If you haven’t read Part 1, or the self titled blog, you should go back and read it. (Why do I Believe this Stuff Anyway?)
I left off where I changed schools, which gave me the chance to reinvent myself, or to kind of get a fresh start. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. After we moved, I decided that I was going to be REALLY good and talk about my faith a lot. The pendulum in my life swung from basing my life as a Christian on what I believed but not how I lived, to thinking that I was better than everyone else, because I didn’t cuss any more, I didn’t go to parties or have sex like most other people, etc, etc. So I became self-righteous, which is also a dangerous, not to mention sad, way to live.
This lasted through the rest of High School and went on through a lot of College. I went to a Christian college and was studying to get a degree in missions, which I did after squeezing it into a 5 year program, haha! I had a really great mentor in college named Matt. He was in the Grad School at our college, and introduced me to John MacArthur, who is now one of my favorite Bible teachers. I was given the MacArthur Study Bible, and found that I really enjoyed a lot of his teaching. I found him to be a solid teacher who preached the Scripture really well. My only problem with him was that he taught the Doctrines of Grace, or Reformed Theology, sometimes know as Calvinism.
I hated the idea that I hadn’t chosen God and that others can’t really choose God on their own, but really didn’t want to take the time to study for myself. I wrestled with it for 8 years, and most of that time, I was really offended by it, but I loved many people who believed these doctrines and had great respect for them because their lives showed great humility toward God and His word and they really knew what they were talking about. But I continued to reject these ideas and wrote them off as hard-hearted, boastful ideas. I remember several conversations with my dad, and we would talk about this stuff and he rejected these ideas as well until right around the time I graduated from college. Then both he and my grandpa (his dad) started to see that these ideas were truths taught all over Scripture, but in spite of that, I still wanted nothing to do with it.
As I graduated college and got married (photo above), I began to get burnt out on church. I had felt for a while that God was calling me away from my home church that I had grown up in, but I didn’t see the point in leaving since we weren’t moving anywhere, so instead, I delved deeper into ministry at the church. Instead of stepping out of the ministries I was involved in, I joined a couple more thinking, “Well God, look, I’m too attached, you can’t get me out of here now.” But all that led to was misery on my part, knowing full well that it was time for me to move on, although I didn’t really know why. After I did finally leave, I tried to blame the church and the circumstances for the burnout and my distaste for church in general which followed. I later realized the error in that and went back and apologized and made amends.
My wife and I began to go to another church in town, which was our church up until the time we moved to Kansas City, which is where we are now. We really enjoyed it, and loved the people, the pastors (there were 5 at the time), and the ministry. Plus it was much smaller than our old church and it was made up of a lot of college students and young marrieds, which is where we were in life.
Since I was finished with school, I was finally able to start to enjoy reading. I actually started reading a lot. I read some really good stuff and some not so good stuff, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was kind of moving in the opposite direction of Reformed Theology, or Calvinism, and started reading people like Rob Bell. I really enjoyed a lot of what he had to say, especially in light of where I was with church and theology and stuff like that. At the time, I enjoyed the things he said because it wasn’t offensive. It was easy to swallow, and I’m not saying that that’s all bad. As a matter of fact, I still try to remember what he said in Velvet Elvis, that God has spoken and the rest is just commentary. To me that means that Scripture is what is important, and the way we interpret it is fallible, even though I believe that Scripture itself is infallible, so what others say about it doesn’t matter if it does not line up with what Scripture says.
After the book “Love Wins” came out, I initially tried to deny that Bell was a Universalist, but after seeing the way he danced around questions and wouldn’t give direct answers, I started to wonder if his ideas could be trusted. I figured if he’s not bold enough to come out and say what he believes, then it must not be very good, or he doesn’t really know what he believes. I began to really study the Scripture to see if there was any credibility to the idea that all would be saved one day, as he seems to have suggested in the book. But even after a couple of years of searching and studying, I just couldn’t find a way to justify that belief without either twisting and stretching Scripture or taking it completely out of context, which I know is a bad idea.
Then my wife and I signed up for the World Race. It is an 11 month mission trip to 11 countries. You join a squad of about 60-70 people and live in community on smaller teams and do ministry together and live life together as you travel the world. It was a big step of faith because we had to sell or give away most of our stuff and fund raise over $30,000 to go on this trip. We moved out of our apartment and into my parent’s house where we lived for 6 months as we struggled to raise the funds necessary to go. During that time, I continued to study the Scripture and debate with my dad and grandpa about Reformed theology and how I just didn’t think it was right or didn’t seem fair. But then one day, as I was reading through the Gospel of John, I saw something that I had never noticed before, and it changed my life for good.
To be continued…Part 3 coming soon.