Saturday, July 6, 2013

Our God is in the details (pt1)

I have noticed in the lives of many Christians, myself included, that we operate our faith in a flawful mantra when it comes to decision making in our lives. I think this mantra is the result of the time and effort it takes to actually establish a trusting and communicative relationship with God. A God who runs unseen and often times seems uninvolved in our daily lives. Because this perception of God is so rampant in our minds we tend to lean on this mantra: we make a decision and ask God to bless it.

There are a few things that I find to be errant with this type of decision making.

1. The origin of the decision.
Because the decision originates from our will it has the possibility of failing. On the contrary if its from God than nothing can keep it from succeeding.
2. It robs God of any Glory.
Because the will of the decision lies within us we end up crediting the work it takes to carry out the plan to ourselves and then thanking God later for whatever his role was. This creates more self-confidence and less faith reliance which is the only thing that really pleases God. Hebrews 11:6
3. It may not be in Gods plan for you and you find yourself fighting an up hill battle.
Who gets the blame when things don't end up the way you had intended? What type of emotions are created when things get hard or when you encounter resistance? Does the blame end up on God? Are the emotions from the fruits of his spirit? Chances are the answers are Yes and then no. This of course can create more doubt and discouragement in your faith.

Our current journey started this way. "Our" meaning my family and "journey" meaning our decision to move to another state.

Sometime in 2011 we started getting itchy for a different place to live. Not our house but our city. Currently living in Kansas City we were getting really annoyed with the weather. We hated summers there. There wasn't much snow to play in in the winter. It took forever to get to any wilderness and the lack of water based activities was abundant. We did however really enjoy our house and the Church we were attending, as well as our jobs.

Every summer our vacations were located in Minnesota. We have family and friends there and a Bible camp that we really enjoy. Minnesota has plenty of water based activities, great places for hiking, and plenty of snow in the winter. One of our favorite places to visit is Duluth which has all the outdoor activities we desired to be involved in. I can't remember who said it but one of us (my wife or I) said "wouldn't it be nice to live here?" We both agreed yes it would be nice. That was the beginning. A charming thought and feeling of nostalgia.

That feeling grew over the coming months and as we were nearing our yearly trip to camp we decided to stop by Duluth which only fed our desire to the point that we were telling friends at camp that we were going to try to move there the next summer. Summer of 2013.

We created a general plan.
1. Sell house
2. Get jobs
3. Find a place to live in Duluth

Step 1. Sell house
We have seen to many of our friends stretch themselves financially between two homes while transitioning to another area to live. We have seen the strain that puts on them relationally as well. Also we didn't have the type of income to even entertain this idea. This first move would also relieve a lot of financial pressure (because we had some savings) if step 2 took longer than expected.

Step 2. Find Jobs
Seeing as I was still pulling a paycheck over the summer and that my wife's income ended at the beginning of summer it seemed reasonable for her to search aggressively for a job first. She had been doing daycare from our home but is now ready for something else. She felt that she could always go back to that if things didn't work out while pursuing other options. She had some medical billing experience in the past so we thought that might be a good place to start. I have been working with children with special needs for about 7 years and have confidence that those type of jobs would be available no matter where we lived.

Step 3. Find a place to live in Duluth
Chances are after we pay off some of our debt after the sale of the house we wouldn't have much left for a good down payment on a house so we would have to rent for a while, save up, then buy. Also establishing a good local work history may be needed to get qualified for a loan.

Because we were part of the First-Time Home-Buyer Credit program when we bought in 2010 we would have to wait until at least January of 2013 to put our house on the market. So we started looking into realtors. We didn't want a friend of a friend, as that didn't go too well when we bought our current house. We wanted someone who was all business and would look after our needs. My wife started looking early and interviewed a realtor who had a lot of experience and a passion for what she was doing. We were approached later by a couple at church who were rather newish to the profession and who we later interviewed mostly out of courtesy. The last guy we interviewed seemed like a veteran.

It was at about this point where we stopped and saw how huge this decision was and how fragile our plan is. If step 1 failed then step 2 couldn't happen and step 3 would never happen. If the steps went out of order than we would be stressed in many ways. If step 2 happened first then paying on two dwellings would stress us financially. If step 1 worked out then step 2 might not and we might end up chipping away at our savings while stressing family and friends in Minnesota who were kind enough to take us in. As it is we are financially secure, had a great home, and a great church so staying wouldn't hurt us in any way. We were safe where we were but we also longed for someplace else. I found myself a bit conflicted even though I was still leaning towards moving to Duluth. We also realized that if this whole process was up to us then it might fail. On the other hand if it was God's Will for us then it could not fail. But what if He said no? "No this is not what I want for you."

So we decided to do something that we really hadn't done so far in our decision. We let God in and we prepared ourselves for the answer "no." We began to pray together. First we prayed for guidance on the realtor who would be best for us. We immediately bumped out the aggressive one. 1. because he wanted to price our house too low 2. because he seemed more like a salesman than having our interests at heart and 3. We felt his tactics would diminish the ability for God to work through our situation. Next we got rid of the first realtor my wife interviewed because I was not involved in that meeting and had no reference to judge her abilities. That left us with the couple from church Team Engle, Joy and Donny Engle. Despite the fact that more experienced realtors were interviewed we felt that they would be able to relate with us spiritually throughout this selling process. They also seemed to have a zeal for what they were doing and would work with us and be flexible to our ideas as well as help lead us to good decisions. We could not have been more right. They tackled the marketing of our house like wolves in a sheep pen. To this day I feel that even if our home did not sell that it would still have been worth hiring them due to their passion, zeal and superb communication.

When the house hit the market we had a steady stream of showings that lasted until June. But no offers. All our feedback was relatively good. "Good price, nice house, nice yard." Throughout the first couple months our prayers were few and far between but as June grew closer we began to see that we were not doing our part spiritually and also showings were slowing down. My wife and I made it a priority to pray together whenever we got anxious or needed reassurance that this is what God wanted for us. We started to see his hand working. Whenever we prayed together soon after we had a showing scheduled for that day or the next which helped relieve our stress. This happened on a daily basis.

By now it was June and we wanted to be moving by the end of summer before I had to start work again which would make things more complicated. So we decided to lower our price by about 3 thousand dollars to help get more interest. All the paperwork was signed and sent in to our realtors. Before they could get to changing the price officially (to 85k) we got a call from our realtors with an offer from a buyer. We were able to negotiate a price where we paid all the closing fees but only had to come down 1 thousand from our asking price. This left enough room to negotiate any allowances that may be needed to be handled after the inspection and still leave us with enough to payoff some debt and cover moving expenses. Closing day was scheduled for July 8th.

Since we were under contract we moved onto Step 2: Job hunting. I put in my information to a school I wanted to work at and where a friend of mine already works. My wife filled out about 4 applications the first day. We had scheduled a truck and a storage unit and were trying to get rid of superfluous furniture and belongings as well. We packed fast and left only enough dishes to survive on. The inspection was scheduled and we were notified only 12 hours before it happened but were still confident that we could negotiate and deal with whatever came up. The inspection came and went and later that day we found out that they wanted to cancel the contract. We were somewhat discouraged by the news. We thought that maybe God was saying "no" or perhaps it wasn't the best timing and He was making us stretch spiritually. So we prayed. Within an hour of the house being back on the market we had a showing scheduled. Needless to say we felt reassured that God still had His hand in this.

We decided that since we did not have a contract on the house that we should stop job hunting and get some of the work from the inspection done to show future buyers that we are willing to work and negotiate with them. We also dropped the price to 87k which is what we had negotiated with the canceled buyer. Keep in mind our realtors were still very zealous and awesome throughout this entire process and giving us great advice. We kept praying and kept getting showings. Then we got a phone call. It was to set up a phone interview for a job in Duluth. Ruh roh! Step 1 had not been met and here we were on step 2. We felt confident that God was still in this and we were going to have to trust him on his timing because our plan had a kink in the hose. What if my wife got a job in Duluth before our house sold in Kansas City? So we prayed. We prayed for courage and trust in Gods timing of our situation. My wife got the call on Tuesday to setup the interview for Thursday. We had a couple showings over the past weekend and had another scheduled for Wednesday of this same week. We had also signed paper work to drop the price to 85k. While out of the house for the Wednesday showing we got a call from our realtors with another offer on the house. The terms were a bit different but the finances worked out to be similar to the first offer. Oh yeah and they hadn't got around to dropping the price to 85k yet (not a bad thing). So we settled on the buyers offer of 85k. Closing day was set for August 1st.

 After the phone interview my wife felt very confident that it went well. The interviewer on the phone said she would hear something within the next week if not sooner. The next day she received an email saying that she did not get the job. My wife was very hopeful and excited for that job. So after feeling that she did her best and that that may not have been good enough she felt a little deflated and started applying for "crappier" jobs. Meaning jobs that ultimately would not be able to support us financially and were not going to serve her in her own personal goals for a career. After seeing this I had to step in with an encouraging reminder that she got farther in the process than she thought and that there were many other similar positions with other companies in the area. We prayed for open doors and an encouraged spirit. So later that day she worked though her emotions and put in 7 applications in one day.

At this point Step 1 is going well. "Well" in the since that he hasn't backed out of the deal even after seeing the disclosed inspection from our first buyer. Over the weekend my wife got the idea that we might need a second vehicle to make our lives work in Duluth if we both end up working away from the house. So we started shopping for cheap ($1-2k)vehicles. We settled on what seemed like a good deal. A Volkswagen Jetta for $2750. The guy was willing to come down to 2k. We set up to meet the guy the next day (Monday) for a test drive. Realizing that we hadn't prayed about it we prayed that God would give us a definitive answer if we should not get this car. My wife was sold on it and I was getting excited about it too. The next day my wife called around about the leaky head gasket that needed to be repaired on the car to see how much it would cost. She didn't like what she heard from the first mechanic. So she called 2 more. They all said the same thing. If you don't own it yet, don't buy it. It would be around $2k to fix. So really it was a $4k car. After hearing that, we were relieved at yet another answered prayer.

Approximately 3 hours later my wife got a call. For an in person job interview for the job that she phone interviewed for. The one she was really excited about. Apparently the job that she did not get was the same position but different job number. Totally shocked my wife told the lady on the phone that she would call her back to let her know when she could be there for the interview since she was caught off guard. I had just put a couple logs on the fire that I had started when my wife told me the news. In awe with my arms out stretched we decided to leave as soon as possible. I snuffled out the fire and stuffed the suitcase we had been living out of as well as our bewildered children into the car. My wife tried to get the lady on the phone but ended up leaving a message instead. We were out of the house and on the road within an hour of that phone call. Future phone calls to solidify an official interview failed. We were on the road with no promise of an interview and faith that God is and will continue to work it out.

After a couple hours into the drive we got a call from our realtors on behalf of the buyer to ask if we could move the closing date to July 26th. Which we agreed to. This is great timing too because the original closing date (Aug 1st) was right in the middle of our yearly trip to family camp in northern Minnesota, which my girls love to go to.

On the way up some friends of ours who lived near Duluth offered us a place to stay for the night and another friend who lived in Duluth offered us a place to stay the next 2 nights after that. We made the drive in approximately 9 hours. Never heard back from the lady who was making the interview calls.

The next day my wife continued to call with no return call. We visited the company so my wife knew where to go if this interview happened. After feeling a bit discouraged at getting no response we prayed in the car that we would be able to get a hold of that person. In the meantime we went to our friends house to wait. She left the door unlocked for us since she had to work and we met their gigantic puppy who promptly pooed on the carpet. Not sure why I stuck that in there but it happened. We basked in the awesome cool Duluth weather. It was a little after noon at this point and my wife was getting antsy so I encouraged her to drive back there and ask in person to see if that would help. I wasn't sure if that was a good idea but I would hate to have driven all the way for nothing. I stayed with the kids at our friends house while she drove over there. On the way she called one more time and the woman picked up. Another answered prayer, to get that lady on the phone. Apparently the lady was a very busy girl but the interview got scheduled for the next day which was Wednesday. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the weather, looking in person at the different neighborhoods and houses we had been following online and skipping rocks at the lake.

The next day we prayed and my wife went for her interview, came back, and felt very confident in how she did. We spent more time looking at houses and neighborhoods and talking with friends. Thursday we started back towards Kansas City but stopped at Como Zoo and then to my parents home to stay for the night. The next day, Friday, we continued back to Kansas City. When we hit Des Moines, Iowa we got a call. That call was to offer my wife the job she had interviewed for. The job starts July 15th. The 10 day inspection period on our house is still not up. The buyer could still back out, but at this point Step 1 and 2 have been achieved within 9 days and if God wants this to happen it will.

The Monday that my wife got the call, we mentioned how similar this is to the "Call of Abraham." The generalization that can be taken away from that passage in Genesis chapter 12 is that those who are willing to risk personal comfort and relationships to follow Gods will, will be blessed. We found out that the 1 job she will be taking starts out at about the same amount as we both made last year combined. Consider us blessed in that alone.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Matrix

Through my studies of "The Introduction to Representational Thinking" I started seeing an interesting pattern that in a general way spans many Christian ideas. The "general" pattern can be most easily seen through a model of reality as listed below.
  • The Eternal => the unseen aspect of reality 
  • The Link or Bond => that which connects the two aspects of reality
  • The Temporal => the seen aspect of reality
These three aspects together form one reality with the temporal aspect in context within the eternal aspect.
Or Eternal+Link+Temporal= Reality. A good passage to support this idea can be found in 2 Kings 6:8-20. Not that there aren't others but you can do your own study to find more.

With this general concept (two aspects plus another aspect that link to form one whole concept) I began seeing many connections that fit this model. 

The idea that God has three aspects but still one being is nothing new.
  • Father+Holy Spirit+Jesus
In these lessons we learn that the Holy Spirit is the linking agent from the will of the father (in the eternal) to his son (in the temporal).

"The two will become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24) was a verse that was lingering in the back of my mind. I began to think about reproduction and how when a man and woman come together they make a "new creation." Three aspects that make up human reproduction. This idea was also reinforced by a Bible study at Flaming Pine Youth Camp about the role of marriage and family in Christianity. We talked about how marriage is a partnership and one of its purposes is procreation. 
  • Man+Woman+Offspring
I started to contemplate how man is triadic yet one being. The Bible often refers to the body and the spirit and the lessons I was studying spoke to how we need to change the way we represent situations in our lives and how that battle or change takes place in our mind.
  • Spirit+Mind+Body
"The two will become one flesh." Gods spirit (eternal) is "linked" to our bodies (temporal) through our mind. When we allow this to happen then a new creation is formed (2 Cor. 5:17). What was revelation to me was that this is how God reproduces. I had never thought of it in this way before.

Interesting how this idea of reproduction mimics the diagram above and this picture. 

Then many other Biblical concepts came into focus.
  • Christ+Church+World
These 3 things represent the message. The church is Jesus' link to the world and through this union (partnership) Gods image can be reproduced. In essence, another form of procreation.

Next is faith. It too is triadic. Every story of faith in the Bible begins with a promise. (paraphrased verses)
  1. "Do not eat the fruit of this tree or you will surely die." to Adam-Gen. 2
  2. "You will have a son." to Abraham-Gen. 18
  3. "You will be lord over your brothers." to Joseph-Gen. 27
  4. "I will deliver my people from the hands of the Egyptians." to Moses-Exo. 6
  5. "I will deliver Jericho into your hands." to Joshua-Josh. 6
  6. "You will be anointed king." to David-1 Sam. 16
  7. "You are my son in whom I am well pleased." to Jesus-Matt. 3
  8. "I will return." to his followers-John 21
The next phase is the contradiction. That which can be perceived to inhibit the promise.
  1. Adam does not die
  2. Abraham and Sarah are too old for children
  3. Joseph sold into captivity
  4. The army of Pharaoh trapping them against the red sea
  5. Marching around a city with trumpets
  6. David flees for his life
  7. Jesus is sent into the dessert to be tempted by satan
  8. 2000 years since Jesus' ascension.
The final stage is the resolution of the promise.
  1. Adam dies
  2. Abraham has Isaac
  3. Joseph's brothers come for his aid
  4. The water is parted and the army destroyed
  5. The walls fall
  6. David becomes king
  7. Jesus defeats satan
  8. He will return
  • Promise+Contradiction+Resolution
In the representational curriculum it shows how the human mind makes representations. Coincidentally enough that too is triadic.

  • Iconic+Indexic+ Linguistic
Iconic representations are how we represent the world through the senses. The word "chair" puts an image into the mind of the reader. That image is not the chair itself but the representation of it or at least a chair that the reader has experienced iconically at one time.

An indexic representation is something that points or links to something else. Pointing at a chair with your finger conveys what you are representing. The second concept in each of the fore-mentioned triadic concepts above are an example of how this plays out in Christianity.

A linguistic representation is the use of symbols to convey an idea: c-h-a-i-r. This is the most accurate way of conveying a representation and also the way God chose, most often, to communicate.

I started to put these ideas into a spreadsheet to see all these concepts and connections as well as try to see if there was more to understand. In the curriculum there would be a question that asked "how does this verse show origin, power, and apparency (ability to be made known)? As I looked down my list I saw that these three things fit into place underneath each triadic concept.
  • The father is the origin of will. That will is powerfully linked to temporal reality through the Holy Spirit and is made apparent in Jesus Christ.
  • Mans origin came from the representation of God in the eternal. Women have the power to recreate mans image and that image is made apparent in her offspring.
  • The Spirit of God originates in the eternal. The mind has the power to link with the spirits will and wisdom. It is made apparent through the bodies action on that wisdom.
  • Christ is the origin of the message of God. The church is the link that has the power to make known the image of Christ to the world.
  • The promise has its origin in the eternal. The contradiction shows the power of the promise after it is overcome which is how the resolution is made apparent.
  • Iconic representations originated from the eternal aspect of reality. That representation indexed the power of the eternal to the temporal and was made apparent by the linguistic symbols of God to create the temporal aspect. Iconic representations also originate in the mind of man as he interacts with facts. They have the power to index a mindset that is made apparent through his language.
After solidifying these concepts I looked at each column and began to see another correlation. In the first column everything shared the concept of authority*. In the second column everything yields or submits to the first column. The third column is dependent on the first two to yield a new creation. So again we see how the partnership between the first two procreates the third.

*I thought a side note here would be relevant. I think there are a lot of misconceptions with this word. If we think about some of the different authorities we encounter in this world: government, police, principals, directors, teachers, etc: there real function is that of a servant. This relationship can be seen reflected in Ephesians 5:21. Column 1 and 2 are a partnership, authority submitting to power, power submitting to authority. Both are necessary to achieve their goal.
  • The father is the authority of reality and circumstances. The Holy Spirit submits to the will of the father and because of this union a new creation is born in Jesus Christ. The first literal incarnation of God.
  • Man is often referred to the authority in a family or marriage. When the woman submits herself to the man via sexual reproduction a new creation can be made. A baby! Aww.
  • The Spirit is the authority in a relationship with God. When man submits his mind to the Spirit, Gods wisdom, will, and character can be known and he can then be shaped into a new creation. A unique entity sharing aspects of God and man.
  • Jesus Christ's character and message is the authority of the church. When the church is willing to submit themselves to that image and message, new creations can be made from those in the world.
  • The promise is the authority over a situation. That which is a perceived contradiction to that authority will submit itself to the promise and once the resolution occurs a new creation or foundation of faith is made.
  • How we perceive reality through sensory/iconic facts becomes our authority. If they are submitted in a way that indexes the promises or revelations of God then our language will change (become "new") to reflect that.

As I continue to study I know I will be able to add more concepts to this. I find it very interesting that though this model isn't directly stated in scripture as general concepts they all relate in the same way and perhaps help put things into perspective when trying to understand our worth in Gods eyes and what we represent to him in this reality.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Question your faith

I encourage all who read this and who are Christians to question your faith. I have found it extremely rewarding to question and search out truth. I have read a few other religious works including the Koran and Atheist works. I intend to continue to read these works because they bring up more questions. The more questions I have the more answers I find. The more answers I find the more confident I become and the more willing I am to allow God to rule my life and my mind.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Misrepresentation #8

Claiming that Christianity is the only way is egocentric and exclusive.

This should be brief. The very fact that you are reading this and do not claim Christianity is evidence of the hypocrisy of this statement above. You are in fact claiming that the way you are living your life is the way you should be living it and Christianity is not the way. No matter your religious affiliation or lack thereof you are claiming your way is the way even if it is a philosophy that says all paths lead to God or no God. Because you are basically saying what others believe is wrong or incomplete. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Atheism etc. all claim there way is the only way.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Misrepresentation #7

Jesus Genealogies as recorded in Matthew and Luke contradict one another.

This idea was introduced to me while I read the "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. And yet again his attempts to invalidate the Bible is naive at best. His ignorance is also his biggest downfall as well as many other atheist arguments I have encountered so far. Instead of putting to much of my own energy into this post I am going to copy/paste from another resource there is a visual aid at the site to help explain:

One of the charges of contradiction brought by skeptics against the Bible is the surface appearance of contradiction between Matthew’s genealogical list (1:1-17) and the one provided by Luke (3:23-38). As is always the case, the charge of contradiction is premature and reflects an immature appraisal of the extant evidence. In every case of alleged contradiction, further investigation has yielded additional evidence that exonerates the Bible and further verifies its inerrancy. The alleged discrepancies pertaining to Matthew and Luke’s genealogies were explained and answered long ago (e.g., Haley, 1977, pp. 325-326; McGarvey, 1910, pp. 344-346; McGarvey, 1974, pp. 51-55; cf. Lyons, 2003).

When one places the two genealogical lists side by side, several factors become immediately apparent that combine to dispel the appearance of conflict.

First, Matthew reported the lineage of Christ only back to Abraham; Luke traced it all the way back to Adam. Second, Matthew used the expression “begat;” Luke used the expression “son of,” which results in his list being a complete reversal of Matthew’s. Third, the two genealogical lines parallel each other from Abraham to David. Fourth, beginning with David, Matthew traced the paternal line of descent through Solomon; Luke traced the maternal line through Solomon’s brother, Nathan.

A fifth factor that must be recognized is that the two lines (paternal and maternal) link together in the intermarriage of Shealtiel and Zerubbabel. But the linkage separates again in the two sons of Zerubbabel—Rhesa and Abiud. Sixth, the two lines come together once again for a final time in the marriage of Joseph and Mary. Joseph was the end of the paternal line, while Mary was the last of thematernal line as the daughter of Heli.

The reason Joseph is said to be the “son” of Heli (Mary’s father) brings forth a seventh consideration: the Jewish use of “son.” Hebrews used the word in at least five distinct senses: (1) in the sense used today of a one-generation offspring; (2) in the sense of a descendant, whether a grandson or a more remote descendant many generations previous, e.g., Matthew 1:1; 21:9; 22:42 (“begat” had this same flexibility in application); (3) as a son-in-law (the Jews had no word to express this concept and so just used “son”—e.g., 1 Samuel 24:16; 26:17); (4) in accordance with the Levirate marriage law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; cf. Matthew 22:24-26), a deceased man would have a son through a surrogate father who legally married the deceased man’s widow (e.g., Ruth 2:20; 3:9,12; 4:3-5); and (5) in the sense of a step-son who took on the legal status of his step-father—the relationship sustained by Jesus to Joseph (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Luke 3:23; 4:22; John 6:42).

Notice carefully that Joseph was a direct-line, blood descendant of David and, therefore, of David’s throne. Here is the precise purpose of Matthew’s genealogy: it demonstrated Jesus’ legal right to inherit the throne of David—a necessary prerequisite to authenticating His Messianic claim. However, an equally critical credential was His blood/physical descent from David—a point that could not be established through Joseph since “after His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18, emp. added). This feature of Christ’s Messiahship was established through His mother Mary, who was also a blood descendant of David (Luke 1:30-32). Both the blood of David and the throne of David were necessary variables to qualify and authenticate Jesus as the Messiah.
Once again, the Bible’s intricate complexities shine forth to dispel the critic’s accusations, while simultaneously demonstrating its own infallible representations. The more one delves into its intricacies and plummets its intriguing depths, the more one is driven to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible is, indeed, the Book of books—the inspired Word of God.