We recently started a new topic on Sunday mornings called Ask Anything: Questions and conversations about life, faith, and God. While this is the 2nd time we've engaged this theme as a church on Sundays, our specific topics will be completely new and based on the questions asked by our community. Our hope is to embrace questions as an integral part of our life with God as we try to live into Jesus' teaching of being people who "ask, seek, and knock."
Often times questions are not welcomed in church spaces and churches become places where answers are given rather than questions asked. Additionally, we have routinely turned the Bible into an answer book that provides certainty rather than a book that raises questions. What's ironic about this is that so many of us have questions, and our faith tradition actually welcomes these questions more than we probably know. In some ways, you can call the Bible a question book because it asks questions of God, of ourselves, and of our world. Examples of this include God's questions to Adam and Eve in the Garden, the Psalmists questions to God in times where it seems God has abandoned us, God's questions to Job, Jesus questions to his audience, and more.
David Dark in his book, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything says this:
"When religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion, it obstructs our ability to think, empathize, and live lives of authenticity and genuine engagement. The God of the Bible not only encourages questions; the God of the Bible demands them. If that were not so, we wouldn’t live in a world of such rich, God-given complexity in which wide-eyed wonder is part and parcel of the human condition. The possibility of redemption and revolution depends on the questions we ask of God, governments, media, and everyday economies. It is by way of the questions that we resist the conformity that deadens and come alive to visions that redeem.”
So it is our hope at Oak Life to be a space where our questions are welcomed. Where our doubts and curiosities can be transformed into divine inquiry. Where we seek, knock, and ask in a way that leads us to deeper truth and deeper intimacy with the God who loves us more than we can possibly know.
As we started this conversation, we invited our community to write down their questions. These questions will become the discussion topics for each Sunday for the next few weeks. Since there were way too many questions to cover just on Sundays, we tried our best to group these together in ways that make sense. It was actually really cool to see how many people asked tough questions, and how often similar questions were being asked. Again, the goal here is to offer answers where answers are appropriate, but often times our questions will lead to more questions, so this is not a Q & A series but a Q & C (conversation) series. We hope you can join us as we wrestle and learn and grow together!
Here are the grouped questions for our series:
(Also, feel free to post comments for discussion below)
Discerning God's presence, God's direction, and God's activity
"How can I better discern when God is directing me versus some other pull or selfish motivation? I often struggle to hear when God is speaking to me, and also to trust him in the direction he provides."
"Is it possible that the encounters I thought I had with God could have been only psychological trickery?"
"What should I be doing to bring about your (God) will/live as you showed in this world? How do I use the gifts you have given me to make the world a better place?"
"God you know all the situations I have, is it in your plan? Please let me know clearly if it is your plan. I love you God."
"God, how can I serve you and do my best to serve others and make sure others feel loved, joy, adored, and cherished?"
"What does it mean to "find" God?"
"God, I am struggling w recovery from alcoholism and I thank you for all you have done. When will obsession and compulsion be lifted once and for all? At what point in my recovery will I experience a spiritual awakening w all the love?"
"Does God condone distancing yourself from someone to receive healing?"
"How should we understand what the Bible says about hell and damnation- and the other side, what is says about the "elect" and salvation?"
"What is heaven & what is hell? How has the church used these in a way that may have created fear? Where is the love and grace in these?"
"God, how do you see other religions that don't praise you? Are they all wrong? How can that be?"
"As a kid I pondered about the various different religions in the world and how I was raised in a Christian household. I wondered what my life would have looked like if my parents were Catholic, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, etc. I never liked the idea of believing in the right or correct religion or God because I feel like as children a lot of our religious beliefs are fed to us. My constant question of faith is, could we all believe in the same God? Can I believe that God is fair enough, just enough to give everyone an opportunity to experience his presence and glory no matter where or how we grew up?"
How we view/understand God and God's love for us
"I'm working on viewing God as an all-knowing, good, holy, justice seeking, LGBTQ affirming, and gracious being. In doing so, its been easier to view God as a gender-neutral/non-binary source of peace and power. I've come to find viewing him as the Father limits my understanding of Him to an omnipotent white male who reinforces the closed-minded Christianity that I so staunchly believed growing up. Now can I be changing my view of Him as God the Mother/Healer/Lover/Savior and not rethink the validity of everything I once believed?"
"What is it so hard to believe I am loved by God even though I'm sinful?"
"What does full-self acceptance look like while knowing and believing that you are also a sinner?"
"Why am I the way I am?"
"God how much do you love me?"
What is the Bible?
"What authority does/should the Bible have in my life when it was written 1000s of years ago by men w/o scientific method or multi-cultural understanding, from a patriarchal world view?"
What does the Bible say about...?
"Is pre-marital sex okay? 1. OT sex was used as a batering tool for marraige. 2. OT - people had multiple wives / concubines. 3. sex was such a taboo thing in the ancient world and reviled. Do you think it's the same now or should change? Like our view on homosexuality? Is there a shift that should be there?"
"Tithe - is that a thing of the old or new testament? And why don't all churches preach it? Why doesn't Oak Life teach it?"
Injustice, suffering and our role
"Why are you allowing our government to enact such atrocities as separating families who are desperate for safety, spending billions on weapons while allowing millions to be homeless?"
"How can I actively change social systems that hurt us?"
"Why do good people/children suffer abuse and trauma?"
"The verse from today said seek, ask knock- but how do you balance that with the God from Romans 9 which says who are you to answer back to God and Gods response to Joy. Seems like God is ok with you asking questions until it pertains to his decisions/sovereignty- but if that's what I'm struggling with (his goodness/character) it seems like God just wants me to not ask anything at all."
"God, when are you going to bless me with millions of dollars?"
"So many parts of what we consider "Christianity" in this modern world are coercion. What if the core of Christianity is only social coercion too?"