The Unblessedness of Giving

The Unblessedness of Giving

A while back, I was visiting back home in South Carolina and I was at a restaurant that had one of those really fancy soda machines. It was the one with the screen that you had to press buttons in order to choose your drink.

As I was going to get my drink, there was an older lady in front of me having a really hard time figuring out what to do. I saw her in crisis and decided to step up and help her out with her drink selection.

After I helped her, she had a gracious look on her face, but then she said this to me:

“You see… women do need men!”

Woah.

It just really took me off guard. And I let out one of the most awkward laughs you’ve probably ever heard.

I just started to think, how could someone possibly interpret a situation like that in such a way that it made them come to the conclusion that one entire gender is absolutely dependent upon another entire gender? If anything, this was a sign that older people need young people… I kid!

However, that event helped show me that we are trained to see the world in a certain way and all of our experience are filtered through that certain way of seeing the world. Hers, unfortunately, was a one colored by male superiority, despite being a woman herself!

Still, it made me consider the ways that I may unfaithfully see the world too. Continue reading “The Unblessedness of Giving”

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Mystifying the “Mystery” of God

Have you ever known someone who is married to someone who is way out of their league? I mean, to the point where it doesn’t even make any sense? I’m talking about a guy who is Steve Buscemi status marrying someone at the level of Scarlett Johansen. That drastic.

If I think about it too much, I end up confusing myself. Usually, I figure that it’s not even worth thinking about because I’ll never get a satisfactory take away from it. I’ve often just left it at, “Well… this is just a mystery.”

Christians have usually tended to read about God being a “mystery” in the Bible and think that when Scripture uses that word, it has a relationship analogous to being confused about a couple like this. We think that since we’ll never be able to get to the bottom of it, the endeavor itself is useless.

We’ve used language of God’s mysteriousness as an excuse to not engage in any kind of theological talk, because we are convinced that nothing productive can come out of it.

However, Scripture seems to give a different perspective.  Continue reading “Mystifying the “Mystery” of God”

The (Im)Possibility of “Christian Conservatism”

The terms “Christian” and “conservative” have almost become synonymous to most people, especially in America. It’s hard for most people to picture Christianity in our context without having a certain, “conservative” image in their head—and vice versa. Not only are many Christians considered conservative, but most conservatives are in fact Christians.

This is taken to be the norm for Christianity. But what if, in fact, the idea of “Christian Conservatism” is antithetical to the very nature of Christianity?

First of all, let us define “conservatism”. To be “conservative” is, as the word suggests, to want to conserve something—for something to remain as it has been. Usually, this has to do with a number of things: politics, morality, method, ideology, etc. Thus, you have people who choose to be conservative, as opposed to being progressive—those who want to “progress” forward, rather than retain something that has been.

So, why is this harmful for Christianity? I’ll give three main ways: Continue reading “The (Im)Possibility of “Christian Conservatism””

The Kingdom of God—God’s Future Now

At youth camp this past year, I was a counselor for a team of elementary school kids. My team was the purple group and they announced all of our kids. However, there was one little boy who looking kind of sad as we gathered all of our new recruits.

Now if you know me, you know that dealing with kids past the age of 4 or 5 isn’t my strong suit. My relatability level goes out the door. What are we doing to talk about… how hard double digit addition is?

But I had to talk to him. And apparently, he was upset because he didn’t like the color purple. That’s a kid for you. I was telling him, “Well you know what the color purple sometimes represents? Royalty! That means you’re like a king!” And then he said, “But we don’t have a government that is led by kings anymore. We have a democracy, not a monarchy.”

Okay, wise guy.

Outsmarted by a 9 year old.

This kid was bright. So I had to think on my feet. Then I said, “Well, you know, we actually are a part of a monarchy, citizens of a certain kingdom.” He looked confused. And inside I was thinking, “Gotcha, you punk!” But then I explained what I meant.

I said, “Jesus is the leader of a monarchy and when we become Christians, we enter into his kingdom. In fact, the Bible even says that Jesus is our King! The purple we wear doesn’t just signify any monarchy or royalty; it’s the ultimate monarchy and royalty!” And he said, “But we don’t get to enter Jesus’ kingdom until after we die!”

And my heart sunk. Because what this kid told me is what I grew up believing and what countless Christians throughout America and the rest of the world believe as well. However, the Bible—especially the gospels—paints a different picture of the kingdom of God. And it does so, I believe, in three main ways. Continue reading “The Kingdom of God—God’s Future Now”

Does God Love Christians More?

I’ve heard many preachers and teachers say something like this:

“God loves us! You see, God loves the whole world—but there is something special about the way that God loves his Church. He’s saved us! So, his love for us is greater than his love for others.”

There are various scriptures that people use to justify a statement like this. My question, though, is this: does God actually love his people more than he loves everyone else?

My answer is a resounding no.  Continue reading “Does God Love Christians More?”

5 Things I Love About Pentecostalism

I have a weird relationship with Pentecostalism.

I was raised in a church that was basically Pentecostal, in that it broke off from a church which was Pentecostal, though never officially entering a Pentecostal denomination. Then, I moved to the Pentecostal church that it broke off from and spent my formative years as a teen until recently there, now attending another Pentecostal church. Though I never denounced Pentecostalism, I navigated through numerous branches of theology and traditions. However, I ended up back in Pentecostalism, both through some awesome Pentecostal people who taught me the truly incredible nature of Pentecostalism, and through a number of other non-Pentecostal people (including Anglicans, Anabaptists, Eastern Orthodox, and more).

However, I am extremely proud to claim Pentecostalism. Most people, when they think of Pentecostalism, only think about speaking in tongues, corrupt money-hungry televangelists, and a number of other things. In the words of Pentecostal preacher, Jonathan Martin, “Pentecostals are not fundamentalists who speak in tongues.” Pentecostalism has a rich beginning, legacy, and worldview. Some Pentecostals may have deviated from its beauty, but it is inherent within the movement.

I’m not saying Pentecostalism is the only way to go or that it’s better than anything else. There are just some beautiful things about it. As Pentecostals could definitely stand to listen to the voice of the larger Church throughout the centuries, there are definitely elements which Pentecostalism is speaking that the larger Church should listen to as well. So, here are some of the things I love about my Pentecostal heritage. Continue reading “5 Things I Love About Pentecostalism”

Stop Deifying God

I like to talk about God. What else is life about? But, when talking about God, I often hear people say a buzz phrase:

“Stop humanizing God.”

It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to. Often times, I’ll get into conversations with conservative evangelicals about theology. When things the topics get tough, they’ll often tell me, “God is beyond our knowledge. His ways are higher than ours! Any attempt to talk about him is ultimately outside of our ability. We don’t need to humanize God.

Then, I’ll talk to Christians of a more liberal or radical theological persuasion. When talking about God with these dear friends, I’ll frequently hear God referenced as “the Other,” in order to fully communicate the loftiness of God. Whoever (or whatever) God is, God is above us and unable to be grasped. In other words, we shouldn’t humanize God.

While I understand where both sides are coming from, I think they often miss the beauty of one of Christianity’s important tenets: the incarnation. Too many times, when I talk about God with others, I want to tell them, “Stop deifying God.” 

People tend to not like to talk about God in human terms. But, we tend to forget that God chose to talk about himself in human terms—in and through Jesus Christ. Continue reading “Stop Deifying God”

The Head and the Heart—Integrating Affections and Reason

“I can’t stand that girl…”
“Why?”
“She trusts her feelings too much; it’s like she never actually thinks things through.”

Have you ever heard a conversation like this?
I have.
Conversations where people bash feelings and exalt thinking.

Well, I have personally come to think that feelings aren’t the bad guy. However, thinking doesn’t have to be villainized to arrive to that conclusion either. The head and the heart aren’t enemies—they’re friends.

People always seem to present this false dichotomy. It’s either thinking or feeling, reason or affections, logic or passion. Even one of my favorite personality indicators, Myers-Briggs, splits people into two groups. There’s the people that make decisions based off of cold hard data (thinking) and then the people who decide what to do based on how they feel that they themselves and others may respond to the decision (feeling). It seems that human beings seem to be hardwired to be this way. Like the example at the beginning, there’s people like the girl who “trusts her feelings” and people like the one who believes people should “think things through.”

But, what if it’s not either/or, but both/and?

I think that thinking and feeling are a lot more interconnected than we may believe. Continue reading “The Head and the Heart—Integrating Affections and Reason”

Granny’s Chocolate Cake and the Resurrection

My mom’s mother is the epitome of the southern granny. She is short, nice, and wears the tiny circle glasses. Her hairstyle has been the classic “granny fro” for as long as I’ve been alive. She has the essential Charleston accent straight from “Gone With The Wind” and says things like “over yonder” and “bless your heart.” To top it off, she’s an excellent cook. When we go to her house, we never have to worry if we’ll have a good meal. My grandma is going to have dinner on lockdown.

One of my favorite things that she makes is cake. She can make all kinds of different themes and styles, but I just like plain old chocolate cake. There’s something about Granny’s chocolate cake that makes me feel better about life. I loved it so much growing up that I asked her to make a big one for my birthday when I was a kid. We had the party at my house and she came over early to help us set up. She brought that masterpiece of a cake that she baked up along with her as well.

She came in the afternoon, but the party didn’t actually start until later that evening. The thought of waiting several more hours for that cake was killing me. Especially after I had already seen it. Like Eve in the garden of Eden, I had seen the cake and it was pleasant to my eyes. Very pleasant. However, I still held on to the sweet hope that I would have granny’s chocolate cake in a few hours, which seemed like years.

However, suddenly Granny gave me some wonderful news. She asked, “Blake, do you want to go ahead grab a small piece of cake now?” A small piece?! Now? And I don’t have to wait all the way until the party comes and they sing “Happy Birthday” to me? Of course I wanted a piece! So, I was able to taste and see that the chocolate cake was good. I had the opportunity to experience a small foretaste of the fullness of Granny’s cake that was soon to come.

And that’s a bit what Jesus’ resurrection was like. Continue reading “Granny’s Chocolate Cake and the Resurrection”