Christian

Commitment to Yourself

This will be a fairly brief post. The mission of a Work in Progress (A-WIP) is to better ones self. I have, in previous posts, outlined what this means to me. Through photography, philosophy, and creative writing I find the best way to live for me. I share this better self of me on this blog as an example of taking control of my life. Now this this idea of being better is different for everyone. Here at A-WIP we want everyone to reach that ideal self, and we believe the only way to do this is to make a commitment to yourself.

I want say this as gentle as I can, but this commitment cannot have excuses. I know that many people suffer from issues be that of mental, or physical and my goal isn’t to mitigate those issues. However, saying I cannot because of _____ just tells me that you have a crutch that you cannot let go of yet. To make a commitment to oneself is to know that these issues may affect us, but should not control us. There is the difference.

To make a commitment to yourself first find out what it is you want out of life. For me it is to live an accepting Christian lifestyle, this could be different for you, but what does life look like to you in the future? Who do you see yourself being?

Know what challenges are ahead for the choices that you make and create a plan for overcoming those challenges. If you aren’t sure what challenges await then at least create good coping skills for when issues arise.

Finally when you create this commitment let us know, and let us know your progress. If anything we want to be supportive of you in your journey along with us in becoming our best selves.

Is the AntiChrist Real?

A word before my discussion. I know that topics related to religion, and faith are important to people. I want you to know that it is also important to me. The internet is a difficult place at times due to us not knowing what a persons intentions are on the other end of the screen. As my blog states, I am a work in progress, and I believe that we all are. If I say something that offends you I would encourage you to just move on as I am not attempting to make anything personal. I am just attempting to be better in my own life through understanding. Now that we got through that let me present my argument on the Antichrist.

For those of you who have seen the movie Constantine you’d know, the Antichrist is a godlike figure that arises from hell. Instead of bringing about the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of man like Christ, the AntiChrist will bring about the end of time. This Antichrist title has often been given to those we deem evil. The Rothschilds, Obama, Bush, Bin Ladin, Hitler, Stalin, the Clinton’s and now the latest, Trump. This Hollywood ideal of how the end times exists for Christianity has become rather mainstream in our own lives, and faith.

I can’t count how many times I have sat through a lesson on the great deceiver. How it’s the last hour. The Antichrist is near, and he comes closer each day. Watch out for the end times, as that is when we know he will be here. It is constantly brought up, and I don’t think that the AntiChrist of Constantine, and Hollywood are good examples. I believe that this has tainted our understanding of multiple teachings by breaking them up and taking them out of context.

The term Antichrist was used by the apostle John in his letters 1 John, and 2 John. If we just look at the sections that contain the term Antichrist (1 John 2:22, and 2 John 1:7), and mix in Paul’s 2 Thessalonian’s Chapter 2, and top off with some Revelations we have ourselves the convincing proof that the Antichrist is the lawless bringer of the end. Yet what else was John saying in his letters?

One of the most important things to remember about early Christianity is that it was a rather chaotic time. The Roman Imperial Cult dominated the empire, Jewish believers of Christ were being cut off from their synagogues, and the rise of Gnosticism threatened to end the Church as we know it today.

John addressed in his letter the issues of Gnosticism and false teaching. For those unfamiliar with Gnosticism the basics of it are that it stands for secret teaching meaning Gnostic knowledge. These early believes, and other false teachers were stating that the world (matter, and flesh) were evil, not the spirit. So, while the body (matter) did evil, the spirit did not, and once you are dead the spirit releases to heaven. This goes against Christian teachings as the only way to heaven is through Jesus (Again crash course not the full detail).

John highlights in Chapter 2 that one cannot sin and state that he is not a sinner. For if one does so that makes him a lair, and not truly apart of Christ. In the later part of Chapter 2 John states that those who went out from us were never really apart of us, for if they were then they would have remained. Then in Chapter 2: 22 John begins the definition of Antichrist: Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the Antichrist-Denying the Father, and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. Johns first letter seems to be a direct thesis against Gnosticism (false teaching), not a discussion of how the world will end.

This definition of the Antichrist alone should be enough proof that our mainstream idea of the Antichrist is already incorrect for even John states that many Antichrists have already come. If the only requirement to be an Antichrist is the denial that Jesus was Christ then one could argue that many people who have lived on the earth were indeed Antichrists. This means that the “Antichrist” is not a singular person, rather this warning against Antichrists is a warning of false teaching, and a warning of falling away. It is a great example of how when we take pieces of the Bible we can make it say whatever we want. Like that there is a son of Satan that will rise from the bowels of Hell to destroy the world.

Context is everything, perspective is everything, and so is the importance of communication. When we dip in and out of different books we can make the Bible say whatever it is that we want. I believe that when taken into context the great deceiver in Paul’s 2 Thessalonian’s should not be used in conjunction with John’s Antichrist. They are separate, and different. To take part of one book, and mix it with another is ludicrous. The context of each book in the Bible comes from a completely different perspective, to mix these perspectives without the context leads to false teaching. Ironic, as John warned against such teachings.

Why are there five books in the Bible that focus on Christ? Think about it. Jesus is central to Christianity, and we have five perspectives to gain an idea of who Jesus was. Why just look at the simple differences, and you begin to understand why things taken out of context throws off teaching. Take for example the gospel of John 13:7. It states that as soon as Judas took the bread from Christ Satan entered into him. This is the only book that states that Satan entered Judas. What an interesting perspective that this adds to the betrayal of Jesus. Yet, there are four that show a different side to the story. Perspective gives new meaning. Why does one say that Satan entered and the others don’t?

Now I’m not saying that there won’t be a Hollywood style end of the world brought about by an Antichrist figure. What I am saying is that the term Antichrist doesn’t mean what many mainstream Christians thinks it means. I am also saying that out of context teaching shouldn’t be what we base our understanding of God on. The message of the Bible is complete without us attempting to take apart different pieces and put them together. Besides the anxiety of the end of the world shouldn’t be the focus of our walk with God. That is tomorrow’s issue and that’s for a later discussion.

SCREW THE HOMELESS

Screw the homeless, what an awful thing to say right? So, what exactly brought you here? Was it the title, Screw the Homeless?

If it was the title did you feel outraged at the prospect that someone could have such an awful view of a group of people? Did you feel that you had to correct that view in order to better the world? Was it personal for you, did it create an injustice that had to be corrected? What if the title was “Help the Homeless”, would you have felt the need to read this blog post the same as when the title was inflammatory?

So, if this article isn’t about the homeless what is it about? Basically that we will become provoked at inflammatory words (screw the homeless) verse the actual issue, homelessness.

When we see something that is inflammatory like Screw the Homeless we feel the need to correct that person’s view. It’s similar to being on a Facebook page, and arguing with a person through comments. We aren’t actually solving the issue. We are simply fighting this person because they are wrong and in our eyes that is an injustice worth fighting for.

There are problems that exist in the world, and everyone can acknowledge that there is an issue. Finding a solution takes time, money, workers, and support from the community. Take homelessness for example. Homelessness exists and so does the penny tax. We could use that penny tax to build a shelter, fund volunteers, and work on the issue of homelessness. However, we could also use that tax to build something that the community wants, like a new recreation center or a community park. Now there is the issue, do we want a homeless shelter, or do we want something that pleases us?

This creates a duality issue. Do we help the homeless? I mean we all agree (well most of us) that we certainly don’t hate homeless people. Do we help ourselves? The homeless after all picked the life they are living, right? No one becomes homeless in a day, it’s a lifelong issue, and will take lifelong solution to fix.

What do you think is right? I wont judge, but if you were angry at me for saying screw the homeless, and I come up with a way to help the homeless, but you’re not on board because it takes something from you, why were you even mad in the first place? You were mad because the words were inflammatory, and that was a worse injustice to you than homelessness, that’s it.

Now I’m not saying You specifically are the issue, or that any of this applies to you, but you understand the concept? We get mad at other people for their views on an issue, when we don’t even care enough about the issue enough try and solve it in the first place. This may be true in your life, or may not be. I’m not someone to judge either way, all I am saying is if we care enough about something to get upset when someone disagrees with us, then shouldn’t it motivate us when someone is doing something that helps what we care about?

If there are two people holding two signs, help the homeless, or screw the homeless. Which one do you think you should talk to now? The guy who’s going to help them, or the one who just hates them?

Kierkegaard and Mindfulness

Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness

-Matthew 6:33

Soren Kierkegaard in Skrifter vol 11 (maybe the correct citation) meditates on the above paraphrased verse in his writings, discussing the deeper meaning of the words. In short, he discusses that one must first seek the Kingdom of God, and this is accomplish by silence. Silence, according to Kierkegaard, is the first and most important goal in seeking the Kingdom of God.

To Kieregaard dropping everything for God is not the first step to seek the Kingdom of God. The first step is to be silent. To be silent, and to make yourself nothing before God. In this silence we arrive at the beginning, and this beginning is where we seek God.

Yet, what is this silence? If Kierkegaard states that silence is being prepared for the opportunity when it arrives, then isn’t mindfulness the same thing? It’s just another word for the same thing, and we know that mindfulness by itself isn’t spiritual. Rather it is an inward observation. By knowing ourselves we can better seek the Kingdom of God.

In our mindful/silent lives we make ourselves ready to serve God when the time comes. In this meditation we ready our inward self to serve. How can we serve God if our own lives are not in control? First seek the Kingdom of God. By first seeking the Kingdom we learn to be silent/mindful, and we take control of our lives.

God calls everyone to different things. Silence and inward observation gives us clarity to what those things are. The first step toward God is to become mindful of your own life, understanding of your weakness, to become nothing, so that God may use you for his will. The freedom to follow God starts with getting control of ones life. To understand your part in the world, and to be accepting of it.

I can work for God, and do great things for him, but first I must seek the Kingdom of God.

There is No Proof of God

There is no proof of God.

Correction, there is no objective proof of God.

Correction, there is no objective proof of God that everyone can agree upon.

Correction, there is no objective proof of God that everyone can agree upon, and that is why we have faith.

Correction, there is no objective proof of God that everyone can agree upon, and that is the point of having faith.

If God came down every Sunday to all the churches of the world who could justify not being a Christian? If God performed miracles in front of live concerts played for the entire world, who would not believe? We would all try to be faithful, we would all follow the word of God, but what would be the motivation?

If we had objective proof of God then we would have objective proof of hell. We would have proof of an afterlife, and a reason to do good. When there is a reason that is objective to do good will we not do good, or least attempt good?

If you knew that you could steal a cookie from the cookie jar as a child wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you at least be tempted by it? If your mother stood by the cookie jar, then that takes away the motivation to even begin with. You couldn’t dream of stealing the cookie as there is a capable person there to stop you.

God cannot objectively exist, and there can be no objective proof of God for if there there was then we would all act well. We would all act good, and follow commands to the best of ability. There wouldn’t be a questions of faith. How could anyone love by God by choice if we all knew he existed. We would all want heaven, not to be a better person, but to avoid suffering in hell.

Some say that they know God exists, I don’t. I try to have faith, but I am not convinced that there could be an afterlife. There certainly is a lot of evidence of one not existing. So, why am I a Christian verse a agnostic, or spiritualist?

The reason I am a Christian, even though there is no objective proof of God, is that I love God, real or not real. I choose to live by a moral standard, and attempt a good life. I do this not because it benefits me, but because I want to be a good person.

Now anyone can argue that “religion” has caused more suffering than good. That one doesn’t need a religion to be a good person, and that all of it is subjective to the situation. I would argue that if someone can find a more profound message than love your enemies, and provide for them, then I will follow that message.

This is why I choose Christ: love your enemies, feed the poor, be humble, and know that no matter what you are loved. I don’t have to do any of those things. In fact it’s rather detrimental to my own life if I do follow them. My enemies want to hurt me, why should I love them? Because you love all people, and understand that everyone has a perspective. That they are human to, that they suffer, and matter just as much as I do.

With objective proof of God you could easily be a Christian because you know your life was justified.

Without objective proof of God it becomes harder to be a Christian because you don’t know if it is justified, and you choose to limit yourself. I’m ok with that. I’m ok with that because I want to make a leap of faith, to stare down the absurd universe.

I am a Christian not because I want heaven, but because I love God.

Common Sense Perspective

When I was young I had a perspective. I thought that everyone knew my perspective. If they had two eyes, and a brain then of course they would see things my way, the right way. Why if you have any trouble understanding anything come talk to me I see how the world is. Red is the best color, Scooby-Doo is the best show, and recess is a subject in school because it is in school.

Now that I am older I have a perspective, but I submit that others have theirs. I cannot say that I entirely understand the perspective of my wife, or my family. I cannot entirely, or fully understand the life of any person from the world. I cannot agree with my wife on if her birthday was at one place when she said it was another. We had both been there, both eaten food, and travel together. Surely one of us is correct? If in her eyes it was at one place and in my eyes it was at another aren’t we both correct?

If I look at something and say that this is what is right, and then one looks at the same something and says that it is wrong aren’t we both right? If opposing views give way to human suffering, can the only remedy be to submit to others views, to accept that they have theirs, and I have mine…?

…And am I not entitled to my perspective, can I not say that this is right, and that is wrong. After all, I have earned what my eyes and brain saw. I earned the experiences, and lived through it all. To say to me that what I believe is wrong is to say that I have not lived, when I know that I have. I did not come to conclusions of my life by not living.

…But is there not objectivity to the world? Didn’t the birthday have to happen at one place rather than another? Credit card receipts, photographs, witness statements. Can we not prove that one of us is right, and the other is wrong? Yes, and no. Yes if the objectivity could prove that one of us is right, and the other is wrong. No if the objectivity could prove that both of us are right, or that the objectivity is subjective in nature. A photo could prove that we were at one place, but it just as well could prove that we were at another. If it was true we were here, and the photo makes it so that we were there then the objective photo becomes subjective to perspective. If there is no “true” objectivity then we must submit that we are both correct, or at the very least both true to our perspective. Isn’t that the best that any of us can truly hope for in this world?

…Yet humans will suffer. There can be two answers to who committed the crime, and if the “objectivity” fails to be objective then the wrong person can be punished. While the suffering occurs can the jury be blamed for their perspective? Did they not take the evidence and act accordingly? Certainly there are some problems that go beyond submitting to someone’s perspective, and inevitably these issues create conflict that in turns creates human suffering. However, if we act truthfully to ourselves, and at the very least attempt to understand the perspective of others then human suffering could be mitigated.

…Or is this a way to skate around morality issues justifying deviance by saying my perspective says otherwise? We hope that the other person in front of us is acting in good faith with their perspective. It is wrong to steal, but if I steal to feed my family because I have no other way, my perspective is real even though it does create suffering. What I do is wrong, but for the right reason, at the very least for me. If I steal because I cannot help myself due to a clinically diagnosis issue, then my perspective includes that diagnosis. My perspective is real even though it does create suffering. If I steal because I find it enjoyable, or because I feel that it is owed to me then I am being real in my perspective by justifying my action as enjoyable, or owed to me. However, this justification intentionally ignores the human suffering of another. Doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason. Even if this perceived object that I covet is owed to me, to steal it is to ignore the perspective of the other person who sells it. Is the seller not owed something as well?

For the problems of my everyday life I can say that I submit that everyone is correct. I don’t have to create conflict when my wife says we ate there, instead of here. I don’t have to create conflict when I am told this is good, and that is bad. I submit that people will do as people see fit according to their perspective as I will do. I submit that people are justified in their minds their actions as I am of mine.

For the issues that inevitable must have an “objective” answer I submit that the person in front of me is correct in their mind and justified in their actions, as I am in mine. I hope that they are acting in good faith. If we can both agree that we are both at least knowing of the other person as having a perspective then maybe a compromise rather than domination can be achieved.

The Cost of Judgement

People instinctively pass judgement on each other it’s a natural process. We make judgement’s on the way people look, act, and behave. We will take those judgement’s, and often pass them around to others. We will label those judgments on people, and they become fact without ever speaking to the person we judged.

I believe that I am more than guilty of this. I would say that it is my biggest weakness, and as a Christian who is trying to follow Jesus’s teaching it’s an issue that I cannot overlook.

As Jesus states in Matthew 7:1-5: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.

While Jesus was using rather funny hyperbolic imagery the lesson is the same. To place judgement on someone is to ignore your own issues.

I like to think about the times when I am shopping or in a waiting room, and there is a tantruming child there making a scene for everyone to witness. An even better example is to be on the light rail, or in the street and a couple is having a loud fight. In the past with these situations I have put judgement on the participants.

Look at that child why can the mother not take care of it, look at that couple they have some obvious issues.

I put judgement on people, but rarely do I try to understand what it must be like to be in that situation, and ignoring the times that I have been in that situation. I have never had a child, and can only imagine the pressure that new parents must feel when their child is acting out in public. Every child acts out, and for us to say that it is the parents fault for the behavior of the kid is to ignore issues that may exist under the skin. When seeing these occurrences I didn’t  have the experience of working with mental health that I do now. I have seen how a mentally handicap child can add immense amounts of stress on a new family, it is emotional for everyone. Who is to say that I would fair any better?

Everyone is different, with a different worldview, and different ideals of right verses wrong. It would be wrong of me to judge a person based on the few moments of meeting them, or watching them.

I know the intentions of my wife, my parents, and those who are close to me. Yet with strangers I have not met I should reserve judgement. How can I cast judgement when there is a plank in my eye, how can I cast judgement when I haven’t walked in their shoes? I can’t, and I shouldn’t.

So everyday from today on I will strive to reserve judgement for myself, and only to help myself be a better person. If I ever get to a point that there is no longer a plank in my eye then I may help my neighbor with the speck in theirs.

Fasting for God

Fasting is an important process for almost all religions. It’s about denying ones self to focus on God. The hunger inside will grow, gnawing at your insides, being an ever present reminder of your choice to deny the body the pleasure of food, but by having that emotional control to deny yourself food (or whatever you fast from) you satisfy your spiritual hunger seeking God. Learning that emotional control teaches discipline to follow the teachings of your choice of faith. It’s a great time of reflection and offers clarity to what is important in ones life.

I had the privilege to participate in a fast recently with my wife. The whole opportunity came about when we were discussing fasting with our Bible study group. There was discussion about the multiple ways we could fast, and that the whole point of the fast was to deny the body its pleasures. My wife and I decided to try fasting from food, and cell phones.

We started off with the cell phone fast. We agreed to stay off our phones unless we had a message or call. What I noticed immediately was how much I am on my phone. It’s become a sort of comfort entertainment that I use to pass the day. When things are slow at work I browse Facebook or Twitter. I look up funny pictures or videos to stimulate me even when there are other options to satisfy the craving.

I found after that the first day I had all of this free time. The phone was such a time killer. I believe I was on it four hours a day. Which may not seem like much, but when you consider the breakdown of my day it is a a lot. Instead of being on my phone I used that time to read additional verses, or attempt to challenge what I had learned. I took the focus off something important to my flesh and instead turned that focus to God.

After about a week of doing this the results were pretty much what we expected, by taking this bad habit out, and replacing it with a good one we were able to look at our lives a bit more critically. It allowed us to actually see how much we came to depend on our phone, and how much that pushed us away from each other. By removing the phone our relationship became focused on each other, and God.

I will discuss how our food fast was in a later post, but I would really like to reiterate that fasting is denying the flesh what it craves. If you examine your life what it is that your body craves that holds you from God?

The Death of Man

I recently had the opportunity to attend a men’s retreat with my brother. This was something new for me to do in a Church as I have never really saw myself as one of the men. As the youngest of three, and all of my siblings much older than me I never believed that I would reach the point of being a “man”, but there I was with all the other men at this retreat. I had mixed feelings about it from the get go. I thought I was walking into this assembly where we would eat streak from a freshly killed deer carcass while discussing the finer points of how to spit a long distance. It was, however, much to my surprise a good lesson for me to learn from. It’s good lesson for anyone to learn from.

We started off in Genius 2:15 where God commanded Adam to not eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam received this knowledge before Eve came into existence. Eve was then later temped by the serpent, and ate from the tree then gave some to Adam. Adam who stood there, and said nothing to Eve. Adam who did not attempt to stop Eve. Adam who was silent as Eve sinned, even though he knew that if they ate from the tree they would surely die.

The silence of man in this story is deafening. At the men’s retreat the speaker encouraged us to open up about what we were struggling with as men. To discuss with each other the problems in our lives. In my group of eight we had three people open up. My brother and I being two.

It was discouraging to open up about the hardest part of my life currently to these men who continued to stay silent rather than opening up about their lives. Men will die of silence. The second I told my story I regretted it. It felt like I made a fool of myself, and the only thing I could hear in the back of my head was, “Should have just shut up.”

It’s like that being a man. I watch my father do it, killing himself with silence. Ever so often I get these glimpses into his life. Brief ten second window’s into what he really feels, and what he went through. These ten second images have become engraved in my mind because the pain that he feels. These ten second windows are hell. He keeps them bottled up inside, and drinks them down. Every so often he recounts one, and it turns my stomach knowing that my father has gone through so much. I only want to reach out and hug him. Tell him I love him, that its ok, that its all behind him now, that I can be strong for him. Instead, I tell myself it’s not my place, that if it gets really bad I’ll tell him to stop. I’m just silent.

What can I do? What could I say? I’m struggling and need help! Help me please!

Its been hard absorbing all this information, and trying to implement it in my life. I bottle things up, and I stay silent.

So, I want to make a change. I will start small with my wife. I will tell her things, and be open. Then work outwards. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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