Pilgrimage Tour: Day 2—Fasting, Fires, and Feasting

Pilgrimage Tour: Day 2—Fasting, Fires, and Feasting
For all posts thus far in the Pilgrimage Tour series, click here.

Every time, I’ve ever fasted, it’s felt pretty useless. You’re apparently supposed to pray more or read your Bible when you usually eat, but all I end up doing is thinking about how hungry I am. So, I usually get frustrated at that and tell myself, “Just go ahead and eat while you pray and read your Bible.”

That’ll balance it out.

Alas, it was day two of the pilgrimage tour and the discipline for the day was fasting. The bag of Cheez-its I brought to snack on would just have to sit idly by in my pack all day. We weren’t going to eat until late that night, after an 11 hour journey from Kansas City to Colorado Springs. There, we would be welcomed with a beautiful feast, catered by Olive Garden and provided by the church we were crashing at that night.

And the Church said, “Amen.” Continue reading “Pilgrimage Tour: Day 2—Fasting, Fires, and Feasting”

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Pilgrimage Tour: Day 1—Prayer, Expectation, and Otherness

Pilgrimage Tour: Day 1—Prayer, Expectation, and Otherness
For all posts thus far in the Pilgrimage Tour series, click here.

As we awoke in Chattanooga, the Pilgrimage Tour group knew that we were most likely as rested as we were going to be on the entire trip. Still, we had a long day ahead of us, with plans to arrive in Kansas City, MO by that evening.

Our first spiritual discipline of the trip was prayer and Kansas City—which ironically isn’t in Kansas—is home to IHOP, the International House of Prayer (although I’m sure there’s a pancake place up there somewhere as well). They are world renown for their worship music, preachers, and, probably most famously, their 24/7 non-stop prayer and worship services.

They are also notably and undeniably charismatic. Continue reading “Pilgrimage Tour: Day 1—Prayer, Expectation, and Otherness”

Pilgrimage Tour: Introduction

Pilgrimage Tour: Introduction

From July 29 through August 9, I joined a group of 23 people for a 12 day pilgrimage across the United States of America. We packed ourselves into two 15 passenger vans and filled our hearts with imagination and expectancy. Over 4000 miles of driving, 60 hours in the vans, seven days of camping, four days of hiking, and two national parks.

Pilgrimage Tour 2015.

Though it was a trip with a church, it was unlike any church trip I’ve been on. Usually, it’s the youth camps, or the winter retreats, or the mission trips. But, those trips all have one thing in common: a destination. We may go to a campground to spend a week there, or a city to spend a weekend there, or a foreign country to spend a month there.

But, this trip was different.

Even though we had stops along the way, this trip wasn’t about a destination. It was about the journey.  Continue reading “Pilgrimage Tour: Introduction”

Finding Your (Non)Fulfillment in Christ

Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” These words are pretty profound and, even though Einstein wasn’t much a theologian, I think that this quote is packed with significance when it comes to looking at God.

One of the hallmark tenets of popular evangelical Christianity in America has been the crusade to “find your fulfillment in Christ”. Other related saying come to mind, such as John Piper’s iconic phrase that sums up his whole theology: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” This even has roots as far as Augustine, with his famous line, “My soul is restless until it rests in you.” There’s all kinds of talk about fulfillment, satisfaction, wholeness, completeness, etc. that is supposed to come when we trust in Jesus, and nothing else.

However, what if by telling people to find their fulfillment in Christ, we’ve told a fish to climb a tree? Continue reading “Finding Your (Non)Fulfillment in Christ”

How To Be Christlike Without Being Like Christ

What would Jesus do? That question from the rad 90s bracelets still haunts us today.

In reality, that’s the question that every Christian has been trying to answer, whether it’s an individual, a church, or an entire movement. And it’s funny that the answer we’ve gotten for a long time has been the same one, repackaged in different ways.

For most people, being Christlike means loving God as passionately as possible. This may mean different things. For example, for some this may mean avoiding “worldly” things, such as music, movies, drinking, drugs, etc. Others may say it’s about doing Christian things, like reading your Bible, going to church, and paying your tithes. For the really radical and spiritual ones, being Christlike isn’t about what you do, just about who you are—which usually just boils down to being really nice and accepting.

But what if being like Christ isn’t about us at all? Continue reading “How To Be Christlike Without Being Like Christ”

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?”