Archive for faith

Lenten Focus #4 — What Is Your Message?

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , on March 17, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

This is part four of a six-part series of the Lenten Focus, done every Wednesday during Lent. Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Politicians will be the first to tell you that everyone has an agenda. It doesn’t matter what party you belong to, or where you live, or what you do for a career, you will always have a different slant on a subject as anyone else you’ll ever meet.

The biggest problem with this is that most of the time, it’s impossible to be objective about things. I try my best on this blog to not throw in any of my personal views into the things I write about, but sometimes it’s my viewpoint on a subject that makes me want to write about it.

The same thing happens with the message of Jesus. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus clearly lays out the two most important commandments: Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a simple, straightforward message that should be fairly easy to follow.

But then come in all the baises. Many people today largely ignore how simple this commandment is. They take this commandment and filter it through the rigid rules and regulations of the Old Testament (which we all know, according to Hebrews 8:13, has been rendered useless), turning the commandment into “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself, unless your neighbor is gay, an adulturer, or of another belief system. Then it is okay to hate them until they earn your love by converting to Christianity.”

The message of love becomes lost in everything that goes on in the world. The news is inundated with stories of death, disease, famine, war, infidelity, and all sorts of hatred: Parties hating other parties, nations hating other nations, with no end in sight.

It is imperative to remember those two simple commandments for what they are: a message of pure and unconditional love.

What does this have to do with you? You have an agenda, whether you like it or not. Use it to your advantage, and spread a message of love to the people who will listen to you. A pro-war message of love is different than an antiwar message. A vegetarian message of love is different than a carnivorous message. Men are different than women, the old different from the young. Take this message of Jesus, this message of love everyone no matter who they are or where they come from, and spread it across the world.

Everyone has an agenda. Everyone has a message. Find one that works for you.

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Lenten Focus #1 — Who Are You?

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

On Monday, 22 February, Dr. Lee Nelson gave the faculty chapel talk. He discussed the different attitudes people can have on their faith. I asked for a copy of his talk and his permission to use it in this blog, because it absolutely fascinated me, and I definitely wasn’t going to try and remember it.

In his talk, he discussed the different faith styles of Moses, Ruth, and Thomas. Moses, as we all know, led the Israelites out of Egypt, and Dr. Nelson described Moses as “a robust leader, a man of faith… full of talent, energy, and ambition.” No matter what sort of challenges were put in his way, Moses found a way to overcome them. When they were hungry, he found food. When they rebelled, Moses provided a voice of reason. Moses was everything a leader needed to be, because he knew that God was ever-present, and would guide him to their destination.

Ruth, on the other hand, was a woman of incredible faith. She stayed with Naomi, even though Naomi urged her to flee to a better life. She submitted herself fully to Naomi, vowing, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16b) And she did stay, and she took great care of Naomi. She wasn’t the great and powerful leader like Moses, but she remained faithful and subservient, completely selfless, and with no desire for recognition.

“Robust Moses… Faithful Ruth… Doubting Thomas…”

“Doubting Thomas” is a term that is commonly used in the English language, and it all stems back to Biblical times, when Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, saying, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25) Jesus, of course, appeared to Thomas, showed him his hands and his side, and Thomas, after seeing this, became the first person in the Bible to refer to Jesus as “God.”

Then the question was asked:

Who are you?  Are you a robust Moses, a person of talent, courage, vision and confidence? … Or are you [Ruth,] a bearer of other’s burdens, faithful, loving and well-doing? …  Or perhaps you are a Thomas, not quite sure who God is or what this cross means.  Maybe you wrestle with God like Jacob or test God like the Israelites or betray God like Peter – all of which would put you in the company with Thomas.

Personally, I can see myself in all of these roles. My faith life tends to have varying degrees of strength on any given day. This summer I felt like a Moses. I felt like I was called to do something important, and I started to plan a great excursion, hitchhiking across the country, spreading the Word of God, being fully dependant on God and doing everything in my power to fully rely on him.

While I was working at camp, and even occasionally today, I was more of a Ruth. I keep to myself, working on developing and strengthening my faith. At night, I read the Bible on my BlackBerry, never in any particular order, but just reading, learning more about this Jesus guy. Sometimes, I do my reflecting by just thinking about God. I was challenged one summer to try and find God in something throughout my day, be it the scraper I use to get ice off my windshield, a squirrel running across campus, or even the clouds my breath makes in the cold.

But mostly, I feel like I’m Thomas. I’m relavitely new to making my faith my own. I grew up in a household that went to church, but I never really felt connected to it, because I felt like I was asking too many questions and not getting enough answers to be a “Good Christian.” Even today, as I’m working and building my faith, I’m asking so many questions. Sometimes I question if my faith is the “right one.” Sometimes I question why there are such terrible representatives of my faith.

Mostly, though, I question if I’m on par with what God wants, which is really a stupid question to ask. Of course I’m on par with what God wants, because what God wants is for me to question, to seek answers, and to develop and strengthen my faith. And as long as I’m doing that, I’ll never be off course.

The question I pose today is: Who are you? Are you Moses, Ruth, Thomas, or something in between?