The original meaning of the word philosophy comes from the Greek roots philo- meaning “love” and -sophos, or “wisdom.” Philosophy includes “all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts.” “How I language what I know,” might be the simplest reduction of the word.
When it comes to religion, much of what we know is derived from the writings of others, our teachers and those with whom we align ourselves. Alignment is a very risky practice for it emboldens us around the things we think we know. In Christianity, alignment with Christ alone is the proposal being made, “I am the way the truth and the life.” All other religions at this point become philosophy, at best an attempt to gain some knowledge of “G-d, or gods.”
If I stay with the logic above, without a personal knowledge of Jesus, a true relationship, which John describes as akin to being “born again”, there is no basis for religion beyond language and philosophy, regardless of how emotionally fortifying it may seem.
Even as I write, I am attempting to escape any philosophical anchoring that I may have picked up along my 43 year journey, apart from my relationship with Christ. That is a most difficult task, for even my interpretations of the scriptural writings proposed by my faith as the Word of God are viewed through unavoidable filters derived from my alignment with others. Actually, I would not move further in this conversation had my faith (a very esoteric word) not been anchored in a moment that revolutionized my life. That unplanned invasion of the Spirit placed within my heart, not only the capacity to change, but a deep desire to know the One that had changed me. To know God would become the overriding pursuit of my life!
Perhaps the last sentence is what I should focus on as a milestone in this series. The morning after that January night in 1973, when I was so radically intercepted by the Spirit of God (allow me license for my language, if you are of a different faith), I wept with joy all the way to the classroom (a teacher at the time) given the new found peace in my life.
The more I expressed this new found longing, the more open those of the Christian faith became. I was invited to a community prayer breakfast, led by a group of Methodists only recently impassioned by a then known group called, The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association. These brother’s and their spouses seemed all about a lifestyle aligned with Jesus Christ, their direction and profession based upon the Bible. I began to read the book, one that had always been in my family. As I did, I began to once more experience life moments akin to what my grandparents had professed, even to the extent of miracles. My alignment with the faith had begun and my philosophy of life would be greatly altered by those moments and the people around me.
Not the least of these was a Pentecostal pastor, new to the community. In his attempts to integrate himself within the community, he had wandered outside of his own denominational boundaries to attend what by then, had become quite an interdenominational and community gathering. As he shared life with us, his first story was about his mother, miraculously healed within that very week, as he prayed with her over the phone! She was 93 year old; I later met her and they buried her at 103!
You might say, that “cranked my then only 26 year old truck!” I was honored to lead Rev. Woodrow Oxner’s life celebration and interment some years back, and later that of his wife Norma. (see photo above).
My recently converted, lifelong Lutheran wife joined me as we “tested out his church,” an Assembly of God. Though she often had reservations about how this man led his flock, I became fascinated with his prayer life and the powerful moments experienced when he prayed with others. In fact, I began to witness similar moments in my prayer life within the community. This led to opportunity within the Assemblies, both at the state and national level, as I became more aligned with their Way, assuming it was God’s way!
Let me add that I am not headed toward a challenge with the Assemblies of God, for I have never been in an organization more aligned with scripture, of course I have in place filters from my deep and now lifelong alignment. The latter may be my point.
That alignment led to a degree in Community & Resource Development, as I aspired to aid in the spread of the Gospel by way of educational institutions sponsored by the denomination. Meanwhile, my career was developing and I was asked to become the Community Relations Director for a local school district, and after three years encouraged to pursue a degree in Leadership and Administration with Superintendent credentials. Prior to the completion of the latter, I had begun conversations with a young pastor known at the national level for his leadership, in fact, then serving a pastorate in my former hometown.
The more I spent time with him, due to my state position as Men’s Director for the Assemblies of God, the more I heard a philosophy that was bigger than church and focused predominately on community. His church, the one I still attend, though four senior pastors later, aligned with my heart.
My career would take a major turn as we began to unpack what it might look like, if a large church that “love built”, gave its primary focus to serving a city, rather than simply a congregation.
I had found the role where my life passions and career preparation aligned; and, my family could be provided for! The “Sweet Spot” per Stephen Covey or as Jim Collins would call it, the Hedgehog Concept! Biblically, “Christ in me the hope of glory!”
To be continued.