Abandoning Naïveté…

It would be an understatement to say that I’ve learned a lot in the first six weeks of seminary. Truth is, there’s no telling how much I’ve actually learned; only how many pages I’ve read and how many hours I’ve spent doing homework and studying (a lot). What I can’t help but notice is that none of what I’m learning is shaking up my faith in any way. If anything, what I’m learning in school now is only telling me that I’ve found an academic home.

I say nothing is shaking up my faith because typically in seminary people learn things that they were never taught in Sunday school. Such heavy amounts of unfamiliar information can be overwhelming and so one’s faith suddenly becomes in jeopardy (because if a few truths you learned and believed since you were ten were suddenly altered in a few minutes when you’re 25, then you might start questioning a lot of other things).

Not to say that I’m learning a bunch of heretical things or that I was misled by my Sunday school teacher, because 1. My Sunday school teacher taught me more about God than any professor I’ve ever had and 2. Every bit of what I’ve learned so far has enhanced my walk with Him.

What I am pointing out, though, is that there is a bit of an education shock for a lot of seminarians because we’re drawing information from a source much bigger than most – if not all – commentaries and from people who’ve studied the Bible more than most pastors, but yet may not share the same level of faith. So we’re getting much different interpretations on how the Bible was created or if there really was an Exodus – stuff that would make the average congregant shift awkwardly in their pew. Why am I not having an issue with all of this? And what does it really matter?

It matters much more than one may realize, but I’ll get to that in a bit. As for why I’m not having much of an issue at all is because I did something that not too many do before coming to seminary. During my undergraduate studies at the University of Oregon, I took four Religious Studies classes regarding the Bible or ancient Judaism. I loved every minute of those classes – even the ones that met at eight in the morning. What I didn’t notice at the time, though, is that I was being ushered across a metaphorical bridge – a bridge that I can no longer go back over.

“Seminarians are called to a higher standard and greater understanding. You have burned the bridges of naïveté, and there is no more turning back.” – Dr. David Scholer

This quote was shared with me and 20-some others during our first night of classes at GFES. It acts both as an invitation and as a warning – that there is a deep sense of purpose embedded within studying in seminary and there is also no going back to the way things were before. Despite my journey away from naïveté beginning in college, I know things will not be as simple and fluffy as they were before.

I use the word “fluffy” because that’s how an old pastor of mine describes much of Christianity today: fluffy. We take the figure of Jesus Christ and package Him into our little, neat theology boxes and teach Him to others as we have Him displayed – leaving out all the arm-twisting and leg-bending we had to do to get Him to fit our boxes. We find ways to pack action figures into Matchbox cars and pretend everything’s normal.

Seminary is a place where all those Matchbox cars and action figures of Jesus get taken apart, evaluated, and pieced together in completely different ways than they were before. What everyone quickly begins to realize is that He is neither a Matchbox car nor an action figure, but instead something much, much bigger and much more mysterious. He is something that we cannot fit into any clever little package we create.

Abandoning naiveté is simply encountering God as He is – not as what our theologies say He is. This process is a long and terribly uncomfortable one because it compels us to confront our assumptions about God and His Son Jesus, which includes the things we learned when we were little. Yet this isn’t to say that everything we learned when we were little is a lie; it’s to say we’re called to test everything, even the things we’ve already learned.

If our naïveté was truly burned up, then we’re able to see what was left behind. It is then that we begin to see God as He wants to be seen.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

and knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

                                    -Proverbs 9:10

When we begin to see God as He wants to be seen, we begin to see others as He wants us to see them. Only then can we truly begin to help.

No, you don’t have to become a seminarian to see God in the “right” way (nor am I claiming that I see God in that “right” way). But you probably will have to confront your assumptions about Him, His Son, or the text that tells us about them. All those preconceived beliefs just might be right; but you will never know until you confront and test them.

God bless.

Reading to Mean Something…

“Just out of curiosity, how many of us read our Bibles?” Scott, my pastor, asked our Villages group last night. It was a serious question that he didn’t want us to feel guilty over. And we weren’t. We all admitted that we have read some Scripture in recent weeks, but overall we could be reading a little more. “Sporadic” was frequently used when we went person by person around the room – including myself.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about the importance of starting each day with some time devoted to God. Whether it was two minutes or twenty minutes, I had said that starting with God – allowing Him to envelope you with His presence – was the most important thing. When I had written that post, I made up my mind to devote my mornings to Him and read more Scripture. It helped, for two-ish days. And once my work schedule had changed, my reading or praying withered to almost not at all. In a matter of days.

I’m not pointing this out to publicly beat myself up (although Jim Carrey in Liar Liar does it really well). I bring it up because I have noticed a definite correlation between the amount of Scripture I read and how Christ-minded I am when at work or the grocery store or just out driving. Actually, I should say how not Christ-minded I am when around others. It’s like I’m a different person.

You probably couldn’t even notice it, either. I’d still be polite and kind and probably have a good thing to say about God or two. Maybe I’d share a thought from a Scripture I had read weeks ago or something from a pastor’s sermon I found deep and really spiritual or whatever. You wouldn’t notice because I have these habits so heavily engrained in my day-to-day walk that they have begun to lack meaning. If I can help it, I don’t want anything I do to lack meaning, especially carry out God’s love.

Again, I’m not trying to get anyone’s pity. It’s not the end of the world that I don’t read my Bible as often as I should. But that’s just it; I don’t do a lot of things as I should. I believe that is the bigger problem. And what I can’t help but notice is that the only remedy is Jesus. If I’m not seeking Him on a day-to-day basis (heck, barely on a once-a-week basis as of late), then how in the world am I going to be able to do things as I should?

Here again comes that indirect challenge from Scott – who, by the way, admitted that he’s also been reading less than he’d like (then again, his wife did just give birth… his wife who read her Bible on the day their baby was born, probably while she was giving birth). Reading our Bible isn’t the thing that’s going to make us change, sure, but it’s a start. After all, who’s the Bible about? God. His Son Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit. If we want to get into tune with what God has done, is doing, and will do in the future, we can start with Scripture.

As Scott reminded us last night; the goal isn’t to get us to check another thing off some imaginary list. When we stand before God, He isn’t going to say, “All of that sinning sure looks bad, but hey, you did read your Bible on a daily basis, so you’re good to go.” The whole goal with Bible reading, prayer, community, giving, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoners isn’t to build a golden spiritual résumé where God awards us an honorable spot in heaven’s hierarchy. It’s to let our light shine before others so that God may be praised.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” – Matthew 5:14-16

In order to advance God’s kingdom; to become a more Christ-like person, a better coworker, friend, relative, teammate; and to allow the Helper, the Holy Spirit, more room to roam, we who love Jesus must practice His characteristics. What helps to practice those characteristics? Reading Scripture and seeing how He did things. Praying for eyes to see even further than we can in our current spiritual position. Gathering with a fellowship as they did in Acts to share what we have so that no one lacks anything. Especially meaning.

God gives life to us, which means He gives meaning to us. If we want to mean something to somebody – really anybody – we must get it from the Source of Meaning. Scripture is chock-full of His meaning.

Do not feel guilty if you’re like me and haven’t been reading much of your Bible. That isn’t the goal; the goal is to do something and be somebody with what we read.

God bless.

Jesus’ Transfiguration and Our Misinterpretation…

Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36) has always been a part in the gospel stories where I see God holding himself back, in a way. He’s too bright, too magnificent, too much for us to handle, so he has to tone it down a bit by appearing in human form. And the aspect of this story that I would always reference was how Jesus’ disciples fell to the ground. But what I didn’t realize until tonight – while reading N.T. Wright’s Simply Jesus – was that this story isn’t about how awesome Jesus is (though it could be implied). In fact, my whole way of viewing Scripture (and I think the same goes for a good portion of Christians) was slightly wrong.

Okay, “slightly” is an understatement. And no, I’m not talking about inerrancy or any other of an endless number of doctrines, systematic theologies, or dogmas. I’m talking about the Western society in which I was raised and how it tainted the way I ought to approach Scripture. All of this comes from Wright’s book, of course, which might make one wonder if Wright wasn’t somehow sneaking his own agenda by me without me noticing. I find that is not at all his intent. He, like me, is out for a deeper understanding of God. Such an understanding, though, is rendered impossible when Scripture is treated as a proof-text to validate or invalidate our previously-conceived beliefs.

An example would be saying the Bible is true then going through said Bible and finding all the verses where it says the Bible is true. This is an extremely vague example, but you see my point? We take passages like Jesus’ transfiguration and make creedal statements about his divinity and how it works and what it looks like. Like I said above, I took this passage as a way of viewing God as too much for me to handle – God in his nature and me in mine, that is. I’m not saying Jesus isn’t divine; I’m saying, as Wright says, that proving or disproving Jesus’ divinity – or any other doctrine we may believe – is not the purpose of Scripture. Scripture is meant to be one giant megaphone announcing God’s existence, presence, and intentions with each of us. Scripture announces how we might be able to be our true selves.

What is actually going on with Jesus’ transfiguration, then? As N.T. Wright says, it’s a foreshadow of what’s to come – of what kind of people we will be made into. “It forms part of a new set of signposts, Jesus-shaped signposts, indicating what is to come: a whole new creation, starting with Jesus himself as the seed that is sown in the earth and then rises to become the beginning of that new world,” (Simply Jesus, 144). He also points out that, “Moses and Elijah were ‘transfigured’ too,” which seems to indicate what our future natures will be (perhaps this was the “new creation” Paul was talking about in Galatians 6:15?). So instead of this being a passage about how overwhelming God’s nature is compared to ours; it’s a memo from God saying this is the kind of nature he’s adorning us in. He’s telling us who we will be.

It wasn’t just that my interpretation of Scripture was a little wrong for this story; it was that my entire mindset was flawed – my internal need to “prove” my view with this passage of Jesus’ divinity. Such a mindset is difficult to overcome when we have books with titles like Doctrine: What Every Christian Should Believe and countless books on apologetics, systematic theology, and so on. Some of our most outspoken church leaders have attained their notoriety due to their ability to defend Christianity. Mention Rob Bell’s name next time at church and wait for someone to say they think he’s “biblically unsound” or that he has a flawed theology (not that Rob Bell is considered an apologist; he’s usually the one receiving flack from prominent Christian leaders). These buzz words and phrases cause us to view Scripture in terms of doctrine and theology – not in terms of what Scripture might actually be trying to tell us.

“My problem with ‘proofs of divinity’ is that all too often, when people have spoken or written like that, it isn’t entirely clear that they have the right “God” in mind. What seems to be “proved” is a semi-Deist type of Christianity – the type of thing a lot of Christians in the eighteenth century, and many since then, have thought they should be defending. In this sort of Christianity, “God” is in heaven and sends his divine second self, his ‘Son,’ to ‘demonstrate his divinity,’ so that people would worship him, be saved by his cross, and return with him to heaven. But in first-century Christianity, what mattered was not people going from earth into God’s kingdom in heaven. What mattered, and what Jesus taught his followers to pray, was that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven.” – Wright, Simply Jesus, 148

Even the workbook some members of my church and I have been going through, The Tangible Kingdom Primer, gets at this idea – that God’s kingdom has invaded not to destroy earth and bring everyone back to heaven, but to bring heaven (God’s kingdom) to and through earth, to give it a permanent residence within God’s creation. Not only should this change how we live, but it changes how we approach Scripture. Can you imagine how undivided the Church – the global, catholic church (not just the RCC) – might be if we focused on how we lived instead of how we defined certain terms in our belief statements?

One more big quote from N.T. Wright:

“It has been all too possible to use the doctrine of the incarnation or even the doctrine of the inspiration of scripture as a way of protecting oneself and one’s worldview and political agenda against having to face the far greater challenge of God taking charge, of God becoming king, on earth as in heaven. But that is what the stories in the Bible are all about. That’s what the story of Jesus was, and is, all about. That is the real challenge, and skeptics aren’t the only ones who find clever ways to avoid it,” – 149 (emphasis mine)

I don’t know if my interpretation of Jesus’ transfiguration was a clever way of avoiding the challenge of God taking charge, but I hope you see his point. Much of our Christian society is defined by what we believe, which denomination we’re a part of, and so on – not whom do we believe in or which kingdom we’re a part of. What my earlier interpretation failed to acknowledge was what actually caused Jesus’ disciples to fall at his feet:

“[Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.'” – Matthew 17:5-7

God’s voice is too much for us to handle. And yet we attempt to put him in these neatly-packaged theological boxes and define our involvement within church or within Christianity in general by these belief packages. We don’t realize our error because we have prominent leaders affirming what we do – even teaching us how to do them better! But, as Wright says, maybe the bigger thing for us to do is to let go. Maybe God doesn’t want us becoming great apologists; maybe he just wants us to love others as he has loved us?

God bless.

P.S. Two things: 1. I would never discourage theological conversations; we must love God and each other with all our minds and 2. Defending beliefs has moments of importance, but should never be the defining factor to one’s faith; that is the point of this blog.

Starting With God…

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went to a desolate place, and there he prayed,” – Mark 1:35

For the past year and a half or so, I’ve had a pretty consistent, early-morning schedule for work – with this past week being an exception. And although I’ve moved around Eugene a couple times, my morning routine has remained relatively the same: Get up, eat breakfast, drink a cup of coffee, hop in the shower, get dressed, pour more coffee into a travel mug and then head off to work. If I’m paying attention, it only takes me half an hour or forty minutes to do all that. But on several occasions in the past month or so, I’ve added something to that routine. I’ve added God.

One morning I woke up around 5:30 and could not go back to sleep. So I simply got up and went about my routine. When I was ready to off to work – a solid hour and fifteen minutes early – I decided I’d read a chapter of Proverbs. And when I flew through that, I read a chapter from John’s Gospel. When I still had extra time, I jotted down a few notes for blog outlines and set a small to-do list for when I was off of work. When it came time to head out the door, not only did I feel more productive, I felt more awake.

Yes, the coffee helped. But coffee doesn’t make you more aware of spiritual realities in a material world. God does. And when you start with reading Scripture – and actually paying attention to what you’re reading – and praying, you set your mind onto more important things. Your mindset becomes that of someone dwelling in a different kingdom. You begin saying kinder things to your coworkers, literally helping your neighbors “just because,” or even sending quick messages to friends and family members reminding them that you care about them – nothing dramatic, but yet powerful.

If you think about all the things you do for your morning routine, there’s always a purpose for each one. I eat breakfast so I have energy to go about the day. I drink coffee so that I have even more energy to go about the day. And I shower, brush my teeth, and get dressed so that working with me is more enjoyable (or at least less miserable?). Why do all these things matter? They matter because I value my job, my involvement with my surrounding communities, and what kind of reputation and legacy I’m leaving behind. But what matters more?

Paul tells us to do everything for the glory of God. That means even the menial work we do at our jobs. No, God doesn’t want me to sell more Duck gear; but He does want me to interact with my coworkers (and customers) in a manner that reflects Him. In order to do that, though, I must practice acting like Him. Wouldn’t it be helpful, then, if I started my day with Him?

I don’t think it matters how much of our mornings we spend with God, but rather that we spend time with Him. God is extremely personal and relational. His desire is to know us and for us to know Him. Working jobs, serving our communities, and whatever else we do all come as a by-product of seeking Him. If the routines to start our day don’t include Him, then we’re less likely to act like Him.

I’d like to advise certain ways of seeking Him like praying in the shower or on the drive to work, but frankly, those only work for certain people at certain points. I used to pray on the drive to work, but it’s become exceedingly difficult because there are other cars that through off my focus – kind of like how they interrupt those phone calls or text conversations (sarcasm). And praying the shower can amp up the water usage and takes away hot water for roommates (sorry Mikey), so that’s not the best route, either. All I recommend is find a time at the start of your day to find God.

Doesn’t need to be twenty minutes or a half hour; just long enough that you feel Him surround you. And it does need to be focused so if reading Scripture on your phone or tablet becomes too much of a distraction, then turn them off or simply read from your paperback Bible (I know, old school). Even if all you can muster is a mere two minutes, it’d be worth it.

God bless.

Canons Revisited…

Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be studying the canonicity of the Bible. Several nights ago I started reading the book of Wisdom, which is an Apocryphal text, and have been wondering why it wasn’t regarded as canonical. I’ve written about this before, I so know what John Calvin has to say about it. And even though, back then, I followed an argument that simply turned Calvin’s words back on his conclusion, I want to know what Calvin’s contemporaries thought. I want to know why they might have stuck with the Catholic canon or perhaps even created their own.

Now, as then, I believe canons ought to be much more fluid than they appear to be today. Most Protestant churches I know would say that it’s the 66 books and no other text, but what about Romans and how Paul practically quotes Wisdom (compare Romans 1 to Wisdom 13)? Or what about the apparent allusion to Christ’s crucifixion in Wisdom 2? If our ancient forefathers of the faith regarded these Apocryphal texts as canonical (or at least treated them as such), why shouldn’t we? Is it because we think ourselves smarter than they were? If so, I think we have another problem going on.

But I’m hoping for some discussion. I would appreciate your thoughts, questions, and comments as I post about canonicity and what it means to have a standard set of Scripture for a genuine, thriving faith in Christ. And notice that I use the word “discussion” and not “quarrel.” It won’t be enough to say that I should believe the 66 are the lone books of the Bible because God says so. If God said so, then I would already believe that and therefore wouldn’t be writing a post about it.

Those who have regularly read my blog know that I like to think about my faith and what it all means. I’m simply encouraging them and any others who happen across this blog to do a little research yourself and share your thoughts. Maybe you find something I miss or vice versa. No matter what, I think this is a very important topic that doesn’t get too much attention. And I think it would benefit everyone’s walk with God (those who genuinely would like to partake in the dialogue) to study this issue.

At some point somewhere along the road, we’ll be asked why we believe in the canon we have. Even if after all is said and done and everyone is still in the same spot as they were before – theologically speaking – then we’ll have a deeper understanding of why we believe what we believe. And, most likely, we’ll be able to explain it a little clearer.

With the upcoming football season, my work schedule might get kind of crazy, so these posts may not be so frequent. But I hope to write at least one post a week on canonicity because it’s a discussion that’s been going on for centuries before us. There is going to be something to talk about. In the meantime, however, think about why you read either the 66 or the 73-book Bible (or maybe a 62-book or even 80-book Bible)? Have you ever read any of the other books? If so, does your canon speak to you in a way that the other doesn’t (or others don’t)? If not, why not?

I’m really looking forward to what you might share.

God bless.

Spring’s Reading List…

Since I’m still going through scholastic withdrawals, I’ve picked up several books to read over the next couple weeks and/or months. I’m still working on several books from my previous reading list(s), but little by little, I think I’ve made some room for a few more. And since I seem to read more attentively when reading several instead of only one, I’m hoping these will prove fruitful in the long run.

Below is a list of four books that were all released this year. Three of them seem to have the potential of overlapping in subject matter while the other seems it will remain in its own category. I’m presenting them here mostly to invite discussions and feedback as I go through them. I’m hoping for several posts about each.

Peter Enns: The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins

What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say About Human Origins
Actually, I've been "reading" this for a couple months :-/...

Technically I’ve already started this one. However, work got crazy busy at one point and before I knew it, it was an entire month before I picked it up again. So, with the spring rain keeping me indoors, I’ve decided to restart Enns’ new work.

I’ve never read anything from Peter Enns except for a couple blog posts. If he writes in this book like he does on his blog, I think I’m in for a treat. For starters, I believe he has a refreshing view on inerrancy (as well as his colleagues). Secondly, he seriously considers cultural context – this I remember from when I first began this book. Where I left off the first time was when he was describing the various names for God in the book of Genesis. As I’ve read in John J. Collins’ Intro to the Hebrew Bible, these different names suggest the possibility of different sources compiled together to produce the one book of Genesis (or the several books of the Torah). It’ll be interesting to see where Enns goes from here.

John Dominic Crossan: The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus

How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus
Interested yet skeptical...

I’m not so sure I like the subtitle; seems to be stretching something too far. But I’m looking forward to how he presents it. I appreciated his collective work with Marcus Borg in The First Paul, so there might be a few gems to find in here. Although, after reading the summary on the back of the cover, I’m a little uneasy regardless of what I’ve read from Crossan before. “Crossan also shows how [the] four gospel writers ended up undermining Jesus’ true message of God’s kingdom – that of bring peace and justice for all.” It remains to be determined whether Crossan believes the writers did this as a side product or as something intentional – as something they had set out to do all along. Extra care will be required for this one.

Bart D. Ehrman: Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth
Interested and excited...

I’ve written rather negatively about Ehrman in the past, but I’ve also written positively about him, too. Overall, I disagree with many of his conclusions, but yet greatly appreciate his critiques. What he wrote in Misquoting Jesus reaffirmed my distaste for inerrancy arguments while directing my faith toward God rather than a doctrine. I know that he probably did not intend to, but his critiques have really helped to strengthen my faith.

This book seems to be one that might do just that: reaffirm and strengthen my beliefs in God and His son Jesus. One thing I’m aware of, though, is that he isn’t writing for members of the faith. Rather, he seems to be writing on behalf of Bible scholars and historians. Nevertheless, I’m excited to read how one of the more prominent Bible critics of our time defends Jesus’ historicity – that is, how he believes that Jesus actually did live and walk as a real person. Whatever other claims he may or may not make along the way will probably require a dose of salt, but overall I’m eager to read his new book.

N.T. Wright: How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels

The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
Stoked...

I get the sense that this is somehow communicating with Crossan’s work in some way. Even if it isn’t, I think both Wright and Crossan will discuss similar passages and have many counterpoints to each other. I’ve read plenty of N. T. Wright and have enjoyed every bit of his works. However, that’s no excuse to turn off a critical mind. In fact, in the scholarly world it’s somewhat of a disgrace if all one does is flatter another’s work rather than question some of the holes. What this simply means is that I must be open to the possibility of disagreeing with Wright on some things.

All in all, I’m very excited for another month or two of reading. Unlike most school terms, everything I read nowadays is entirely of my own choosing. So know that when I’m reading The Hobbit, The Problem of Pain, The Hunger Games, The Sun Also Rises, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, or any of the ones mentioned above (all of which have bookmarks indicating that I’ve at least started to read them), I’m doing so because I want to; not because I have to.

Please do not be afraid to comment or question on any of the posts I write spawning from what I read. In fact, that’s why I’m writing about them now: To provoke discussions about rather controversial issues if only to stir our own thoughts. Who knows, you and I might actually agree on a thing or two.

God bless.

Jesus: A Relationship in Progress…

Last Monday was a great day. It was sunny, I got to ride my bike to work, and when you breathed in through your nose, you could sense that spring had actually arrived. Of course, the next day was met with sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and a new bottle of Zyrtec, but hey, Monday was cool.

Spring often leaves me feeling rather nostalgic. Two years ago I wrote a post about how this season is a sort of mile marker for my faith. In it I talked about how, during my freshman year of college, I had finally come to see Jesus as a person – a person with whom I could have a relationship. What has changed since that post isn’t Jesus’ relational aspect, but rather my commitment to that relationship.

As I quickly found out after graduating last spring, my relationship with Jesus was much easier in college. It was much easier to get some daily reading in. It was much easier to meet up with some friends for church. And it was much easier to pray on a regular basis. I was only working two or three days a week and school had only taken up a couple hours of my time each day. With several Christian roommates and a lot of free time, it was much easier for me to dive into Scripture, or pray, or worship, or whatever else God led me to. Since I’ve been out, though, I’ve really had to work.

What I mean by that is, like most meaningful relationships, you really have to work at it to make it the best it could be. With Jesus, you really have to go out of your own way to meet with Him. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve only had a few moments where this actually happened. Monday and Tuesday of last week were really good, but ever since it’s been a strain. Praying with Jesus and actually focusing on what I was praying about and why has been difficult. Why? Because my responsibilities around the apartment, with my two jobs, and with my finances often interrupt my time with God. Not to say responsibilities are evil (though they often feel like it); but to say that in order for any relationship with God to be meaningful, to have an impact, He must be our primary focus. Everything else must fall in line after Him.

I say all this because I haven’t approached my day-to-day with Him as my focus. Sure, I’ve had plenty of days where He was, but I think I’ve had more days where He wasn’t. I try to blame it on work, chores, and whatever else I can, but the bottom line is there is a responsibility that comes with a relationship with God. And it’s one that I haven’t fought for.

As I’ve said, it was much easier in college to surround myself with Christian friends, Bible study groups, and fellowship. With work, however, I find very few Christian friends, little time for church or Bible studies, and hardly any time at all for fellowship outings. And honestly, it sucks. Sure, I love my coworkers, work can be fun, and nights alone are often needed. But as I’ve written about recently, fellowship with Jesus freaks is essential for one’s spiritual growth and, most importantly, with one’s own relationship with Him.

This spring, as I see it now, might bring fewer working hours and hopefully more time to invest in a church body. In the mean time, what I hope to focus on is my own time with God. It might mean getting up a little earlier every morning to read and pray. It might mean hanging out with my Christian friends even when I’m completely exhausted. And it might even mean accepting fewer hours of work each week. Relationships (with our friends, spouses, future spouses) require certain sacrifices. Why should we ever think that it’d be any different with God?

If success is defined by something beyond financial well-being, then why should we work so hard for it unnecessarily? Instead, perhaps we ought to use that energy toward an authentic relationship with God.

God bless.