Monday, July 16, 2012

Is belief in a higher power (such as God) required to motivate a person to do virtuous acts?

When I consider this question, my first response is that ethics do not require a person to believe in God or Gods or some transcendent source such as the Dao to motivate him or her to do virtuous acts. I say this because I know a few people who do not have any sort of belief in a God (that I know of) but they still seem to want to do ‘good things’ like help others out or donate money to charity. However, I do know that for two of these friends in particular, I have had conversations with them about what I believe and what they believe, and it seems like they both have what could be described as agnostic beliefs. They both feel like there is some sort of higher power, but there is no definite ‘being’ that they believe in. I am not sure if this belief motivates them to do these good deeds, or if it is simply because society looks positively upon such acts. I have also met someone who claims to be entirely atheist, having no belief in any God or Gods, but who still attends church mission trips because he likes the atmosphere (or something like that). In my brief conversations with him, he talked about how he feels like love is a good thing and likes to be in places and with people where love is common, but he doesn’t want anything to do with religion or belief in any sort of higher power. Again, I am not sure if he simply has some doubts about the non-existence of God or if he is absolutely sure about it and simply wants to help others, or extend some sort of love to other people. Personally, I feel like there is no reason to want to help others if you do not have any belief in God, Gods, or any higher power (and therefore any sort of judgment/accountability for your actions or an afterlife of some kind). To live as if there is no higher power or reason to act in a moral manner is to live as evolution teaches us to live: survival of the fittest. If the only benefit for being nice is to possibly make a friend and have that advantage in life, it does not help a person be more reproductively successful, which is the end goal of life (according to the idea of natural selection, as I understand it). If we are simply ‘meat computers’ (as I have heard it said) and nothing more, then our actions cease to matter after we have died. You can make the argument that doing something ‘big’ will change the course of human history, but every scientist (again, that I know of) agrees that the earth will not last forever, and after the sun expands and destroys this planet, what will be left of our lives? I feel that in a view that does not include God (or any higher power or afterlife), our lives are entirely meaningless. So, to follow that stream of thought would lead to the conclusion that you do need to believe in some sort of God, Gods, or higher power/moral order to be motivated to do virtuous acts. However, as I stated above, I have friends who do not express any belief in God or a higher power, yet still feel motivated to do good works. So either my logic is flawed at some point, or my friends have beliefs that I do not see. Either case seems equally likely in my opinion.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Where is the church?

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Acts 2:42-47
Have you ever seen something like that? Let me tell you, right now, I am longing for that. I dearly desire to have fellowship and have everything in common and work and sell things to help those who don't have as much as I do. I want all of that, with the love of God at the center of it all. Where is the church?

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need."
Acts 4:32-35
Have you ever seen anything like this? No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had... God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. Have you seen anything like this, ever? Have you seen a group of people so motivated by God's love that they lived in complete communism (yes, that is what it is, but if I am wrong, please correct me) so that everyone had what they needed?? Right now, I am longing for that.

Does anyone else feel that intense desire for a real church? Am I the only one who wants to live in a community, a real community with communism and the like, with God and His great love and mercy at the center of it all? I want that so much...but I know that my desire alone is not enough to do it.

What if instead of going to church, we became the church??

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spoudazo app finished!

And here is the devotional I wrote for it, if you are interested:

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV

I think it is easy for us to read this verse and say, ok, here is the check list: 1) tell someone that Jesus is Lord, 2) believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead. Boom, done, hello heavenly dwelling. Right?
But there is so much more to this than Paul lets on. Simply saying “Jesus is Lord,” is easy, anyone can do that, and anyone can choose not to mean that when they say it, or they may not fully understand what it means to follow up those words with action (See James 2). Likewise, what does it mean to “believe in your heart that God raised [Jesus] from the dead”?
I think it is more than simply accepting that Jesus died for you and washed your sins away, so that now you are holy in God’s sight. Jesus’ resurrection was (one of?) the last miracle(s) He did while He was physically on this earth. If you truly believe in the resurrection of Christ, then what does that say about all the miracles He did before that one? Do you believe in those too? And if you believe in all of the previous miracles He did (after all, if He could come back from the grave, what is turning water into wine or feeding thousands of people with a couple loaves of bread?), then do you believe the things He said as well? And if you believe the things He said, do you follow His advice? CS Lewis once said, “There would be no sense in saying you trusted Jesus if you did not take His advice.”
So I ask you, what is Jesus advising you to do? Has He advised you to do something recently that you have not done? Good news, He is patient and merciful, and He allows second tries. If you faltered previously, spend some time with God and ask for another chance. Ask that He would change your heart so that you would desire to follow His advice, and listen for His voice.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blue Like Jazz comes out in 1 week!

I want you to enjoy this with me, so check out the trailer :)

Unfortunately, I do not think the movie will be opening in Lincoln :( which makes me very sad..

Monday, April 2, 2012

12 Step Program

So, in a Bible study I go to, we recently started going over The(?) 12 Step Program to help a person get past an addiction. It is popularly known by its use in Alcoholics Anonymous, and the leaders/hosts of the Bible study have both been through AA and are recovering alcoholics - they have personal experience with the program and its success.
The 12 Step program was mentioned in my Abnormal Psych class the other day, but the grad student who was giving the lecture (My professor focuses on a different subject matter and is starting to invite guest lecturers in to cover topics he is not as familiar with.), she mentioned that the 12 step program was good for people who are at a point where they want to get help and get past an addiction, but that the program had been criticized for its emphasis on spirituality, which is not for everyone.

And that is what I want to vent about, sort of. Because when I hear something like, "Spirituality/Religion/God is not for everyone," what I am actually hearing is "The truth is not for everyone." And I am strongly against that stance. I believe that everyone deserves to hear and know the truth. But, I don't think that the person/people who would make a statement like the first would understand that I transition to the second almost instantly. And this, I think, is the underlying issue. Or at least one of them.

The issue I talk about the is question about whether or not there is absolute truth. Is it an absolute truth that God, heaven, and hell exist, or do they just exist for me because I believe in them? (the second part being a relativistic truth system)
I've been thinking about it lately, sort of. I can come up with several arguments against that idea, the one about relative truth, but I have a hard time coming up with arguments for that idea. I would like to think that this is one of a few discussions that I don't know much about both sides while still holding a firm stance, but I don't know for sure. That being said, if you have any arguments for the idea of relative truth (regardless of your personal beliefs), I would be happy to hear them, because I don't want to just rant at nothing.

Relative truth. What I believe exists for me, and what you believe exists for you. Everyone wins, right? But what happens when I try to do that with a physical object? You throw a baseball at me, and I will choose to believe that you did not throw a baseball at me. Now, depending on your accuracy, I will get hit with a baseball. That is what happens, physical things do not disappear simply because we choose not to believe in them. (haha the idea of the cat in the box comes to mind...but I think that has more to do with atomic/nuclear things rather than spiritual things. I could be wrong, feel free to correct me.)
If you choose to believe that the speed limit is 50 mph and drive accordingly, you will still get pulled over if you are driving on a street where the speed limit is 35 and there is a police vehicle watching for speeders. Your beliefs do not change reality. Neither do mine. We will still be held accountable for speeding, even though we may choose to believe otherwise. (possible circumstances where you don't get a ticket: you are not from the area and did not know what the speed limit was, maybe you bribe the police officer or something else illegal, like running away. There are probably more.)

So, does this idea apply to spiritual/religious/God things as well as physical things? Obviously I think so... If I would choose to believe that God did not exist, that I did not have a soul that endures beyond my physical body, that would not change the reality of those things. If I choose to believe that God will not find out or punish me for doing something like running over pedestrians while driving 50 in a 35, that does not change the reality that I will receive punishment for such things. (Now here is where the Gospel comes in. Interesting, because I never intended to make that point. God is pretty neat :P )

As a side note: I am assuming the presence of a spiritual reality, which I know is not agreed upon by all. I can write another blog about why I believe that, but you may have to ask me to or let me know somehow or another. But this one is about truth.

So what is truth? Jesus claimed He was truth. Jesus claimed that He was the only way to the Father (God). (Another possible tangent: Was Jesus being close-minded? Was He being arrogant in saying He is the 'only way'?) Jesus said that He was the one that the Jewish prophets talked about when they talked about a sacrifice that would be sufficient for all sin, for all people. They talk about a person who is God incarnate, someone who is a ruler and a king, someone who is a servant, who is beaten and ultimately executed. This is the same someone, and many believe that Jesus is the person they were describing. Jesus said that He is/was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6). That sounds pretty absolute. And if Jesus was serious, and correct, about the claims He made, then shouldn't we take them seriously? Shouldn't we look at what Jesus claimed before we try to dismiss Him as some other crazy guy who thought he was God? What merit does Jesus, or the Bible, have? I think these questions are worth answering because, again, if what is in the Bible is true, and if what Jesus said is true, then it is of the utmost importance.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Conglomerate n. - a bunch of things

husband and wife, God and church - insults/disrespect
So today I was thinking about what might happen if someone were to insult my wife. (I was thinking about the future.) I feel like, depending on who it is and what is said, I would have to restrain myself from punching them right in the mouth. Or at least the face. Now, for those of you that don't know me well, I don't get angry/violent about much. That, however, would make me pretty mad. But no one is going to treat my wife that way.
And then a thought came to me: How does God feel when His bride is insulted or disrespected? I'm sure He is quite upset about it. I mean, His love far surpasses any sort of love that I will ever feel. And since God is outside of time, things that hurt don't exactly go away with the passage of time, as I understand things. (The idea comes from something I am pretty sure CS Lewis wrote, that we are under the illusion that our sins are somehow not as bad after 'enough time' passes.) Honestly, I feel kind of sorry for anyone who insults, disrespects, or imitates the bride of Christ. Because God has said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them."

beauty and nature
At another point in time today, I was thinking about just enjoying the weather and nature and the earth and sunshine. I wanted to stand barefoot in the grass and feel the warmth from the sun and the grass by my feet. I wanted to relish in it, to enjoy it, to take it in, to be healed. Being there (in my head), I could only wonder, How could someone take all this in and not think that there is purpose behind it? And I heard a reply, How can you see all this and say, 'Oh, there must be a God.'? And the truth is, I don't. But I also don't see how you can see all this and say, 'There is no purpose, it all happened by chance. This is a chance collection of atoms that has no reason to be.'
And then I thought, where does that sense of beauty and awe of nature come from in the first place? Why are people so moved to keep trees and the land alive so that they even stand in front of large machines or tie themselves to trees or something else like that? Why is it of such consensus that the earth is a valuable resource, that nature is good to look at and appreciate? Why is it that things like art and music appeal so much to so many? I want you to wonder that as well. Why do we appreciate and desire things that are given the quality of 'beautiful' or 'beauty'? Where does that even come from?

finding something of substance in conversations -I think I desire close relationships instead of frivolous friendships
Lately, I have noticed that I have not been as patient around others as I normally am. I'm going to be honest here, and I hope you can handle it. I don't say it to be insulting or disrespectful, I just want to be open and honest. Because I desire openness and honesty. I desire relationships that are worth something to me, that are deep and meaningful and have truth at their core. I don't want frivolous friendships far and wide.
Lately, I have noticed that I seem to get irritable around groups of more than 4 people when I am with them for more than about 10 minutes at a time. I noticed that I feel like I am forcing laughter, rather than feeling it and expressing it. I don't like that. I kept thinking - and realized that perhaps it was more that I just wanted to be around certain people, that I wanted to know certain people more and let them know that they are valued and appreciated and desired. (On a side note, maybe I'm shallow, but I don't think that is what is happening here. I may write another blog about that.)
I realized that because I know I haven't gotten irritable around everyone I've been with. There are a few people that I enjoy being with, and that I want to be with more. There are a few relationships that I feel are about to be even better than they were before, and I am eager to have that happen. I desire relationships that are real, that are honest and open, that involve maturity and immaturity. I desire relationships that are not based on something stupid like school or a job or which dining hall I go to. I want relationships that are deep, that are connecting and push me to be a better person.

And the relationship I want to grow the most is my relationship with God. I feel like I have almost forgotten who He is and what He wants for me. I feel like God is looking toward me and saying, "When can we hang out and talk? I miss you." And I miss God too...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Prayer, Giving, and Deeds

Let's look at a few chapters from Matthew (specifically 5-7). This is sometimes referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, from what I understand. In it, Jesus talks about many things, and to name a few of those things, prayer, giving to the poor, and doing works. Prayer, Jesus says, is to be done in a personal place, away from others. Not on street corners, because if you do it there, you get recognition from people. God recognizes what is done in secret as well as in public. Jesus says that giving to the poor should not be proclaimed, but done so secretly that one hand will not even know what the other hand is doing. When it comes to doing works/deeds, Jesus says that we (Christians/those who follow God and do His will) are the light of the earth, and to not hide our deeds. By letting others see our deeds, that will bring praise to God, which is a very good thing. Later on, Jesus talks about how you can recognize who is a false/true prophet by the things that that person does. He says you know a tree is an apple tree because you see apples on it. Likewise, you can see that a person is serving God if they do things that are in line with God's character. However, just after that, Jesus says that there will be people who, on the day of judgement, will proclaim the things they did 'in God's name' but who will be denied by Jesus because, "[He] never knew [them.]"

So I am sensing something of a tension...or at least something that I have not been taught before. Praying and giving are not deeds that should be seen by others. They should be done for God's glory, not public recognition. Yet Jesus still said that we are to show others who we serve. This is something I am still learning how to do.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Two things I support

First one! Going alphabetically, it is the Blue Like Jazz movie! I would suggest looking at the website to watch the trailer for it, but I may just include it here later on :P After watching the trailer, I feel like it gives a brief idea of what the book is about, but since I haven't seen the movie I don't know how much of the movie it shows ;) Anyway, I read the book a few years ago and I liked it a lot. The author, Donald Miller, is simply writing about some of his experiences with his friends at college and religion and God. He seems to take an honest look at things, and realizes some of the great shortcomings of Christians in America today.

The second thing is It is a website that is also a game, and it is one I played regularly last year and have not been in the habit of playing this year. I want to play it more, because I want to have more of an impact on this earth and the people on it. You ask, "How does playing a game make an impact on this world?"
Well, playing FreeRice literally provides people with food to eat when they may not otherwise have some. The game runs off of money from ads on the page, and when you view those ads, they pay for the rice that you 'donate.' The game you play is a vocabulary game (or a geography game, or a chemistry game...there are different subjects!) where each answer is 'worth' 10 grains of rice. I know it isn't much, I mean, what can you do with 10 grains of rice? And honestly, no, you cannot do much with 10 grains of rice. But by donating 10 grains of rice at a time, I have cumulatively donated 889900 grains of rice (at the time of this blog post). I know what you are thinking: That's OVER 9000!!!!! and it is. well over 9000.
Together, we can and will make a difference, and it will be good :)

So there it is. Two things I support, and I hope you take a look at them! That's all I ask, really. Just look at them. See if you are interested in them, and take the next step accordingly :)

PS- The movie comes out on Jessica's birthday. Happy birthday Jessica!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Where are you headed?

No witty comment to begin this blog. Maybe I'll come up with something later.

So I've been thinking lately. I've been thinking about where my current habits are going to end me up. I've been thinking about what I'll be like after spending hours in my room for days at a time. I've been thinking about what will happen to my relationships if I don't see my friends except for two or three times a week. And I don't like where those thoughts lead. Because let's be honest, they don't lead somewhere that I want to be.

So, to quote Sanctus Real, "It's time to face up, clean this old house/Time to breathe in and let everything out/That I've wanted to say, for so many years/Time to release all my held back tears. Whatever You're doing inside of me, it feels like chaos, but somehow there's peace. You're up to something bigger than me, larger than life, something heavenly." (I may have changed verses/chorii part way through that.)

So I want to make a change. Actually no, I don't. I want to make several changes, and I want the first one to be spending more time with God. Because, again, let's be honest, if any changes are made without first consulting the wisest, most good being in the universe, then those changes aren't going to be the best changes that can be made. And I'm not one to settle for less when it comes to living my life. I've settled enough, and I know I will again, cuz I am sinful and selfish, and neither of those things are anywhere close to best. I know I will struggle, but I want to change.

And God is faithful, I know this: And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

The work Paul is talking about is called sanctification, and I like to think of it as our very selves being changed from sinful to righteous and holy. Another way to look at it, as the prophet Ezekiel put it is that our hearts are being changed from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. CS Lewis made an analogy that we are tin soldiers that God is changing into blood-and-flesh soldiers. In either case, we are being changed from what is lesser to what is greater. Yet we still fight it :/

So I ask you tonight: Where is your life going right now? If you don't make changes in your habits/behaviors/thoughts/words, where are you going to end up? And if that answer scares you or makes you sad, what changes have to be made to prevent that answer from happening?

To read another blog about the topic of what effect our choices now have on our lives, check out Travis Ray's blog.

Scripture to consider: Proverbs 3:5-6 -What do these verses mean for your life?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Have you ever noticed that 'heart' and 'yearn' both have the word 'ear' in them?

Does your heart ache? Does it long for something more than what it has been given? Do you long for something more fulfilling than what you are left with after everyone around you has gone to their own rooms?

Is there a part of you that is still not satisfied when you beat the final boss, the last level, or pass that test? Is there a part of you that, after all of that has faded, comes up and says, "I want something more; I want something better"?

Is that part of you satisfied, at least temporarily, by being with friends? Or perhaps by developing a friendship? Is that part of you satisfied, at least partially, by being in a romantic relationship and having that special someone that you can share those special moments with?

Does that part of you still say, "I want something more; I want something better"?

Do you hunger for food and thirst for water? You have desires that can be met with physical things. Do you have a desire that cannot be met with something physical? Or, as CS Lewis said, do you have a desire within you for something that is not even of this earth? And do you think the fulfillment of that desire would be of this earth?

EDIT: Perhaps it is less defined than what I originally said. I know that for me, it is more of a feeling of, "Is there anything more?" More of a question than a specific desire. But maybe it is a desire, and out of that desire the question comes, asking if there is something to fulfill that desire. But I only know my own thoughts. What are yours?

Scripture to consider: Book of Ecclesiastes (if you want to skip to the end, it is Ecclesiastes 12)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I think that is the longest word that one can type with their left hand on a QWERTY keyboard. Fun stuff.

I read a devotional by Oswald Chambers yesterday. It talked about what to do when we are going through a time of darkness. Now, I don't believe he simply meant the time between sunset and sunrise, but a darkness of emotions or perhaps spiritual fervor? I don't know how to explain it, but I think most people understand what I mean when I say those times when you are feeling down. That is what I think he is saying.

He starts with this: Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him.

Ok, fair enough. And then he ends that first section with, "When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else once you are back in the light."

I think that is the part I focus on. I want to know who I am going to help, who God wants me to speak to. I want to know what part I have to play in His plan. I want to know how I can help and encourage those around me and those that I appreciate. But I don't think God tells us those things. The times in the Bible when that happens that come to mind for me are: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Paul/Saul, Jesus, David....I think that is it. That is all that comes to mind for me. Let me know if you think of any others.
But that is not what God often tells us. Usually He just says, 'Go.' Read the book of Acts for some examples of that. (Did He say that to Isaiah too? Chapter 6 in Isaiah may talk about it.) Sometimes He seems to remain oddly quiet while we are just searching around with outstretched hands, trying to find a wall to lean against. But sometimes, He may just give us a message to proclaim. He may give us a person to talk to. He may give us an idea, a desire to do something more than what we are currently doing. But whatever He does give us or tell us to do, I think we should always remember that it is good.

God doesn't make mistakes. God makes everyone unique, in a good way. But we are broken and tainted by the sin of this world and the sin of our own lives. We do make mistakes. And God knows that. And God still came to this earth to take our sins, and the wrath that He has against them, because of His love for us. I find that amazing, but not as much as I think I should. I mean really, who would love someone else enough to pay their bail money or serve their time in jail for stealing a car or something else frivolous? Frivolous compared to what we have done - the Bible/God most often refers to the way that we turn against Him as adultery. Now, there is no 'legal' punishment given for adultery, but to anyone who has felt the emotional pain of it, I think it is fair to say that there is nothing like it. Our sins are, to God, adultery. And He hates that. And He loves us. And He took His own anger on His Son so that we would not have to face it. Do you understand that?
I sure don't.
But I do know that God has a plan, and it is a good one. I want to trust Him more, and I want to know Him more. I want to experience Him more, and I want to want Him more.

Scripture to consider: Acts 20:24 - However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bible study - 1/23/12

Tonight we watched a video by Rob Bell that talked about losing someone that is close to you. We talked about the emotions that a person typically goes through in those situations, and about how we have to properly grieve in order to let that feeling out of ourselves so that it does not just sit and produce more feelings. We discussed about what it means to 'properly grieve' and how bitterness can often come if we do not do that. We talked about what it may be like in heaven or hell, but in the end decided that no matter what we say or think, it will still be a surprise. That is the short version, if you want a longer explanation, or a more in depth one, talk to me :)

Some questions to consider: What does it mean to 'properly grieve' over the loss of someone close to you? Does a person have to die for them to be 'lost'? And finally, do our questions about what it will be like in heaven/hell come from our misunderstanding of what either of those places are like? (Look at Luke 20:27-40 for where this idea comes from.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Praying in Jesus' Name

I don't think I've done this before..but here is an article.


Let's discuss it, shall we? What are your thoughts, questions, comments? Find it helpful? Is it something you have read about before? Let's talk.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Another New Year

So what do I want to do about this new year.... hmmm..

Well definitely love and give and pray more. That is always a good place to start, I feel.
Maybe play the trumpet more. That would be fun :)
Play videogames less. That would be interesting.
Listen more, talk less, get angry less. Haha thank you James :P
Actually, why stop there? How about showing my faith, rather than wearing it on a t-shirt or talking about it. Let me show you my faith by what I do...
Part of me says that is enough...but I have a whole year, what am I concerned about?
Eh, I could die anytime, so I don't have a year. Ok. What do I want to change now....?
Hm. I suppose exercise would also be good..a better diet. Those things about living this physical life in this physical body haha

I typed this last year. And right now, I feel like I did not do a good job at those things. One of the main reasons I feel that way is because I still feel like those would be good things to pursue. I also feel that the way I lived over the fall was not a way I want to live my life. I don't like the way I treated others, and I don't like the things that changed in my attitudes and feelings. I know I said before that I would write a blog about the fall semester, and I still kind of do. I just want to vent and rant. Really, I am quite upset about some things and I want to change a bunch of stuff (about myself).

Blah. I am done on here, for now. I'll be back though, don't worry. I'm hoping to spend more time doing things I enjoy next semester. And this blog is something I enjoy, and it seems like other people like it too, so that is good in my opinion.