Author: Out of Nod

The Teaching of the Apostles

In “The Basics and Christianity”, Acts 2:42 provides an overview of the basic practices of Christianity.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The first item mentioned in this list is the “apostles’ teaching”.  What are the teachings of the apostles?

The teachings of the apostle can be summed up in the Gospel.  The good news.  What is this good news that these men taught to the world which had such an astounding effect that even our concept of time measurement was changed by it?  The gospel can be summed up as the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, with the heaviest emphasis being on his death and resurrection.  The gospel accounts are presented in four books and are heavily supported by both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The Old Testament is the Hebrew bible, the tanakh.  The tanakh is broken down into the Torah (teaching), the Nevi’im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings).  Within the Old Testament are histories, laws, poetry, philosophies, and prophesies that point to the gospel and further support its central narrative.

The New Testament can be summed up as the combination of the gospel accounts and the teachings of the apostles Peter, John, and Paul (with Jude and James offering support to these teachings).  There are also histories and prophecies in the New Testament, which pertain to the early growth of the church and the end game of history when Christ returns and restores everything to the Father.

The Old Testament, the Gospel accounts, and the New Testament make up the Christian scriptures, the bible.  It is through the scriptures that we learn about the person of Jesus Christ and the need for him to come into this world.  He is the “chief cornerstone” of the entire Christian faith and without belief in him and his works, the rest of Christianity does not stand.  The rest of scripture, the apostles’ teaching, is the foundation built around Jesus; the ground work for the Christian faith and its practice.


The Basics and Christianity

In “Mastery Through The Basics”, I discussed the process of a beginners road to proficiency and further mastery through the practice of martial arts.   The martial artist begins with a white belt that through time becomes darkened signifying proficiency and then returning back to white signifying mastery.  A return to the beginnings.

The point of this is to set the stage of a more specific topic: Christianity.  In my experience, the basics of Christianity are constantly glossed over in the church service to provide a spiritual worship experience, a practical or encouraging message, and a means to get involved in the community through giving to the church.  The experience is coming off as empty; it has given me pause and begs the question.

What is Christianity?

According to Christianity’s most important text, the bible, Christian was a name given to the disciples of Jesus Christ in Antioch (Acts 11:26).  A disciple is an active adherent of ones teachings and is somebody who actively spreads those teachings.  I dare to venture another definition of Christianity, based on Acts 2:42.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

According to this definition, a Christian is a devotee to the teachings of the apostle’s of Jesus Christ which included fellowship, meals/communion, and prayer.

Mastery Through The Basics

As babies, we don’t start out walking.  It takes a lot of effort on the part of the baby, and is helped through the encouragement and the hard work of a loving family.  The baby starts on his back and learns how to roll on his stomach.  When on his stomach he learns how to crawl, which gives him the strength to push himself up to a standing position.  Once he is standing he then begins to walk – one step, two steps.  He falls, countless times, but then he gets up to try again until he learns how to control that fall, catching himself with his other leg and developing a consistent rhythm of fall-catch-fall-catch.  He performs the skill till it becomes so ingrained that he can do other things while walking.

At this point, the baby is proficient in the skill of self transportation.  He will no longer need to be carried – at least not until he has lost the ability to use his legs.  This ability to walk forms the basis of running, of dancing, of  martial arts, and a long list of other skills requiring the usage of legs.

And the development of the skill is often forgotten…proficiency is sufficient.

Mastery on the other hand, is the returning to those basics.  Constantly.  A master has gone through the necessary process of learning through trial and error, and seeks to understand that process beyond the point of proficiency.  He can pick out the short comings in the basics of others as well as in himself, correct it, and reason about it.  Mastery reinforces and emphasizes the need for the basics.

In the martial arts, a student is given a white belt.  This belt over time would be dirtied by mud and blood, and it would become darker until it turned black.  The black belt would signify proficiency in the martial art.   At this point, the student was trained enough to where he was no longer a danger to himself and more of danger to his opponents.  If the student continued training, that black belt would fade and fray, exposing another layer of white beneath it.  This signified the progression of proficiency to mastery, a returning to the basics.  True mastery requires a returning to the basics with the wisdom and understanding of proficiency.

Mt. St. Helens Climb

This will be my first trip report.  I don’t do this often – heck I don’t really post much in general.  I consider “Out of Nod” to be more of a personal commentary site on the affairs of American Christianity and current events (if I even post about it).  But being how Nod is the land of wandering, here is one of my recent wanderings…

A few friends and I ended up climbing Mt. St. Helens on February 25th, 2017.  The last time I attempted this mountain was Thanksgiving weekend in 2015 – and it kicked my ass! We ended up starting at the Worm Flows Route – a route that is estimated to be a 12 mile round trip with a 5700 ft gain (if you go to the summit).   The route was arduous being that there was fresh snowfall on the mountain the week before.  We expected that we would be breaking a lot of trail. The weather conditions were perfect in the morning and many skiiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers were out in force!

We began the trek from Seattle at about 3:00 in the morning, and arrived in the parking lot at 7:30, filled out our permits, put on our snowshoes, and began the trek across the snow covered land, leaving behind the smell of gasoline coming from the snowmobiles whose riders were taking advantage of the great weather and the fresh powder.  The trail is fairly flat initially with a small gain of 1000ft over the course of a couple miles.  We were making some decent time despite the fact that we went in hot – we had to stop to take off some layers.

We left the forest to be greeted by the mountain – the beast that we will be climbing!

Exiting the forest at the base of the mountain. (Dave, me, and Scott)

The next 4 miles would be a marathon!  The goal is to make it to the summit/rim by 2:00 in the afternoon.  That way we would be able to make it back to the car before it gets dark.  This is just as much a safety issue as it is a goal – the snow becomes less stable as it warms up in the afternoon increasing chances for injury or avalanche.

After passing the weather station, the trail began to get real steep.  We made it to this point at about 10:30am.  We made sure to take a break every hour to keep hydrated and to increase our calories – one can easily burn thousands of calories in a single mountain climb (I normally burn about 3000-5000).  The snow shoes and added weight only increases this need for energy even more.  This becomes important, especially as you increase in altitude; your body starts to play tricks on you above 5000ft.  Salt intake is also important as your legs begin to cramp up – a regular occurrence for me in the last couple years…

At about 1:00 we came to a decision point.  Do we go for summit or do we go for rim?  We wanted to attempt a summit but realized that there were no tracks heading towards it – one of the team members also dug into the snow to check for avalanche conditions and it was determined that it wasn’t the safest bet to do so.  The weather was also starting to look sinister around us – snowfall was called for in the afternoon.  We decided to head for the rim (which is still at about 8100ft).

Mt. St. Helens summit in the background

We hit the rim at 1:45 in the afternoon – slightly better than our 2:00 goal!  Success!  Once we hit the rim, we stopped for lunch.  I had a sandwich calling my name!  The rim was a warm 10 degrees Fahrenheit!  And of course, a mountain is never complete without wind – making it even warmer!  Hard to eat food when your freezing but there was another concern I had.  The weather took a turn.  As we got food and water, the sky that had been blue and nice 30 minutes before turned white and our field of view shrank.  We were prevented from seeing into the crater – the remains of the mountain which had blown up 37 years ago!

Stopping for lunch at the rim before the white out

The decent from the mountain was a little dicey – due to the whiteout we could barely see 50 feet in front of us and any tracks that were in place were quickly covered by fresh powder.  This is why white outs are so dangerous.  But my team was made up of veteran climbers and they enjoyed the opportunity to test their navigation skills and GPS technology to help us backtrack off ourselves off the mountain.

The climb down was actually a lot more dicey for me.  My snowshoe bindings came lose which caused a lot of ankle problems for me – and was the cause for one long stop in the cold.  Further more one of my boot laces had become untied, which made my toes bang into the front of my boot.  This is even worse when you’re going down hill and you have 5 miles left in the decent – another stop!  This was also my first time with the snowshoes I was wearing (this is a recent hobby as of the New Year), so I hadn’t quite figured out my binding settings, and I hadn’t quite figured out that when going down hill you want to step on as fresh of snow as possible and not into the footsteps of others (in relation to wanting to step in other peoples tracks when going uphill).

When we had left the top of the mountain at about 2:15pm, we reached the parking lot after dark at around 7:00 pm.  The flat ground was nice to walk on after that – I had a further appreciation for the civilization that waited for me back home. We stopped at the Cougar Bar and Grill to enjoy ourselves a nice warm meal and the friendly hospitality of southern Washington folk before making the 3 hour trek back to our homes in Seattle.

When I got home, my legs were so beaten that I had a hard time taking off my pants.  I took a well deserved shower, hit the sack, and slept like a baby.  I was looking forward to the 6 hours of dancing I would be doing the next day and the stories I would be telling to the women in my classes.