Author: mpstoering

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Raising The Banner

Raising The Banner

In the past few months of wrestling with the specific callings that God has given me, I came to realize that I was approaching my writing the wrong way. After some prayer and introspection, I came to the conclusion that I had to change some things if I was to get off the ground. Most obviously, I changed the name. But there is a new spirit and purpose here, too.

The name “Raising The Banner” comes directly from an Audio Adrenaline song, which in turn comes from a story in 2 Chronicles 20. The story isn’t just about God’s providence. It’s also about the abundance of faith that the people expressed in response to His promises. I love the response of God’s people in this story, and I want this place to embody the same spirit.

When Judah raised the banner

In 2 Chronicles 20:17, the nation of Judah (the southern half of Israel) was under attack from foreign invaders. The nation turned to God for guidance and cried out for deliverance. God gave the people of Judah the following command in reply to their petitions:

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”

Upon close inspection, there’s a bit of ambiguity in there. “You will not have to fight this battle” and “Go out and face them” seem like contradictory statements to me. Sometimes, I spend so much time trying to understand the specifics of God’s promises that I forget to live according to the parts I do understand. Fortunately, the nation of Judah didn’t have the same problem on this occasion. They saw the prophecy not as a problem to be rectified, but as a challenge to be met. If God was going to fight for them, then why bother bringing their swords and shields into battle?

The army set out to face their enemies, armed with trumpets and banners, and praising the name of their God at the top of their voices. Long story short, the invading armies (who had previously split up) heard the commotion and assumed they were late to the battle. The armies met and bulldozed each other in a panic. By the time Judah arrived, there was nothing left but the plunder.

My call and God’s glory

Last year, I received a unique call to start a blog. I named it EverythingStoering, and I assumed that I would be teaching the world about Christ (out of my vast wisdom, of course…). After a year of struggling off and on, I realized I had missed the point entirely. No one has ever become great in the Kingdom of God by trying to be important here on Earth. I’m not a teacher, scholar, or theologian. If I’m going to follow this call God has given me, I should start by following the example of Judah in this story.

My goal here is not primarily to teach. It seems foolish of me to think that my words can have any real strength of their own. They are only powerful insofar as they are steeped in the person and power of Jesus Christ. I’ll be spending a lot of time (at least at first) preaching to my own heart and reminding my spirit of the joy set before me. It might look a little like the reflective writing in the Psalms. When it comes down to it, I just want to lift the beauty of the Gospel up for the world to see.

The greatest story ever told

This Gospel of Jesus Christ in itself is beautiful, multifaceted, and infinite. It’s the easiest thing to write about because it presents itself uniquely to every single person alive. I’m convinced that every man, woman, and child could spend every minute of their lives talking about what Christ has done without ceasing to find new things to say. John said as much in his gospel:

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

This can’t of course mean that Jesus did an inordinate number of things in His three year ministry. A careful observer could have made a timeline. Rather, I think it means that any book which is focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be infinitesimal compared to the whole of the Gospel, and therefore will be infinitely unique. I’ve read an entire book on the interpretation of a single parable before (and more than once, too)!

C.S. Lewis once tried to boil all of Christianity down into a single book titled Mere Christianity. But Paul, the great evangelist and writer of half the New Testament was able to reduce it further: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2). When you boil it all down, you always get the same thing. Christ Crucified, the core message of our faith, must be at the core of any endeavor I chose to take on if I hope to succeed in anything I do here.

In Conclusion

So I’m starting a new blog, with a better name and a fresh focus. I have no idea where this is going. I don’t know how good my writing abilities are. Frankly, it doesn’t matter much. I believe that God has called me, and I know that I am writing about the only subject that matters (and will continue to matter) for all of eternity. I’m simply going to raise the banner and pray that God wins the battles.

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Missions Update: We are launching in one week!

Missions Update: We are launching in one week!

Hello, friends!

I am excited to announce that I am officially launching my Worldview website one week from today. If you haven’t heard about this before, here is a quick rundown of what I am trying to accomplish.

Update on the past four months:

In late December 2016, I was praying over the new year. Now that I am out of college, I am regularly encountering people and situations that break my heart. I am still struggling to relate to non-believers at work and around the city, but I want God to use me to further His kingdom in the Twin Cites and in America as a whole. In the first week of 2017, I felt God calling me to build a website. I had no idea what I would talk about, but I thought I would give it a shot. After a few weeks, I had a coherent vision. I am beginning to understand the power and truth of the Gospel as well as the deceptive philosophies of this world. What’s even more exciting: I think that I know how how God is calling me to bring the Gospel to lost millennials.

My mission:

The primary defense that the Western World has against the Gospel is the idea that all beliefs are personal. It is considered rude to discuss religion in public. This makes it very difficult to share what we know in a way that leads others to Christ. I will make every effort to make Christ known in my personal relationships, but I want His name to be great to more people than the handful of souls I will personally touch in my lifetime. This is why I am starting an online ministry. I am embracing the assumptions of postmodernism in order to win the hearts of postmodernists for Christ. It’s not a novel idea, I am just following the example that Paul set in 1 Corinthians.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

What is postmodernism and why am I happy about it?

I personally think that we are living in a very exciting time in the history of our nation and the world. For the past 150+ years, naturalism and “science” have been the primary adversaries of the Gospel. Americans couldn’t believe in miracles or a God that created the world in 7 days because science seemed to say otherwise. In the past 20 or so years, Atheism has been losing its grip on the West. Advances in subatomic theory and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle have begun to open the door once again to the supernatural. If we don’t know how electrons (one of the most fundamental building blocks of matter) work, then maybe science alone is not enough to explain our world to us.

Not only is the notion of the spiritual beginning to return to the postmodern generation, but the appeal of religion is returning again. Of course, I do not mean organized religion. There is a strong distrust of all institutions. Yet, we are searching. Every child today is told that he is nothing more than a complex machine. We know better in our hearts. We long for the voice of God to whisper over us: It is very good. That is why we stopped searching for mere truth. If the truth tells me that I am worthless, then I might as well believe a lie. We are searching far and wide for someone to affirm us. The Gospel can meet this need like no religion can.

The heart of my ministry

At its core, the Gospel is not about Heaven. It’s not about being a good person. It’s not about going to church or tithing or charity. It is about Jesus! God loved us so much that He died for us! There is power in this story. The Gospel does not need to be sugar-coated, it is sweeter than any story we can try to tell. I don’t want to re-spin or rephrase it, I just want to share it with those who need it most.

The things I am writing are addressed to the heart, not the mind. I will share a philosophical proof for the Gospel here, but I only expect it to matter to those who want it to be true. This is where God is leading me. I am stepping into the land of relative truth in order to share the love of Christ with those I find there. I want to build a stage and gather an audience so that God can speak. My prayer is that many who read this will realize that they want the Gospel to be true. Once hope has taken root, then truth can begin to tell its story.

I say all of this because my website does not look explicitly Christian. When Christ rose from the dead, He appeared to two disciples as an ignorant outsider. I love the part of the story when He breaks bread and the disciples realize what just happened. “Did not our hearts burn within us?” I am going behind enemy lines, so to speak. I am letting religions speak for themselves because I know just how different Christianity is. If an agnostic person reads through every post I write on the Tales of the Poet, then they will know that God loves them. They will know that Jesus died for them. They will know that good will win, death will die, and evil will be punished. Moreover, they will know that there is no hope in naturalism and no security in religion. Those truths are powerful enough to make a difference without the help of my commentary.

Please help me with this ministry

Ever since 11th grade, I felt called to missions in America. I know that there is a lot more ahead of me, but I am being faithful to this small call now. If it makes no difference in the long run, I will thank God for the experience anyways. However, I do want this to make a difference if it can. There are a few things I need from each one of you.

  1. Please pray for me and this effort. I can work my life away on ministry assignments, but only God can make it fruitful. I need your prayers more than anything else.
  2. Please be prepared to share and promote this. On Easter Sunday, I will officially launch the ministry. I know that the website is still in its infancy, but I want to start strong. I plan on adding a post to either Tales of the Poet or Tales of the Sage every week or two from here on out.
  3. Please take a look at what I have so far and provide feedback. If you are willing to keep up with me during this endeavor, please hit the subscribe button in the footer. I don’t have it set up quite yet, but I will at least get your e-mail so I can manually put it in the system when I get that working in the next week.

Please follow the link below to the main page. There isn’t too much material yet. Thank you for your support. May all of the glory and honor and power be to Christ alone.

 

~Matthew

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Why a website: From entitlement to empowerment

Why a website: From entitlement to empowerment

Many of us have been told that we’re special so often that we forget what it truly means. It doesn’t mean entitlement, the belief that we deserve more from the world. It means empowerment, the belief that we have more to give to the world.

Why a website: From entitlement to empowerment

Many would say that the defining characteristic of a Millennial is entitlement. When I searched Google for “millennial birth years” to check if I technically qualify or not, the first line of the first search result read “We can all agree that Millennials are the worst. But what is a Millennial?” I was honestly a little taken aback. Growing up, I remember my class was always told that we “not going to make it once we got to the ‘real world,’” the real world being defined as middle school, then high school, then college, then the workplace. I never understood how I managed to be a part of the worst class ever no matter how many times I moved. Now, I know I was not in a classroom of disrespectful kids, I was in a generation of one. It was a rough ride, and I never liked school much until college, but I made it through thanks to my faith, family, and friends. Now that I am living a full life of meaning and purpose, I want to turn back and light the path for others.

There are a great many blogs, websites, collections, books, and essays in the world. Why then, you might ask, would I decide to start writing down my thoughts on anything? There are a great many published works out there, and a great many more still unpublished. One could spend a lifetime reading and never come close to hearing it all. One voice seems so small when put against this backdrop.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been called “a special snowflake” more than once in your life. We all know what is really being said. You are special and unique in the way everyone else is special and unique. In the words of Syndrome from the Incredibles, “When everyone’s super, no one is.” This seems to be the mantra of my generation.

Amidst the despair, there is one truth that I am finding more and more. Life is a series of investments. If you want to retire, you put money in an account. If you want a good job, you spend time getting an education. The list goes on and on. With so many investing so much into their own gain, I can see another void needing to be filled. Like the voice crying out in the wilderness, I hear, even today, the gentle whisper of my God calling “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” I doubt whether I will ever make it to the top of the body-pile to become the #1 richest man in the world, no matter how hard I try. There are just too many investing in the same goal for me to reach the top. But I don’t have to reach the top of that list to be successful.

I recently stumbled across http://www.globalrichlist.com, a website that ranks individuals based on their salary. We hear the phrase “one percent” tossed around here and there, but I never really thought much about it before. When I entered my salary in there, I found that I was not only in the 1%, but I was nearing the 0.1%! In laymen’s terms, it means for every person like me, there are 700 people who have less, some much less. Take a look and see where you lie. Odds are, if you are reading this on an electronic device, you are in the 1% too.

In all of this, I found a delicate truth. I am special, not in the “special snowflake manner,” but in a real, tangible, and meaningful way. I am already richer than most of the world will ever be. I have a great education, and despite the generation I come from, I have a desire to invest in the kingdom of Heaven instead of the kingdom of men. Many of us have been told that we’re special so often that we forget what it truly means. It doesn’t mean entitlement, the belief that we deserve more from the world. It means empowerment, the belief that we have more to give to the world.

All of this brings me back to the original question: Why would I start a website when there are thousands of voices out there already? As I said, I believe that I am empowered. I am sitting on the top of the investment of a great many men and women, and I now have the opportunity to pay it forward. I have already found purpose in two ministries, two Bible studies, and a handful of charities. But it is not enough. I want to give more.

There is a danger in every part of this world. If you seek fulfillment, you may come up dry. If you seek love, you may find loss. If you wade into a river, you may drown. If you seek a life of meaning and purpose, beware. One day, God may find you comfortable in the life He gave you and ask for more. In part, I am writing this because I can’t do otherwise. I don’t know where it will take me, but I can’t help but live a grander, more generous, and more empowered life. I don’t know where I will end up, but it’s no matter. No great victory comes without significant investment. This website is a stepping stone for me. It is a source of wonder as well as accountability.

What you can expect from me:

I have recently finished reading Love Does by Bob Goff and Miracles by C.S. Lewis, two wildly different books about one grand subject: a life devoted to Jesus Christ. I hope to distill some of that here, as well as other works.

I plan to begin with a dissection of my own worldview. I expect to learn a lot in the process, and I hope that I can teach a little too.

If I can present the wisdom of some of the great men I have read in a way which can inspire and propel even one of my peers, then this little experiment of mine will be a success. Thank you for reading. I pray that grace and truth will light your path in your own quest for meaning and fulfillment.

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Do you know what you believe? A brief look at relativism

Do you know what you believe? A brief look at relativism

If your car suddenly stops working, you can’t fix it with a new paint job. You have to go under the hood. Our attempts to hide the inner workings of our lives from each other only blinds us to our problems.

Relativism: Our unspoken assumptions

Before we begin to explore the question “What is true,” we are going to need to take a look at truth itself. In the Tales of the Poet, I am exploring the relative benefits of beliefs. Relativism (the idea that all belief systems are equally valid/true) can be a great tool when used properly, but most of us use it in a way that is extremely dangerous. Instead of using it as a means of silent introspection, we wield it as a weapon designed to silence those around us.

If you truly believe that the world would be a better place if everyone kept their beliefs private, then the only logical course of action is to keep that belief private. When you force others to conform to this belief, you are tearing apart the very floor you stand on. Argue that everyone else should keep their beliefs quiet while you instruct them, and you are well on your way to becoming the very monster that you had sought to destroy. Relativism seems like a humble notion on the surface, but underneath, it is no different than the belief systems it seeks to replace.

What assumptions make out of you and me

The primary problem with relativism is the prevalence of assumption. Like it or not, everyone has a worldview. Moreover, we live in a culture where our worldviews collide at many points. Look at any hot-button issue today and you will see the danger here. One of the first steps in relationship counseling is to put names to your feelings. Everyone gets angry. The people who know that they are angry will be to exercise self-control. The people who refuse to face their anger will soon find themselves controlled by it.

Our worldviews are dangerous in the same manner. We often pass value judgments on other people because we assume that everyone else is living under our own private beliefs. Many of the divisions between us come from our different belief systems. When we pretend that our beliefs are purely personal, we not only are unable to empathize with others, but we are also unable to understand why we can’t see eye-to-eye.

Allow me to explain with an example.

What assumptions are made in the following titles: Pro-life? Pro-choice? You already know which debate I’m referring to. Pro-life implies that the other group is anti-life. “You are murderers.” Pro-choice implies that the other group is anti-choice. “You hate women and their rights.” The assumptions go deeper than that, though. Is it surprising that many pro-life groups are Christian and many pro-choice groups are atheist or postmodernist? At the heart of the issue is the origin of life. Generally speaking, if life has a divine origin, then, through a series of implications, group A are murderers. If life has a natural origin, then, through another series of implications, group B violates basic human rights. When we embrace relativism, we don’t make religion go away, we just make ourselves blind to it. The communication barrier turns difficult problems into insurmountable ones.

To be clear, I am not here to advocate on any of these issues. My job is to advocate for truth. You probably believe certain things because someone whom you respect taught you to believe them. If you come away from this website believing different things merely because I told you to, then I failed to accomplish my primary goal. I want you to believe truth because you have looked at the facts and you know what they mean. I enjoy seeking out counter-arguments because it gives me an opportunity to understand my own position more fully. By challenging my worldview, I will either destroy it or make it stronger. Which one happens depends entirely on one question: Do I believe the truth?

What about those of us who aren’t relativists?

If the assumptions I make and the actions I take based on those assumptions are the root of the issue, then I am the problem. The people who are fighting for equality cannot win by changing their beliefs. They must change mine. If I am a racist, then keeping my beliefs to myself will only make the situation worse. I may forget why I act a certain way, but I will continue to act. Before we can fix my actions, we must fix my assumptions. I’m not saying that relativism is all bad. Discouraging people from voicing hurtful opinions is an easy way to clean up the internet. If you are not a relativist, then you are probably a very loud person, for better or for worse.

I do believe that we need to learn to coexist. But burying our beliefs will never fix the problem. If your car suddenly stops working, you can’t fix it with a new paint job. You have to go under the hood. Our attempts to hide the inner workings of our lives from each other only blinds us to our problems. Our nation has collectively thrown religion in the junkyard, but the problems are still getting worse. Hatred, persecution, and racial tensions are still growing. At our core, we are different people with different beliefs. If we want to fix the problems, we will need to find a universal standard to live by. We need to take a long look at truth. Yes, it will be messy. But our current solution has failed. It’s time we bring our beliefs back into the spotlight.

Looking Onward

I know that it is impossible to ask the entire world to adopt one belief system. But the truth is able to shape you as an individual into a peacemaker. I don’t need to convince the world, or even the majority of it, to consider their beliefs before change can happen. The world is a better place because I took the time to seriously consider truth. If you decide to investigate these things (whether here or on your own), you will eventually be able to say the same thing of yourself.

Consider this your introduction to the Tales of the Sage. From here on out, I will make the assumption that there is such a thing as truth. I will also assume that it is possible for someone to find this truth if he knows where to look. Apart from that, I intend to make no assumptions. I want us to discuss every aspect of belief before we take any step. Eventually, I will assume a complete worldview on this website. However, I will not jump there.

When someone tells you what to do, they are asking you to trust their worldview solely on the basis of your relationship with them. I want to fully explain my worldview first so you can know that the rest of my words are trustworthy. I want you to understand why I say the things I say. If you disagree with me, I want you to know exactly where and why. If I just make you angry, it is probably because you are unfamiliar with your own beliefs.

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A Bridge Between Two Worlds

A Bridge Between Two Worlds

What would you do if human history still has a thousand years left? How would you live if you believed that the next Great American Revival is right around the corner?

A Bridge Between Two Worlds

Before I dive in, I want to share my heart for this post. I believe that this website is a small part of the call that God has placed on my life, and I would love to see the impact of this endeavor multiplied a thousandfold. But this post specifically isn’t meant for the world. This one is just for those of you whom I call friend. I believe that we can do great things together, and I don’t want any of us to miss the plans God has for us.

Estimates vary, but the sources I found all say that less than 10% of millennials are dedicated Christians, with some sources estimating as low as 4%. Regardless of where the line is drawn, all sources agree that we are the least Christian generation in the history of America. By the grace of God, I have managed to find myself in circles where the statistic is reversed. It is easy to take Christian subculture for granted when it is all you know. But, as we all know by now, the fellowship we have shared over the years is not the norm for America. People are lost and hurting everywhere we look.

Our Unique Calling

I mentioned in my first post that I have more to offer than many of the people alive today. The truth is, all of us do. If you are both a Christian and a young adult today, then you are very unique. Together, we make a bridge between the lost and the found.

I hope that this doesn’t sound like an exaggeration. The generation before us lived largely with a supplemental faith. As with every generation, there were a few who were deeply dedicated, but many went to church out of mere habit. As our generation grew up, we suffered through divorce, abuse, and neglect. Most of us associate the pain we carry with the church and its often hypocritical members.

So, what about us specifically? My friends from Horn Creek, JBU, and Friendship church, we are the future of the church. Moreover, I believe that we hold the answers to the questions our generation is asking. You and I understand both the pain of our generation and the hope of Christ.

We are blessed beyond comprehension to be here. I can count no less than 5 influential father figures in my life, including my biological father, who (in opposition to the statistics) is still happily married to my mother. Many of you have more pain in your past than I. I am learning about the deep damage that divorce can cause through my wife’s story. There will be more heartbreak in our future. But I can’t imagine facing this knowledge without the hope of Christ to guide me. There are millions of people out there who do not have this hope.

A Revival Story

I love the story of Israel’s kings. Have you read it? If not, grab a Bible and read 2 Kings on a rainy afternoon. It is truly amazing. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin, led by David’s line, did some pretty terrible things. Even so, they were turned back to God no less than five different times. One time, a priest found a dusty scroll containing God’s commandments in the temple storage room when they were cleaning it out. He gave it to the kid who just so happened to have inherited the throne at the time, and after reading it, this kid decided to renew the covenant they once had with God.

This kid king’s name was Josiah. Did I mention that he was eight years old when this happened? Look it up. An eight-year old and a dusty book was all it took to turn a generation around. They were God’s people once again. This lasted for 31 years, long enough to redeem a large part of a generation. After that, a new generation had to make their own decisions.

Hell In a Handbasket

Do you remember when your grandma used to tell you that this world is going to hell in a handbasket? I certainly do. Growing up, I was told that my generation will be the last. That the world is gearing up for the apocalypse. I got married as early as I could because I wanted to experience marriage before Jesus came back to take us all home. It’s not like there could be another eight-year old or a dusty Bible lying around today.

If you were raised like me, then I ask you, please try to think differently. What would you do if human history still has a thousand years left? I don’t mean to ignore all the prophesies that have been fulfilled in the past 200 years. I do believe that we are near the end, but I know that time looks very different to God than it does to us. Jesus’s disciples thought that he was going to return the same day that He left. I don’t doubt that we still have enough time left to turn this world around once more. Every generation that returned to God pushed Israel’s destruction back by 100+ years! How would you live if you believed that the next Great American Revival is right around the corner? Live like that and it just might truly happen.

The Challenge

It is true that our world is merely following the pattern set by history. Even so, many generations throughout history have been turned back to God through the work of a faithful few. Today, you and I are the few who understand both the mindset and needs of our generation and the hope of the Gospel. If we do not do this work, it is possible that no one will and an entire generation will be lost.

The solution is very clear. I have seen your love. We don’t just attend church, we live full lives in Christ. Our peers have turned away from a church that sells Jesus by removing truth to make Him more attractive. It doesn’t mean that they are beyond the reach of the true Gospel. We need to be sharing the whole truth every chance we get.

We can’t sell it, though. Our generation can see through that. Jesus told us “freely you have received, now freely give.” Again, “We love because He first loved us.” We have to genuinely care for the people we live with. We believe in a God who created us simply because He is good. He loves us because He is love and He gave us the free will to love Him in return. Moreover, when we alienated ourselves from Him, He came down to our world and gave us a second chance simply because He is love. In the end, we have the choice to live fully with Him or fully without Him, and either way, He will honor our request. This is the story we live, and it is deeper, richer, and more amazing than any “easy to swallow” gospel you have heard.

The Proposition

What does this practically look like? I believe it starts with prayer, genuine concern and intermission for the well-being of our peers. After that, we listen to God’s calling. Just don’t settle for less. There are enough consumers out there already. This world is in need of a generation that gets up off the sidelines and loves radically. If we are different, then we will be noticed.

Second, I believe that we need to be actively reaching out to the Church. The generations above us have a great deal to teach us, as well as to learn from us. They may seem cold and distant, but it is only because they are confused by us, just as we are by them. We need their wisdom, and they need our zeal. It’s how the church was designed, and it is the only way we can succeed.

My Part

Right now, my mission is this website. Please consider sharing my posts and praying over this project. I will be launching a Worldview series very soon in an attempt to get the full Gospel into the hands of millennials who have never heard it put this way before. Jessica and I are also working with our church and are looking for opportunities to bridge the generational divides we see. We are considering meeting with the church leadership in order to create channels for high school students to get involved in children’s ministry.

If God calls us to sell everything tomorrow and go somewhere new, I will follow. In the meantime, we will take every opportunity we have to change the world around us here in Shakopee. I hope that I have inspired some of you to do the same. Many of you have already sacrificed much for the Gospel. Thank you for your service. I pray that your zeal and boldness will grow stronger each day. If “everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life (Mt. 19:29),” then there is nothing to fear in this grand call.

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An Introduction

An Introduction

 

Someone spent time carefully polishing and shaping a lens so you can see the world around you for what it really is. Why do we stop at physical sight? Each of us has the capacity to craft our individual worldview to let us see the world as it truly is.

Back to Building a Worldview

Building a worldview: An Introduction

I almost died once. I’m not talking about some emotional moment when I felt lost or worried. I’m talking about a week in the ICU with doctors hovering around wondering if I was going to make it. I contracted a rare disease from handling mouse droppings while in Colorado. It kills 36% of its hosts by filling their lungs with fluids until they asphyxiate. You would think that this kind of thing would be the center of someone’s story. My wife remembers every detail of that week. My parents do too. To be honest, I don’t.

I remember wanting to go home because my girlfriend was in pain. If I recall, I watched a lot of TV. I remember having a lot of visitors. Also, I remember having peace. I wasn’t worried at all even though I probably should have been. Death wasn’t the great villain I had imagined him to be. I politely asked him to come back later, and he passed me by. It’s not that I was terrified of him. I just needed to be here to help my girlfriend through a hard time. I recently told my life’s story to a friend. If you can believe it, this little adventure didn’t make it in. An hour into the conversation, with a chuckle, I suddenly remembered the time when I almost died. I used it to explain the point I was making, and I moved on.

Why, you may ask, was I not afraid of dying? How could I live through something as terrifying as a brush with death and think little of it? The answer, I believe, lies in my worldview. Now, this little word has become hard to pin down. We have all heard it before, and it is even a cliché in some circles, but we rarely stop to ask why it matters. If you don’t have a working definition of worldview, here is a dictionary definition to get you started:

Worldview: The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.

If you have glasses or contacts on, then you know what it is to not be able to see. You also thought that it was worth your while to get your eyes measured and tested. Someone spent time carefully polishing and shaping a lens so you can see the world around you for what it really is. Why do we stop at physical sight? Each of us has the capacity to craft our individual worldview to let us see the world as it truly is.

Note I say as it is. Most of us only try on one or two pairs of glasses before we decide that we can read the big E and that is enough. I wonder why. Science has only progressed this far because individuals sought to read the finer print and teach the world to do the same. If knowledge is power, then the wealth of the world is right here in front of you.

Science has only progressed this far because individuals sought to read the finer print and teach the world to do the same. If knowledge is power, then the wealth of the world is right here in front of you.

It doesn’t take a degree to see that there are many types of belief systems. Everyone seems to have their own version of the truth. One could spend a lifetime classifying them all. Even so, I am noticing one very important division: beliefs that are driven and beliefs that are driving. Most of us fall into the first category. Our beliefs are shaped by what others think. We believe many things, even if they are contradictory upon examination. What is more, we are content to do so! This can prove to be very dangerous whenever someone decides to feed us a belief for their own personal gain.

Say, for example that you are sitting in your house (in 1930s Germany) when a prominent politician (Adolf Hitler) tells you that a certain people group (The Jews) are to blame for the economy. Or, maybe you are sitting in your house (in 2017 America) when a prominent politician (Donald Trump) tells you that a certain people group (Mexican Immigrants) are to blame for the economy. (This isn’t a direct comparison or a political statement, just a reminder that historical lessons are still relevant today). If your beliefs are driven, you have no reason not to play along. You don’t know any better.

I know where it looks like I’m going with this. “Religion X is driven, Y is driving. Therefore, believe religion Y.” A classic bait-and-switch. But it’s not what I find to be true. Every nation in every time period in history has had their “default” religion. Blame Gaea, Brahma, God, or the Big Bang for making the world as it is. If it is just a historical account, then it doesn’t matter which you believe. It doesn’t even matter if it makes sense. I agree wholeheartedly with the Karl Marx’s famous statement:

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

In this sense, we are right to accept any belief. They are all the same. What I need to know, however, is if we are doomed to such a worldview, or if by spending enough time with the sages we can find a worldview that truly matters.

There is such a thing as truth, and if you look hard enough and ask enough questions, you will find it.

What is a driven worldview, then? Isn’t it better to believe something easy than to question everything? Perhaps. We are like Tolkien’s hobbits, fearful creatures who dread above all else the word adventure. Out of all the hobbits Tolkien named in his book, it was those who embraced the adventure who ultimately were the main characters of the story. If the story was about a hobbit who stayed home, then I suppose the entire story would have be forgotten long ago. Read a history book. What do the main protagonists in the story of our own world have in common? Most believed in an unwavering truth, and as a result, they themselves were unwavering and strong no matter the opposition. I want to be someone like that.

So how do we get there? First, we need a desire for truth. This is the hardest part. What happens if we don’t like what we find? What happens if we don’t like the people who we are identified with? It cannot and must not sway us. We must look at the whole picture, not just one part. Just like the eye doctor, we must keep trying new lenses until we are able to read every line.

I am saying much of this for your sake, not my own. I already have invested a great deal of time and thought into this journey. My life is shaped and defined by the things I believe. I want to share that with you as well. Don’t worry, I do still have a great deal of learning to do. I would be honored if you chose to join me on this adventure. If you are the kind of person who likes to subscribe to things, please do (Button below).

If not, please drop by now and then. I’ll be expanding this for quite a while. If you don’t care to join me on this particular journey, I understand. Never let your questions go unanswered. There is such a thing as truth, and if you look hard enough and ask enough questions, you will find it. I promise you, when you do, you will know. There is nothing like that moment when the things you believe suddenly become real. Truth is, you can’t return to status quo after a moment like that. Don’t worry, though. I promise, you won’t want to.

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Welcome to Tales of the Poet

Welcome to Tales of the Poet

Some of us were destined to be sages. We can discuss possibilities and plausibilities until the end of time. The rest of us will find it easiest to just try the shoe on so we can see if it fits.

Tales of the Poet

Update:

Hi, this is Matt from 2018! In school, I was told that writing should follow a specific structure. Introduction: Tell them what you are going to say, Body: tell them what you are saying, Conclusion: repeat your main points. I don’t always follow that template around here, but I probably should have at the beginning. It seems like my writing never really got past the introduction part. I guess I was just stalling until I knew what I really wanted to say. I’m glad that you’re here. I can’t promise that there is much wisdom in these legacy posts (but then again, who’s saying there’s any in my later content?). I put this here as a reminder to myself of where I started from. Feel free to keep reading, just know that I don’t (as of now) plan on finishing these series.


I have always loved music. I am also learning to love knowledge and wisdom. But something funny is happening as my love of knowledge grows. As I read the thoughts and expressions of great minds, I am coming to realize that I need the expressions of simple folk if I want any balance in life. There are rogue philosophers all over the place – arrogant men who fight heavy battles for truth like knights trying to rescuing a damsel from distress. I almost became one of those men when I started this journey. But something funny happened. Every time I learned a great truth and began to feel superior, I would read an old book or hear a familiar song and realize that I only had learned to articulate what I already knew.

This is why the Tales of the Poet excites me. I’m not just here to present large, unwieldy arguments. Sure, I am writing Tales of the Sage for balance. But it’s just that. Balance. Many of us will benefit more from looking closely at what we believe than we will by setting out to find absolute truth. Some of us were destined to be sages. We can discuss possibilities and plausibilities until the end of time. The rest of us will find it easiest to just try the shoe on so we can see if it fits.

They key to an open mind

Again, I’m not claiming to be a relativist. Two opposing truth claims cannot both be true. Either one is true and one is false or both are false. There is no middle ground. But it shouldn’t stop us from using relativism as a tool in order to find what we are looking for. If the shoe fits, it may very well be because it was designed to fit. If it wasn’t, then we will have to ask the question: is there a benefit to living as if this were true? This is the way our culture thinks already. I’m just writing it down. Once we find that relativism itself no longer fits, we will leave it behind as well.

All of this to say, I want to have an open mind. If I believe the truth, and the truth I believe is leading me into the best and most satisfying life that I could possibly live, then what do I need to be afraid of? I know that you may not be able to approach these different belief systems with complete objectivity. But remember – these are beliefs, not people. Christians led the crusades. The Nazis tried murdered everyone who wasn’t a part of their evolutionary superior race. Muslim extremists committed terrible acts of terror against the West. Corrupting your beliefs and being corrupted by them are two very different things. If you link the belief system to the people who believe it, you will never be able to become objective. We can factor believers back in once we understand the belief itself.

Jump right in!

I still need to get the blog formatting linked in to this page (sorry for the mess 🙂 ). In the meantime, here is a list of topics I plan to cover. Please subscribe if you want to catch the latest updates as they happen. Thank you for being here in the beginning of all this.

  • Is anything true?
  • Am I important?
  • What is the point of living?
  • Why are some people so bad?
  • Am I a good person?
  • Why do bad people bother me so much? Where is justice?
  • How can I make the world a better place?
  • I’m rich but I still want more. Can I ever be satisfied?
  • What is religion? Do I need it?
  • Do I have to be known to be loved?
  • Will the world ever be a perfect place?
  • Why do fairy tales make me feel so happy if they aren’t real?
  • Why is death so scary and painful? Is there hope?
  • Why don’t the good times last?
  • Is there anything that I can do that will make me truly happy?
  • Conclusions: What I chose to believe (and why I chose to believe it)
  • Bridge to Tales of the Sage: What about objective truth?
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Tales Of Poets And Sages

Tales Of Poets And Sages

Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?

I remember the first time I was asked that question. Go ahead and read it a couple more times. It’s not easy to digest. Do you really believe that what you believe is really real? When disaster strikes, do you find yourself clinging to or questioning your beliefs? Do you know what you are living for, or are you making it up as you go along? When it comes down to it, most of us are hypocrites – people who believe one thing intellectually and believe another thing practically. The man who believes in a personal and all-seeing God shouldn’t struggle with personal addictions when he is “alone” any more than he would when his wife and kids are home.

I think that there are a few reasons for this common hypocrisy. The first is, of course, that some beliefs demand more that we can give. Some people suddenly throw in the towel after spending years trying to be good enough to enter Heaven. The stress of devotion forced a wedge between what they do and what they mean to do. Sometimes, beliefs are simply impractical. I am always fascinated when I meet someone who preaches that humanity is a worthless accident and still gives to charity. The existentialism is impractical day-to-day, so they live according to common law even though they don’t know why. Of course, a lot of us may not know our own beliefs well enough to understand why the examples I gave are problematic. This leads us to the fourth reason for common hypocrisy.

Simply put, many of us don’t believe what we say we believe because we just don’t care. Let’s be honest, how many books on worldview have you read before you came here? If you have avoided arguments about truth so far, then there is little I can do to raise your opinion of it. This is why I want to start our journey here. I want to look at the benefits of belief. I think that we can figure out what truth claim will give us the most fulfillment without having to use any word that ends with -ology. Once this first adventure ends, then perhaps we will have the stamina required to speak like sages. Until then, welcome to the Tales of the Poet.

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Tales of the Poet – Introduction to belief

Tales of the Poet – Introduction to belief

For this first post, I want to take a look at some of the major belief systems we will be encountering on this journey. Many religions and philosophies are similar in form, so we shouldn’t have to compare more than a handful of them in order to get a general understanding of how our beliefs affect us. I expect each post I share to draw the lines between beliefs a little differently. Sometimes, the lines are clearly religious. Sometimes, they’re philosophical. The three categories I chose below are broadly (and somewhat vaguely) religious. I have known Atheists in the first category. I know many Christians in all three. I’ll try to avoid using labels that cause a fuss. The goal is to see where we are and where fulfilment lies.

“We should follow the rules.”

I can’t begin to guess why you follow the rules. Maybe you’re trying to get into Heaven. Perhaps you’re trying to transcend the illusion of pain and mortality that we call life on Earth. Or you’re trying to improve your karma. Maybe you just think that the world would be a better place if everyone followed the rules. Every society, religion, and government has its own set of rules and list of reasons for following them. Despite these differences, we all can agree on a few things. Rules are important. They make the world a better place. We feel good about ourselves when we do the right thing. The rules separate us from animals. People who don’t follow the rules tend to make a mess of things and hurt the people around them. It is not always easy to follow the rules, but it always pays off in the end.

“But the rules were meant to be broken.”

Life is too short to follow the rules. You are a radical free-thinker, or perhaps you are just taking a break from religion. Either way, you want more out of life than any stuffy monastery can give you. Life is meant to be lived. It doesn’t mean we should break important rules. Murder is obviously bad. But religion is too. After 2000 years of fighting over which rules we should follow, don’t you think it’s time we took a break? If we all set aside our differences, the world would be a much better place.

In other news, you’ve either found your it, or you are actively looking for it. Community service, a good career, a great sex life. Whatever it is, it brings more meaning and fullness to your life than religion ever will. When will the rule-followers realize that happiness comes from the little things in life? The rules are not important. It is.

“Actually, it’s all about a relationship.”

Since the beginning, man has seen the problems with the world and felt a need to repair it, escape it, or transcend it. Every religion that we have ever encountered had demanded that we work hard in order to improve our lot in life (or transcend this world, earn our salvation, etc.). The only exception to this rule is Gospel Christianity. The Christian God provided a solution on His own. No strings attached, if you want to know God and be His friend (forever), you can. If you just want the stuff that He gives you, He’ll respect that, too (even though it will never satisfy you). When you die, you can either be in community with Him and His people forever, or you will be left by yourself forever. Your choice. The rules themselves are a result of the relationship, but they don’t have meaning on their own.

A note on religion

I know that the “religious” category was quite concise. For the sake of the introduction, I don’t mind making it one category. However, some questions will require me to draw different lines than I did here. For example, if you want to ask what the purpose of pain is, then you will have to divide it into western religions and eastern religions. Western religion focuses more on the world itself. It is real and needs to be fixed. Eastern religion teaches that the world is an illusion and needs to be transcended. The differing approaches to pain require us to chose a different dividing line. I know that unique belief systems may be glossed over from time to time. If you want to hear my thoughts on a specific philosophy, let me know in the comments.

Where to go from here:

This was the final introduction before we get into the thick of things. I promise. From here on out, I want to focus on specific application questions. How would my day-to-day life change if I really believed X? Would I become cheerful? Depressed? Generous? Resentful? Life’s greatest questions have all been answered 100 times over. Let’s see which answers are worth their salt. Thank you for joining me on this adventure. I’m trying to get a post out every week or two.