Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Is There A High Power?"

Week One:

Last night we watched our first episode of Gospel Journey Maui!

The first question for the series was, "Is There a Higher Power?" It was a basic question for the cast, and everyone had answers that were very similar to one another, and also very different from one another. Priscilla, A-Rae, Zane and Pastor Grieg all professed a belief that Jesus is intimately connected to creation and that He is their personal savior. Jasser said he believed that Allah created everything and is a compassionate and merciful God. Emma said she believed there is energy in the world we can tap into, and Jonathan said he believed there is a higher power but no one will ever be able to figure out what it is and that evolution is the engine of creation.

Some of the questions we talked about in small group were: what are the 'big' questions of life? Why do they cause so much fear and controversy? And, do you ever doubt that God exists?

It seemed like most everyone agreed in some kind of higher power. The big questions that most groups talked about were: why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Why do bad things happen to good people? What happens after we die? And why is it so hard to know God?; All really good questions.

There was some frustration that Pastor Grieg wasn't giving the cast any answers, and I have to say I'm not sure that is what he should be doing, at least not yet. Right now it is important to let everyone express their views before he comes in and corrects them with the Christian worldview. In any event, you guys really took the time to reflect on these questions critically, and put into words your fundamental beliefs about life, God, and your own place in all of it; perhaps for the first time.
There was also some discussion about creationism, intelligent design and evolution. This is very interesting topic, especially for those of you who will learn about evolution in science classes and in college classes some day. I would encourage you to watch Ben Stein’s movie “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed.” Or, Google some Christian authors who address the subject within its historical and political context. Believe me, it is always a good idea to know why you believe what you do about this topic, because otherwise people who are passionate about this will bite your head off for not knowing!

Other good references for some of these questions include:

The Reason for God - Timothy Keller
The Problem of Pain - CS Lewis
Mere Christianity - CS Lewis
Surprised by Hope – NT Wright
Evil and the Justice of God – NT Wright
God in Search of Man - Abraham Joshua Heschel
The Bible!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

GJM Intro Night

Hey Y'all!

So last night was our first Wednesday-night-small group, and it was awesome!!! Brandon talked us through some announcements, gave us an intro to GJM, we watched some promo videos, I talked about religion, and then we split into small groups. In small groups we got to have some good conversations. I'm excited to see where this series takes us, spiritually and relationally.

One thing I think will be tough for us, especially where it concerns Christianity, is separating religion from spirituality. Buddhism operates under the premise the self awareness is more important than following rules and obeying traditions. Sometimes in the church we get caught up with "religion," and all of a sudden rules become more important than grace. Our Associate Pastor, Alex Shanks, said something really profound to my high school youth group once; He said, "Sometimes, people confuse God with religion, and end up turning away from them both." The point he was making, is that God is not religion.

Christian author Timothy Keller has said that religion tells us: ' I obey, therefore I am accepted,' but the gospel says, "I am accepted therefore I obey.' So the gospel, the kind of life Jesus came to teach us about, is RADICALLY different to what religion tries to do. That is why in Galatians Paul says it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). What religion has tried to do, is create an atmosphere or a community of believers and beliefs, that will hopefully help us live our lives to the fullest. If religion ever stops doing that, then we need to change something, take it farther.

I believe that we can be those kinds of people. The kind of people who take Jesus' message of freedom and show it to the world in new and compelling ways. My prayer for this series, is that we will begin to reclaim what it means to be Christian. Surely will never get it right 100% of the time, but if we stop depending on our abilities, God will step in and empower us to be more and more in tune with His kingdom.

Grace and Peace,

ps. If you have any lingering questions from last night about GJM, religion, or how two goofy people like Brandon and I ever got the authority to teach kids, ask em' here!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

To question, or not to question?

Hey students,

Tomorrow is Gospel Journey Maui! Woop woop! Time to "shred the gnar," as Zane would say. Even though we won't be watching the first episode until next week, we are still introducing some important info you should know about the cast of GJM. This blog is a resource to supplement our discussions, so take full advantage of it if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts post them here every week!

During GJM we're going to be confronting some big, no, HUGE questions; questions people have wrestled with since time began, and will be still struggling with in the distant future. Maybe you will start this series and realize your not so sure about your own faith, is that alright? Are we allowed to question God? To doubt? In my opinion, yes!!! In fact, the Jewish tradition (our foundation) insists that to have a healthy relationship with God, we MUST wrestle w/our questions and doubts! In Genesis, Jacob (liar and brother of the hairy Esau) is preparing for the arrival of his vengeful brother, when suddenly, he's jumped by a "stranger" who wrestles him, injuring his hip. Even though jacob is injured, and no doubt frightened, he refuses to let the stranger go until it bless him. The stranger responds with a very strange question; he asks, 'what is your name?' (Genesis32:29)

Why does the stranger ask this? I mean later in the story we find out this mid-night wrestler is God (or an angel...). Wouldn't God know this is Jacob? Well the answer to these questions can be found earlier in the story. If you remember, one of the first times we meet Jacob (in chapter 27), he is pretending to be his brother Esau, to fool his blind father into giving him the blessing reserved for an elder son. When Issac, his father, asks Jacob who he is, Jacob says "I am Esau, your first born."
He lies.
He pretends to be somebody else! Jacob, up to this point in the story, has never acknowledged himself. So when the stranger asks Jacob "Who are you?", he's really saying to Jacob, do you know who you are? When are you gonna stop pretending to be your brother? When are you gonna take responsibility for yourself? Don't you know it's ok to be you?'

When we take time to wrestle with God and demand some answers, some wsidom, some blessings... God will listen, he will challenge us, and if we hold on long enough, we will learn about ourselves in the process.

In Jacob's case God doesn't even wait to be wrestled, HE goes after Jacob! After praying about this series over the past month, the staff here feels like GJM might not be us going after God, but God comming after us. Will you show up? Will you be open to new questions? Worldviews? Fears?

Will you be open to having faith inspite of unanswered questions?

Grace and Peace,
Leigh & Brandon