Category Archives: Devotional thoughts

Knowing or Doing?

“The Hebrew is concerned with practice, the Greek with knowledge. Right conduct is the ultimate concern of the Hebrew, right thinking that of the Greek.” -William Barrett

I remember learning this distinction between these two ancient ways of thinking sometime shortly after high school when I was at YWAM. The basic idea that some saw “belief” as merely an intellectual exercise, and others as more a matter of action. Our society, and much of the church, is dominated by a Greek way of thinking. So, “believing” in Jesus is mostly a matter of praying a prayer or agreeing to a particular creed.

I’m not sure if it was some traditional Hebraic thinking in me or my love for the book of James, but I remember then immediately being hooked on this concept and that it only made sense that the Hebraic way of thinking, that belief was a matter of action, was the right way. And I still think that today.

I don’t deny that “thinking” and intellectual understanding of ones faith has relevance and impact, but if it’s not coupled with action it seems to lose credibility (though I am certainly not the judge of your beliefs or actions).

The church in the US, at least as I’ve experienced it, seems dominated by this Greek way of thinking. In most churches I’ve been in, if you do not say you believe the basic tenants, if your not a member of the church (which involves stating belief in those basic tenants of the faith), or if you express any intellectual doubt, you will be treated as one who is either not yet part of the fold or one who has fallen away or is in danger of doing so. Yet, that same measure seems to rarely be used in terms of ones actions (and I don’t just mean avoiding the big taboos or helping out at church). The church just doesn’t seem to care all that much if your life looks more like your consumeristic, secular, patriotic neighbor then your homeless, selfless, outcast Savior.

“I will show you my faith by what I do.” -James 2:18

Putting Politics Aside, Where is the Church?

When it comes to politics and faith I find a lot of Christians fall into one of two categories particularly when it comes to social issues: The church should care for the needs of the people (more republican leaning) or The church should influence the government to care for the needs of the people (more democrat leaning). Generally speaking, in theory, many agree that it’s a Christian thing to care for those in need, Christians just differ on how. But, then here is the crazy thing to me: both sides think something should be done AND both think the church should be a part of it. So, why aren’t we coming together to do these things?

In my experience, more liberal leaning Christians, in talk, are all about the social justice issues: feed the poor, care for the needy; and more conservative leaning Christians in political discussions are all about the church doing those very same things: feed the poor, care for the needy. Yet these two groups of folks, who are supposedly part of a unified spiritual body, seem to constantly be at odds, and mean while the poor starve and needs go unmet. Actions speak louder then words.

My guess is that in actuality neither side really cares about the needs of their neighbors. We all love a good debate and getting fired up and passionate and waxing eloquently about philosophical issues and how to solve world hunger, but we don’t really love our neighbors.

Healthcare Imagination from The Work Of The People

A Glimpse at Christian Hedonism

After discovering John Piper’s sermons (via a youth leader in my high school youth group), round about my sophomore year, I became a Christian Hedonist. At the time, I did not know what Hedonism was, but learned, via context, that “Christian Hedonism” was a bit of a radical/controversial doctrine. Piper sums it up most concisely like this:

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

The idea of our “satisfaction” being central to life’s purpose, to ‘worship’ and to God was apparently counter to what most religious people believed. Me, personally, being early in my faith and walk, soaked it up. It seemed to make perfect sense to me, we were created to have pleasure (think: taste buds).  And that quickly, I became a Christian hedonist.

Now, you can read Piper’s summaries of Christian Hedonism, but for the purpose of this discussion I’ll try and summarize it in my own words.

Basically, the idea is that following and seeking our intended purpose will lead to the most fulfilling life. Piper believes that our purpose is to glorify God and we do that through following the scripture and mandates laid out in the Bible. So, we are ultimately seeking our own happiness and satisfaction through Biblical calls to “deny yourself” and “love one another” and give to those in need and so on and so forth.

I think one of the things I connected with so strongly with this view is it is, again, something that most people, regardless of religious background can relate to. We all want to be happy. We all want purpose in life and to fulfill that purpose.  I had discovered this and then sought after it within the context of the Christian faith. And so far, despite faith struggles, I haven’t found the need or desire to seek it elsewhere.

One of the reason I think I’ve carried this doctrine or view with me for so long is that I think it had a huge impact on my turning many of my convictions in my early college years. As I read the Bible and began to see with my own eyes so much of this radical love you enemies and care for the poor sorts of commands, I did not hesitate as much as I might have without this Christian Hedonism view. For me, I’d come to believe following those mandates would lead to the most fulfilling life and so if there was clear and obvious commands like “love your enemies” then it was best to follow those.

And that’s where it leaves me. I know others might find this semi-heretical and still others might find it makes a great argument for ditching Christianity and seeking many other hedonistic routes. I’d like to hear opinions from all sides. What I wrote above is some reflection on where I have been, I’m comfortable holding loosely to those views and open to hearing others.

A Sermon Discussion: Did Christ Die For Us Or For God?

I intended to put a lot more time into this post then I have. I was also hoping for some dialog with others pre-writing to get my thoughts stirring, but neither of those two things happened, and I promised you readers I’d get something up, so here goes (how’s that for a lame preface)


Last week, I suggested listening to this sermon, Did Christ Die For Us or for God?, by John Piper. It was one of the foundational sermons in my early faith development and something I had not really gone back to reflect on in several years. Listening to it this past couple weeks I found I could still quote much of it verbatim, which gives you an idea of how much I’ve listened to it. So, for those who have and haven’t here is an ever so brief summary.

SPOILER ALERT: The answer to the sermon title is “for God.”


  • Secular Mindset: Man is at the center of the universe vs. Biblical Mindset: God is the most absolute reality.
  • “Is the basic riddle of the universe how to preserve man’s rights and solve his problems (say, the problem of suffering)?” “How shall God be known in the fullness of his personhood and glory?”
  • Jesus Christ was a sacrifice of atonement to show God’s righteousness, “because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed.” (Romans 3:25)
  • “All sin is a preference for the fleeting pleasures of the world over the everlasting joy of God’s fellowship.”
  • “God would be unrighteous if he passed over sins as though the value of his glory were nothing.”
  • But, how can self-exaltation be an act of love? “God’s self-exaltation is loving, because it preserves for us and offers to us the only all-satisfying Object of desire in the universe – the all-glorious, all-righteous God.”

(quotes pulled from this transcript)

That is an ever so brief summary. Now let me breakdown a couple things that I think have really had an impact on me.


First of all, I really resonated with Piper’s explanation of mindsets, because I don’t think it has to assume you believe in the Bible (the catch 22 of many apologetic arguments). If a creator exist, then it would be fair to argue The Creator has the ultimate rights in the universe, not the creation. That does not, for me, have the terrible implications some people see in believing in God (that of an angry supreme being eager to wreck havoc on the earth for no reason). I think it simply settled in my mind that, if I believe in a Creator (which I do), then that creator should be considered in your worldview (rather bland explanation).


Two, and I think this is the main thing I’d like to get at, I think Christ’s death and sacrifice make sense as a “vindication of God’s righteousness.” The explanation used in the sermon is that say someone tried to assassinate the president, was stopped at the last second, apologized, and where then let go, scot free. What would that say about how much we value our president? God would not be a righteous God if there was not some sort of payment for the wrong doing we humans have done (and continue to do, myself included). See, God was already being a loving God by forgiving wrongdoings (like King David), but, unless there was some form of payment (like a sentence served in the above example), God would be unjust. Thus, Christ life and death was an act to vindicate God’s righteousness.


Now what does that all mean for me? Even after writing it, I’m not totally sure. I didn’t find in revisiting the sermon and the theological points or anything else, that I was uncomfortable with the theology or points put forward. Maybe there are things that should make me uncomfortable, maybe not. I do think my above two paragraph sound a lot more evangelistic and typical “gospel presentation” then I intended.


The reason for doing this though was to allow for dialog. So please, take a minute after reading to lend your insight as well. Push back if you have a thought. Lend an encouraging or corrective word if you have it. Add further insight you came across. I can’t find the second sermon tape, but I’ll do my best to talk about the next topic next week: Christian Hedonism. Peace.

A Sermon and A Discussion

In preparation for a post I intend to write next week, I’ve been listening to one of two John Piper sermons that have been quite foundational in my early formative faith/theology years (sophomore and junior year of high school). The sermons are from a Passion Conference, which was an annual college student conference focused around bringing students together toward a shared evangelistic and missional call (this is my own summary). I did not attend, but received the tapes from a leader in the youth group I was attending. The two Piper sermons resonated with me and I listened to them many times over the next several years. I’ve since lost my copies of the tapes and my search to recover audio from one of the two sermons has been futile. I do have the first sermon though, which I will link to below and ask that you try and find the time to listen to it before the weekend is over.

It’s a 40 minute sermon entitled: Did Christ Die For Us Or For God?

If you’ve listened or read much of John Piper’s theological stances, you might know some of what he talks about in the sermon. Maybe you’ll just need to skim it to get the main points. Anyways, my hope is that you’ll listen to it and provide your input and feedback in the comment section below. My hope is that regardless of how you feel about Piper, you’ll put that aside to simply listen to the sermon and converse with me about it.

I will be posting some of my thoughts and reflections next week, but I want to open up the discussion in hopes of bringing further thoughts out to help me reflect on it and what about this sermons I’ve found so shaping. Please, chime in with questions or comments.

(P.S. This is not an endorsement of John Piper or his theology. This is part of a series of posts of mine reflecting on those sermons, books, etc that were foundational in my early theology and my attempt to revisit those tenants. For better or worse, I credit Piper for impacting much of my foundational theology, I’ve also harshly criticized him on this blog.)

Trying To Follow…Who?

If I did musical intros to my blog posts, the one for this post would be Bob Dylan’s, Gotta Serve Somebody. I’m not quite sure when I chose this title for my blog or mantra for my life, but as time goes on I find myself more and more comfortable with it. I think the question that it immediately evokes is: who? Who am I trying to follow?

Several years ago, that answer would have been staunchly black and white. I am following Jesus, the God of the Bible and no one and nothing else. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…and run with perseverance…” Back then though, I probably wouldn’t have used the word “trying”, it’s too wishy-washy, too uncommitted. The songs sung in church never have the ambiguity of “trying” they are steadfast commitments, battle cries and no compromise allegiances. Most of that’s not bad, positive self-talk certainly has it’s place, but somewhere along the way I found it fairly disingenuous to be singing those types of words. I wasn’t really following Jesus, not most of the time anyways.

Nowadays, I’m quite happy with just trying to follow. I don’t have aspirations to be a leader, I’m going to just stick with doing my best at following. And, I’m going to be honest about my lack of resolve and commitment, I’m gonna “try” that’s the most I can offer and I’m okay with that.

As to the who, I still use this line sometimes:  “I once read the words of a man who said, “Follow me,” and I’ve been on that journey ever since.” That is definitely a reference to Jesus and his teachings, which I’d still consider the primary path I’m trying to follow. I’ve found nothing more fascinating and life-changingly radical then the philosophies and teachings I’ve seen in Jesus’ words, that’s just the honest truth. At the same time, along my journey there have been other mentors whose wisdom and lives I’ve found inspiring, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, MLK, Dorothy Day. I’ve also found I don’t need to completely agree with someone to find wisdom and encouragement in their teachings. Greg Boyd and John Piper have both been largely influential in my theology and yet they appear to be each others archnemesis.

Trying to follow means taking this humble journey one step at a time. Being okay with making mistakes, being wrong, needing to turn around, or seeking further wisdom on the path. It means no one person might have all the answers, that maybe there is kernels of truth lying in many. And it means not being too stubborn to think your going to lead the way on your own. We all know, you’ve gotta serve somebody.

Revisiting What I Believe

A series of occurrences recently have caused me to really want to revisit some of my basic beliefs that probably formed sometime in high school and beginning of college. It’s interesting that much of my spiritual growth and understanding of my faith came about over 10 years ago when I was in high school. And it was during that time that I think I formed some of the sort of root theological views that I had and have continued to hold or ascribe to for several years. What’s interesting is that much of it hasn’t been called into question or changed despite many of my changing beliefs on social issues, politics, daily lifestyle choices, etc.

So, I’d like to start writing about these things and share them with you here. I’m not sure if these old beliefs I’ll dig up from the back of my brain have simply line dormant and unused or if they silently serve as the very foundation upon which much of my other thoughts are formed. We’ll find out. I might even get around to writing a post explaining the long held title of this blog.

I ask this of you in return, if you are going to come back and read what I write. Be gracious, but feel free to critique or call out what you see as off or misguided. I might very well share things I believe, that I’ll decide shortly after I don’t really believe at all, please give me room to grow and change and make mistakes. And I ask if you do read, please don’t be a silent participant. Dialog with me, be willing to share your own thoughts, be open to your own mistakes. Not sure this final disclaimer was necessary, my post might end up being underwhelming, but at least we prepared for something potentially bigger.

Gender and the Attributes of God

(This is part of my December Experiment series)

After a week and a half, one of the realities that has set in is that I simply don’t refer to God often enough to even warrant frequent use of pronouns. One area that most church going folks do reference God is in our singing. So, on our drive home after Thanksgiving, Mindy and I sang a few songs, racking our brains for ones that use pronouns. It’s amazing how much difference a single letter can make. Read, or sing, the words to this rather popular praise song:

Our God
Is an awesome God
She reigns
From Heaven above
With wisdom,
Power and love
Our God
Is an awesome God

We sang a bunch of other songs, but this one sticks out and is a good case study in the impact of this experiment. I’ll just run through some of my thoughts as we sang and thought about God.

The Attributes of God
It’s quite obvious from a song like this, the impact a “gendered” God has both on our perception of God and our perception of genders. We commonly attribute these attributes “awesome” (as in powerful, but probably also in our 90’s slang use as well), “reigns”, “wisdom”, “Power” as being masculine characteristics. In turn, we further see God as being more “masculine” (for clarification, I’m not suggesting this is a proper definition of “masculine”), and a terrible cycle of gender roles and gendered god is built.
Sing that “She reigns” completely transformed the song for me. I did not have some clear female vision of God, but thinking of God in Her wisdom, Her power, Her love, Her awesomeness brought to life those attributes in a way I hadn’t thought of God before.

Neither Male Nor Female, yet Both
Here’s the odd thing about God not being Male nor Female: I think She’s thus best described as both. The vary nature of God is that She is Super-natural, beyond nature and thus unexplainable in natural, human terms. God is Spirit, and thus gendered terms limit our understanding of God. However, I’m not sure the answer is to remove gender when referring to God (I’m open to other opinions). You see, singing of and acknowledging God’s “feminine” attributes helps provide us with an even more full picture of who God is. For example, take God’s power. We often think of these, often subconsciously, in terms of male power, as to be expected since we refer to God as “He” so often. Regardless of how liberal or conservative your gender stereotypes are, your view or perception of God’s power is limited. When I sing “She reigns, with wisdom, power and love,” my eyes are opened to another perspective on the power of God that I hadn’t seen before. (I hope that’s making sense)

A Thought Experiment
Write down the ten most powerful people that you know of. It’s no secret that our perceptions are based on our experiences. The list of people you wrote, undoubtedly influences your perception of God’s Power. Now, on looking at your list, how many are male and how many are female? If your list is unbalanced (more male then female, or vis versa), then balance it out, so that you have an equal number of men and women on your list.
My feeling is that when you draw your perception of “Power” from this new list, your perception of God’s Power will be made more full and complete. (don’t forget to post your list below!)

One Final Thought
I plan on devoting a full post to this later, but I wanted to note that I think our ideas and perceptions of gender roles have had a terrible impact on us as a society (particularly in the church) and our relationship and connection to God. I fear our societal pressures have had a most oppressive impact on women, and also children. For a great post on the topic, read Erin’s recent blog post or for a more concise thought, read this poster we have hanging in our living room.

[photo credit] and [ht. to Aunt B for posting thoughts on her blog]

Female Pronouned God Experiment: Week 1 Review

For the past week, I’ve been referring to God as “She” or “Her” when the need to use a pronoun arises. I mentioned this experiment on the blog last week and it brought with it a string of conversation I found very interesting. It’s also shaped some of my thoughts through out the week. You really should go read the comment section on the post, there are a lot of great thoughts. I felt a clarification or two might be in order.

This Is An Experiment

I think experimenting is important (don’t take that the wrong way). Christians especially are notorious for our sort of black and white stances on so many things. Sometimes I think it’s justified, but many times I think it’s not. When I decided to spend the month referring to God as “She” I did not make a fundemental switch in my doctrine or theology. I’m not making a definitive statement of the gender of God or even of my social or political leanings. If I decide to go back to referring to God as “He” come January, I don’t think any irreversable damage will be done. I think we need to be open to trying new things, hearing other opinions, walking a mile in another persons shoes. This is just an attempt to do that in a small way.

Men and Women have experienced life Differently

Regardless of what you think about gender, gender roles, sexual orientation, societies stereotypes, and more, there is the undeniable reality that we have been shaped by our experience; and men and women’s life experience is fundamentally different. I’m not attempting to make any statement about biology or innate traits of men and women, I’m simply acknowledging that the way we are treated as “boys” and “girls” affect the types of adults that we become. One way I believe we’ve been shaped differently is in our understanding and connection with “God”. The reality that we have almost all grown up with God being a “He” has an impact on us, particularly differently if we ourselves are “he” or “she”.  That being the case, this experiment is also an opportunity to see this small aspect of my life differently then I have for the past 26 years.

I’ll try and share more of my thoughts thus far on the actual practice of calling God “She” later this week if I can. For now, I hope these two points open your mind a bit to what this is about.

[photo credit]

My December Experiment: Female Pronouned God

For 26 years I’ve grown up hearing “God” referred to with male pronouns. Occasionally it’s acknowledge that God is neither male nor female, but following the tradition of our male-centric, paternalistic society (and original bible writers) we refer to God as a male, frequently and often.
For reasons, whether doctrinal or societal, we are hesitant to move away from, in any way, referencing God (specifically the God God part of the trinity [Jesus, Holy Spirit, God]) in any feminine term or pronoun.  Any attempt to do so is often written off as “new agey” or “feminist” as if referring to God as a “he” is one of the central doctrinal issues of our faith. Yet, we do acknowledge that God is spirit, and though extremely rare there is scripture acknowledging female attributes of God.
The truth is that both males and females have been impacted by this “male” God and what that means for us as people, individuals and within our gender. My wife has spoken about the impact she’s felt it’s had on her, not just of seeing God as male, but the near silence or absence of woman’s value and voice in the scriptures she sees as the foundation of her faith.
One month is not nearly enough to reverse any long term psychological impact, but for the month of December (or longer), I’d like to refer to God as a female (with female pronouns). We currently do this to a small degree in our own home, but I haven’t moved beyond.
I’ll refer to God as “she” in my blog posts (I’d encourage others whom I read or read here to do this as well), around and amongst family and friends, and in any other “God” talk. I won’t go out of my way to say it and make a scene, but I won’t shy away from it either.
I’ll write about the impact the experiment has had on me and how I think about God.
I’d love to hear your feedback or thoughts on this topic, and if there are any others who want to experiment with me I’d love to have some fellow adventurers.