Discovering My Own Existence

I first experienced this doubt when I met two individuals at a place I was staying in Switzerland. It was a cold fall evening; most of our friends had gone out for a night on the town, but I had already been spending copious amounts of money and wanted a quiet night with not too much adventure.

Well, adventure found me, because the conversation I had with those two people lead me on almost a year long journey of doubt and discovery. Both of them struggled with this question of existence. How can we know we exist?

This doubt is not a new one. During my time in Switzerland, I learned about Buddhism, a religion that is centered on the belief that we don’t exist. They claim that by ridding ourselves of all desire it will alleviate suffering, and if we can come to the realization that we don’t exist, life will cease to exist. Nirvana is the goal; a transcendent state in which there is no suffering, desire, self, and it results in being released from Karma and reincarnation.

Over the last year, this question of my own existence started to eat away at me. I would find myself having surreal moments that felt as though I were this outsider, watching myself. I would see myself living and breathing, walking, talking, but it felt fake, somehow.

During the original conversation that started this whole thing, Descartes philosophical approach was brought up. Descartes was a Catholic philosopher who set out to prove his own existence. His argument was that the act of doubting proves the reality of thought, or a mind.  “I think, therefore I am.”

This argument has never really sat right with me, and I could never really figure out why until recently.

At Millar, the Bible School I have been attending, we take a mod, a whole college course in one week. It’s fairly intense, especially since one of the mods I took was World Religions. Honestly, I left the classroom with a headache every day from all the information!

This leads me to the epiphany of why Descartes’ philosophical proposition didn’t sit right with me and the answer to the question that has plagued my mind for so long.

Descartes claimed to doubt everything, but the very phrase “I think, therefore I am” is laden with certainties. He is certain that he exists distinctly apart from other beings (“I think, therefore I am”). He is assuming the laws of logic exist and that they correspond to reality. He is taking uniformity for granted, that the logic he uses will be constant in time and not change by the time he expresses it. He is certain that he can know this, which begs the question. How can thinking prove existence? It only proves the existence of thought.  But before all this is the important question… how can we know anything? Where does knowledge come from?

If you say that you know A, the reason you might give is B. But if you are asked to give a reason you know B, you will have to give C. This goes on to infinity, with the result being that you don’t actually know anything. Therefore, all thinking has to start somewhere and rests upon some measure of faith.

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Something that my World Religions professor has helped me to see is that this works perfectly with my Christian worldview!

Christianity provides the conditions or presuppositions of rational inquiry…  the foundation of knowledge. We would say that we can have knowledge because we have God, who created knowledge. Logic exists because God is logical. Knowledge exists because God is all knowing. Uniformity exists because God does not change, and has promised certain laws and principles won’t change.

Without God in the picture, we are left with nothing. No reason for logic, no reason for the laws of nature, no reason for existence, no reason for reason.

So how do we know we exist?

We can know by trusting the Bible which tells us that we are created in the image of God. Without God, we can not know anything.

Alright, there’s your philosophical thoughts for the day! If you are interested in learning from my professor John Feakes, he has a lot of great lectures online at this website… http://newlifesanctuarychurch.com/audio/lectures/

 

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Queen Esther the Coward: NOT the Sunday School Story

The story of Queen Esther has always been one of my favorite Bible stories, but not for the reasons you may think.  The truth is, I believe Christians have put Queen Esther on a pedestal and see her as a courageous heroine, when she really wasn’t. She was a coward!

For an assignment in Bible school, I had to write a paper on anything I chose. I chose Esther. I thought you might be interested to read my perspective, so I decided to share it with you today!

THE COWARD QUEEN ESTHER

The Sunday School story is told like this: once upon a time there was a King who needed a wife, so he threw a beauty pageant.  There was a beautiful young girl named Esther who was chosen amongst all the other girls in the kingdom to become the King’s wife.  She concealed her identity as a Jew, because she wanted to listen to the wise counsel of her guardian, Mordecai.  There was an evil man, an important official named Haman, who hated Mordecai because Mordecai would not bow down to him.  So Haman hatched a plot to pass a law that would kill not only Mordecai, but all of the Jews.  When Esther heard about this conspiracy, she courageously went to the King and asked him to spare her and her people.  Even though it was very dangerous for her to approach the King, she was able to save all of the Jewish people.

A deeper excavation of the story of Esther reveals details that paint Esther in a different light, not as a courageous heroine, but a coward.  The text does not say why Mordecai compels Esther to keep her Jewish identity hidden.  Perhaps there was rampant anti-Semitic feelings in those days, but scripture is silent on this.[1]

The implications of Esther hiding her Jewish identity are important.  The Jews had many laws that caused them to stand out among the nations around them.  There were various sacrifices that they needed to give, special festival days to observe, ceremonial practices and cleansing laws to keep, and dietary restrictions to follow.  By hiding her identity, Esther would not have been keeping the Sabbath.  She would be eating whatever Syrian food was put in front of her, even if it was unclean.  And she slept with a pagan King who was not her husband.  In modern terms, she was a Christian living like an Atheist.

King Xerxes’ beauty pageant was an extravagant show of his wealth and power.  He gathered beautiful women from all over the land and had them undergo beauty treatments for twelve months.  At the end of the twelve months, each woman would have a night with the King.  Bryan R.  Gregory calls this “bedroom auditions”[2].

According to Charles R.  Swindoll,

“Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us there were as many as 400 women involved in this rather remarkable competition.  They would have a year in which to polish every seductive art, to enhance their beauty by pampering their bodies and applying the art of costume and cosmetic.  Ultimately, it was intended that elegance, charm, physical beauty, and erotic seduction would carry the day.”[3]

In Esther 2:17 it says that Esther pleased the King more than any other woman, and as a result of her performance the King made her Queen.

What were Esther’s thoughts during all of this?  Because the text does not say, we can not be certain.  Being the Queen of Persia would certainly have been a step up from whatever position she had before.  Bryan R. Gregory points out that by becoming Queen, Esther would have been instantly living a life of luxury, something that would have been desirable.[4]

An interesting detail to the story is found in Esther 2:6. It states that Esther and Mordecai’s distant relative had been among those who had been carried into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar.  Karen H.  Jobes explains that years later, a new King fulfilled a prophetic word and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland.  The story of Esther occurs 50 years after this, which means both Mordecai and Esther’s families had the opportunity to return home to Jerusalem, but willfully chose not to.[5]

If we look at Esther in comparison with other people in the Bible, we see her moral resolve sorely lacking.  For example, in Daniel 6, King Darius decreed that no one was to worship or pray to anyone but himself.  Daniel was not intimidated by this, but continued to get down on his knees and pray to God three times a day, even though it almost cost him his life.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three men who were extremely courageous under pressure.  In Daniel 3, we find out that they were given the choice to either bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar or be thrown into a furnace.  They boldly stood their ground – they did not hide their identity. This is not what we see in Esther.  She is passive and compliant.  She does not stand up for what she knows is right.

THE COURAGEOUS QUEEN ESTHER

Some would argue that Esther was simply a victim, a good girl who made something good out of a bad situation.  King Xerxes was an extremely powerful man.  It is fair to say that even if Esther would have tried to resist being taken or sleeping with him, she would not have been successful.

In Esther 2:8 it says that “many young women were brought to the citadel of Susa… Esther also was taken” (emphasis added).  Some have suggested that this implies Esther was taken against her own will.[7]  This is merely speculation, for the author does not go out of his way to tell us this.

In the Septuagint, a Greek version of Esther, we find a prayer that Esther allegedly prayed: “You know that I hate the splendor of the wicked and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised and of any alien.  You know my necessity – that I abhor the sign of my proud position… And your servant has not eaten at Haman’s table, and I have not honored the king’s feast or drunk the wine of libations.” [8]

This suggests that she did not sin by eating the King’s food or drinking the wine offered to the pagan gods.  There are other additions in the Septuagint, which include additional prayers and a much more dramatic version of Esther’s meeting with the King.

If this were true, it would show Esther to have high moral standards – however, it is widely believed by Biblical scholars that the Septuagint was written after the Hebrew version of Esther in order to answer some of these questions of morality.  As a result, it is not considered to be authentic, but merely a dramatic retelling of the story.[9]

Another proposal is that because Esther’s immoral actions resulted in the salvation of the Jewish people, her guilt is absolved.  Charles R.  Swindoll thinks that, “Esther went in to the king without fear because she had no driving ambition to be queen… She was there for one reason: because she knew that the hand of God was on her life, and through circumstances and Mordecai’s wisdom, she had been brought to this place for a reason.”[10]

Karen H.  Jobes poses some questions to those who see Esther in this light.

 “What role model messages would you tell to teenage girls from this book?  ‘Make yourself as attractive as possible to powerful men?  Use your body to advance God’s kingdom?  The end justifies the means?’” [11]

THE GRACE OF GOD FOR ESTHER

Though Esther may not be an example of right living, her story is still full of hope.  Tim Keller emphasizes that, “The message of the Bible is not that God blesses and saves those who live moral exemplary lives. The message is that God persistently and continuously gives His grace to those who don’t ask for it, deserve it, or fully appreciate it after they get it.”[12]  Bryan R.  Gregory affirms that the story of Esther is not to give us a Heroine of the faith, but to show God’s redemptive power in spite of her failures.[13]

Esther is a girl with a Hebrew and Persian name.  It seems to illustrate her struggle to find her identity.  Even though Esther did not live according to God’s laws and married a Pagan King, God still redeemed her situation to save His people.  When faced with the annihilation of her people, she finally finds her resolve.  This cowardly Queen becomes courageous enough to stand up for what is right.

CONCLUSION

God’s name is never mentioned in the book of Esther.  But His sovereign hand of grace is so apparent in the lives of the disobedient Jews living in Babylon.  Though undeserving, He still rescues and protects His people.  The story of Esther is one of my favorite illustrations of the grace and courage that God gives to cowards!

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Berlin, Adele.  “Greek Versions of Esther.”  Myjewishlearning.com http://www.myjewishlearning.  com/article/greek-versions-of-esther/ (accessed on October 11, 2016)
  • Bible Gateway. “Greek Esther 5.” No date. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Greek%20Esther+5&version=NRSV (accessed October 11, 2016)
  • Driscoll, Mark.  “Jesus is a Better Savior.” Sermon notes.  September 23, 2012. 
  • Fox, Michael V.  Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther.  Grand Rapids, Michigan. William B.  Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.
  • Gregory, Bryan R.  Inconspicuous Providence.  Phillipsburg, New Jersey.  P&R Publishing Company, 2014.
  • Jobes, Karen H.  The NIV Application Commentary: Esther.  Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan Publishing Hose, 1999.
  • Keller, Tim. “The Silent Sovereignty of God.” Sermon notes. Spring 2007.
  • Stedman, Ray C.  The Queen and I.  Waco, Texas.  Word Books, 1978.
  • Swindoll, Charles R.  Esther: A Woman of Strength & Dignity.  Nashville, Tennessee.  Word Publishing, Inc., 1997.

 

How NOT to Use the God Card

I think sometimes Christians use the God card inappropriately…

“God gave me this dream, so now I know I should date you.” (My response: God gave me a dream where I drank acid, so…?)

“God blessed me with a Christian family.” (Hm… So, if you don’t have a Christian family, God has cursed you?)

“I just don’t think God is calling me to do that.”  (Could be true… but could also just be an excuse.)

In class the other day, we discussed spiritual gifts, especially prophecy. I am seriously all for prophecy and all the spiritual gifts. I have experienced it numerous times and it has been very helpful and encouraging. I love it when God works in cool ways!

But at the same time, I don’t think that I am the only one who has had someone tell me “God told me to tell you” something that was either hurtful or just didn’t make any sense. It is people who use the God card this way that give the legit gifts of the spirit a bad rap.

Obviously, it’s easy to abuse the God card. Here are my thoughts on how to use it appropriately…

Unless it’s scripture, don’t claim your words are 100% certified God’s words.

The Bible is the WORD of God. So if you’re sharing scripture with someone, you can be certain that God said it. But if you have a ‘word’ for someone, even if you are sure it is from God, maybe don’t phrase it that way. You could say, “hey, I was praying, and I think this might be something God wants me to tell you…” or “I don’t know if this applies to you or not, but…”

Be humble.

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It can come off very arrogant if you say “GOD has called me to this…” or “GOD told me to tell you…”. This is also a question of motives. Are you throwing that God card down to look spiritual? If so, stahp it!

Rely on the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is clear that God wants us to thrive in the power of the Holy Spirit! Acts 1:8 says “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witness… to the ends of the earth”. If you are truly relying on the Holy Spirit, I believe you will be able to share with people freely, accurately, with love and compassion.  The more you rely on Him, the more it will happen!

Okay, so most of my thoughts are based on just that… my thoughts. You can take them or leave ’em. I pray that we can all use the God Card in ways that help, not hurt…

god-card

 

 

Thoughts From Da Bush

I was sitting in a bush the other day. By the other day, I mean summer. Like 6 months ago. My youth group was playing Manhunt, and I had found a particularly bushy bush to sit down and chill in. I stuck around for probably ten minutes and then, thinking that the game must be over, left the security of the bush only to be caught. 😦

But! Cooly enough, I had a profound moment sitting on the dirt with bugs crawling e’rywhere and branches in my face.

I noticed an ant climbing the wall beside me, and was immediately reminded of the proverb, “take a lesson from the ant, you lazy bones! Learn from their ways and become wise” (6v6).

I have been feeling rather lazy in my relationship with God lately. It amazes me how easy it is to take my eyes off of Jesus and just start to drift…

Currently I am at Bible School, where literally every class, assignment, and chapel is about God and the Bible. Shocking, I know, but it is SUPER easy to become lazy and take my relationship with God for granted.

I have recognized I process by writing… journaling and blogging especially. And I have not done a lot of blogging in the last year, due to craziness and laziness. SO, I am gonna make more of an effort to write again. 

That is all. I guess this is a blog to remind myself, and hopefully you, to just stahp being so lazy! Get antsy, as the proverb says!  

     

Meeting Jesus in McDonalds

I don’t know about you, but I think reading the Bible can be boring.

Don’t act so shocked! I can’t be the only one who does their “devotions” (Christianese for reading the Bible) off and on. I realized recently that it’s like a relationship… If you and your best friend only did the same thing every single night, wouldn’t you get bored after a while?

We forget that reading the Bible is not supposed to be a religious exercise, but part of our relationship with God. So when we read our one chapter a day, every day, it makes sense that we would become tired of it. We need to shake things up!

I am in no way claiming to be an expert in this, but in the last few months I have been experiencing a lot of freedom and excitement when it comes to reading the Bible and spending time with Jesus! I want to share my findings with you…

Stop trying to read the whole Bible in a year.

I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to do this. It never works. For some people it does, but don’t think you have to be one of them.

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Become Spontaneous and Do Things Differently

Why do we have this idea that in order to have a “proper” devotional time, we need to have sat for at least half an hour and read as many chapters as we can? Quality, not quantity!

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The BEST time I have ever spent with God was last spring sometime. I was driving one evening when I realized the northern lights were especially bright. So I stopped and ended up sitting on the trunk of my car singing and crying and talking to God for more than an hour.

Sometimes I listen to a podcast while I go for a walk. Sometimes I read a good book that encourages me to think about God in new ways. Sometimes I watch a sermon. I am intentionally trying to do it different every day, and this has been helping so much!

Make your time more about hearing from God and less about checking something off your to-do list

I am super guilty of this… I sit down with x amount of time before I need to go to work, so I quickly crack open the Bible and read as fast as I can.

Just last week it occurred to me that I was missing the point, so for the next half hour I sat in silence and asked God to speak to me, and the stuff that He told me was AMAZING. Again, the other day I started reading the Bible and I suddenly felt strongly that  He wanted me to call a friend of mine and talk through some stuff that had come between us… My “devo” time consisted of a really encouraging conversation making things right.

Try coloring.

Not everyone likes to write in their Bible, but I DO. I have come up with a coloring system, and I highlight certain things with pencil crayons. Pink is for sin, red is for God’s commands, etc. I also have symbols that I draw to help me later on find passages on different topics.

Go meet Jesus in Mcdonalds

I try to spend time with Jesus in different locations to help shake it up. In the summer I like to sit on the train bridge close to my house. Now during winter, I go once a week to a local coffee shop to have a cup of tea with Jesus, and one time I had a funny experience in McDonalds…

I was just sitting, minding my own business. Suddenly this 20-something dude sits down at the next table and asks me what I’m reading.

“My Bible,” I smile a small smile, and turn back. He is creepyish.

“Aw, cool! I’ve read the Bible before. It’s like an action book!”

I kid you not, 30 seconds later this nicer looking old man with a huge hipster beard steps up to me and says “Hey, I just wanted you to know that you have a REALLY nice smile. And you’re reading the Bible too! Cool!” He came back a second time to tell me the SAME thing.

LOL.

Not every devo time is filled with such interesting experiences, but often they are!

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I’M SINGLE FOR GOOD

First, some good news: I was accepted to go to Bible School this fall!!!

And you know what has been the number one thing people say when they find out I’m going to Bible School? “Oh, are you going to find a husband?”

Yes, I am twenty and I am single. Never had a boyfriend. Never been kissed.

Today I want to rant a bit about some lies in our culture and in Christian circles.

Singleness is not a problem that needs to be fixed.

The Bible goes so far as to call singleness a gift. By constantly bugging the singles you know and trying to set them up, you are promoting the idea that we are not complete without a significant other.

I will be honest, I don’t often see it as a gift. When I was fifteen I made a commitment to myself and to God that I wouldn’t date until I was done high school. I have never regretted this decision. But now that I’m done high school, and most of my friends are either married or in relationships, I sometimes get discontent and wonder what’s taking so long…

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I was listening to a sermon about the whole thing, and Pastor Barry Kimbro said something pretty cool; “As a single person, you are able to image Christ in a way that married people can’t. You are able to give yourself away completely to everyone.”

It’s true. Because I am single, I can use my time and help in ways that married people just can’t.  I don’t have any responsibility to any other person, except Jesus!

Singleness is not hell.

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It hurts my heart to see teens posting about being “forever alone”, going from relationship to relationship, and doing everything they can to get a boyfriend or girlfriend.

I have learned so much about relying on Jesus being single. I have learned to go to Him when I have a bad day. To go to Him for a sense of belonging, or when I feel insufficient or insignificant. To rely on Him when I feel lonely- which is often.

That moment we go to our boyfriend/girlfriend to give us significance or identity or our source of love and affection, we turn that person into an idol.

We are meant to worship Jesus alone. Don’t turn singleness into hell and a boyfriend into a savior.  He won’t able to do that job very well.  Only Jesus can!

 Sex is not God. Sex is not gross. Sex is a gift!

The world tells us sex is just something to do, recreation, casual, something to laugh at, no strings attached. It really does make it into a god.

Christians, reacting to this lie, sometimes give the impression that sex is dirty, something to be ashamed of.

These are both wrong.

When sex is done the way God created it, in marriage between a man and a woman, it is beautiful! He promises that it is worth the wait. I have never met anyone committed to a godly marriage that wishes they would have hooked up or dated around.

You have probably heard the analogy, but it is too good not to share… A fire is beautiful and warm and wonderful in a fire place. But the moment the fire spreads to the rest of the house it gets dangerous! And sex within marriage is safe and good. Outside of marriage it is dangerous.

Purity is a lifestyle. For everyone.

As a Christian, I am trying hard to live a lifestyle of purity. I am not trying to be pure until marriage, as if the moment you get married you have no longer any reason to be pure. That’s not how it works!

I read Every Young Man’s Battle, by Stephen Arterburn, Kenny Luck and Mike Yorkey, and it explained sexual purity this way… “Sexual purity is receiving no sexual gratification from anything or anyone outside of your husband or wife.”

A lifestyle of purity is extremely hard. I am not perfect at it. If you’ve read my testimony, you’ll know that I struggle with lust. It’s an everyday battle that I’m sure you all face. But just because we live in an oversexualized culture doesn’t mean we are off the hook. God calls us to holiness, and only by His Holy Spirit and His grace is this possible!

So to recap and answer the question once and for all:

I want to use my singleness for good. It’s the gift God has given me for now, and I’m choosing to love it and live life to the full. I want to serve Jesus with all of me, including my singleness. And if someday God wants me to serve him as a married person, I will be cool with that too.

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I’m really excited to go to Bible School, but I am not intentionally trying to find someone there. That would be  WAY too expensive a dating service!!!

MY EUROPEAN ADVENTURE IS ALMOST OVER

So me and Becca’s backpacking ended with a wonderful two nights near Insbruck, Austria. We decided to treat ourselves to a hotel with a pool in the mountains, and it was so wonderful. The city itself was kind of a sketchy experience. We arrived on a Saturday evening quite late and decided to take a taxi to the hotel since it wasn’t in the city and we didn’t want to figure out buses late at night. 

 The next day we went back into town to figure out trains and do some shopping, but literally everywhere we walked was closed. We ended up on a street with a bunch of sex shops, so that was uncomfortable… 

    Needless to stay, we booked it out of there back to the hotel and had such a relaxing day, with some really good food at a restaurant close by. Oh, and ice-cream, of course.  

 I found out later that had we gone to another part of the city we would have found it to be a lot better and less sketchy.

We ended back in Switzerland for a few days, and then Becca left to go back to Canada and her grandparents brought me to the next chapter of my Europe adventure… L’Abrie.

L’Abrie is a chalet up in the mountains in the French part of Switzerland. Over twenty of us live in a big beautiful building and do chores and study and do life together. It’s kind of like a informal school, except people can stay as short or as long as they want and there’s no tests or papers. 

I’ve had some cool experiences here and met some awesome people. I went hitch hiking for the first time and learned some Scottish dances. We toured a cheese and chocolate museum, been to a castle, and went on a luge-coaster-like-thing. I got a motorcycle ride from a guy who looked like Jesus. We climbed up a mountain!  I DEFINETLY RECOMMEND GOING TO L’ABRIE!

       

           There’s a lot of folks from the southern States … I love how they say my name “Kindra” and bug me about saying “aboot”.

Now I’m sitting at my second last week in Europe, and it’s crazy to realize it’s almost over!

I’ve met so many cool people, ate amazing new foods, and had so many good, needed God-moments. 

One chapter is ending, and a new one will begin soon. I’m not quite certain what it will look like when I get back to Canada, so that brings some nervous anticipation.

One thing God has taught me is that I had some unrealistic expectations for myself. I realized that in the past, especially in the last year, I would beat myself up any time I messed up. So I wrote out what I expect from myself and found out that I pretty much expect myself to be Jesus… I expect perfection, and nothing less.

It’s brought me a lot of freedom and joy to realize that I am loved by God no matter what, and He doesn’t expect me to be perfect. When He looks at me, He sees His child, adopted, accepted, and loved. Our God’s grace is amazing!

See you guys soon,

-Kendra