The Power of Simplicity (abstract)

I was shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing.

This idea of transcendent purpose has affected me as of late, a clinging to a purpose I can serve, one that is larger than the vanities of our day. King Solomon told us that “All is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2). If not but for God, it would seem that Solomon ended up a nihilist. He felt what we all feel eventually, that the toil of life mixed with the purposelessness found in the perfunctory grind of our daily action is the legacy of dead men walking.

We work diligently in thought and deed for great swaths of time towards goals we find give us a sense of relevance. These are different for all. Maybe you are saving the manatees. Perhaps you follow the political battles of Washington D.C., working hard each day to know and understand your platform, so you can defend it, prepared to forgive the trespasses on your side, and militantly oppose the other. You may march with signs. You may work towards a financial goal, or strive to build a business. Perhaps you pursue love, and escape in the delirium of intense desire. You build a world around a hope, an earthly hope that has no choice but to crumble under the weight of your expectations. No matter your interest, as it pulls you from ecstasy to the depths, and back again, any achievement or reciprocation received is short lived, and leads only to bitter unrest at the knowledge that any joy it brings will not endure.

Does this foreknowledge of failure make you negative? A pessimist? Being able to see the collapse of hope in the distance, and unable to stop it often makes us even more dedicated to our dream. It could even be stated that doubt and uncertainty are part of a recipe necessary for coveting that which we cannot live without. It is shocking the violence that takes place in the mind when our desires and fears mix. Compulsive daydreams infect how we perceive reality, and despite the real understanding that all will burn, along with the knowledge that we are helpless to stop it, we choose to run headlong towards an ecstatic finale we know is not there.

So then, what purpose transcends this inevitable disappointment? Further, what transcends our lives? Fame? Sex? Power? Glory? We would need a purpose that exists beyond our time here. One that makes us part of something much grander than our accomplishments. Robert Lewis wrote: “A transcendent cause must be truly heroic, timeless, and supremely meaningful.”

Upon reflection, there is only one thing in the universe that qualifies. That is Jesus Christ. And lo and behold, He has offered to make us a part of His transcendent story.

So these items we cherish, wine, love, money, they as blessings cause enjoyment in one who’s focus is on Christ. They are merely things He has placed in your path as you live and grow in sanctification. But, as idols, they take, and they keep taking, and no permanent  satisfaction will ever be attained from them. The idols like those I have sought to validate me, instead have devoured me, and refusing to admit they were there, it was to the depths I went. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32:3)

But to acknowledge this? How good I perceived myself as being versus how broken my actions had become? So twisted that God had to actually save loved ones from me? Deliver them from me, as I had become a catalyst for pain and lack of peace?  Who was this man I never meant to be? My heart desired what I dare not speak aloud, much less pray for. I coveted. I had false idols. I wished to steal (not just material things, but love, dignity, respect of others, time, freedom, for the most dire things stolen are not things at all). I am angry. I lust. This all means I bear false witness. A liar, especially to myself. One then who is blind to sins known since childhood, sins known to have been written by the very finger of God. What a pretty picture of a Christian.

And the result? Distance from God. Silence in prayer life. Anxiety. Inability to properly love others. Self-loathing. To be the clanging cymbal that has no love in his heart. Despair. And how much more, in these depths, did I rail against the world for my causes, or grasp harder for my purpose, my secular validation? Or, how much more did I escape, self-medicate, choose negligence, indifference. Has the man who militantly blames society for his pain examined his character?  Do the high ideals in the public square extend to his wife and kids? Does he bring the whole of himself home each night, as priest of it? Does he grab his wife’s hand and pray with her, or teach his son or daughter why the bible is true, or how to love? Does the daughter witness from him what she should expect out of a husband someday, or is this not a consideration the father should concern himself with? Can he put himself last and still hope for fulfillment when all the magic he desires is rationed to the fortunate unworthy standing in the wake of his life’s disintegration? Look in his eyes; he is simply not there.

Unfortunately, recognition of who we truly are must proceed change. When we all started this journey, we thought to ourselves, I will be this type of Christian, or this type of spouse, or this type of parent. My intentions are to be purposeful and knightly, and full of honor. But all is vanity; and distractions erode us; and idols fill us; and it isn’t long before we have forgotten how to love, because we have forgotten who loved us first.

The simplicity of life: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) The Alpha, the Omega, and your transcendent purpose. It need not be more complicated then this. All else, blessings to be enjoyed, or not.  In a world of distractions, and the great whirlwind of lives to compare and contrast yourself with, and the pressure of forcing idols to answer wishes for love and money, what if we take Christ at His word. What if it is enough? And in this power, as it allows you to love properly again, you live out the life you were meant to?

I was shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing. Starting at the center of myself, and working out. The parts I could control. I could be thankful for the music, and the steam, and be blessed to feel the satisfaction of a proper shave, and the calm in which this romantic chore took place. Like an artist who paints a leaf, there was beauty in the smallness of the moment, and I was “allowed” to be part of it. From here, what man would I chose to be? I could step out and complain about money, or Washington D.C., or be anxious for investment returns, or escape into a fantasy of love never actualized. Would these actions help me love others the way they needed to be loved? The way they deserve to be loved by me?

Or can I step outside the walls of my bathroom and be a different man; a simpler man, and not concentrate on the periphery of the world, but on my walk down the hallway, the embrace of my child, the prayer that my loved ones deserve, the health and wellness my body deserves, the study of scripture that my God deserves. I could ask God to teach me to love others better, and then make efforts to do that. Imagine it! Edifying others without seeking gain!

But I wanted them all to think I was smart, and special, and attractive. I wanted to be worth something to everyone.

But would my worth, according to them, change at all how I could love them, if I was loving them properly? Can I change that? No. I can change only me.

This will change my home. Which will change my church. Which may change my town. Which may change the state. Which may change the country. Which may change the world. But I leave this to God. I won’t yell at you about who you are supposed to be. I will do better at what I should have been doing. Overtime, perhaps I can be forgiven for having loved so badly, and so selfishly. But, it was coming from my flesh, not Christ, so it was bound to an inherently faulty foundation. If I can truly make Christ first, then how I see the world, how I love the world, everything changes. And everything is simplified into one transcendent purpose. Suddenly, I feel blessed just to be allowed to enjoy any of this silly old world at all.

Micah 6:8 – He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Isaiah 49:4 – But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”

And so, I was just shaving, using an old-fashioned boars hair brush, and homemade farmer’s market shaving soap that smells like sandalwood and lavender, listening to Sinatra, and slowing the haste of the world with my breathing. And I thanked God.

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Dark Streak

Romans 7: 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

How many times have these verses been used to rationalize sin in a Christian’s life. For myself, the verse occurs to me all too often. I, panic-stricken, will scan the horizon of my journey for fruit of the spirit, and will quickly tally righteous action or heartfelt attempts at ministry to weigh against a hidden darkness. But when God shines the bright lights of holiness like a spotlight  upon the part of yourself you were unwilling to face, the part you refused to humble, the dark streak to which you held fast, it is shocking how paltry the offering of good works seems. As we have learned from Isaiah, these works are filthy rags, each one a complexity of self-serving, accolade seeking, pride boosting liabilities, that crumbles like dust in the searing light of holiness. What’s left is the desperate cry for grace.

A cry for grace, because you know you need it, and because you realize you’re not worthy of it, and you fear a God who may not give it.

A mentor has said, “If you don’t choose to humble yourself, God will choose to humble you.” So to scripture then, when God asked Pharaoh through Moses, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” Or how about 1 Peter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” But as Paul said in Romans, “But this evil I keep on doing…”

Every person struggles with sin, many struggle specifically with that one thing, that one thing they keep for themselves, that they won’t die to, that they fight to retain, that darkness that no one is allowed to see. But it will get comfortable to feed it, and it will be easier to ignore the expanding edges of that dark place, and it will seem sane to rationalize an unhealthy paradigm you’ve created for yourself. It will start to not matter that you have to lie to yourself every moment, and eventually you will grow to feel empowered by this thing. You think I jest? Tell me it doesn’t sound powerful to be in control of darkness, to navigate the perils of secrecy for just one more day, so that each titillating result was a pleasure earned, and a temple to your own desires you were able to  guard. You took back control, didn’t you? It felt good to immerse yourself in it, didn’t it? To push the boundaries of reality, and euphorically realize reality hasn’t stopped you? How could you not keep pushing?!

Your sin will hurt you, but what’s worse, it will diminish your relationship with God, and it will harm your testimony, sometimes beyond repair. In the midst of darkness, we can rationalize hurting ourselves, but soon the darkness will begin to hurt others, and that will be hard to watch. The fall out is typically preceded by warnings, but in the end, for a holy God, it is better to ruin your life and save your soul, then to gain your darkness and lose it. We see the verse in Matthew, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Hence the great light of Christ, the devastating blessing, the humbling exposure to holiness, the loss of all your power…

But you are not alone, and I am not alone, and so we turn back to God, damaged and free, humbled and grateful, with a fuller understanding of what grace means, and an appreciation for how it saves a wretch like me. We look back through biblical history and take comfort in how God used the broken to carry out His will. We pray thanks for a justification we don’t deserve, and hope that understanding makes us that much better at telling others about the good news.

As for me, I have a dark streak, it has always been there, and I don’t think it will ever go away, but I know that I am not alone. The solution is simple; just keep shining light on it. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:4-5

How Geisler Defeated Skepticism

The great apologist, Norman Geisler, was battling the growing philosophy of skepticism back in the mid-sixties, made popular by David Hume over 200 years earlier. Hume’s skepticism regarding truth led other philosophers to follow suit, to expound on his ideals, leading to the pervasive skeptic movement that still exists today in academia. Hume’s assertion was that things were only actually meaningful if, and only if:

  1. The truth claim is of abstract reasoning, such as 2+2=4, or all triangles have three sides;
  2.  the truth claim can be verified by the 5 senses.

According to his book, if it does not have reasoning concerning quantity or number, and it does not contain experimental reasoning, it should be “committed to the flames” as an illusion.

This of course does away with almost everything forensic in nature, not to mention relegating every religious book to usefulness only as fuel for a book burning.

God within philosophy was hard hit, and it opened up avenues for skeptics that are alive and well even now.

We have discussed The Law of Non-Contradiction, a self-evident first principle of philosophy in the previous article linked here. As a review, the law of non-contradiction states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time, e.g. the two propositions “A is B” and “A is not B” are mutually exclusive.

This Law gives logical ammunition to those who know how to use it as Geisler did, and in a college professor’s class at the University of Detroit in the ’60’s, he did just that. Hume’s philosophy was called ’empirical verifiability’, and was the second chapter of the subject matter being taught during this 14 week course. The professor, a professed atheist, allowed Norman to give his presentation on a chapter. He chose the empirical verifiability chapter.

That morning, the professor said to keep the speech at 20 minutes, so there was room for discussion after. Norm didn’t need that long. He stood up in front of the class, and stated this:

“The principle of empirical verifiability states that there are only two kinds of meaningful propositions: 1. those that are true by definition, and 2. those that are empirically verifiable. Since the principle of empirical verifiability is neither true by definition, nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful.”

He then sat down, and the class and professor both were silent.

Just like that, Norm had shown concisely, that the principle contradicted itself, and was not internally logical. It was self-defeating. The professor later blamed the train wreck of a semester, and all of its volatility on that one statement.

When we are faced with these world views, notice often that the writer or espouser always wishes to be excluded from his or her own statement. This occurs again with Kant, when he claims that no one can know the real world. In this premise he himself claims to know something about the real world.

We do very much believe in a God of logic, and who is reasonable. There is objective morality, objective truth beyond ourselves, and this should comfort us. Without it, we could not know anything at all. This is not to say we understand everything, for what kind of God would that be if we could comprehend all His glory. But, I dare say, it is more comforting believing in Him, then filling your worldview with doubt. What hope is there in doubt?

 

Spiritual Battle, Homelessness, Irrelevance

To the forever homeless. We will travel in the world together until that day, gypsies, knowing the beauty that exists forever out of reach in this life, keeping hope stored in our hearts until we find our way home.

[In the early years of the 16th century there began to appear in Britain some members of a wandering race of people who were ultimately of Hindu origin and who called themselves and their language Romany. In Britain, however, it was popularly believed that they came from Egypt, so they were called Egipcyans or Egyptians. This was soon shortened to Gipcyan, and by 1600 the further altered form Gipsy, Gypsey, began to appear in print. By later in the 1600s the verb gypsy, meaning “to live like a Gypsy” began to be used.]

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:2

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:20

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Psalm 73:25

____________________________________________

 

God, show me my purpose. Let me not be irrelevant. Let not the power of my life, and the love of my heart be unrequited. Teach me what can be, according to your will rather than my own. Please reward the pain of hope; please remove the fear of the hopelessness; Amen:

Psalm 138:8

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

1 Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Habakkuk 2:3

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Psalm 57:2

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Romans 12:1-5

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Psalm 73:26

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Ephesians 1:11

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Ezra 10:4

Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.”

Mark 12:30-31

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Revelation 4:11

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

2 Timothy 1:9

Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

John 5:30

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John 16:13

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Isaiah 46:10

Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 16:25

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Romans 12:1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:18

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Mark 8:35

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

 

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

John 15:5

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Proverbs 3:1-7

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

2 Timothy 2:14-15

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Proverbs 20:5

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Acts 20:24

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Isaiah 49:4

But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”

James 1:2-27

2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[d] 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Hearing and Doing the Word
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Psalm 119:15

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

Luke 9:23

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Ephesians 3:20

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

Philippians 1:6

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Ephesians 1:5

He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

For I know the plans I have for you… or does He?

Do you know this one?

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Of course you do! Favorite verse? Hanging on your wall? Grandma cross-sticked it in your throw pillow? Memorized for inspiration, and hope in your life? I have seen it often as of late, and I do agree, this verse will aid and inspire you greatly… if…. if what? if you are who he is talking to, more specifically the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon! (Jeremiah 29:1)

The bible does not actually have verses, and chapters. They are there as a quick reference. Jeremiah was not talking to you.

A rule of biblical interpretation: The bible cannot mean today what it didn’t mean when it was written, especially just because you want it to. Does God know your future? Yes. Is He omnipotent, and omnipresent? Yes. But He uses many things to accomplish His will, and furthermore does not necessarily impart welfare and goodness to all who believe in Him.

Quite the contrary, many further His work and His will for a future kingdom by suffering hardships, loss and pain. Does He know these plans as well? Yes. And yes, there is hope in that. But we must be careful not to ignore the context of a passage when we simply scripture-grab for our own personal peace of mind. One apologist goes so far as to say, “Never read a bible verse!”

In this way he emphasizes the importance of getting context with your statements, and of not imparting historic descriptive passages with prescriptive powers upon our lives.

You can see the error of this method much more clearly if we approach it from a different angle. For example, your friend or loved one approaches, and says, “man, I am having such a rough time. I am so anxious, and depressed lately, I just need to seek God.”

And you respond, “Hey, just remember, friend, Jeremiah 6:11-12 says to us, ‘Therefore I am full of the wrath of the Lord;
I am weary of holding it in.
“Pour it out upon the children in the street,
and upon the gatherings of young men, also;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
the elderly and the very aged.
Their houses shall be turned over to others,
their fields and wives together,
for I will stretch out my hand
against the inhabitants of the land,”
declares the Lord.'”

Hang that on your wall! Thought you were feeling bad before? How about applying this verse randomly to your situation?

You can see the point here. We cannot just pluck and plug things that make us feel better. God was using His prophet to speak with the elders at that time. It is historical, and instructive, and does teach us about the Israeli nation, and further bolsters our understanding about the line of redemption and His good works. But again, unless Nebuchadnezzar took you into exile 2600 years ago, and you are a surviving elder of this time period, you cannot simply apply this to your life. It may feel good, but as stated many times in these articles, we aren’t Christians because it is easy, or because of an emotional payoff. We are Christian, simply because it is true.

There is a great and bloody history in the bible. The thin red line of the redemption of Jesus Christ is fraught with many a fallen person, doing many unspeakable things. There is murder, rape, incest, war, prostitution, theft, idol worship. These are there for us to learn truth. These are not prescriptions on how to live.

Did I ruin your favorite verse?

Let us respect these verses in context.

New Book Idea: Unlike my Norm; Chapter 1 – Mr. Malus.

1

I’m a grown man. I can’t be inducing these thoughts. These rifts of reality. I introduce them to my day, convinced that the fiber of realism can in fact be split and let in the light of the supernatural. Supernatural? Perhaps not. Perhaps this is the wrong word. Perhaps more the impossible. The surreal. Gosh, wouldn’t that make life more interesting.

I was driving through the cogs and sprawls of the city, making my way to either my next episode of escapism, or to my next work appointment. I can’t remember, but I’ll know when I get there. I will ascertain on the fly whether I must be a grounded, lucid, intellectual, conducting acquisitions for profit in the decaying streets, to which a disproportionately high value has been attributed. If focused eyes, and a winner’s grin, mixed with confidant manufactured happiness and well annunciated words is warranted, then I shall summon the energy to perform as always. If it is escapism, I am free. Free to not remember what my address is, what my mobile number is, which email I am diverting information to, and for what purpose. And why is my fax number still on my business card? Have I received an actual fax in the last two years?

The power lines along the highway have charred and burned the trees they hover over. Ever notice that? In a nice neat manicured line, the foliage – what is left of it in this city – starkly flips from a peaked green to a miserable rusty brown, which follows the power lines through the landscape perfectly. This energy we have plugged ourselves to, we answer to it, don’t we? It kills what’s below it, but that doesn’t stop us from blasting it throughout all discernable space, and running it through every living thing at high velocity. It is a wonder anything can legally be called organic.

When I arrive at my destination, I realize the nature of my visit. It is a mission to prepare for the coming dystopia. We must of course be ready. It is in fact my responsibility, is it not? What kind of a man would I be if I saw threats at the periphery, and did nothing. I’d be a coward, that’s what. Today I would speak again to Eugene, the leather shop owner. Oh the smell as you walk in, pure time travel. Yes, of course, certain modern accompaniments taint the experience. There is after all a Sky-Drive here, a constant influx of digital garbage the workers and patrons can barely take their eyes from. Roving holographic pictures projected amidst pale blue light. The lighting was modern, and the air conditioning robbed me of the sweat and grit that belongs in the 1800’s. But the bells on the door were real when I walked in. The smell is real. And the gun in my briefcase is real.

“Eugene, did you come up with a price yet?”

He adjusted his glasses, “Mr. Malus. Welcome back. I have been thinking about your proposition. Since you are putting me, technically, in the awkward position of knowing your intentions of carrying a firearm in the city limits, I have to work on this alone. It being illegal will make the price go up.”

“Placing a leather compartment in a leather bag isn’t in and of itself, illegal. But yes, I understand. To do it right, I had to tell you its purpose. I assume the extra expense will assure me that you will not talk about the job once it’s done?”

“Agreed. I’ll do it for a thousand.”

“Deal.” I had so many uncashed checks laying at home, and in my safety deposit box, and in my briefcase. My money didn’t get spent on the vices and trappings society continually programmed me to purchase. It allowed me liberties beyond that of my fellow man. A client might beam with delight as he showed me his new Lexus, popping that switchblade key and activating that chirping ignition notification at the same time they popped that Hollywood grin. $600 per month to go from A to B in comfort, knowing full well that if someone presented the flip and threat of a true switchblade, they would pee down the pant leg of their khaki slacks. Meanwhile, I had my hand on a weapon, and could safely maintain my day, my night, my territorial bubble. I could even protect khaki–piss-britches who would be no worse for wear, other than the fowl ammonia smell on the seat of his new car as he went home to lie a different story to his wife. This, of course, after he curiously did his own laundry for the first time since they said ‘I do’. My money would increase my capabilities, prepare me for the events of the surreal. I would walk tall through the unknown, without the much too comfortable poly-fab seats caressing my uselessly large ass. I’ll walk among them all, ready, and no one will know.

“Please step in back here, Mr. Malus. I’ll have to measure the size and dimensions of the weapon.” I stepped beyond the counter, and past the curious and scraggly employee. Once in the office, he shut the door. I drew my weapon from the friction holster, a 9MM Walther, expertly cared for, and unchambered. The uneasy knowledge of vulnerability as I disarm washes over me as I eject the magazine, and rack the slide to present the barrel as empty to the shop owner. The 1800’s are a dangerous place after all. Eugene made his measurements, and we shook hands. I reloaded, and put the holster in my waistband, pulling my untucked Oxford dress shirt over it, as my rugged leather briefcase had to stay. When I got it back, I would have the compartment I wanted, sitting waist high, invisible to everyone. A gunslinger walking in plain sight.

An espresso was in order. As a socialite walking among the decadence of a Bohemian lifestyle, it was important to project a slim and dignified demeaner. My phone rang as I stepped in to the coffee shop. “Hello?”

“Is this Richard Johnson with Optimum Realty?”

Perhaps an opportunity to liaise the hostile takeover of a business. What lives would be affected by this one phone call. Would families starve? Would someone lose hope? Would someone get taken advantage of? “Yes, it is. How can I help you?”

“Yeah, man. I need you to look at my property. I need a certain amount out of it, and like uh, I just need help selling it, you know? I have tried selling it on my own, and stuff, but I just think it needs advertising. I was gonna fix it up, but I think its best if I just get what I can out of it.”

I took the address. What empire was this that crumbled? It sounded dire. I wish this particular business mogul spoke in a wiser manner. He came off as ignorant. We move mountains here, sir! We control the collapse of commerce, of civility. Should he not revere it as thus with how he speaks. So unsophisticated, it almost ruins the game.

I told this gentleman, this lead, that I would have admin set something up immediately, and that I looked forward to helping with his objectives. I then responded as K.C. Malus, and CC’d myself on the email. K.C. is of course my office administrator. We must project professionalism, yes even in these uncertain times. I would meditate a moment, before sending an email out as her. I know, it’s weird, but you have to write different. K.C. is a strong independent woman. She is as knowledgeable as me, pleasant and graceful in tone, but does not appreciate being talked down to for being a woman. She knows her worth, and might add an appropriate amount of sass in correspondence if her boss Richard can’t afford the risk of sounding haughty. K.C.’s profile pic on the emails is so attractive, you might be surprised at what she gets away with. She of course has access to my calendar, and the meeting with the distinguished lead was set for later that day.

 

It was tough to pretend. The building was falling down. “How much did you say you needed out of it?” I asked. The gentleman I spoke to on the phone was now next to me, staring at this blight. He was perfectly bald on the crown of his head, with black straggly hair falling from the back and sides of his skull to his mid-back. He spoke with a head bobbing motion, as if he was mentally attending a constant party with a steady beat. His own type of escapism apparently, dreadfully inferior. Who would aspire to be simply grooving, and to what end? To achieve nothing other than avoiding despair.

“I gotta get like $90,000 for it man. I went in with my buddy, and we poured money into it, but then he bailed, and I came over here and no work had been done. Just demo work, man.” He chuckled at his misfortune, and continued to bob his dull head to the beat of some unheard song. I palmed the heel of my gun, just to entertain myself, knowing if things were dystopian, he’d not likely survive our meeting.

“Sir. The reality is, the land it sits on is the only attributable and quantifiable value it possesses. The appraised value of said land equals between $15,000 and $20,000. It is a small third acre, and this precludes its use from a national tenant perspective.” I wanted his head to explode. “Furthermore, it sits back from the main commercial corridor, approximately 200 feet. Not to mention we have this building on it, which is all but a shell, and most of which is hardly salvageable. The reality is, I could sell it for $15,000 minus the cost to demo the building, if you don’t do so yourself. After commissions are paid, you may walk with $7500, and I am guessing by that look on your face, that this scenario puts you far short of your break-even point.” Please throw up, please throw up. What a story to tell the networking group.

“Guys, you won’t believe what happened this week. I was summoned uptown to do an opinion of value on this whale of a client who was upside down and looking to liquidate some of his assets. I had to shoot him straight (make gun signs with fingers) and laid out the financial realities of his position. I can’t tell you who it is, but safe to say you know him. Anyway, he started getting really wobbly, and I kid you not, he turned and threw up all over his office. I jumped back, and he absolutely hosed down his desk and floor to ceiling windows.

“What did you say?!”

“What could I say? I tossed him the hanky from my breast pocket, and told him that wasn’t the trash can.” I’d grab my six pack abs and chortle. “Hey, that’s life in the big city.”

“Oh, man, you said that?! I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

The distinguished gentleman who needed $90,000 for his 3 and a half brick walls on a third acre shook my hand, and said thanks anyways. He would just have to let it die. “Hell with it, man,” he said. “’preciate you comin’ all the way out here though, man.” And just like that, he be-bopped his merry way up the road, and I never saw him again. He won’t survive the coming world. Luckily this one was made for him. Despite the glaring lack of street smarts, and pathetic attempts towards life management, this person would not miss a meal. He will sleep under a roof tonight, and most likely has someone that he can have sex with whenever he wants, guy, or girl. He will be coddled, and caressed, and cared for, and regardless of the self-destructive activities he performs on a body and a life that is forever treated as a rental, he will be guaranteed the world’s best healthcare, the world’s dankest weed, an endless supply of Natural Lite, innumerable opportunities to succeed, and no risk whatsoever to his life or lifestyle. He will survive, and he will vote. He will convince a pretty, and tragically wounded single woman who is way too good for him and doesn’t know it, that he is mysterious and artistic, and that if it wasn’t for bad luck, he would already have been a millionaire many times over. And she will invest herself in him, physically at first, then psychologically, until her potential degrades into dependence on him. And so it goes with millions. All but me. This society is unsustainable.

Fundamentals, Heroes, and Rabbit Trails

As an author, sometimes, I get caught up in apologetics, and science. It can be a mentally stimulating distraction. But the truth is, though my writing and research may help fortify the faith of others, or raise good questions, or even give people confidence that there is someone out there who “actually” believes that the bible is still real, and relevant, in a world where the power of mankind is idolized, I don’t expect to change many hearts, if any. I dare say, that is not my job, and furthermore, I continue to work on my own as well, learning through study and regurgitating facts, bolstering my faith, wading through the perceived relative truth of the day. But as much as I enjoy learning and teaching, my heart remains… we will say… a work in progress.

One thing I noticed upon meeting some of the apologetic greats of our time, and that is, they had the fundamentals down. They seemed stoic and stable. These were not houses of cards ready to tumble at the first sign of strife. They were prayed up, and forged, soldiers bought by the blood of Christ. It wasn’t just knowledge, and facts, and answers. They loved what they did, and they love the Lord.

Each of us must prepare our hearts, in our own way for what’s to come, what is here, what we walk through. And I would go out on a limb and guess that each of us, despite the constant motion of our trudging actions towards goals, we internally and continually fight off doubt, search for meaning and purpose, and attempt to validate our existences in some form or another. For some it is sexual conquest. For others it is money, others power. But John Eldridge illustrates in his book, Wild at Heart, this common theme of validating ourselves through God, a theme I relate to in my mind, but struggle with in my heart. The bible supports this theme, through Solomon’s Ecclesiastical outlook on the vanity of all things not God, among other places.

But with so many barometers for success held in high esteem all around us, and so many desires in the human heart to chase what makes us happy, despite all morality or consequence, how hard is it to simply be satisfied with who you are in Christ. To present yourself to the world, damaged, and unafraid. Vulnerable. At home in Him. The truth is, the world would eat you up, and spit you out if you did this. Furthermore, I don’t have the strength to do it.

I’ve been in constant prayer as of late, not under the illusion that I will change God’s mind to conform to mine, but instead to search for His will in my life, and to ask for His will to be done in the lives of those I love. I realize I am not the solution, but He is. That I can’t heal myself or others, but He can. I can’t forgive myself, but He did forgive me.

I wanted so badly to be the hero of the love story. To be the one who changed hearts, and gave loved ones sanctuary, and to quell their fears. I wanted my book, my advice, my words, my caring, to be powerful forces in their journeys. I wanted credit in the form of affection for my effectiveness. I wanted the love that was “owed” to me because of all I had accomplished. I wanted to be enough. I am not.

After much prayer, the Lord has seen fit to grant me some perspective, some empathy, and to look at things from outside of the narrow, self-serving lens through which I view them. It is with this perspective that I sense the deep well of pain within others that I do not remove, and cannot touch, and upon which I have no affect. Who did I think I was? Simply the offering of a broken vessel when someone asks you to hold their water.

Furthermore, all the wise words I have collected, and studied, and regurgitated has not healed my own heart. Because my love is insufficient. You know the verse, made popular as a wedding day staple:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”

It rolls out of us automatic, and we hear it and feel comforted as if those qualities are imbued to us because of our worth. But it is a command, and we fall short. It is a warning, and we fail. What’s more, the warning before it states plainly that my endeavors are simply a clanging instrument, fit for nothing but to annoy, if I do not first have this type of love. I do not.

I have not been patient. I am not kind. I am rude. I am envious and resentful. I struggle to endure, and I struggle to keep hope. How then, can I be anyone’s hero. I cannot save anybody.

I wanted so desperately to be the paladin. The knight that edified those I love. In trying, I engage, and re-engage, jealously coveting accolades and kudos meant for my thoughtfulness, and resenting achieved value obtained by vehicles other than myself. I beg for compliments to sustain my self-worth, and when they fade, I crave reassurance, like an addict. I force answers and demand change, because in my heart I think that I really ought to be enough. I am not.

Let us then let the truth shine.

I am the clanging cymbal. So, to all those to whom I have spoken with insufficient, imperfect love, I am sorry.

I am not light. Christ is.

I am not a sanctuary for anyone in my brokenness. Christ is.

My love is not sufficient to save anyone. Christ’s is.

I am no lion. Christ is. 

I am no one’s king. Christ is.