I read an article this week that had the following claim within it:
“As education level increases, faith based beliefs typically decrease.”
(I apologize for not citing, but the article was on my Pulse News app and I can’t find it anymore)
I’m not sure if that’s true or not and I’m also not sure to what extent the researchers went to create an unbiased sampling however, I can tell you that there are plenty of people who don’t need facts to hold that opinion. They either have enough personal encounters to back it up, or they’ve simply experienced it themselves.
What I do know is that there are exceptions to any “rule.”
Seven years ago, I was a youth intern at a large church. I had never read the Bible from cover to cover and only assumed I had read, or at least heard, every word of it at some point due to growing up in church for 21 years. However, I did not understand the Bible.
There is a big difference between being exposed to something and having an understanding of something. Understanding does not come from close proximity. Furthermore, understanding of the Bible or faith in Christ does not come from growing up in church or even being immersed in Christianity as a religion.
I haven’t talked about the years that followed my stint as a youth minister very often. People speculated when I left the church, and I don’t necessarily blame them because I left without a word. I heard I was doing cocaine, was an alcoholic, or just really “struggling.” All of these were news to me!
Do you want to know the truth?
I grew up.
I’m not saying having faith is childish. What I’m saying is that my faith was childish and it was not sustainable. Spiritual leadership was where I had ended up rather than what I had pursued with diligence. I still believed the principles, but was unwilling to cling to them, to fight for them, to truly have faith in them.
Over the next seven years I graduated college, got married, started a job, went to graduate school, and lived my life. It’s been an amazing life, but especially the past two years.
Sorry, I’m about to sound very Christian…
About 2 years ago, God reached into my life and grabbed my heart. It wasn’t a camp high or a huge spiritual experience. I simply became extremely unfulfilled with where I was at spiritually. I told my wife that I didn’t know exactly what God wanted me to do, but that He wanted me to do something. That feeling has led to a long list of saying “yes” when doors opened. So much so that I recently had to tell the pastor of my church that I needed to step down from a few things, which has genuinely broken my heart. I struggled to see the good in that decision until just now. I’ve realized that I used to see my faith as a chore or something I “should do.” Now, this situation has allowed me to realize that my faith is my fulfillment. It’s where I feel complete.
Last month I read the final pages of Revelation after setting out nearly a year ago to read the Bible from cover to cover. It was one of the craziest experiences of my life, filled with many answers but also many more questions.
If you feel like you’ve grown out of your faith, I understand where you are and you aren’t alone. The growing consensus is that you are right where you need to be. I just want to encourage you (on the off chance that you are actually reading this). Say “yes” when the next door opens to explore your faith. Explore your knowledge of God with the same energy that you explore the the other things that matter in your life. Don’t take someone else’s word for it. Get an understanding…a true understanding.
“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, (1 Corinthians 3:1, 2 ESV)”
Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant.
“Hey, the elephant is like a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
In the end, all of the men became frustrated and went away wondering how in the world the others could be so wrong.
The above story has been told in many variations depending on which culture it came from, but the moral remains the same: we all form opinions based on our experiences. It’s not to say there is no absolute truth. Quite the contrary. There is only one correct version of what an elephant looks like. However, many times we can’t get the whole truth on our own.
Don’t forget to listen. When someone disagrees with you, spend the time to wonder why. You may not be “wrong,” but maybe you are missing a big piece of the puzzle.
For as much as my best friend Jason and I have hung out together through the years, it’s surprising we haven’t gotten in any serious trouble together. We’ve had our moments laughing at inappropriate times during church or cutting up in class, but nothing truly worthy of sharing the story. One time, however, we got in trouble for something we didn’t do, and it’s been one of those life lessons I’ll never forget.
Let me spare you a bunch of imagery that won’t add anything to the lesson of this story and get straight to the point. Jason and I got bus referrals for allegedly leaving soda cans under the seat, which ended up spilling all over the bus. We were in middle school, so of course nobody would take us seriously when we said we didn’t do it. It was the adult bus driver’s word against ours. That is, nobody except for one person, our 8th grade principal who saw us making a scene next to the bus in front of the school.
Kevin Kuglar went to our church and was someone Jason and I both looked up to. He was a great guy, husband, and father. We both figured that if anyone would listen to our story it would be Kevin. Eventually, we were called to his office and it was time to tell our side of the story.
We both sat down in front of Kevin ready to talk, but what came out of his mouth shocked both of us.
“I’d like for you guys to sit at the front of the bus for a week as a punishment.”
What!? Didn’t he want to hear our side of the story? I thought we came in here to be set free of this crap, not be punished for something we didn’t do. Jason and I were speechless. Then, I don’t remember who, but one of us asked, “Do you think we did it?”
Kevin’s next response was something I will never forget…
“I don’t even know what you are being accused of. I’ve got your referrals right here but I haven’t read them. If you guys say you didn’t do it, then I believe you. I believe you guys wouldn’t lie to me….I believe you.”
You see, Kevin saw the bigger picture. It’s not like we were being suspended from school, or having our “permanent record” tainted so that we wouldn’t be able to get into college. Instead, he saw an opportunity to make an impact.
He wanted to make an impact on the bus driver, who would now know that the school cared about his feelings and his sense of judgement.
He wanted to make an impact on the person who actually spilled the soda, who I’m sure to this day still remembers that someone else took the blame.
Ultimately, he wanted to make an impact on Jason and me.
I learned a lot that day. I learned that there are sometimes more important things than who is right and who is wrong. I learned that I could turn a bad situation into a positive one just by changing my attitude. I learned that someone in a position of authority cared about me and that even as an 8th grader he expected big things from my life. I learned humility.
Most of all, I learned that I want to have the same impact on someone else’s life that Kevin had on mine.
I’m grateful for people like Kevin, and for my parents, and for anyone that God ever placed in my life that cared enough about my future to discipline me when I needed it, even when I thought I didn’t.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV)
When I was younger, I knew in my heart that God had big plans for me. Unfortunately, my heart was completely wrong.
I’m not saying God did not have “big plans” for me. What I’m saying is that my definition of “big plans” was much different than God’s definition.
I had an amazing childhood, and while I wouldn’t change it, there were definitely things about church and God that I had completely wrong. It wasn’t because anyone specifically taught me these things, rather it was the overall culture of what I was around. It’s easy when you are involved in something as much as most christians are involved in church to begin to catch on and mimic the attitudes of those around you.
Then comes the inevitable thought: “Hey, maybe I should do this for a living. I’ll be a professional christian.”
That’s probably not verbatim, but it seems to be a logical progression. You’re passionate about it, good at it, and you’ve already spent most of your time doing it. Problem is, you subtly find yourself viewing ministry as a profession (way to make your living) rather than a thing you are called and commanded to do. Then naturally, as with any profession, you begin to think about what steps you could take to be most successful.
Did you know Christianity is a multi-billion dollar industry in America? Between conferences, concerts, CDs, books, radio, television, church budgets, WWJD bracelets, fish decals, and many other products, the fact is that Christianity sells.
I assumed that because God had big plans for me it meant I was going to be the speaker at a successful Christian student conference. The ones that exist are pretty popular, but mine would be reaaaally popular. Or maybe I’d write a best selling book, for Jesus of course. Or I’d join a Christian band and we’d be playing sold out concerts in no time.
None of the things I just mentioned are bad necessarily. That’s awesome if you are successful, especially in something influential. What I find to be destructive is that young Christians go into ministry hoping to one day have a spotlight on them. It’s basically the opposite of what a Christian should hope for. There are some who will ultimately get the spotlight for doing the right things, but if popularity is your intention I can promise that you won’t be able to handle it. Hoping for a spotlight and achieving it is called being a rock star. Sooner or later, people will start treating you like one and you’ll start believing you are one.
My caution (and point) is this…God may indeed have big plans for your life, but don’t try to put a box around what that means based on the culture you grew up in.
There are certain people who were born to be pastors, but many others who are destined for other kinds of “greatness.”
Maybe you were born to be an amazing doctor who has a passion to bring healing to those who are suffering.
Maybe you were born to be a hair stylist who gets to listen and love as people open up about their lives while sitting in your chair once a month.
Maybe you were born to be a teacher with the unique opportunity to pour into the lives of broken, insecure, and passionate young people.
No matter what, you were born to lead by serving. You were called to be a symbol of love, grace, freedom, dedication, and humbleness.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17 ESV)
So you’re a dude. It doesn’t mean you can’t be moved by something so much that you let out a little cry. I’m not saying you should cry in every movie, or even every now and then. But on occasion, depending on the movie, it’s ok to let a single tear roll down your cheek as a bald eagle flies over and cries with you.
Here are 10 films that I’ve personally seen that I think it’s ok for dudes to cry in. Not that I’ve ever cried, of course.
10. Bambi. This is the first movie I ever cried in. Come on. If you don’t cry when Bambi’s mom dies you simply aren’t human.
9. Forrest Gump. How can you not fall in love with such an amazing character? Imma let you finish, but Tom Hanks is one of the greatest actors of all time.
8. Toy Story 3. Every man can remember that special relationship they had with one toy in particular growing up. It was real man. It was real.
7. My Girl. Man. When the girl goes into the funeral and starts telling the little boy to get up. Whew!
6. Neverending Story. When the horse drowns. I’m crying right now thinking about it.
5. Braveheart. Freeeeedooom!
4. Saving Private Ryan. “Earn this.” Tom Hanks does it again!
3. The Lion King. When Simba’s dad dies. Every. Single. Time.
2. Up. If you have not seen this movie, take the rest of the day off and go see it NOW. If you don’t cry, you have no soul.
1. Turner and Hooch. Yeah, cop + dog = tears. Cinematic masterpiece.
Note: Crying during these movies may get some points with your lady. However, crying during romantic comedies will catapult you into the friend zone. Use with caution.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV)
Faith is not hope. It is the assurance of things hoped for.
Faith is not hope. It is the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is not hope. It is the understanding that the Universe was created by the word of God.
Faith is assurance, conviction, and understanding; not blind belief.
Faith is not something that comes naturally, at least not for me. It makes sense doesn’t it? Think of the knowledge you have, whether it’s about history, math, or even your favorite movie. Did you simply wake up one morning and “get it?” Personal knowledge and a personal faith will require personal effort. Having faith is saying that you believe enough to spend your own time investing in something rather than simply believing in the investment of others.
Assurance. Conviction. Understanding.
Do you have faith or are you hopeful?
So what would you say are your 3 main weaknesses?
“I work too hard. I care too much. And sometimes I can be too invested in my job.” - Michael Scott, The Office
Do you have authentic relationships? No really. Does anyone know the real you?
The first interview I can remember was when I was a Junior in high school and was applying for an internship at an accounting firm. I was in a finance program and accounting seemed pretty financial. In reality, I only applied because it seemed like the most prestigious job on the list of possible internships and I wanted to be able to brag to my friends. Bottom line, I hate accounting and luckily I didn’t get the job.
I remember being in the interview and blatantly lying about my love for accounting. It’s not so different from what we do in many other aspects of our life. We lie about our interests so a girl or guy will like us. We lie about our opinion so we don’t get shunned by a group of peers. We lie about our past because we’re ashamed. We all do it.
But what if we were authentic? What if we sought relationships with people who we are actually compatible with rather than who we wish we were compatible with? What if there were people in our lives who we could literally share anything with and they would love us just the same?
The first step is getting past the interview mentality. Stop trying to get the job. Be yourself.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”
(Psalm 139:14-16 ESV)
About five years ago, when my wife Katrina and I were dating, we were walking downtown and unfortunately passed by some people who were on the street corner with megaphones preaching. One of them yelled an inappropriate name at Katrina because she was wearing a skirt.
For those who know me, you know that it takes something special to get me upset. One of the best ways to bring out that side of me is to attack someone I love verbally, emotionally, or physically.
Needless to say, I was extremely upset.
I ended up having an intimate conversation with the gentleman who yelled at Katrina, and although I left him alone, I thought about that encounter for the next several days.
The overwhelming question that kept running through my mind was, “how can he say something like that to someone he doesn’t even know?”
Fast forward to present day, about 4 months out from the election or re-election of our next president. I’ve debated canceling my Facebook account (yeah, but not really), not because I can’t stand listening to opposing view points, but because it’s difficult reading blanketed hatred being sent out among all of my friends.
Now, there are many reasons why people get passionate about what they believe, and I firmly support being passionate and non-wavering in the ideals you hold dearly. However, how many people are you converting with your methods? Doesn’t someone need to believe your platform is truth before they will submit to the truths found within it?
Before revisiting the street preacher example, I’d like to stop and say that I can write easily about this topic because I am one of the worst sinners when it comes to loving others the way I want to be loved. We all are, right? We all struggle with this. This isn’t “Us vs Them.” It’s simply me. It’s you. The only actions we can control are our own.
Let’s go back…
I walked away from the street preacher confrontation feeling high and mighty. I felt like a better person than that guy because I wasn’t standing on a street corner with a megaphone. But wasn’t I? Isn’t my Facebook a megaphone? Isn’t my Twitter? Isn’t this blog? Furthermore, they are megaphones directed at people I know and care about.
This topic is especially relevant to me as a Christian, as my entire life I’ve struggled with the concept of when to take a stand for what I believe and, more importantly, HOW to take a stand.
I’ve gained a little bit of insight in stumbling across the verse posted below…
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:9-12 ESV)
Paul spends a lot of his time teaching and preaching. In fact, he’s the guy responsible for writing most of the New Testament. That’s why I find it so interesting that in the passage you just read he says “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”
He basically says, “why do you expect people who aren’t Christians to adhere to what I’m teaching you and what business do you have trying to make them?” In more modern terms, why do you expect people who don’t believe in the Bible as truth to adhere to the truths found within?
Colossians 4:6 tells us that when we speak to people who don’t believe what we believe our speech should “always be gracious, and seasoned with salt.” Being seasoned with salt means your speech and interactions should be preserving rather than destructive.
I am far from having all of the answers as to what it means to stand up for what you believe in, however, I’d like to make the effort to remember that there are real people, friends, and loved ones on the other end of those opinions.