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Back to School: A New Perspective

Seven months after graduating college, I’m back in class. By my free will.

But this isn’t college. It isn’t cooking basics. It isn’t road rage control. No, this class meets at a church and is all about Christian missions. It’s a class that started about 40 years ago and has spread around the world. I will let the class introduce itself with its own promo video:

If you didn’t catch all that (or just skipped the video), Perspectives on the World Christian Movement is a 15-week course with 15 speakers and a whole lot of reading. The Perspectives reader weighs more than most of my college textbooks. It includes 136 articles or essays by Christian leaders around the world. The class also uses a study guide alongside the reader to keep students on track with the reading and lectures.

Since college still feels like yesterday, I decided to opt out of the certificate and credit options for the class registration. I instead signed up for the lowest level of commitment, otherwise know as “key reading.” Of course, I still plan on attending each week’s lecture and keeping up on the reading, but key reading students are not required to read as much, submit lesson reviews, take exams, or create a final project. Key reading students do not receive grades. In other words, I felt lazy.

I look forward to seeing where this class goes, though. From the first, I’ve heard only good things from all corners to recommend the class. Overall, everyone told me this class will change my perspective on the world–and ultimately, it will change my life. So I already had high expectations by the time I showed up for the first lecture last night.

The church hosting the weekly class is on the outskirts of town and is the closest I’ve ever seen to a mega-church. The building looks more like a conference center than a place for worship. Walking inside, I found 40 to 50 people milling around before the start of class. A woman found my registration and directed me to the book table, where a man stocked me with the reader and study guide before sending me on to have my photo taken. Once I made it into the classroom, I realized the class offers dinner. Students were roaming along the tables laden with crock pots, vegetable trays, and plastic boxes of store-bought cookies. I grabbed some apple slices and a chocolate chip cookie and chose my seat.

The three-hour class introduced the course, covered the beginning of God’s story in Genesis, gave time to meet other students in small groups, and instilled in me an eager excitement to begin my reading and go to class next week. Our hilarious first speaker asked us why we chose to take the class and what is our motivation to finish. I chose this class to continue learning about God and his plans. More specifically, I hope God will speak to me through this class, saying what his plans are for me.

It’s already obvious that this class will impact my life and the way I think, although I’m not sure yet in what ways. Who knows who I will be by the end of 15 weeks? Only God.

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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Other thoughts

 

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Searching for God Knows What Part 3: A Filled Cup, A New Name

Okay, I promise I haven’t abandoned this blog. It’s been almost a week since my last post, and that will probably be usual for the next few months. College life, you know.

For now, I will continue my review of Searching for God Knows What. These will not be as detailed or dense with quotes as the first couple not only because I have less time and feel lazy, but because I want to avoid copyright infringement. I greatly respect Don Miller and his work, and therefore do not want him suing me. I will instead continue pulling interesting ideas he presents and then commenting on them. If you are interested in following along with my reading, I encourage you to buy the book. It’s worth the full read.

Miller’s books live apart from other memoirs or theology books because he uses a humorous yet realistic tone. He brings up ideas in situations readers can relate with that, once read, you wonder why you hadn’t noticed the same things before. As you read, it feels as if you are discovering these new ideas along with him. Miller doesn’t put up any pretensions as he leads you through his story. He steps off the pages as a fellow human, someone with faults and without everything figured out. Refreshing.

Last time, I left off by saying how Miller’s childhood “god” deflated like his belief in Santa. Chapter three picks up with why Miller believed in God again. He found a person rather than the system of ideas he used to call “god.” The person he found, God himself and not a made-up image of him, turned out to be bigger and more powerful than he had ever thought of before. He said if you know God as he truly is, then you should fear him because of his overwhelming greatness.

If you read the Bible, you will see a fearsome deity who seeks justice and with the ability to destroy whole nations out of his righteous anger. God is not a pet. He is a wild lion with your head inside his jaws. His omnipotence should be enough to terrify, but God also wields all knowledge and exists in every place in every moment. Thank God his description doesn’t end there (not that he can be fully described, anyway). We can be relieved that he is perfect love. People seem to focus on this trait most and hold it above all else. And yes, it’s important, because it’s the only reason this world still turns. It’s the only reason we have any hope for the future.

But I want to discuss more in-depth another point Miller comes across. Reading the Bible, he saw God’s true greatness alongside our desperate need. The Bible began explaining humanity and our current condition better than any personality theory he had studied in psychology. Specifically, he noticed for the first time his searching need for something or someone to give him an identity. Every teenager experiences this. We call it “finding oneself.”

“I could see it in the people on television, I could see it in the people in the movies, I could see it in my friends and family, too,” Miller wrote. “It seemed that every human being had this need for something outside himself to tell him who he was, and that whatever it was that did this was gone, and this, to me, served as a kind of personality theory.”

In high school, Miller tried earning his identity from others by being the “smart” guy and memorizing poetry to attract the attention of girls. As you can guess, none of it satisfied. Earthly love, the broken love we gather from people around us, just leaks out of our cups and makes us look for constant filling up.

“Imagine, a Being with a mind as great as God’s, with feet like trees and a voice like rushing wind, telling you that you are His cherished creation,” Miller wrote.

That kind of love, when fully accepted, is enough to fill the cups of the world and never run out. Christians are called to be wholly engulfed in this waterfall. We are invited, not to subscribe to a list of ideas, but to identity and love in Christ.

A couple friends recently shared their struggle with losing themselves within Christ. They are concerned about giving up their identities, how they know themselves, to grow closer to God. I understand how they could feel afraid of this strange call. We Christians can accept many sacrifices: our comfort, our desires, even our lives. But who we are? That seems a bit much. How is it even possible?

We all can relate to searching for an identity. We constantly live in a state of personal redefinition. We change and grow. We find different names for ourselves: boyfriend, mother, leader, Doctor, Sergeant, President. Our lives and decisions form us. God extends us an invitation to a new, final identity. He wants to form us into who we were meant to be, before the Fall, and in relationship with him. We are comfortable with what is familiar. We don’t want to give up the moth-eaten, scratchy coats around us even as the stitching comes apart. God offers us silken royal robes.

Which will you wear?

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Books

 

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