Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

#GoodNews – the Christian faith isn’t about being “good.”

JSMGospelMeansGoodNewsThe Christian faith isn’t about being “good” and trying not to do anything “wrong.” ‪

#‎Jesus‬ wasn’t just a good man Christians should strive to emulate.

If I believe the eye witnesses, He was God himself, in the flesh. He came to restore my relationship with Him – a relationship severed by my rejection and indifference.

I suffer when I am separated from God. Without Jesus, that separation would be eternal.

Any parent will tell you they wish they could take their child’s place when the child suffers.

If you believe what Jesus said, that’s what God did. ‪#‎ibelieve‬ ‪#‎GospelMeansGoodNews‬

December 21, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Christian, Jesus, JSM Quotes, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Are you saying Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses agree about who Jesus actually is?”

I only opened the door because I thought it was a delivery. I’ve been doing a bunch of online Christmas shopping.

There was no smiling Amazon box on my porch.

It was a smiling guy wearing a tie, holding a zippered book and what appeared to be a Bible tucked in his armpit.

Thought Bubble: “AAACCK! Julie! What have you done!?”

After his jovial icebreaker comment about how the vine on my porch reminded him of the grape vines he used to swing on when he was a kid, he abruptly launched right into his spiel with a question about politics and the end of the world that I literally couldn’t make ANY sense of, much less answer.

“Have you ever wondered about whether the world blahblahnonsensicalblahblah.”

Thought Bubble: “um, I can honestly say no. Because I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

I told him I was sorry but that I only discussed politics with close friends and he said, “Me too! We have something in common!”

Thought Bubble: “ummmm. no. I don’t think so. I’ve never met you before. You are standing on my porch, not sitting in my living room. We are not close friends. We’re not even acquaintances. and you just asked me a question about politics.

Then he asked me something as equally nonsensical as his opening question, which he seemed believe was a natural conversational bridge from politics to God and once again, I couldn’t make sense of what he was trying to say. In all honesty, it’s very possible I didn’t care enough to put any effort into deciphering the question.

Thought Bubble: “Jehovah’s Witness.”

He was looking at me expectantly.

I was completely frank: “I’m not really sure what you’re asking…This is a Christ-centered home.”

He said: “We have something else in common!”

Thought Bubble: “I know he knows that’s not true.”
Quick Prayer: “Lord, do I go there or not? Please help me follow your lead.”
and Memo to Me: It would appear that Jehovah’s Witness canvassers are trained to find and call to attention something they have in common with their targets – even if they have to invent the commonality.

JW: “Let me give you a tract that addresses politics from that standpoint.”

Thought Bubble: “? huh? What standpoint?”

He unzips what turns out to be an actual book FULL of tracts, all organized in plastic sleeves. Flipping through, he pulls one out, opens it up and points to a quote referenced as Daniel 2:44

“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. And this kingdom will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it alone will stand forever. (emphasis his)

As he slowly read the verse out loud, he followed along the text with his finger and I remember him being completely oblivious to the fact that I was actually looking at his face and not the tract, thinking, “I wonder if he’s been trained to do that. I can’t be the only person who finds it condescending.”

Quick Prayer: “Okay Lord. I REALLY need you to tell me what to say. NOW.”

I took the tract out of his hand, turned it over, looked at the bottom.

My tone of voice was neutral: “You’ve misrepresented yourself.”

He looks surprised. Confused. Hurt. Acting is not his forte.

JW: “I didn’t misrepresent myself! How did I misrepresent myself?!”

Me: “There’s a significant difference between Jehovah’s Witness and Christianity.”

JW: “There are lots of differences between Christian religions! For instance, Baptist’s believe…”

Me, softly interrupting: “I’m not referring to doctrine.”

Silence. I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t have an immediate response.

Quick Prayer: “okay God. Now What?”

JW: “I don’t understand what you mean.”

Dont Have to Attend Every ArgumentImmediately, the thought popped into my head: “Don’t explain. It’s a trap.”

Me: “I’m having trouble believing you don’t know what I’m talking about. You must have engaged in conversations about the difference before.”

I’m not sure exactly what he said next. But I remember thinking “Tangent. Distraction. Non-essential doctrinal difference.”

Me: “I’m sorry, I’m really not interested in debating non-essential doctrine. There’s a single significant difference between Jehovah’s Witness and Christianity.”

I continued, looking at him quizzically: “I’m finding it difficult to believe you don’t know what I’m talking about.”

JW: “What’s the difference between Jehovah’s Witness and Christianity?”

I looked him straight in the eye and slowly shook my head:We don’t agree about who Jesus actually is.” (click the link to see a 2 minute explanation of what JW believe)

Another brief moment of silence.

A woman, obviously his canvasing partner, who had been walking up my driveway, stepped close enough to him so that he noticed her presence and realized he was being observed.

JW: “Well, who do you believe Jesus is?”

Again, I thought: “Don’t explain. and only focus on this one issue.”

Me: “I’m having a difficult time believing you don’t already know who I believe Jesus is. You must have had conversations with Christians about this before.”

another pause.

Me: Are you saying Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses agree about who Jesus actually is?

JW: “well…no….But…”

Thought Bubble: “I KNEW he knew what I was talking about.

and I LOVE the Socratic method. loveitloveitloveit.”

Me: “I’m not going to try and convince you to believe what I believe about who Jesus is. But I do believe you misrepresented yourself. Jehovah’s Witness is not a Christian religion.

JW: “But…”

Me: “I respect your beliefs. Please respect mine.”

He thanked me for my time and I respected his beliefs again by not wishing him a Happy Thanksgiving.

As I think about it now, I realize why they were canvasing on a Tuesday morning. They know it’s likely there are a lot of people who’ve taken the week of Thanksgiving off.

Smart.

the words calculated and predatory also come to mind. but still. very smart.

November 24, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Christian, Jesus, pragmatic communion | , , , | 2 Comments

Richard Dawkins acknowledges the possibility of Intelligent Design…

Richard Dawkins on the Possibility of Intelligent DesignHow did I not know this?

Anti-theist, Richard Dawkins believes in the possibility of intelligent design:

“It could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, by probably some kind of Darwinian means, to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto, perhaps, this planet. That is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the D cells of biochemistry and molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer. And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe.”

Doing the math…

That’s: 3 “coulds” 1 “somewhere” 1 “probably” 1 “perhaps” 3 “possibilities” and 2 “mights” all adding up to

– if I understand him correctly –

Aliens.

from outer space.

or more specifically, from “somewhere” in space, at “some earlier time” in history.

perhaps. He supposes.

He makes this statement in an interview with Ben Stein, who comments:

“So, Professor Dawkins was not against intelligent design. Just certain types of designers. Such as God.”

Aliens are a reasonable scientific theory.

But a different kind of transcendent being,

such as God,

is not.

Here’s two data points I will remember forever about Richard Dawkins:

1. When asked, without even a hint of argument, he immediately acknowledged the possibility of intelligent design:

“It could come about in the following way.”

2. Without any citing any scientific evidence, using words like could, probably, perhaps, possible and might, he believes aliens are a reasonable scientific theory to explain intelligent design.

“And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe.”

And then there’s his quote about “people who claim to be religious” from my post yesterday:

“Mock them. Ridicule them. In public.” Religion “needs to be ridiculed. With contempt.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Christian, pinterest, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Richard Dawkins on Christians: “mock them. ridicule them. in public. with contempt.”

[Background Photo Source and Prints Available to Purchase from: http://navitz.deviantart.com/art/Wings-of-a-Broken-Heart-32783712 ]

[Background Photo Source and Prints Available to Purchase from: http://navitz.deviantart.com/art/Wings-of-a-Broken-Heart-32783712 ]


Been thinking about something Richard Dawkins said
when he spoke about
meeting someone who claims to be religious:

“Mock them.

Ridicule them.

In public.”

Religion “needs to be ridiculed.

With contempt.”

And the crowd he addressed laughed and cheered and applauded.

I don’t agree.

I can’t fathom a single situation in which contemptuous ridicule is “needed.”

Public or private.

Everybody is ‪#‎justadifferentkindofbroken‬ ‪#‎edify‬

April 16, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Christian, pinterest | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We can’t trust the Bible. It’s been “re-written” too many times.

Re-written is one way to say it. But the word “re-written” tends to imply the Bible has been edited and re-interpreted multiple times over hundreds of years, resulting in an irretrievable loss of the original content. The implication of the word “re-written” is widespread error and intentional manipulation by the fallible humans who did the re-writing. The implication of error and manipulation is that in a cross-check, the manuscripts don’t match up.

After looking at the available facts instead of relying the assumptions, I believe a more accurate word is “copied.”

Hand copied isn’t the same as re-written.

What’s interesting to me about the assumption that hand copied scripture results in an untrustworthy source is that, in reality, the multitude of copies actually serves as proof for reliability of ancient manuscripts. And not just Biblical manuscripts. The “number of copies” criteria for reliability doesn’t originate with or even apply only to Christian writings.

It’s a history thing.

Historians who could give a flyin flip about proving or disproving Christianity believe that the number of copies and whether they cross check for accuracy in content is an important factor in determining whether ancient documents are reliable.

(To clarify. I’m not referring to the truth or meaning of the words in these manuscripts, just their historical authentication and accuracy.

Here’s some facts about the ancient documents we have:

There are presently 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament.

From what I can find, after the New Testament, the highest number of copies of ancient writings is:
643 copies for Homer’s Iliad,
49 copies of Aristotle’s writings,
10 copies for Caesar and
7 for Plato.

Meanwhile, in addition to the 5,686 Greek manuscripts for the New Testament, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. Add non-Biblical manuscripts and the supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000.”

Maybe I’m misinformed, but my understanding is that reliability of the writings of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle or Homer are not disputed.

Pragmatic Faith Manuscripts Span of YearsIn addition to the multitude of copies, another criteria historians look to in confirming the reliability of ancient manuscripts is the time between the original writing and the earliest copies known to be in existence. (Notice we don’t have originals of ANY of these documents.)

Sticking with the five examples given above, the approximate time between the original and the earliest copy we have is:

Plato’s writings – 1200 years (7 copies),
Caesar1000 years (10 copies),
Aristotle1400 years (49 copies) and
Homer500 years (643 copies).
New Testament70 years (5,686 copies in Greek alone)

So…just looking at the math.

If critics, doubters and naysayers of the reliability of Biblical manuscripts acknowledge the historicity and writings of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle and Homer, it seems logical that they should also acknowledge the historicity and writings of the New Testament authors.

April 3, 2015 Posted by | apologetics, Bible, Christian, pinterest | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

doubt assumptions, ask questions, search for answers.

When I work as a computer trainer and consultant, I offer potential or new clients a free “needs analysis.” It didn’t take me long to realize that most of these clients fall into one of three categories:

1. They know exactly what they need, and they are right. They understand their situation and possibilities.
2. They know exactly what they need, and they are wrong. Their perspective is limited and/or skewed.
3. They’re not sure what they need, but they know they need help.

I’ve found a similar pattern with people who believe they are a Christian:

1. They believe they are a Christian and they are right. They have a relationship with Christ.
2. They believe they are a Christian, but they are missing a relationship with Christ.
3. They’re not sure what they believe, but they are seeking.

(And then there are those who are comfortable with where they are and aren’t seeking.)

John Wesley saw that second group of people clearly. Adam Hamilton, in his book Revival, described it this way:

“Wesley said that many who thought they were Christians seemed to be so in name only; they were almost Christians. They did not have the joy, assurance, or peace that comes from being wholly surrendered to God. They lived their lives in compromise with sin, willing to do just enough good but no more. They entertained evil, provided that it wasn’t too extreme. They did little or nothing to grow in love with God.

In what ways did faith in the church of Wesley’s day resemble the faith in our churches today? Some would suggest in a great many ways.

Wesley said there is so much more to being a Christian than simple acceptance; there is a power, love, and joy that come from walking with God. And God expects more of Christians than simply trying to not be so bad as other people.”

To say this quote resonates with me would be an understatement. I can only speak from my experience and understanding, so I’ll say it this way. When I accepted Christ at 15, He became my savior. I lived my life in the context of that relationship with Him until 2007, when He revealed to me that I was holding back. He wanted to be more than my Savior. He wanted to be the Lord of my life. He wanted me to give up my will and trust Him in every aspect of my life, with no limitations. Over the last 7 years, by the grace of God and through the equipping of the Holy Spirit, I’ve taken down the boundaries between the different aspects of my life and I’ve been striving to offer up all of me to Him. I’ve been growing into an intimate, dependent, living relationship with Christ.

Live wisely make the most of every opportunityWhile I’ve spent most of my career as a computer trainer and consultant, at my core, I’m an educator. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a passion to help people grow. As I myself have grown closer to Christ, the Holy Spirit has taken that passion and set it on fire. I’m determined to encourage and challenge people to intentionally examine what they believe and why they believe it. I’m determined to encourage people to doubt their assumptions, ask questions, search for answers and make informed and intentional decisions about their beliefs.

Notice the language I just used. It’s very specific. I said “decisions about their beliefs” not “decisions about God.”

My goal within any of these conversations is not to change someone’s mind.

My goal is to leave a “spiritual stone” in the shoe of everyone with whom I interact, mostly through asking questions and listening.

I fail often.

But when I have a conversation with someone who wasn’t thinking about God, and the conversation results in them thinking about God – especially long after the conversation is over – I haven’t failed. After the conversation is over, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften that person’s heart and open their mind as he draws them closer to Himself.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:44a (ESV)

Relating to the three possibilities above, God has specifically planted and grown in me three distinct, compelling and persistent passions:

1. Discipleship
In addition to my own desire to be discipled, I have a passion to disciple others – to help people who have a relationship with Christ, continuously grow closer to Christ. My prayer is that God would reveal to all who know Him what he revealed to me: That He wants them to give up their will and trust Him in every aspect of their lives. That He doesn’t just want to be their Savior, He wants to be the Lord of their Life. He wants an intimate, dependent, living relationship with them.

2. Relational Evangelism
a) For the people who believe they are Christian but have never entered into a relationship with Christ, my prayer is that they would enter into that relationship. I can’t help but think of this verse:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Matthew 7:21-2321 

b) For the people who know they aren’t Christian, but are willing to share with me what they think and feel about God and, more specifically, Jesus, I’m determined to be a safe person with whom they can voice their doubts, ask hard questions and search for answers. My prayer is that they come to faith in Christ. It’s not my job. It’s my prayer.

iceberg doubt assumptions ask questions search for answers3. Apologetics
For people who are apathetic about God, who don’t believe in Him or flat out hate Him and all His followers, my passion is to help them set aside the baggage that so often comes from religion and help them see that the selfish behavior of some of the people who profess to be Christian is more a reflection of flawed humanity than that of a perfect God. My prayer is that they make their own personal decision about Jesus based on Jesus, and Jesus alone, rather than on their thoughts and feelings about religion and the bad behavior and beliefs of other people.

John 10:10 tells us that Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly, in all its fullness. Not abundant blessings or stuff. Abundant LIFE.

That’s what Biblical discipleship leads to.

Abundant Life in Christ.

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

September 26, 2014 Posted by | apologetics, discipleship, sharing Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dear Atheist, I support your right to vote, in full awareness that your feelings about God and religion influence your vote. Respectfully, A Disciple of Jesus Christ

Dear Atheist I support your right to vote Freedom of Religion

September 22, 2014 Posted by | apologetics, christian living, conversations with an atheist, pinterest | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

toxic concoction.

Doubt and Faith Toxic Concoction Mark Buchanan Your God is Too SafeI got cocky.

I thought I could logically justify my faith in God.

You’ll find some Christians who’ll tell you they can do it.

not me.

not anymore.

When someone told me my faith was illogical, irrational and unreasonable, I bristled. Or should I say, my ego bristled? I challenged them to prove it.

They couldn’t. (Their emotionally charged reasoning was circular and redundant and they completely ignored me when I poked questions into the holes in their arguments.)

But in the aftermath of those discussions, I discovered I couldn’t disprove it either.

Science and logic have limits. There are some things that can’t be understood or explained (and a definition isn’t an explanation).

Like what causes gravity.
Like human consciousness.
Like quantum entanglement (what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”).

Like God.

Doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Just means we don’t understand why. Or how.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that God cannot be completely understood. I forgot that a God I can understand is a God I create. Confine. Any God I can completely understand is limited by time and space and the extent to which I can understand.

Any God who is limited by my understanding is not transcendent.

I was reminded – the hard way – that I don’t want a God I can understand.

It was a season of extreme paradox in my life.

My faith had never been stronger and I had never been more aware of my weakness apart from Christ.

My faith had never been stronger and I had never been more intimately and desperately dependent on the Holy Spirit.

I prayed daily for wisdom and discernment and empathy and compassion. I prayed daily for Him to continuously make me aware of opportunities to be the hands and feet and voice and ears of Christ. Watching and listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit had never been more in the forefront of my awareness. I prayed not only for the Holy Spirit to prompt me when to speak and act, but when to be silent and still.

I prayed for Him to equip me in what I honestly knew to be beyond my capabilities.

and then.

The person who told me my faith was illogical, irrational and unreasonable asked me a simple question:

If God is sovereign, why pray?

You’d think I would have considered that question before, me being all spiritually “mature” and everything.

Turns out, I had never really thunk it through. I had dismissed it, thoughtlessly citing Biblical platitudes like “I pray because Jesus prayed.” and “I pray because the Bible tells us to pray.”

When I finally looked at the question straight on, my entire relationship with God came to a screeching halt.

I couldn’t pray.

I wanted to turn back the clock. To unthink what I was thinking. I wanted the faith of a child.

I wanted stronger faith.

Suddenly and overwhelmingly, I identified with Philip Yancey when he wrote:

“I envy, truly I envy, those people who pray in simple faith without fretting about how prayer works and how God governs this planet. For some reason I cannot avoid pondering these imponderables.”

What was so different about this question this time? It came at a critical juncture in my life. After arguing with God for months, I had finally taken the terrifying step of obedience by sharing something I believe God was revealing to me. Something I tried to ignore. Something I didn’t want to see: That I was part of a church which marginalized grace, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, prayer and relationship with Christ. That we forgot 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 and were ignoring Matthew 28:19.

I was genuinely repentant and prayed desperately for God to bring revival. Heartbroken, I asked for people to pray with me. I was blindsided by how angry people were, how fast and how much they misunderstood what I said and how vehemently they rejected not only what I was saying, but me.

I had argued with God, finally doing what I believed He was prompting me to do and I was faced with closed hearts, closed minds and slammed doors.

So I did what anyone “mature” in their faith would do. I ran into a cave and hid.

A dark cave.

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:4-9

Go ahead, sing-song it with me.

“Julie and Elijah, sitting under a tree, w. h. i. n. ing.”

I prayed.

and then I couldn’t.

Because God is sovereign and God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do.

And then I prayed because I couldn’t help it.

Because a life void of intimacy with Christ and utter dependance on the Holy Spirit was vastly empty. and hopelessly dark.

Desolate.

I prayed because I couldn’t help it while at the same time believing that praying to a sovereign God who’s working a plan and doesn’t need my help was…pointless.

Not logical. Not pragmatic.

And that’s where faith is required.

And where doubt came in.

I never doubted the existence of God. I never doubted Christ or the Cross or the redeeming power of His blood. I never doubted my salvation.

I doubted the point of me.

If God is sovereign, why pray?

If God doesn’t need me, why would He even bother with me? Why did He even bother with me?

And that’s why I say I can’t logically justify my faith.

In my darkest night, when God was completely silent, when the logical, rational and reasonable foundation for my faith was beyond my sight,

I still had faith.

I still have faith.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | apologetics, books, Christ-Centered Church, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, praise team music, prayer, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

the donkey is busy.

It’s taken me months to nail down the problem. WHY did I shut down after publishing my “Christ-centered church” series?

writers block keyboardI couldn’t even think about public speaking.
In most interpersonal conversations, I didn’t go near a discussion about faith.
I couldn’t write a word in “my” book.
I couldn’t even open the document.

Anything I had to say was pointless. recycled and contrived. self-important rambling. vomit from my fingertips.

my confidence wasn’t the only thing that was shot. my credibility was in a crumpled heap:

Who did I think I was? If God has a message, He does NOT want me to share it. As a matter of fact, if He wants anybody to actually hear a message, He really needs to find someone else to share it. seriously. look at the history. I suck at this.

Not only did the message of the Christ-centered church series get vehemently rejected, it was so vehemently rejected, people rejected stuff I didn’t even SAY. Those posts shut down conversation and built unscalable walls of defensiveness that are still impenetrable today.

Vehement rejection aside, there seem to be just as many people who didn’t understand what I was trying to say in the first place. Not even a little. Then there are the people who are convinced they understand, but when they comment or talk to me, it’s clear. Not even close. I hadn’t succinctly explained what I was talking about. I sometimes wondered if I would have been better understood if I had written those posts in pig-Latin.

Am I dismissing the relatively few people who did understand? who identified with what I said? who responded positively?

of course I am. It’s what we humans do. In an employee review, we will dismiss the 9 “excellents” and obsess over the one “needs improvement.” Because the next review? We want that “needs improvement” to be improved. significantly.

For months after that series, I was convinced I couldn’t put words together in comprehensible sentences. I couldn’t write. I stopped the “conversations with a born-again athiest” series. If what I said about my faith caused CHRISTIANS such confusion and anger, I had NO business talking to an atheist. seriously.

I was paralyzed by a complete and total lack of confidence in my ability to discern ANYthing. God’s will, God’s prompting, God’s movement. Wisdom?

fuggetaboutit.

It was months of paralyzing doubt…no – paralyzing conviction – that I had nothing of value to contribute to…anyone – and even if I did – I was incapable of articulating it with any clarity at all.

I threw myself into physical labor. I can’t screw that up, right?

I began asking God for a mentor. To send someone wise and blessed with discernment. Then, just two weeks ago, I had coffee with a new friend. A deep thinker. We read the same authors. She took the time to listen and dig. She’s a question asker. It was a short four hours. I put my finger on it:

encoding.

and I already KNEW it. I mentioned it in the middle of the Christ-centered church series, in a post entitled ““Christ-centered Church.” I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“Encoding is, to simplify it, the words and pictures I use to convey my message…it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY TO MODIFY MY ENCODING in an effort to clarify my message and minimize any misinterpretation”

encoding and decoding

I went back and read the Christ-centered church series again. and again. and again.

Was WHAT I said inaccurate? no. and I do NOT answer that question lightly. More than 6 months later and I’ve got even more and detailed reasons for believing it’s true. Hard. heart wrenchingly hard. but true.

So. Was HOW I shared the message ineffective? I shared personally and chronologically. I stepped through what I believe God was revealing to me in the order He revealed it. I explained how He revealed it. I read the series again. I went over and over it. I read my prayer journal entries from that time. I couldn’t see any other way to do it. Should I have left myself completely out of it? Excluded my thoughts and feelings? Should I have just stated facts and stuck exclusively with movie clips and metaphors, like dominoes? Was all that personal stuff just a self-indulgent, cathartic purge? If I had just stated the premise of the message up front, would it have had more clarity? Or, as I suspect, would the message have been rejected even faster? Having already decided I was wrong, no one would have come back to read any more; there would have been absolutely NO reason to hear me out.

And here’s the gist of it: If I did such a phenomenally poor job encoding a blog series, how in the world could I possibly encode a book?

I was a communication major. I should be able to structure and articulate a message. Supposedly, I’m an educator. What I came face to face with – what paralyzed me – was that it doesn’t matter a flyin flip WHAT I have to say if I’m incapable of saying it in a way it can be understood.

And then God reminded me of Balaam’s ass.

sometimes God sounds like an ass - Balaams donkey

“Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth…”

I don’t believe in coincidences. God led me to this book, and this passage:

“As the final song was sung before I was to be introduced, I leaned to Boneface and out of fear and desperation [I] blurted, “I don’t know why I am here. I don’t know why God would send me here to speak to these people, Why me?” Without hesitation, and with a big grin, Boneface turned to me and said, “You are here because the donkey was busy tonight.”
He was making a not-so-veiled reference to the prophet Balaam’s talking donkey in the Old Testament.
I got the message. God uses anything or anyone He chooses.”
Elijah, Steps to a Life of Power by Bob Saffrin

If God can speak through an ass, He can speak through me.

and it has not escaped my attention that Balaam beat the crap out of that donkey THREE times before he understood what the donkey was trying to tell him.

I just need to keep reminding myself of one thing:

“…Balaam replied. ‘But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.'”

August 22, 2013 Posted by | books, Christ-Centered Church, christian living, conversations with an atheist, learning curve, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, writing | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

conversations with a born-again atheist: abandoning Santa.

faith and reasonIf you’re new to the party, HERE are the previous posts in this series. If you want to skip the history and prefer the twitter version, I’m having an ongoing conversation with a born-again atheist. When I say “born-again atheist” I mean he was a born again Christian, but is now an atheist.


Note: Wrapping up the “Santa tangent.” (Before I could reply to the “Shotgun” email, AtypicalAtheist asked me for my thoughts on his comparison between Santa and faith in God.

Here’s his question:
comparing belief in God to belief in Santa. and faires. and WibbleFoo.”

and Here’s my response:
the Santa Comparison.”

Below is his reply.


AtypicalAtheist:

Hey Julie,

I love the analysis, and I think you’re absolutely correct in some respects. I’m not trying to be condescending. I do attempt to speak by example though, and that may come off as condescending. In fact, my wife has made that statement before, so I know that, in spite of my attempts to not sound condescending, I come off as such anyway. Bah!

If I had said “Well, 1.6 billion people believe in Islam, and 1.4 billion people believe in Buddha. Just because people believe in all their hearts that something exists or something is right, doesn’t necessarily make it exist or make it right”.

My point is – belief that it exists is irrelevant to whether it does in fact exist. People believe a lot of stuff, but that doesn’t make it so.

A minor quibble along these lines then is that we disagree is the statement “Look at the sheer number of people that believe in God – they clearly can’t all be wrong…” is a valid LOGICAL point (your emphasis). I believe that to be a statement of feeling, not a logical point. A logical point is based on facts and based on reasoning. As I said above – just because you wish, think, or believe something is there, doesn’t make it there.

Regarding the Santa thing in that finally, I think you know now that I was trying to show an example of where it’s an absurd conclusion so as to block off the exit. Because it was Santa though, your critique was spot-on in that built into “belief in Santa” includes “child-like” and “ignorant”. So the larger part of the argument is completely overlooked. I won’t belabor the point – your criticism is quite right, and I’m happy to abandon the comparison.

One more (not trying to beat the dead horse again), but how would you feel in a debate, not that we’re having one, if I had instead chosen Astrology, Voodoo, or John Smith? Now, before you disagree with me for listing those things specifically, according to a Harris Poll released in 2008, 31% of Americans believe in Astrology; there are millions of people in Haiti, Africa, and Brazil that have faith in Voodoo; according to various sources, nearly 14 million people are baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints worldwide.

The sustaining goal being to point out that the # of believers doesn’t contribute one iota to whether a proposition is true. That was the point I was trying (and failing) to make.

Thank-you for the constructive criticism – it’s well received.

AtypicalAtheist


Click HERE to see all “conversations with a born-again atheist” posts.

NOTE: All comments will be held for approval. This blog is a no-hate zone.

May 6, 2013 Posted by | apologetics, books, christian living, conversations with an atheist, learning curve, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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