date that we decide is the new year. I don't know about you but I don't really feel any better or worse than I did yesterday.

That being said, it is good to have a time of reflection. A time where we stop, take a look at the direction our life is going and decide whether there is something that we need to change. A time where we can thank God for what has happened in the past and look forward to the new things that God has for us in the future. The new year is as good a time as any for this. 

What happened in your life in 2017?

What are you thankful for?

What do you wish was different?

Take a moment to reflect on the past year. You might be able to say it was a good year or you might feel like it wasn't so good but I guarantee, if you look hard enough, you can find some good and some bad. You can find things to be thankful for and you can find things that you wish were different. Regardless of how your year was thank God for it all.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

This is an important place to start when reflecting on things. It is through thankfulness that we enter into the gates of God's kingdom (Psalm 100:4) and that is where we want to start 2018. 

However, it is also important to recognize what things we would have liked to go differently; what things we would like to change. This is important because, most likely, we are the ones who need to make the initiative to change those things. 

If you want to better your relationship with God then you need to make the first step,
If you want a career change then there are things you can do to ready yourself for that change, 
If you want to increase your income to give more or to pay off debt then there are things you can do to make that happen, 
If you want to improve the relationships with your family and friends then that starts with you, 
If you want to lose weight and get in shape then it is on you to make steps in that direction. 

It all starts with you!

We don't look back on the things we didn't like in order to lament on how bad it was but in order to make steps to keep that from repeating.

If all we do is talk about how bad 2017 was then 2018 will just be a repeat. What are you doing to make a difference in your life and in the life of those around you? What are you changing in yourself that makes the world, at least your world, a better place? 

This is where goals and plans come into place. We have a tradition of making New Year's resolutions but, as we all know, most people don't actually keep them. One of the major problems with how we do New Year's resolutions is that we make broad, general goals that aren't measurable, or they stretch out for too long of a time. It is hard to stick to a goal that we will only know if it is successful a year from now. If you have a goal for 2018 then break it down into smaller steps. 

New Years Resolution: I want to spend more time in prayer.

This is a good resolution but by itself is not measurable. How will we know if we succeeded in spending more time in prayer? 

Step 1: I am going to wake up 15 minutes earlier before work in order to spend that time in prayer each morning for the month of January and February.

Step 2: I am going to increase that time to 30 minutes for the month of March and April.

Step 3: I am going to start going to my room 15 minutes earlier every day to spend time in prayer before bed at night for the month of May and June.

Step 4: I am going to start going to increase that time to 30 minutes in the evening for the months of July and August. 

All of a sudden you have an hour of dedicated prayer time added to every day and the year isn't even over. It would be hard to get this detailed with everything that we want to change but try taking one of your resolutions this year and break it down in step by step increments. Also remember that they say it takes at least 21 days to create a habit so give yourself time to do so.