Tuesday with Michael Spencer
Looking for an Exit (2009)
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)
Have you ever come to a place where you wanted to say, “Let me off. I’m done?”
Maybe you were in a car with an 88 year old driver who shouldn’t have been driving anywhere, much less down an interstate.
Maybe you were about to get on an amusement park ride that you really didn’t want to ride.
Maybe you were going back for week two of a job that was not at all what you thought it would be.
You said to yourself- or to anyone else who would listen- “I think it’s time for me to quit.”
After listening to Jesus give what may have been his most intense, challenging and disturbing talk, it seems that some of Jesus’ disciples were ready to quit. “Eat my flesh and drink my blood” was their place to get off the bus.
We tend to think of the people who followed Jesus as an “easy sell.” They were sitting around, doing nothing, just waiting for a prophet or rabbi to show up so they could spend years following him. Like eager customers at a car dealership, they were ready to buy from minute one and never doubted.
I doubt that such a scenario is true. It’s more likely that many days ended with some of the disciples saying “I’ve had enough. I’m going home.” I imagine many late nights around the campfire were punctuated with one disciple talking another out of leaving, or arguments that ended in departures the next morning.
Why? The scriptures suggest to me at least three issues that may have caused some of Jesus’ followers to look for the next exit.
Some were frightened because of what they saw Jesus do. When Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples were terrified. We may think it was wonderful, but if you and I had been there, it’s likely we would have said, “If this is God, I don’t want to be around him.”
Some may have just heard enough of what they couldn’t believe. Jesus didn’t hesitate to put the choice to be a disciple in less than “attractional” language. He seemed to purposely offend with hard words to force a choice. We would be a bit silly to think that every disciple heard Jesus make statements about the decisive choice to suffer, go against family or embrace the cross and easily said “Yes. I choose that way.” Some certainly heard Jesus say “If anyone would come after me….” and said “I’m not coming after you any more.”
I especially think about the traumatic experience of having all your certainties about God, life, the Kingdom, the Messiah, scripture and the future exploded every day. Jesus relentlessly took on the certainties of religion and politics, redefining and reanimating them all with whole new meanings. This couldn’t have been easy. At times it must have sometimes been infuriating and depressing. Some would have said, “I don’t want my whole world turned upside down. I’m quitting.”
As evangelicals, we’re often blind to this segment of the people we relate to and communicate with. We are oriented to think that our witness is to people who are open to be convinced or are moving toward the truth. In fact, Jesus had many people move the other way as the truth about himself himself came clearer.
There are many in evangelicalism who are close to that same place. They are looking for the best time and place to quit. They are moving away from Jesus and away from those who believe in and say they follow Jesus. We often write these people off as “quitters” or we simply don’t admit their existence. But they are there. Sometimes they are a son, daughter or close friend. Sometimes, it’s been some of us.
Why are they thinking that it’s time for them to “get off” the evangelical/Christian journey?
1. They can’t believe in the God we’ve told them about any more.
2. They can’t live the Christian life as it’s been presented to them.
3. They don’t want to be like the Christians they see and many they know.
4. They tried “it” and “it” didn’t work.
5. They’ve thought about it, and something other than Christianity makes more sense for the moment.
Many Christians would immediately present arguments, apologetics and a pile of reasons to these people.
Jesus gives an interesting response.
In John 6:61-62, Jesus says, “If you are offended now, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until you get the big picture of who I am.”
His offensive words about flesh and blood would soon be overtaken by the resurrection and the ascension. A puzzling and mysterious Jesus would be replaced by a world-overcoming/world-transcending Jesus.
Jesus says all our objections are ultimately dwarfed by the truth of who he really is. It’s not that our objections and reasons to quit are irrational. They simply can’t compare to the truth that is so much greater than any of our questions, objections and even rejections.
Peter says, “Yes, it’s difficult sometimes, but where else and to whom else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Where else can we go is a great response. It’s honest and authentic. It doesn’t make Christianity a game of “How many questions can be answered?” No, it’s a matter of WHO Jesus is, and despite the mystery, the challenge, the intimidation and the difficulty, who else comes to us as God on earth, with the words of eternal life?
In the story of the prodigal son, both boys learn that the Father’s love and grace are greater than what stands in the way of understanding him. The Father’s love and grace to the wasteful son overwhelms his sin and his religious plan to get back in the family. The Father’s love and grace is greater than the moralistic, legalistic system of reward that the older son thought guaranteed him his place in the family.
The Father was greater than all that they brought to the table. In the end, they were left not with answers to their questions, but a Father whose love and purpose to save couldn’t and wouldn’t fail.
For all those who are looking for the next place to “get off” the path of following Jesus and/or being a Christian, their is no list of answers. There is only one who overwhelms all questions and answers; one to whom we ultimately say “Even with all my objections and reservations, where else could I go, Jesus, except to you.”
I realize it seems a bit devotional to say that Jesus is the answer to all those reasons to “quit.” I’m not naive. I’m expounding scripture, and that may have already hit the trash bin. I’m giving my own testimony — Jesus is all that keeps me on board these days — and that isn’t everyone’s story. I realize all of this.
But I do think that sometimes it’s not at all the court case we make a spiritual divorce out to be. Sometimes the answer is simply coming to know that there is One who, as love himself, makes all the questions move back a few rows so our faith can have a place to sit.
I pray that many will stay with the journey a while longer, and learn that a Jesus-shaped faith contains one whose great grace overturns our hurts and fears.
57 thoughts on “Tuesday with Michael Spencer: Looking for an Exit”
“When all you have is a hammer…”
And the Army corollary:
“If at first you don’t succeed, GET A BIGGER HAMMER.”
I am a “not done yet” not to be confused with Python’s “I’m not dead yet” though that’s how I feel. I’m a Catholic that just refuses to let go even though I continue to be disappointed by leadership. I just fel if I let go there will be nothing left in a generation. A faith led by individuals seems to die with those individuals… but really I don’t have any answers.
“The biblical canon is a dialogue
in process into which we are invited,
to listen . . .
so we may distinguish
the voice of the (Crucified) victim
from that of the religio-cultural voice
of the persecuting community,
and thus, to hear the Voice of God,
and see the face of God
in the dying Jesus.”
– Michael Hardin
The reason I gravitate towards this “framework” for scripture is that it invites us to don a Christ-shaped lens and enter into the nuanced, far from “flat”, message hidden within its pages.
It is not discovered through a natural reading; in fact, we most often discover that we are reading our own projections and bias into the text. In other words, the way we choose
To interpret the scriptures
Tells us far more about us
Than it does about
the text itself.
Priest vs. Prophets
The prophet Jeremiah, feeling spunky:
“Indeed, in the day that I [the Lord] brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices!” (Jer 7:22)
The prophet Isaiah, nodding his head:
“‘What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ says Yahweh. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.'” (Isa 1:11)
The prophet Hosea, a little manic:
“I [the Lord] have cut them into pieces by the prophets, I have killed them by the words of my mouth, with judgments as inescapable as light.
For I desire steadfast love, not sacrifice — the knowledge of God, not burnt offerings!” (Hos 6:5-6)
Author of Leviticus, scratching his head:
ROUND TWO: “CHILD SACRIFICE”
The books of the Hebrew Bible walk into a bar, and things get a little heated…
THE PROPHET EZEKIEL: “Okay, y’all. God told me some pretty intense stuff that I need to let you know about. Check it out:
“More to the point, I myself [the Lord] gave them statutes that were just plain *not* good, and laws that they could *not* live by. I defiled them through their very gifts, in their sacrificial killing of all their firstborn kids, precisely in order that I might horrify them, in order that they might know that I am Yahweh.” (Ezek 20:25-26)
THE UNFORTUNATE JEPTHAH: “Well, shit. I wish I would have known that. My daughter is dead, and I’m definitely horrified. God tricked me into all that…?” (Judges 11:29-40)
A SOURCE FROM LEVITICUS: “No, man; that can’t be right: Yahweh made it super clear: We absolutely shouldn’t sacrifice our kids. That’s what Molech wants, not Yahweh.” (Lev 18:21)
A SOURCE FROM EXODUS: “Totally. We’re supposed to ‘redeem’ our firstborn sons, not sacrifice them!” (Ex 13:12-16; 34:19-20)
ANOTHER SOURCE FROM EXODUS: “Um…wait. I thought He said we should…?” (Ex 13:1-2)
YET ANOTHER SOURCE FROM EXODUS: “Yeah, I think that guy is right. I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to kill our firstborn for Yahweh…” (Ex 22:29)
A SOURCE FROM DEUTORONOMY: “Dude, you’re wrong. ‘Levy’ (hehe) is right: We’re not supposed to do this.” (Deut 12:31; 18:10)
THE PROPHET JEREMIAH: “Totes, man. Ezekiel is just having a bad day. Yahweh even told me that he never commanded child sacrifice, and it’s is so twisted that the idea ‘never even entered into his mind.'” (Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35)
THE WARRIOR JOSHUA: “Whoops. Well, is it okay if I kill *other* people’s kids as a worshipful sacrifice to God? I mean, I need to thank him for our military victories, and he told us we should at least kill all those other people…” (Joshua….all of it)
A SOURCE FROM DEUTORONOMY: “Yeah, I think that’s okay. I mean, God told me the same thing about sacrificially killing all those other people. (Deut 7:1-16; 25-26; 13:12-18)
“But, still: God did promise to literally drive us insane by making us cannibalize our own kids if we don’t obey him….so I don’t know. I’m confused.” (Deut 28:34-68; Lev 27:27-29)
THE POET OF LAMENTATIONS: “Yes, it was horrible. We had to eat our own children just to survive. How could God call this justice?” (Lam 2:20; 4:10)
THE PROPHET HOSEA: “Seriously, people. God meant it when he said, ‘I desire steadfast love, not sacrifices…” (Hos 6:6)
Eeyore, I didn’t think about Malachi…
Boy, would I love to meet with you guys sometime and chat about this! I’d love to hear Tom’s and Eeyore’s thoughts more fully!!!!
Some folks just can’t put that hammer down, can they? Same hammer that nailed our Lord to the cross… scripture used with harmful intent.
Ouch. Adam, this almost parallels the 5 stages of grief.
My disappointment with a particular church, and the movement behind it, closely followed the 5 stages, not necessarily in order, and with some of them repeating. Grief can be complicated.
I’m not ready to call myself a none or a done yet, or even a post-evangelical. I’m probably in your 3rd phase.
As well as Malachi.
IMO, resulting from my experience with Calvinism, I think that Calvinist are enamored with a coherent systematic theology that is challenging. Both can be found within EO. Also, EO provides a more thorough and nuanced anthropology yet still patriarchal.
One of the favorite hammer verses during my decades in the cofC.
I would add that when something doesn’t feel right–a negative gut response–it is very likely that the thing is not right and that feeling is a valid warning not to be ignored. Church group-think is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
I’m not so sure that Ezra wasn’t mistaken.
The text is multi-vocal and contains strands of running arguments. I think that the book of Ruth is a rebuttal of Ezra’s “reforms.”
The letter of 3 John ends this way:
“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”
It made me think that there are times when we will not be together, but there is the hope that we will see each other again and talk face to face. In the meantime… Peace to our brethren.
Greg; worst “assembling” ever
It’s not because we’re too hard-hearted to be liberals.
burro I have noticed many cases where Calvinists wind up in the Orthodox Church. Assuming that your perception about this phenomenon agrees with mine on this, do you have an opinion as to why this might be?
you still worshippin the golden-calf?
Thanks for letting me out of quarantine, Mike.
As usual you are the progressive answer to Seneca
I feel I am triple-post-Evangelical. I can think of three phases before landing in “done”.
1. Visceral Disgust
2. Ok, these institutions have value and are captured by bad actors, but they’ll come around.
3. It looks hopeless, but there is enough goodness that they will schism and organizations of distinctly different tone will arise.
4. [Done] Nah, they’re all a bunch of sycophantic gas bags who will convincingly equivocate their miserable positions and attitudes in person, but go right back to spewing the same two-sides culture-war bilge as soon as you put them in front of a microphone. They need to be cut-off-from and out-of every position of power. And they certainly do not merit tax exempt status; if they want to launder money they can pay taxes like everyone else.
How about ‘assembling’ here? Is that one of them? Like-minded (for the most part) believers sharing their faith, struggles, and journey? That’s more honest and healthy than most of the fellowship i had in evangelical churches in the 30+ years I attended.
The breaking of the Hebraic egg to release the Abrahamic yolk is a concept that occupies a lot of my CPU cycles. It apparently starts in the post-Exilic period, and the composition of parts of Daniel and Ezra in Aramaic certainly signal that. It continues through the Hellenistic period with the production of the Alexandrine canon and the Septuagint were further developments.
The replacement of circumcision with baptism sort of completed the cycle. The sins of the baptized, as well as the rise of Islam, are an exercise for a later discussion.
Indeed, there are many ways to assemble together but not assembling isn’t one of them. It certainly can be complicated.
“I’ve moved past post-Evangelical”
Wait, do we have post-post-Evangelicals now?
I never said Ezra’s efforts were not mistaken. They were exactly what God demanded for the time and for a purpose. My argument is that those demands don’t necessarily carry over to the Christian church.
one day ‘the American Church’ which had hated and excluded and showed contempt for the many who live outside the gates SO MUCH in the past, awakened to a day when no one wanted to join anymore
it wasn’t supposed to be that way, was it? all the ‘exclusion’ was meant to control these people and make them ‘want’ to belong, so they COULD be controlled and pay their tithes and hate all the same people ‘the church’ hated
but the day came when no one was knocking on the door wanting to come in anymore
and ‘the game’ was over
and that was a good day
According to the aforementioned Fr Stephen De Young, Israel’s custody of the Torah was meant as a sin-management program, designed to keep a little patch of Earth relatively ritually clean in order to produce the Theotokos, and insert the Messiah at the proper time. The Gentiles were suffering under a program of benign neglect, and Ezra’s efforts were not mistaken, but absolutely crucial after the collapse of the Davidic theocracy.
the “American Church” belonga-trump
and the Church is a ‘we’ and many of us don’t understand what this means as regards the Body of Christ, no
Who is this Christ Who reconciles us into the Holy Trinity and Who reconciles us to one another?
Who is He?
He spoke of His Church . . . what ‘Church’ was He talking about???
What ‘unity’ can be found there? What is ‘Eucharist’?
do we want a ‘way out’ or a ‘way up’ or maybe do we want to return to the ‘soil’ in dreamless peace?
What is it that we are wanting? Or is it always to be just a personal quest for ‘self’?
–> “As far as the “wall” erected between you and your family member, RiRo, I maintain that Reformed Christianity and its Pietistic/Revivalistic inheritors does that as a feature, not as a bug, by its division of humanity into the elect and the reprobate/the twice-born and the once-born (thank you, William James)/ the the saved and the lost.”
Having just gone through a study on Ezra, which ends with him sending back foreign born wives and children, I can say that certainly that appears to be the OT way of dealing with things “not of God.” “Keep yourselves separate and clean, otherwise, LOOK OUT,” is definitely the Old Covenant way of being and remaining one of His Chosen.
That appears to have carried over in some forms of post-Christ churches. I’m not sure that keeping that sort of separation and division is Christ-like, though. In fact, if Christ has FULFILLED the Law, and if you look at his desire to bring people INTO the Kingdom rather than SEPARATE from the Kingdom, I’d argue that that form of Christianity and Christian church is UN-Christlike.
Everything else you say, I pretty much agree with. We’re all broken. Most of us act with the best intentions.
Ted, I think your description is right on. Tom , thanks I have heard the name , saw it mentioned here , will check it out. thanks
We are men, not devils. We have the best intentions. We devise a system of government meant to maximize liberty and expression, and it allows dizzying concentrations of power and oppression. We devise a system of government meant to assure everyone receives a fair share of the common toil, and it murders on a scale that pales the tyrants of old.
That should remind us of our common fault; we have forgotten Paradise, and that our time here should be spent in humility, repentance, and service. Any system we devise for common living that reflects this is a plus, whether it favors freedom or fairness.
As far as the “wall” erected between you and your family member, RiRo, I maintain that Reformed Christianity and its Pietistic/Revivalistic inheritors does that as a feature, not as a bug, by its division of humanity into the elect and the reprobate/the twice-born and the once-born (thank you, William James)/ the the saved and the lost.
Not that Cathodox Christianity wins any awards for its Jesus-like treatment of alternate sexualities, but it has been more helpful for me to treat them as reflections of passions against which we all have to struggle, and against which I frequently lose, that to treat them as a sort of mark of Cain.
Speaking of Cain, I would like to introduce Father Stephen De Young, former Dutch Calvinist and current priest in the Antiochian archdiocese (of course) who is gaining some notoriety for his efforts towards ‘taking the Bible back from the Evangelicals’. His concept of the Threefold Fall of Man has recently caught my attention.
“The dones are those who do have a faith but have been profoundly disappointed by the church, or by a particular church, and have left, at least for now.”
You tell me – looking at Jesus’ words (sell all you have and give to the poor, forgive our enemies, judge not), and comparing it to our own lives and collectively in America’s churches, where do we stand? And how many of us even see the problem?
There are many ways to assemble together. And it is not encouraging to frown upon many of those ways, actually it is so much less. Turning a back(forsaking) to the many ways of assembly and those who are different…..and the parameters of that behavior…..would be an interesting metric, if quantified.
Aesthetic ‘beauty’ in art and in nature points to God also. If art speaks to you, God is not so far from you, no. I had an aunt who ‘didn’t believe in God’, but she felt at peace in the nature and never realized why that was. She was ‘way ahead’ of those who ritually say ‘Lord, Lord’ but point the finger and judge ‘those other sinners’.
We connect with God in the ways He opens to us in the gifts He has given to us that help us to find Him.
““He called the wise men by a star,
the fishermen by their art of fishing. ”
(St John Chrysostom)
Be drawn to the beauty of art and the peace of the nature, and see it all as ‘grace’. 🙂
“when we no longer have to focus on “I, Me, My’, we are free to become who we were meant to be
“church as currently constituted in America for dummies”:
Please don’t let it be Mike Pence’s Republican Party soon to come to power as a ‘Christian Nation’
And yet Jesus asks of Saul: ‘why persecuteth thou Me?’
we need to re-examine what ‘Church’ means as too many have come to present a false front for their own man-made agendas, and this is NOT ‘Church’ as He intended His Church to be, no
what is ‘His’ Church as it exists in this world?
Yep, I’m a “done”. I’ve moved past post-Evangelical (although as a chronological term I suppose that always applies). I am no longer able to see in the church an institution that is worth keeping around; and for a long time as a post-Evangelical I did expect it to at-some-point make a turn or come to a realization. Yet, it just keeps on sinking. And instead of bailing or launching rafts it is like watching a bunch of guys stand there firing rifles into the hull of their own boat while loudly raving about saving their fellow passengers.
The Church as the Body of Christ has the power to connect people who can support one another in times of need.
What comes to mind is a hospital for the wounded of this Earth, where some who are able, offer to support the weaker ones whose burdens have grown too heavy for a while, and in doing so, the ones who are helping are also ‘healed’ in the process. ‘In giving, we receive; in pardoning, we are pardoned . . .”
“God descends to the humble as waters flow down from the hills into the valleys.”
( St. John of Kronstadt )
“For nothing is so acceptable to God as to number one’s self with the last.
For he that is humbled, and bruised in heart,
will not be vainglorious,
will not be wrathful,
will not envy his neighbor”
At a Sunday class a few years ago I commented on a quote by John Stott, that a lot of young people are “hostile to the church, friendly to Jesus Christ.” This was from Stott’s Basic Christianity, written decades ago, but still relevant. I thought this quote offered hope for evangelism and for young people.
The pastor “corrected” me and said that to be hostile to the church–which is the bride of Christ–IS to be hostile to Christ himself.
I think the pastor’s stand on this is pretty boilerplate among the conservative wing of evangelicalism. But later, in my “what I should have said” moments, I thought, “Yeah, but what about when the bride of Christ acts like the whore of Babylon?”
The church is not Christ. The church is not the gospel. Let’s hold fast to that. Ideally, celestially, “the church” may indeed be one with Christ, but what we experience of the church too often is not, and we need to stand up to it at times, as Paul opposed the Galatian church and even opposed Peter when he had to.
Dan, you may be more of a “done” than a “none.” I don’t think that group gets enough notice. The nones are those without a church and possibly without any faith. The dones are those who do have a faith but have been profoundly disappointed by the church, or by a particular church, and have left, at least for now.
That’s a great question, Eeyore, and one I believe a lot of us here at iMonk have wrestled with, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.
Case in point, this last Saturday at men’s fellowship, I told the guys that the evangelical church’s strong stance against homosexuality had led me to build a wall between myself and a bisexual family member. During a rather tense conversation with this person (several years ago now)–in which she was using clear “seeker” language, but I was too busy focused on her sexual preferences–the Holy Spirit kinda pricked me, telling me that Jesus wanted me to build a bridge between him and her, not a wall, and to not worry about her preferences.
So I followed that guidance and said to her (paraphrased), “Okay, let’s try a different approach. You sound like you’re looking for a place to find God and Jesus… so go find one. And you’ll find one that will be accepting of your lifestyle.”
The tension between us lifted, the wall came crashing down, the tears were shed, the bridge was built. This family member found a church, has led many awesome outreach things (cooking nights, soccer nights, interactions with needy). In fact, I’d say she is more Christ-like than I am in many ways. And our relationship is awesome now, we have great conversations about Jesus and God, and turn to each other asking for prayer in difficult times.
And my choice to follow “the church” almost ruined that by building a wall between her and God/Jesus.
Always follow Jesus over the church. Always.
Could you be a little more specific about “church as currently constituted in America”? That’s quite a broad brush. Same for your comment below, “none of us are taking Jesus seriously”.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much more as ye see the day approaching.
There is no doubt that I am part of the problem – but THE problem is that none of us are taking Jesus seriously, and most churches don’t see that there IS a problem.
The church is made up of imperfect people like you and I. If I was waiting for the church to be who I thought it should b e I would be waiting along time. But given all the choices in church today, if you can’t find one to be happy and worship in the problem may just lie elsewhere. You can only rant and rave for so long but it seems to me that is more an excuse rather than an answer. It’s like saying you don’t like baseball as it currently is being played. So get some people and play the game the way you want. Everybody does not have to change for me.
What about those of us who feel like the choice is not between Jesus and unbelief, but between Jesus and the church as currently constituted in America?
Michael Spencer really was a rare combination as Dan says. Yesterday, after the post, I read an interview with Joni Mitchell. She was also very interesting and gifted. And her answers in that Rolling Stone interview were as interesting as this piece by Michael. In many ways she reminded me of Jesus’ telling of the story of the prodigal. In it she says. “Love lost its meaning to me”. And ” God lost its meaning to me”. “But art never lost its meaning to me”. “Now I’ve got all three of them back(Laughs)”. “You don’t even know who I am, and you want to worship me?” “It was all a compulsion to be honest with my audience”. “I perceived my inability to love at that point. And it horrified me. It’s still something that I……I hate to say I’m working on, because the idea of work implies effort, and effort implies you’ll never get there, But it’s something”.
I guess this should have been posted yesterday. Maybe today will sink in and I’ll post tomorrow. But I do believe her loss and gain and honesty relate to today.
Dan, do you like to read, and if so, have you read any Robert Capon?
So my fundamental sister who is a good evangelical who is at peace with her belief does not questions as you do and as I do. She is secure in what she believes , I am a none and attend church with her when visiting and we enjoy it. She ask me what I believe and I tell her the Gospel that Jesus was born, lived as a man and died for our sins, it is all about Jesus. The whole Bible is about Jesus. We go to Mass with my Mother in law and she is secure in her belief, she never ask but I would give her the same answer. Knowing it is impossible I try to be Christ like which is weird to even write, I fail miserably but I know Jesus who I believe in and trust took all my sins and short comings to the cross. I try to do good not because I have to but because it makes me feel better and again this is weird even putting in down in print. I am very secular in many areas, I drink (I think in moderation) I am not a social justice type, I am not a everyone should follow my rules type, I think I am a typical American Christian who really tries to live a certain lifestyle that does not offend God. I appreciate you sharing your faith journey. Sometimes I feel I am deluded myself into thinking I am ok with God because I trust Christ is who he said he was and did what he did and that is there is to it, it is so basic I wrestle with it. As I have been very fortunate, I do not like to use the term blessed, in my personal life I sometimes wonder if my life were different , if I were not where I am at would I have the same outlook toward following and trusting Jesus? I am rambling but this is really a thank you for sharing as I believe you are a person of true faith and a seeker. I am a person poor in spirit and I often question my faith. I would probably be like Thomas. However , bottom line my faith has shaped my life and I just let it go at that. I guess that is why I have no home church but go wherever believers are, I wish I had their faith that they accept without a lot of second guessing. From my messaging here I believe you a gifted preacher, teacher and Pastor , a rare combination, I mean this sincerely.