Trust

God has seen fit to grant me great faith. I say this, without boasting, for even at my worst, when all my lights faded, I knew the word to be true. I believed in the reality of God, an awesome creator, and author of real love and salvation. Belief became obvious for me. Yet, trusting Him, and trusting Christ through the day to day, through the broken plans, and the if-onlys, and the dreams of how I saw things going, this is where I falter, this is part of being sanctified, part of our endurance, part of our refinement, as I understand it. A lesson that despite my faith, I fail over and over. Trusting God, trusting in His plan, His laws, His instruction, His goals, His kingdom over my own wishes; for my wishes seem right to me, seem possible, seem magical, and seem more important.

Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It says so in 1 Corinthians 12:

8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in various tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues…

I have been on the precipice of despair, I have felt the hopelessness of all my remaining years, I have wrestled with the imminent death of those I have loved, and I have walked through many a failing dream, and at my lowest low, this faith that God was ultimately above all things never left me, and at times was most likely the only thing that saved me.

But still… as these trials linger, and my search for purpose rolls onward, I find once more I have screamed into the wind, that I have built secular temples and trappings, that I have compared myself to all those who are what I am not, because I fail to walk with trust. And so enduring each trial becomes a stubborn reminder that I have not learned.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Joshua 1:9 says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Psalms 56:3 says, “when I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

Not in myself, or my plans, but in Him. Psalms 20:7, some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord.

We are told not to lean on our own understanding, which seems counter-intuitive as a young Christian. But as I have gotten older, and have seen the failures of my own understanding, this instruction begins to slip past the pride of my heart, and starts making sense. Trust.

So as we look to the future, we trust. We pray and trust. Even when we do not see a hope. We make decisions each day, we try to be ready for whatever purpose, whatever end; but we trust.

We plan our tomorrows with such pride and tenacity, don’t we? The dreaming, building up around us all that we deem pleasing. The reality of these hopes never remain, it is the way of a thousand small deaths.

James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

So on this day, May 5th, 2018, I consider the question, what will I be doing in 5 years; what has God ordained that I cannot yet see? What successes, or what hopelessness, or what cynicism, or what love. It will be interesting to see the reality of May 5th, 2023, in comparison with my mind’s wishes, or fears. All my useless what-ifs. So I pray again for trust, and say again, if it is the Lord’s will…

Perhaps it is time to have trust in our faith. Not just faith in Him. Not just trust in self.  “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” – Revelations 21:5

Perhaps trust in God is the key to curing the bitter heart.

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The Gospel in Genesis (Bible Coincidences)

A non-believer would have to care enough about the study of the word of God to affirm there are indeed “coincidences” before he or she would have to deal with them intellectually. While it is true that some higher critics do this on a small scale, it is my opinion that there are so many so-called “coincidences” that seem to align perfectly throughout biblical history, that it becomes quite clear that the word could not have come about by accident, or fable, or from the simple imaginings of an ancient people. Sadly though, most who want the bible to be false will not take the time to consider its treasures.

For one looking for the truth of God, the NT instructs them to knock, to seek, to ask;

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7),

and in doing these things, one may indeed find faith-building evidences in the text, and in our human history that verify what the bible has stated all along. If a student were to come across such a serendipitous realization, that person would have to ignore it and pretend it isn’t there, dismiss it as coincidence, convince themselves it is a fabrication, or accept that it verifies the truth of the word, the promises of God, and actualizes His will. Easy enough to pick the first three reactions when one, or even two things are happened upon, but with hundreds of prophecies, and collaborative archaeology, it of course becomes increasingly harder to hope that it all means nothing.

As stated, there are hundreds of things we could allude to, but I thought I would share one of my favorites:

Adam Seth Enosh Kenan Mahalalel Jared Enoch Methuselah Lamech Noah.

These are the first ten names in the long line of names leading to Christ. The Bible actually tracks the lineage from Adam all the way to Jesus, the Messiah. The line of redemption, if you will. At first glance they appear like boring lists that no one reads; so and so begat so and so, and lived this many years and he died, and on down the list it goes. Adam begat Seth. Seth begat Enosh. And so on. Each of the lists is what we call a toledoth, which states a group of generations. Genesis consists of ten toledoths, but this one is the first ten men that make up the line of Christ. Here is the text from Genesis 5:

“When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father[b] of Enosh. 7 After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. 13 After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. 16 After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. 19 After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29 He named him Noah[c] and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” 30 After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.”

As it turns out, these ancient, but seemingly innocuous names are no accident, and are very special. But no one can explain how this happened, for each name actually has a meaning in ancient Hebrew. They were of course named by men, in their free will, and according to their wishes. So, how then could the names mean anything collectively? The meanings are as follows:

Adam           man

Seth              appointed

Enosh           frail or mortal

Kenan           sorrow

Mahalalel     blessed God

Jared              shall come down

Enoch             teaching

Methuselah   his death shall bring

Lamech          the despairing

Noah               rest or comfort

A non-believer must now ask this – how did the Christian gospel message get presented in the the first toledoth? Do you see it?

“Man is appointed mortal sorrow; but the Blessed God shall come down teaching that His death shall bring the despairing rest.”

You will never convince me that Jewish authors conspired to hide the message of the Christian gospel right there within the Torah.

 

Old Earth Christians

From Prior article on SES National Conference on Christian Apologetics: “…and of a most interesting conflict among the scholars was of course young verses old earth opinions. I may do a follow up article on that, as it was quite unique the way scholars who believe in the big bang theory have to explain themselves under the paradigm of a creator. They certainly have rebuttals and evidences all neatly decided upon, however, to me (though I am no astrophysicist), these explanations fall very short, and completely contradict what we find in God’s word. You can play interpretation games all day long, but as Ken Ham said quite correctly at the conference, you do not get the idea of millions of years from a simple reading of bible. It is a man-made worldview, which must then be shoehorned into the text to make it seem to fit.”

Two  apologists whom I had the pleasure of meeting, and hearing speak, are both adamantly resigned to the “facts” of the Big Bang, and therefore are forced to explain the creation in a seemingly convoluted way, in my opinion. Dr. Hugh Ross, one such apologist, an author of many books, including Improbable Planet, is a proponent of a version of the Day-Age theory, whereas billions of years of prep and design happened during the overlapping “days” of creation. It is impossible to reconcile a plain reading of the bible text as a whole, and not be at the very least, inconsistent in understanding it when you try to force man’s world view into it. Though some of these old-earth Christians are learned scholars, have advanced degrees, and are smarter than I am, (I realize this puts me in precarious waters, though I’d also point out I met many doctors and scientists with my shared opinion as well), they also simultaneously  deny macro-evolution, Darwinism, and abiogenesis. (These processes, if given any serious thought without the philosophy of naturalism, have way too many holes to be viable, so much so that even the great atheists of our day are forced to kick the can of responsibility down the road.) This means they have to somehow imagine a scenario where God lays the groundwork of creation in stages, or steps, leading up to the existence of man, and during the great lengths of time, He must intervene intermittently in order to spur along the groundwork for mankind’s arrival at some later date.

This certainly conjures up many important questions about God, His infinite power and abilities, and why such a lengthy, slow, and clumsy process would be utilized. As stated, the bible certainly doesn’t even imply this process, and we have stated a “good” world in the beginning that stands as an example of what should have been, and that we will one day be redeemed to. This supposed history that led to our “good” and perfect Eden was apparently arrived at through, chaotic volcanoes, cosmic explosions, millions of years of death, carnage, flooding, cancer, thorns, and suffering. Not exactly a lion laying with the lamb scenario.

The problem is exacerbated when a Christian spends some time studying the actual history of evolution theory, Charles Lyell and his hate for God, how Chalmers reacted to save face for the church, and how over the years, coming up with naturalistic causes for creation and design has allowed for man to use theory in order to assert his own godhood, and how these theories have slowly become axiomatic facts that should not be questioned. (For an amazing book on that subject, read In the Minds of Men, by Ian Taylor.)

Bottom line is, I am not necessarily smart enough to argue with a doctor of astrophysics, and I’d point out that when I read his book, I can see not only his love of God, and Christ, but also his extensive knowledge about astrophysics. But it is obvious that all of his conclusions are based on the presupposition that the Big Bang is true, and that the days of creation are overlapping eras; a problematic position when one considers the importance of resting on the sabbath in the Old Testament, a particular day to honor God, not a roving, malleable representation of His glorious work (imagine an OT Hebrew resting on the 5th and 6th overlapping days in order to work on the seventh as a representation of creation week). So, if the Big Bang is true, then……

(for example) …. if it is true then we explain the collision that created the moon this way, its craters were formed this way, and Mars must be this size, and Jupiter must have formed first in our solar system, and the asteroid belt must have… etc etc, all based on computer models. One model states that there is, based on star observation, a conclusion that the Milky Way tilts up and down every 66 million years, and that the edges of this tilt are too full of radiation for mankind to live, so, of course it is ordained by God that we just happen to be in the center of this tilt process after billions of years at the exact time man arrives on the scene. A whole string of intelligent thoughts, conclusions and theories, based wholly on the fact that the group explaining it is dedicated to a Big Bang model creation. The easiest answer, from a seven day creationist standpoint is, this is where we were placed in the galaxy, and things can simply be observed moving.

Big Bang “proofs” are full of fudge factors, and faith based premises as well, and its problems are glossed over, and not addressed most times in speeches or books presented by Christians. The smoothness problem, dark matter theory, the horizon problem, all serve to discredit an already unscientific theory that challenges logic, laws of causality and energy. Ross even invokes the ridiculous Oort Cloud theory as if it were accepted fact, primarily because it needs to be in there to explain the Big Bang model, our comets, and our solar system, despite it being literally imagined (this passes for science in evolution theory). These issues are sufficient to make any Christian question this as the method in which God used to bring about mankind. But most damning to the theory is of course the bible itself, and how it clearly stands irreconcilable next to the theory, without presenting a myriad of verbal gymnastics, interpretation tricks, and imaginings.

… the earth was formed out of water and by water.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,

For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

The suggestion, therefore, is to once again, stick to the bible as authoritative, as always, in matters of history, and forensics, for as it has time and time again, despite thousands of years of criticism, it will prove true, and man’s hope that it will be proven false in its accuracy will continue to fail. If we do this, we are less apt to look foolish in retrospect, even if our current contemporaries consider us foolish now. This was the case with many kings listed in its pages, ancient cities, civilizations, and scientific observations up to this point. It will continue to be the case moving forward.

God vs god

I welcome discussion on this, and look forward to thoughts, so please share, and invite people to like the page, and join the discussion:
I asked  fellow Christians about whether or not the God of the bible and the gods of other religious writings were the same, and got some scary answers, as if Americans got to heaven one way, and the Japanese another, and Islamic states another. The crux of the issue is, are other religious writings from God too? Let us take a look at the Quran as a comparable.
We launch from the pre-supposition that the bible is fact, and was inspired by a holy creator, and we look at the question logically. God cannot contradict himself or lie, and therefore another holy book that contradicts the bible cannot be inspired by the same God. We could do this with the Vedas or Buddhist writings easily, and no one would challenge that they are speaking of the same paradigm. But what about Islam? Some verses to consider:
Does the Quran agree with the bible that Christ is God in the flesh, the only son of God, a considerable doctrinal truth in Christianity to say the least.
Surah 4:171 – …The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son…
Surah 23:91 – No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him!
Furthermore, where is it that Christ will spend eternity according to the Quran?
Surah 3:45 says – Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah
yet
Surah 21:98 says – Indeed, you [disbelievers] and what you worship other than Allah are the firewood of Hell. You will be coming to [enter] it.
indicating that believers “and what (they) worship” will be firewood for hell, which would include worship of Jesus Christ.
Let us remember that Jesus was worshiped by the apostles as Lord, and
John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Col. 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Rev. 1:17, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’”
Rev. 2:8, “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.”
John 8:24, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (NKJV)
John 8:58, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!”
Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
I would ask, with this disparity between the two works, would they both be written of the same God? would one so fully exalt Christ above all things, and the very same author deny His deity, position, omnipotence, and importance?
Whether you follow one school of thought or the other, that is your choice, but we must logically conclude that when it comes to what the author was trying to convey, the two are diametrically opposed. We also must conclude that since God cannot lie or contradict Himself, the Quran cannot contain the same god as the God found in the bible.
puts it this way, which I thought was a most logical and succinct way of viewing the entire issue:

Premise 1: Either the Bible is the Word of God or it is not.

Premise 2: If the Bible is the Word of God, the Qur’an is not.

Premise 3: If the Bible is not the Word of God, the Qur’an is not.

Conclusion: Therefore, the Qur’an is not the Word of God.

For a link to his article explaining this in greater detail,  click here.
(For reference, here is a list of Quran Scriptures that affirm the bible:

Surah Al-E-Imran 3: “He has revealed to you the Book with the truth [i.e. the Qur’an], confirming what has been before it, and has sent down the Torah and the Injil.”

Surah An-Nisa 136: “O you who believe, do believe in Allah and His Messenger and in the Book He has revealed to His Messenger and in the Books He has revealed earlier. Whoever disbelieves in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and the Last Day has indeed gone far astray.”

Surah An-Nisa 163: “Surely, We have revealed to you [i.e. Muhammad] as We have revealed to Nuh and to the prophets after him; and We have revealed to Ibrahim, Isma’il, Ishaq, Ya’qub and their children, and to Isa, Ayyub, Yunus, Harun, and Salaiman, and We have given Zabur [i.e. the psalms] to Dawud.”

Surah Al-Isra: “Your Lord knows best about all those in the heavens and the earth, and We have certainly granted excellence to some prophets over some others, and We gave Dawud the Zabur (the Psalms). Say, “Call those who you assume (to be gods), besides Him, while they have no power to remove distress from you, nor to change it.”“

Surah Al-Anbiya: “And We have written in Zabur (Psalms) after the advice that the land will be inherited by My righteous slaves.”

The Qur’an  also assert that the prophet Muhammad is prophesied in both the Old and New Testaments, although he is never mentioned. Consider the following verses:

Surah Al-Araf 157: “Those who follow the Messenger, the Ummiyy (unlettered) prophet whom they find written with them in the Torah and the Injil and who bids the what is fair and forbids what is unfair, and makes lawful for the good things, and makes unlawful for the impure things, and relieves them of their burden, and of the shackles that were upon them. So, those who believe in him and support him, and help him and follow the light sent down with him, those are the ones who are successful.”

Surah As-Saff 6: Remember when Isa, son of Maryam, said, “O children of Isra’il, I am a messenger of Allah sent towards you, confirming the Torah that is (sent down) before me, and giving you the good news of a messenger who will come after me, whose name will be Ahmad.” But when he came to them with manifest signs, they said, “This is a clear magic.”)

Renewal of My Mind

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…

Living with joy is not always an easy endeavor, and yet, as a Christian, I know that my life is supposed to be a letter to others:  2 Corinthians 3:3 “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

This joy that Paul discusses over and over, and the reason he is able to praise God in even dire circumstances is due to the transcendent purpose of Christ in His life, and in the lives of those whom he cares for. This allows for a person’s heart to be filled with gladness, and love, and hope, even when all earthly pleasures have been stripped away. But our daily thoughts can be consumed by things we want, things we lack, people we are envious of, false idols, people or powers that stand above our love of Christ in our minds. So how do we renew our minds, and focus on the only thing that truly matters? (For why it is the only thing that matters, check out this blog from last year.)

I would state first that this is something I have not mastered, and am presently working on. My goal is to eventually live with the joy of Christ fully, and for my life to be a letter, a testament to that hope I have in Him. But putting away all the messy darkness must start with prayer, and there are several verses I pray and meditate on daily as I work towards keeping Jesus Christ as the transcendent purpose of my life:

Romans 12:2 “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.”

In regards to putting the past behind me, old idols, old hopes, old sadness, old worries, I use this: Philippians 3:13 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

Him alone? Psalms 62:1 “For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”

All those things we attempt to gain by our flesh, do we someday realize that God intends to give us these freely, if we but humble ourselves:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
1 Peter 5:10

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” 1 Peter 5:6

This is so powerful. This is freedom from all anxiety, all regret, all pain. I’ve tried to establish my life on my own, my heart on my own. I failed. All was impasse, what love I could muster was selfish, half measures, and insufficient to establish anyone, least of all myself and those I loved. I died there, at the dead end of my decisions, my will. Luckily the mighty hand of God is expert at resurrection. I am thankful for my failures, for there is nothing more humbling than the death of all the best efforts of my heart.

So… the question is, are we humble enough to be truly care-free? I ponder this, and how to walk forward with a renewed mind, singularly focused on the only source of lasting joy. I am free then, to love others as He would have me love others, under His power, and because He first loved me. I hope this is a renewal of my mind, for I need the will of God to replace my own. My own is flawed, and only hurts. I trust His far more.

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.

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