As always, I doubt most people will make it to the bottom, since most skim anyway. But I left the most important things on my mind there, so I do hope you make it.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a good celebration. I know I did. I realized what is fundamentally wrong with my way of thinking. But I’ll get to that later.
First an observation, something that’s been on my mind. Something happened last night that just got me thinking, but it’s weird how something that happens in a split second can change your life. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, especially since reading Thomas Nagel’s excellent essay, Moral Luck.
Anyway, maybe you’ve seen He Got Game, maybe you haven’t. It’s not that great a movie, but one thing that happens is that Denzel’s character ends up killing his wife, not out of malice, but he was just pissed off in general and he pushed her, she ends up hitting her head and dies. It was just a split second loss of self control, and it ends up totally affecting their lives.
Nagel’s essay involves how there is an aspect of luck to morality. I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t go into it much, but the idea is this – let’s say there’s this guy driving a truck, and he’s temporarily distracted from his driving by something in the car. Let’s say nothing happens. Then that’s fine, he was distracted, but no problem.
Let’s say instead that in that moment he was distracted, he ends up hitting and killing a person. Then, he is morally guilty of vehicular manslaughter, at least. And yet, in the 2 situations, the driver does the exact same thing. But there are drastically different moral ramifications. The point is, there’s luck involved with morality.
Anyway, this example Nagel uses became more real after Stephen King was struck by a truck – the driver was apparently distracted by his dog. Try and imagine it – it was probably just a split second distraction, but in that moment, lives were changed forever.
And He Got Game deals with this well also. Just that a loss of control even for 1 second, can just totally change your life.
I don’t know why I think about this so much. I think part of it is it scares me that it’s those quick moments that can end up irrevocably changing our lives. And the idea that a lot of what happens to us is out of our control. Anyway, I was just thinking about this, and I really want to always be in control – even a brief loss of self control can have disastrous consequences. I suppose that’s all I’m saying, but like always, it takes me a while to say it.
So I like I said, my New Year’s revealed to me all that is wrong with my thinking in life.
So every year my church rents out a bowling alley and we bowl for hours, have a service, and celebrate the New Year together. As I have previously mentioned in these pages, it always ends up being a lot of fun.
But this year, I wasn’t into the whole idea. Partly because of my sister’s influence, but I thought, it’s kind of lame to be celebrating the millenium by bowling. I’d rather be doing something more special. Instead I’ll be stuck bowling. So I was kind of bummed about it.
Truth be told, I would rather have spent it at home with my family, but my parents had to go to church. I am actually still surprised at all the people that went off for New Year’s Eve this year. I mean, it’s cool and all, it’s just for me, I think there is nothing I would rather do than celebrate the coming of the year 2000 with my family, and I just assumed everyone else would also. I was just surprised, that’s all.
So I was kind of down on the whole bowling thing but I decided to go. Anyway, God really humbled me. I’ve fallen I think from where I used to be. I recognized 2 big things about myself, I think. One, I lack humility. Two, I am more concerned with entertaining myself than in loving others or in glorifying God.
I thought it was lame because it was just bowling (pride) and in considering what I wanted to do for New Year’s, my primary consideration was what would be the most fun, not what would glorify God the most. You might think I’m just being lame about this, but I really think it’s indicative of a lot, or at least that’s what I realized. That in general, it’s true – I’ve got a lot of pride about certain things, and that what guides me most in life is what will be the most personally satisfying, not what will glorify God.
Anyway, we bowled, and I didn’t really know a lot of people (the church is just getting too big and kids are growing up. It’s very strange. And a lot of my friends weren’t there.) so I just did my usual thing of people watching. This alone humbled me, made me realize my pride. Why did I think this wasn’t good enough for me? There were people all around me having a good time, and I was with my church, the people of God. That’s just a good feeling. Any other thing I could have done would have involved mindless diversion and / or drinking, and I wouldn’t be among the people of God. I don’t know; I’m doing a poor job in explaining, it, but just being among the people of my church was very humbling and very fundamentally satisfying to me. I realized in the middle, what the heck was wrong with my thinking? There is no place I would rather be on New Year’s Eve than with my church, even if I don’t know them.
The second thing that humbled me was the service we had. It was really brief, but at least to me, powerful. Although I think it didn’t have the same effect on other people that it did on me.
Some youth group kids led praise. That was great. Again, I people watched, and I realized that all these people had foregone other plans they might have had (there were a lot of high school, college, young adult and married people there) to be with the church this night. And as we had our service, I realized they all had the genuine desire to worship God, and glorify Him by celebrating the New Year this way. I love genuineness, and although it was just a few youth group kids fumbling their way through the songs, praise was very sweet.
Pastor Eric’s sermon was on why Jesus hasn’t come back yet. And he discussed the common view that Jesus will not return until all the people groups of the world are reached. And he used that as a springboard to challenge us to evangelism (Baptist churches are into that. It’s cool). And then we rang in the new year by praying, Korean church style. On our knees and yelling, baby.
Anyway, for me, it was a challenge – Danny, what the heck are your priorities? What are you thinking about? What’s really important to you? How are you living your life? I think I’m far from God. That is, my thoughts are far from God. When I am completely honest with myself, what guides me (as it did in thinking about what to do for New Year’s) is what will be the most fun for me. It really is. Everything I do is pretty much dictated by how much I will be entertained. And you know that I hate that in other people. But really, that’s who I am.
And that sucks. It really does. Anyway, the high school kids had just gotten back from a retreat and I realized their priorities are much more right than my own. Nowadays, even our youth group is getting more multiethinic – not because it’s an emphasis, but people just bring their friends. They just do it. I sure as heck don’t.
I don’t love people – I see people so I can be entertained. I don’t try to glorify God – I try to amuse myself. I’m being a little harsh, but when it comes down to it, I think it’s the truth. And it was very humbling.
Anyway, I’m very glad I ended up celebrating the New Year the way I did – with the people of God, and worshipping Him as the year came. It just made me realize that I am not the way I should be – there’s a lot of pride and whacked priorities that I need to deal with. And I’m glad I know.
Anyway, I hadn’t made any new years resolutions, but I have one now. Maybe it sounds lame, but I just want to think about God more. Because right now, I’m thinking all about myself. Just think about God more. After that, do what He says, and seek to glorify Him.
Hey I hope you made it this far – just one thing more I want to say. It’s kind of relevant to what I’ve been talking about, kind of has to deal with and Experiencing God lesson from a while back. Anyway, EG said, and I’m still chewing on this, but that God gives us humanly impossible stuff to do. There’s a reason for this – if it’s possible by man, the glory goes to man, not to God. But He gives impossible assignments, so that people know that it was God that did it. And then he gave a bunch of examples from both testaments of this, and in every one, the people always realized, whoa, God is real.
Anyway, EG goes so far as to say that if what we’re told to do is possible than it’s not from God, because God only gives God-sized missions, so that He alone may receive glory.
It’s kind of bold, and of course there are caveats to this, but I do think there is something to be said for this idea. It’s just hard for me to dismiss because of the examples in the Word. And it’s true – non believers in the Word are most amazed when God’s people do stuff they couldn’t do on their own. Like when Peter speaks in public. Or all the miracles. And the Word says God does this so that they may know that He is God.
I bring this up because I was talking with someone a while ago about how churches tend to be irresponsible with building. They often take the attitude that God will provide, sometimes beyond all logic, and move forward and end up putting themselves in precarious financial positions. And you know, that is lame.
It’s not just church buildings, Christians often act irresponsibly in other ways. But I think this friend’s response isn’t totally right. Actually, I don’t even know if this is the way this friend thinks, but I do think many people feel this way, most notably me, in recent years. But the idea is that we should perfectly plan out and execute everything, and that’s how we glorify God and serve Him best. And that’s actually true. The thing is, we end up doing only those things we know that we are able to do, that we know that we can personally handle.
But where’s the faith in that? There has to be an element of faith to it. And worse, when we succeed, which we invariably do, wince we only do things we know we can, it’s never clear whether it was God or us that succeeded.
I don’t know, I’m just starting to think that I shouldn’t be so totally down on what I think of as irresponsible. EG really convinced me that God does give humanly impossible things for us to do for His glory, and that sometimes we do need to follow these things, as irresponsible as it might seem. That’s just what faith is, and it seems to be an example from scripture. So to only do things we know we can do, I think, is wrong. Especially if success is then attributed to us instead of God.
The tricky thing is, so often people are wrong about this. Like this church in Houston just built massively. I’m not sure why. They must have thought they would be growing a lot and that God would provide. I don’t know the details exactly, but it put them in a very hard financial position. Such that it seems difficult to believe that it was God’s will for them to build beyond their means.
So I go back and forth. It is clearly true to me that a fundamental part of being a Christian is believing that God will do the impossible through you. And yet it is just as clear to me that a lot of people and churches have done totally irresponsible things with this attitude and gotten screwed. It’s weird.
This is related to what Dave said about people invoking the voice of God to their opinions, and how that made him wary of when people say they believe God is saying, or that this is the Biblical way, or that this is God’s will. And I understand that. But I’m still not totally with him. I don’t know. I guess it’s OK to be wary, but like, it seems like Dave would just rather do away with saying that people ever believe anything is God’s will at all.
But that can’t be right either, because I mean, God does speak to people even now. So at least some of the time, it’s gotta be true, and we’d actually be wrong to not say so. Even in the case where those 2 people said they believed God is saying the opposite things, that doesn’t mean their both wrong, just 1. Although they both might be.
I’m rambling now. But the point is, I think there is a certain recklessness to faith that’s just a part of trusting God, and I think that God still does speak, and sometimes about specific situations. And I think sometimes we gotta go with that, as irresponsible as it may seem.
Those times when people do that and it’s wrong throw me for a loop, but I still can’t deny it happens sometimes for real. I mean, I have to believe that. I suppose what I’m saying is I think my faith is too practical, too safe. I’m not trying to do anything I can’t do, and I not believing that God will do anything more than that. As irresponsible as it may seem to do otherwise, I think sometimes I have to, if I profess to be a Christian.
But as EG has taught me, the key to everything is a relationship with God. If you have a good relationship with God, everything is much easier – knowing what His will is, what you should do, experiencing Him, all that stuff. And if you don’t have a good relationship with God, everything is harder – hearing His voice, knowing His will, experiencing Him. It’s foolish to think you know what God’s will is for you in a particular situation if you’ve relationship is not right.
So I guess I should work on my relationship with God before I do anything else.
Hope this wasn’t too boring or preachy. I know I’m both things. But whatever, that’s who I am. Deal.
I’ll be home later today. See you then.