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.

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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

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,

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.

 

 

You Have Two Choices

There are really only two games in town. Both Christian scientists and atheistic scientists agree that the universe had a beginning. I have spoken with post-modernists who offer up alternatives to these two possibilities, such as a past eternal universe, or mere relative understandings of truth. Without getting into the weeds too much, your main theorists and thinkers on both sides reject these ulterior notions based on sound evidence, such as heat death, entropy, and others.

Biblical creationists already have a Genesis account of a beginning, corroborated by Christ, and many writers of scripture, so this news does not pose issue in and of itself.

On the other hand, when scientists discovered that the universe had a beginning, they were not happy.

Physicist Arthur Eddington wrote: “philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me… I should like to find a genuine loophole.”

When Einstein discovered that space-time-matter had a beginning, he was quoted as saying the result “irritates me”, due to its theological ramifications. You could surmise that a multi-verse would somehow change the implications, but it does not. Mathematically (since a multi-verse is hypothetical and un-explorable), a theorem that explains a multi-verse, created by Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin and his scientific team, proves that even if one exists, there is a beginning to them all.

Vilenkin, a believer in a multi-verse rather than God says,  “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).”

So to the point: the two games in town are

a) The universe created itself, or

b) A creator outside of time, space, and matter created it. Therefore He is timeless, spaceless, and immaterial.

We have delved into space travel, the Big Bang, and other related topics on this site, but to now bring up an additional bit of information in the realm of philosophy, there is a self-evident principle of causality with which we must contend. In its simplest form, the law of causality simply states that everything has a cause. A house has a cause, yes, but that is an easy one. But I can go pick a leaf off a tree, and determine its cause, or a rock laid down by an ancient flood, and it will have a cause. Now, we may disagree on what the forensic evidence points to as an initial cause, but we will not disagree that said object does indeed have one.

This self-evident first principle of philosophy is there, along with others such as the law of non-contradiction, identity, and so on, to prevent the need for an infinite regression of explanations. In other words, if you have to explain everything, then you will never get to the end of explanations, and truth ceases to exist. This is why we must stop with certain obvious realities, or these first principles.

Of course a common retort is, who caused God then? But being outside of time, space and matter, being infinite, there is no logical reason to need a cause. Like our first principle, He is self-evident, or the un-caused first cause – Aristotle said, the unmoved mover. Hence why He refers to Himself as I AM. There is no “was”,  there is no “will be”. For us yes, but not for Him. Besides, you cannot have a higher god that is “more infinite” than infinite. This also is illogical.

Now, in regards to anything within the forensic sciences, something not repeatable, observable, or demonstrable, we are looking for causes at the most basic level. Science is basically the search for knowledge, or search for causes – causality.

Therefore, one must now ask him or herself, do I abandon the law of causality when it comes to origins? This isn’t about age of the universe, or dinosaurs, all which do have answers according to a biblical world view. But simply regarding the beginning of it all, do I base my life on the natural and material sciences only, dismissing all possibility of creation, and force myself to choose a beginning that happened in eons past against the laws of all I claim to hold dear?

The great skeptic and atheist Christopher Hitchens was debating Frank Turek, and equated the Big Bang to a suitcase about to pop open, “and everything that is ever going to be is inside that;  that was the best I could do.” He went on to say, “And I don’t think many people could do, if I say it myself, that much better.” For such a revered and intelligent man, to state that the historical narrative of the Genesis account, in all of its beauty, and mastery, revered for thousands of years, and preserved through the ages doesn’t compare with this suit case analogy is quite telling. But in the end, an avid atheist will always struggle with how to articulate a result with no definable cause, because to repeat the point, both sides agree there was a definitive beginning.

There are only two choices. Einstein knew this. I commend atheists for being consistent in their take on naturalism, but as we view all manner of explanation and mental gymnastics to explain godless possibilities, and then relegate those possible happenings to the far unobservable past, do we not firmly place it in the category of faith? Faith in that there must not be a God.

Both sides, as human beings will try to identify the three basic life questions:

Where did I come from?

Why am I here?

What happens when I die?

The last two questions are bound inexorably to the first. Einstein was right, it can be irritating, since there is a beginning. But if nothing can cause something, or more than that, everything, then we have undone what is self-evident, and have removed meaning from all we observe.

There are only two choices.

Christians are Hypocrites

“I don’t go to church, because Christians are nothing but hypocrites!”

This charge is often levied against churches, or the people who attend them.

“I know a guy/girl who goes to church, and acts Christian, but they did this, or that.” “I talked to this pastor, and he was a jerk.” “At least I’m real and true to who I am, Christians pretend like they are perfect or righteous.”

Let’s cut past all the subterfuge and subtlety. Are Christians hypocrites? Yes. Every single one. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. By definition, Christians have moral beliefs, set forth by God’s word, to which we desire to adhere. But every single Christian fails in this task. Every single one falls short, and I dare say this happens daily in the heart and minds of each, if not in actions.

Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The moment this expectation, demanded by a holy God (for what else could infinite perfection demand), has failed to come to fruition, even in the smallest of ways, we have by definition become hypocrites and in fact, lawbreakers. We have failed to live up to a moral standard we accept as right.

But let us consider an atheist, who by definition, has a subjective moral code, derived from either ones own opinion, from popular opinion, or from the opinion of those who are in charge and can force a citizenry to exercise a particular behavior. In these instances, a moral code also exists, albeit one that is not handed down from a perfect creator, but is instead decided upon by mankind. If we reflect on the results of these subjective moral laws, depending on the flexible moral code of a given society, then two results  can generally be expected:

  1. If you live in a morally stringent society with heavily girded laws, as a citizen subject to these agreed upon codes, any violation of these codes renders you a hypocrite, and a law breaker, i.e. anyone who disagrees with Sharia.
  2. If you live in a morally relativistic society, defined by anarchy, nihilism, or lawlessness, or if you have determined within your own subjective mind that your behavior should fit no moral code (i.e. sociopath, or in religion – New Ageism), then you have absolved yourself from consequence to escape guilt. Anything goes.

Number 2 is extreme, and approaches mental disorder, however the reality in everyday life is a combination of the two. Often one who wishes for the freedom to be flexible in beliefs finds themselves to be militaristic towards anyone who holds to an opposite view, like during an abortion or transgenderism conversation, thereby pitting one set of subjective beliefs against another, if there is indeed no standard, and neither of which has more merit.

The reality is, therefore, to escape being a hypocrite against whichever moral code you reside under,

you must either operate perfectly within that framework – nigh impossible, or

you must adopt a framework with a moral bar set so low that you can’t help but live up to its standard, and then defend it militantly to escape any shame and guilt associated with those behaviors, or

you must constantly be ‘moving the goal posts’ within an ever changing set of standards, which is by definition, not a standard at all.

With careful, logical scrutiny, one could conclude that every acceptable moral set of beliefs would inherently have as its members nothing but hypocrites, all of whom are constantly trying, and re-trying, to live up to the expectations they believe in. As it is with every pursuit in life, from sports, to education, to religion, to parenting, human experiences are riddled with failures, and shortfalls. We strive for excellence in these pursuits, though we may never achieve perfection, and in so doing we work to better ourselves. It is the same with our walk in Christ, and for this walk we use the word sanctification, a lifelong and constant goal. The alternative, in Christianity, as well as sports/parenting/education, is to set the standard so low, that you feel validated by sub-par character and performance. This is no way to enrich a life, or the lives of those around you.

The result of this constant falling short is accepting the reality of hypocrisy. This is why Christians should gather in churches, as it is a place not only for worshiping the one person who set up the holiest standard possible, and then lived up to it, but also to surround yourselves with those who cannot, and are there to love and support each other. This is the essence of the body of Christ. Those who recognize that despite all human effort, they are in need of grace and mercy from a holy Creator.

Let me save you the trouble of pointing it out. You will not find perfect Christians in church. Christians struggle with anger, alcohol, sexual immorality, hate, depression, gossip – oh Lord the gossip, among a myriad of other sins. Yes we hide them, yes we don’t like to announce our struggles and shames from the mountain tops, and yes we pray for forgiveness constantly for not being as good as we can be. But there is peace and joy in Christ, in grace, and in knowing that we can let go of all of our missteps and focus the next day on how to love better. And despite these struggles, there is a concerted effort (or should be in a healthy church group) to do good works, to support others, and to be generous with the gifts that we do have.

If you are a non-believer that has had an unpleasant experience with a Christian, please realize that this person is struggling daily to do what is right, or may be going through his or her own temptations or trials, just like you. To dismiss thousands of years and mounds of evidence of revelation from God, to dismiss all His good works to bring about a savior, and our relationship with Him, and to dismiss the reality of eternal life with that Creator, because you interacted with someone who fell short in their walk is to dismiss the very reason we need Jesus Christ. In fact, as an unbeliever, are you not claiming to have a problem with a belief to which you do not conform? Is that not hypocrisy?

So if someone finally reaches the conclusion that he or she has fallen short of God’s perfect moral standard, that they are ready to admit that they are a hypocrite in their own right, based on the moral law written on their heart, then they can safely come to a church of believers. They are in good company, a place full of hypocrites, who all have fallen short, and all wish to experience freedom from their sins. If I see you there, I will do my best to lift you up, and do life with you. But I am a hypocrite too, so I may fail, and need forgiveness from time to time.

 

Supposed Final Words of Steve Jobs

Widely reported as the last words of Steve Jobs, though inspired and interesting, is most likely a false deathbed speech. We can easily imagine thoughts such as this passing through our minds at the end. Though most likely not genuine, it is interesting to consider them, and how they reflect our hopes for our lives:
“I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.
In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.
God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me.
I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love.
This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead.
Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands.
What is the world’s most expensive bed? The hospital bed.
You, if you have money, you can hire someone to drive your car, but you cannot hire someone to take your illness that is killing you.
Material things lost can be found. But one thing you can never find when you lose: life.
Whatever stage of life where we are right now, at the end we will have to face the day when the curtain falls.
Please treasure your family love, love for your spouse, love for your friends…
Treat everyone well and stay friendly with your neighbours.”

I have never personally faced a life threatening illness. But I have had my life threatened, as well as watched the life of a loved one deteriorate. I have watched helplessly at a bedside, when the only power I had was to pray to God. And the only hope that I had in my heart was that if that loved one passes from this world to the next, I will get to see them again, and stand with them before a God who saved us both through His mercy and grace.

These final words go far, and they are serious, and wise, but do they go far enough? The author mentions God, but if there is one and only one infinite God, He alone is to be sought. And if that God has declared the one door to Him is through His son, Jesus Christ, then I would lovingly declare this statement does not go far enough by any stretch of the imagination. An atheist who lived out Steve’s advice would die with memories, and still with no hope. And those who remembered them, would also perish, and so the love that had been attained in a lifetime of wholesome philosophy would be lost to history. This alone is not the answer. That is why I often repeat my favorite verse in these articles, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

In John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

In John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This may seem narrow-minded to some, or dogmatic, and I assure you it is, unless it is the truth.43dc6e87710d1c4d4f780482f310a7df If it is the truth, if God entered His creation to die for our sins, and that sacrifice resulted in the legal and moral substitution for a judgement we deserve, then it would indeed be the only way, and the truest act of love. The author mentions God, and speaks of the importance of love in this life. True words, sir, and a very fine philosophy for living. Yet those with money, and those with loving memories both still stand to lose all if they do not address the truth of salvation.

The bible is not ambiguous on this point. There isn’t one way for Christians, one for Muslims, one for Buddhists, and another path for New Agers. There is one door, which is why Christ Himself includes that He is the truth, as well. It is a warning, given in love, and providing hope for all, for all are fallen, and all face death. To Mr. Steve Jobs, I say, boldly and beautifully said, a sad and grave wake up call against the things that drive us. But, I also say, your love and memories cannot save you. Living for a fallen version of love will still leave you wishing and hoping in a hospital bed. There is only one door. Though it is now, more unpopular than ever to state, and offends many, we cannot be so timid as Christians that we cannot claim the truth, and that is that Jesus Christ is our door to salvation. It is said that this speech, despite its lack of authenticity, has inspired many. But we must ask, does talk like this truly help? or does it give a false sense of meaning, and therefore provide a complacency more dangerous than the position of men who admit they are evil. Change is only possible when one realizes it is necessary.