Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Exceptionally Average

     I have a fear. No, not spider or snakes, although I'm not a fan of either of those. I have a deep and terrible fear of being average. I have never wanted to be just another face in the crowd. Mediocrity revolts me to my core.
     The only problem with my feeling that way is that I am so very average. I made good grades in school, not outstanding but not bad. I have a decent job, not one that leads to riches, nor am I in danger of debtors prison.  I live my life in the thin shadow of my dreams of grander things, and then wake up to the unyielding reality of average. I have always dreamed of being a great leader, or great businessman, or prominent Christian author or speaker. Yet, I live in the land of average, as most of us do.  I have always sought after a college degree and a different job. I'd love to move to a larger community with more opportunities, and have often found myself despondent and unhappy due to my inability to reach the goals that would, I perceived, fulfill me.
     Then, recently, my pastor preached a sermon from 2 Corinthians 4:7 (HCSB), which reads, "Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us." 
     This verse is profound, and I must say that it cut me to my very core. It also reminded me of an essay I heard once. It is a short essay by F.W. Boreham called, The Poppies and the Corn. In it Boreham had this to say:

"There is a very lovable thing about poppies in the corn that I can never sufficiently admire. The poppies never belittle the corn, they glorify it. You'd think not the less but the more of the corn because of the poppies. At a rose show, one particularly radiant blossom puts all the surrounding roses to shame. They are beggared by comparison. That is because a show is all artificiality and affectation. Nature never humiliates her more modest children in that ridiculous way. As you watch the blood red poppies tossing in a sea of golden corn, it never occurs to you to institute a comparison. The poppies and the corn seem equally lovely. That is the glory of true greatness. Others are never humiliated in its presence. It elevates the mass. If a field were all poppies, the glory would have departed. The poppies need the corn. God makes nothing commonplace. Here is a gospel for those to whom the days seem grey because they have given up dreaming of poppies."

     My pastor's message has reminded me that not everyone can be famous or extraordinary, or is it that we are all extraordinary. We are all men and women made in God's image. Also, it has reminded me that so often things that may seem drudgery or trifling to me, are just what God has for me to do right now. I think of Moses' forty years in Midian as a shepherd. 
      I do not know what God has in store for me. I, also, do not know where He may send me in the journey of following His will for my life. What I do know is that I am going to try harder to surrender my way to His, to remember that my days here are a gift, and to enjoy and make the most of what and where I am, for His glory.  
     You and I need to always remember that we are made by a loving God in His image, and that we are all exceptional. I have no idea if anyone else feels this way, but if you are struggling with the idea of being, not what you want, but what God wants you to be, and often find yourself disappointed in thing not turning out according to your plan,  I will leave you with this poem that has helped me have more perspective.

A commonplace life, we say and we sigh,
But why should we sigh as we say?
The commonplace sun and the commonplace sky
Makes up the commonplace day.
The moon and the stars are commonplace things,
And the flower that blooms and the bird that sings;
But dark were the world and sad our lot,
If the flowers failed and the sun shone not.
And God who studies each separate soul
Out of the commonplace lives makes His beautiful whole.” 
--Anonymous 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who's In Charge Here?

     Recently, I've been reading a book, or rather listening to an audiobook by George R. Stewart titled Earth Abides. It has, thus far been an excellent book. I dislike how the author seems to label any belief in the supernatural as, "superstition", but, nevertheless, it is an excellent and well written story.
     In the book the main character, "Ish"- short for Isherwood- is sitting in the home of his friend and noticing all of the very nice lamps, clocks, televisions, and radios that adorn the home. Ish considers that all these things are nice, but non functional due to a loss of electricity. He further considers that his friend clearly obtained the items as status symbols rather than for their functionality. 
     In this story, I saw an almost disturbing parallel in my own life, and in our culture. I thought about how many things I own simply because they were popular at the moment. I thought about how much money is spent every year upgrading cell phones. (Yeah, says the guy who typed part of this post on his brand new iPhone.)
     We see new technology, new cars, and bigger, more luxurious homes as the panacea for the void in our lives. We live in a culture built on images that lie. We see advertisements and pictures that make us feel that our worth as a person is based on what we own, rather than the truth. Do we wear the right makeup, or the right clothes? Do we have the right phone, the right car, or the right television set? If not, we feel, somehow, less than others. Are we skinny enough? Do we have enough muscles? Even our musicians and artists can see the shallowness of this way of viewing the world. They see that we have a major problem in our society with material things.  A song called Ain't No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant has lyrics that are telling:

      There ain't no rest for the wicked
Money don't grow on trees
I got bills to pay
I got mouths to feed
Ain't nothing in this world for free
No I can't slow down
I can't hold back
Though you know I wish I could
No there ain't no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good 
     
     You see, even the writers of this song can see the serious and flawed level of commitment in acquiring. We often can't slow down, and can't hold back any sacrifice of time, effort, or relationship with family to gain more money, more stuff, and more perceived security. 
     It doesn't take long going down this road to find that it leads to nowhere.
     That is why Christ does not call us to seek our "thrills" in possessions money. He calls us to be in relationship with him, to place him first in our lives. So often we spend our time coveting that new mobile device or car so much that our attention, even our hearts, are stolen by that new, better thing. In the end, our stuff ends owning us, rather than the other way around. This is nothing less than idolatry.
     I am often guilty of this, putting God second on third on the list, when there ought not even be a list. In those moments when we find ourselves allowing "stuff" or money to steal our hearts, perhaps, we should ask," Who's in charge here?"

  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Stepping in the Light


"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light"
     -- Ephesians 5:8 (KJV)

     I am still considering the last post I wrote. There have been some tough, personal conversations happening between my family and I lately. I grew up in a very traditional church environment. Recently, my wife and I changed churches. The church we currently attend is more contemporary. My very traditional family is not taking this development well. I understand why. I had attended that church my entire life.
     Recently I have been thinking more and more that, just maybe, the Lord God has more for us than a traditional church experience. No, I'm not against traditional churches or the traditional style of worship. I do feel, though, that God has so much more for His people than sitting in a pew a couple of hours a week, listening to that good Christian radio station I know you listen to (you do right?), and going on that yearly mission trip to Africa/South America. Yes, that stuff is all good! Although, there's more to being a follower of Christ than that. I know, you felt that there had to be more. You're right, there is. 
     There is so much more to your life as a follower of Christ than just a few good deeds. We are to be the world's light, as the verse above suggests. I am discovering more and more Christ had called us to more than doing things. He has called us to live as light, to be light. Not do the things light does. Not to act like light acts when we find it convenient or satisfying. We have not been called to put on an act or pretend to be the light of the world. We have been called to live it.
     We have been called to live it even in the face of adversity. In fact, I would argue that Believers should shine most under difficult circumstances. In fact, I am quickly learning that we are called to be light in this dark world even at the cost of what we most desire. What are we willing to let go of for Christ? Are we willing to let go of these things that weigh us down and dim our light for Christ? I have learned recently that it's not what I achieve for myself or for Christ that matters most. It's what I let go of and let Christ do through me that matters most.
      To the Hebrew of biblical times light was representative of the highest, purest good. It represented God. How are we representing Him?

    
    
    

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Believe

      This week, I spoke with a gentleman in my community that is firmly convinced that the world will end in about three months. Now, most of the guys I work with think he is, "as crazy as a bed bug", as the old saying goes. I don't think the man is crazy, I think he is just wrong and cannot be convinced otherwise. This man holds his belief in the world's imminent doom so strongly that he has prepared underground shelters to protect himself and his family. He has invested his time, energy, mind, talents, and money into his firm belief that we are all doomed very soon.
     Now, I am not here to discuss eschatology (the subject dealing with end times and prophecy). Honestly, I have not studied bible prophecy extensively enough to have a truly informed opinion of the subject. Although, I have read through the book of Revelation many times and, to borrow a line from the film Princess Bride, "I don't think that means what you think it means". 
     I am more concerned about what you and I believe. No, I mean what we really, believe. It is easy for us to label ourselves as Christians, or followers of Christ. It is very easy for us to claim that affiliation- but do we believe it?
     This gentleman goes around our little town and tells everyone who will listen that doom is upon us. Do we go around and share the Good News of Christ in the same way? I am ashamed to say that I do not. Do we invest our time, energy, talent, mind, and money into the cause of Christ? Or are we just happy dropping a twenty in the plate as it passes by, thinking of how good we are?
     In the early church the followers of Christ were willing to die for the message of the Gospel. Are we ready to believe anything that strongly?
     Now, I'm sure someone reading this may think, "I am a Christian  but I have so much doubt in my heart. I feel like Thomas when I see how overwhelmed the church seems to be with hypocrites and judgmental people ". You are right, the church is full of those people. I will even go so far as to say that many of us are those people.
     However, doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt drives us to seek answers to our questions. Without doubt, apologetics, would not even be necessary. Many great men and women of God had great doubts and fears. I read once that Charles Spurgeon, that "Prince of Preachers", was often so overcome with doubt about his life's calling and the truth of the Gospel that he would fall into fits of severe depression. I think, also, of John the Baptist who, while imprisoned, sent messengers to Christ to make sure He was, indeed the Messiah.
      Faith and true belief is not the absence of doubt. It is the striving onward, the acting on, what you know is true and real even in the face of your doubts and misgivings.
      How much striving are we doing? Are we acting on our faith and belief in a risen Lord, or are we just playing Christian? The Gospel is true. Do we believe it? 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

God's Wonders to Behold


"Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?"
        -- Job 3:11 KJV

Special thanks to my friend P.J. for showing me this video series!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Assenting Dissention

     "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."
                                                                        - Romans 12:2(ESV)

     It has been a long time since I have posted here. I hope I haven't lost my already meager readership to more interesting reading. (You know like how to arrange your sock drawer more efficiently or how to keep your PB&J from getting soggy.) During my posting hiatus I have had a lot going on. Some of it very good, some of it no so good. I have done a whole bunch of reading and praying as well. I've also done a lot of thinking. Then, more recently, I began thinking about thinking. Yeah, I'm THAT weird.
     I have been a Christian most of my life. I don't have the riveting, dramatic conversion story of so many saints. I came to Christ at the tender age of seven. Having been a Christian that long I have, begun to realize- more in the last two years- that I am a long way from where I need to be. I realized that for a long time in my walk with Christ I was agreeing with the facts given in the bible. I acknowledged what God's Word said. I agreed. However, I never really acted on what I was agreeing with. More recently I have realized that what I was doing was called mental assent.
     I was mentally agreeing with what God said about me and how I should live and act in my daily life, but I wasn't taking it to heart. When we begin allowing God's Word to really soak in and allow Him to change us, we transition from religious person to Believer. Its a subtle but important difference. That transition is what Paul is speaking of in the verse above. It is a transformation from worldly ideas with religious trappings to true discipleship and Christ-following. I think it was Andy Stanley that wrote that the most important measure of a person's walk with Christ is how they act at home, not in the church. That truth has resonated deeply with me.
     As a law enforcement officer we are often asked moral questions during job interviews. I was once asked to give my own definition of character. I responded that character is who you are when no one else is around.
      So today, are we the Believers we are perceived to be by our peers at church and at work? Or are we just putting on a show to convince others? I am very sorry to say that for a long time I put on an elaborate and convincing show.

     Are you?
  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Joel Osteen might have a point...

I read once that it takes a mere 20 days to make something a habit. I think that principle only applies to certain things, as I have tried for years to make running a habit. It still remains torturous and my waist is still bulging.
However, I think there is still much truth to the concept that we can make things habit. Many things we have made habit for the sake of normalcy and health are scarcely thought of as such. We brush our teeth, tie our shoes, and perform countless actions daily that are borne of repetition. And repetition begets habit.
These habits, some big and some small, are what make up our lives and our characters. We know these things to be true with substances like cigarettes and alcohol. Habitual consumption of these leads to habit which, in the long run leads to problems. Though, what if we bend our wills to positive habits? Certainly this could mean fitness and healthy diet, but I'm referring more to habits that have eternal value.
Have we developed healthy spiritual habits? Of course I'm referring to things like daily bible reading and time alone with God in prayer. More difficult would be the habits of righteous thoughts and attitudes.
I tend to shy away from Christian speakers like Joel Osteen who tend toward, what I see as over-positivity, but I must say in this regard his style of teaching rings true more than I would like to admit. In fact, as a friend of mine often points out, I could use a dose of Osteen's infectious positive outlook. I tend toward negativity and worry. Both of these things are character flaws. More deeply though, they are flaws in my walk with Christ and are plainly sinful. These are spiritual habits I have developed and cultivated whether with intention or through carelessness in my relationship with Christ. They are things I seek to alter every day,with God's Grace.
Each day we have new opportunities to start better habits in our character and our spiritual lives. Are we taking advantage of these opportunities? Are we taking these failures seriously? We are called to be Christ like. Are we representing our Lord well? This blog is about Christian Living in a dark world and all the issues that come with a testimony for Christ, but sometimes we need to remember the essentials of our Faith before we can fully represent Christ.
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." (Matthew 5:13)


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Of Fact and Fiction

     I read a lot of books. I love to read. I'll read most any kind of book, fiction or non fiction. I enjoy history, biography, science, Christian living and even bible study books. However, nothing, and I mean nothing beats a good story. I have always enjoyed amazing tales of fantasy and legend. I can long remember reading the book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne as a kid and being enthralled by the fantastic story of Captain Nemo and his reluctant guests.
     I think most people love a good story, whether it is true or not. I think people even more heartily enjoy a story with a happy ending. This may be the reason the Gospel story resonates with so many people, even those who do not accept it as true. Most people can get behind the idea that Christ was, "a great moral teacher", but struggle with the common element of the miraculous in the biblical narrative. Even people who might agree that there is, indeed, a God, view stories of miracles with some skepticism.
     We are able to read and hear stories that obviously defy reason and enjoy them. More than that, we can't get enough. It seems that the impossible to believe somehow draws us like a moth to a flame. We read these works of fiction and lap up every detail of the story eagerly hoping for the protagonist's ultimate victory, even in the face of incredible odds. If we may readily consume the works of Steven King without hesitation, why do we doubt the veracity of the Bible and it's contents? Could it be that even we, as Christians, struggle to separate the Scripture from the realm of fanciful story? We have nearly lost the sense of the miraculous, simply putting it away as a childish fancy not to be taken seriously.
     I think there is more to this sensation of joy at the fantastic than meets the eye. I think God has put within every human being a sense of the transcendent. I think He has placed within us a natural affinity for the "supernatural". That is why these sensational tales of romance and adventure grab our fullest attention so easily.  Escaping to a world of fantasy only makes us yearn for a reality that does  not exist. We pretend and dream. Then we grow up.
     As adults we use drugs, alcohol, television, and more complex yarns of fiction to lull ourselves into another world, knowing all the time that it can't be real. Yet, we wish it were. In these things we do and read and watch, we find the briefest escape and filling of that internal lack that burns through us. Many of us don't even recognize that yearning for what it is. We are too practical and adult for such a feeling. However, some of us have still retained a bit of the inner child that seeks that fantastic story and believe it must be true in some odd way.
     Then we read the Gospel of Christ. We are immediately drawn into another story wherein we read of miracles and almost cryptic sounding teaching we cannot get enough of. It resonates within us and we know that there really is more to this story than meets the eye. But we have convinced ourselves that such things cannot happen and dismiss them as fantasy and imagination. Why the feeling then? Why the sense that there is more to things than meets the eye? As Chesterton once commented, we are not really adults until we are childish enough to believe in fairy tales. I think this is a truth of God's Word. We read much of the Bible in "mature" disbelief. However, is that because we have taught ourselves to disbelieve or because the thing is untrue? I think that is the largest truth of the Gospel. It is so incredible that it must be either the Truth or the height of madness.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gloom, Despair, and Agony.....

     When I was a kid my dad would often watch reruns of the old music and variety show HeeHaw. At the time I really didn't like the show much except for the occasional joke I found funny. Now, I watch the show and really enjoy most of the music and am better able to appreciate the show's humor and style. If you've never seen HeeHaw, there is a part during the show in which some of the cast members sing a song called, "Gloom, Despair, and Agony On Me". It's hysterically funny, but is also a good example of how we sometimes feel as human beings. It seems our days are filled on this earth with much suffering, both great and small, and if we are not ourselves going through a major personal tragedy, someone we know is.
     However, by and large, we seem to have lost touch with the sufferings and trials of our fellow beings. Now, I think there are great many reasons for this lack of compassion and feeling. In fact, I have touched on some of those reasons in a previous post. Also, though, in the church, there seems to be a sense of self-righteousness. We seem to have the impression that since we have the Truth, that we are just a bit better than the average "sinner". We tend to speak unkindly about homosexuals, fornicators, drunks, and the like. Certainly we are not to condone or support this type of behavior, but neither are we to use harsh and hate-filled language to condemn those that practice such things. Dr. David Gibbs of the Christian Law Association once said it this way, "God never calls us to be a critic". I agree with Dr. Gibbs. We very often find ourselves not separating the sin from the sinner, and particularly in the case of homosexuality this is a grave error. As Believers we must let people know that we do not identify people with their wrongness and sinfulness. Certainly we should not support sinful behavior or lifestyles, but we can compassionately address these things in a way that does not drive people away from the Gospel message. Love rather than Judgement is the Revelation we are given in Christ. Many are desperately seeking something to assuage the longing that life has left them with but they look in vain for answers that Believers often fail to both give and live.
    I read once, in a place I really cannot recall, that one in three Americans is being treated for depression. That is a fascinating piece of commentary for a nation that is widely considered to be the most prosperous in the world. In the midst of this material prosperity we have filled our homes with belongings and filled our hours with entertainment.  We spend our hours in the midst of noise and activity in a vain effort to crowd out the emptiness that has crept into our souls. Why has this prosperity so sapped the satisfaction and real happiness from the lives of so many?
     In Christopher Nolan's film The Dark Knight Rises, Batman is faced with arch enemy Bane for a brutal fight. After a brief flurry of punches by the "Caped Crusader" that do not connect, Bane is heard to say, "Peace has cost you your strength. Victory has defeated you!".  This could well be the commentary that could describe the culture in the West now. A high standard of living, abundant educational opportunities, and increased free time have made us complacent spiritually. We live in a time of unrivaled freedom of expression and thought in the Western world. We can, for the most part, share our faith and ideas openly and without fear.  However, the Christian church did not always enjoy this freedom and ease. For hundreds of years, all over the globe, those that named Christ were beaten, tortured, and slain. In the New Testament one of the words translated as "witness" is martyre┼Ź. This is the Greek word from which martyr is derived. So, in the early church the very concept of becoming a Christian carried with it the idea that you would very likely die for your faith. It was in that climate that the church flourished and came to influence so much of Western society.
     However, in this current cultural climate of freedom of expression and mild-to-nonexistent persecution the church has begun to try to be "culturally relevant". It has taken its message and truncated it into an entertaining, "feel-good" Gospel that all can be easily swallowed and requires very little change on the part of the average pew-sitter. We have begun to turn church into an emotional experience, and the message of the Gospel suffers from this approach to evangelism, as does its effectiveness. We speak harshly about people's sin and error but show much grace and latitude with our own. Our youth have begun to gather at churches expecting fun and entertainment, and they find it. Though, this entertainment driven Gospel does very little to insulate them from the vicious onslaught of secularism and intellectual skepticism they will face during their college years. That kind of Gospel will not survive tough questions and does not prepare people to face skeptical co-workers, or friends. We have so long measured success in the body of Christ by numbers-in-attendance that we have stopped fighting for the Truth, peace, grace, or humility. Peace, has indeed, cost us our strength.
     In many parts of the world persecution rages and literally millions of people have come to Christ in spite of this. Is that what it will take in the West? Will renewed persecution be the tool that God allows to "separate the wheat from the chaff"? I heard somewhere, once, that we are always only a single generation away from persecution in the Western world. Is that what it will take to shake the church from this current lackadaisical attitude? I pray that we, as the Body of Christ will begin being more like the one we claim to represent and worship. I pray that our lives and conversation will begin to generate more light that heat and that we will leave self-righteousness behind and allow Christ to shine in us. That is the way forward into the light and out of the gloom, despair, and agony of the darkness that has crept in on us.

May God bless and keep you.
    

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reasoning Relationships

     I have been thinking alot about relationships in my life recently.Family relationships, the relationship with my wife, and even friendly associations. Our lives are made up of relationships, whether long term or only for the briefest periods. In many ways relationships define us as human beings. Certainly animals have relationships to some degree, but not to the complex and powerful degree of human relationships.
     There is something mysterious, to my mind, about relationship with our fellow beings. These connections between people are powerful and life-changing. Many times in my life have I heard the old adage, "You are known by the company you keep" and I have, many times, given out that same advice. There is truth to that proverb. The people and relationships in our lives are capable of molding us and shaping our thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Really, our very worldview is strongly influenced by the people we choose to associate with and relate to.
     I think this is why I find the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be such a tremendous mystery and such a marvelous revelation all at once. You see, in the bible, God is not asking us to believe the far fetched tales of an ancient tome about miracles and unseen beings. If miracles and fables are all we see in scripture than we aren't paying attention. No, God is asking us to have a relationship with Him. The whole of Scripture points to God's ultimate desire to have relationship with His broken creation and it is that relationship that baffles me most of all.
     As I sat last night pondering these things it broke upon me what an amazing thing it really is to have relationship with God. Certainly, the bible calls God, "the King of kings", but what an insignificant title to ascribe to the one who breathed this vast creation into existence. To be the King of all earthly kings is a small thing, really, when compared to that. We sit here on this spinning, blue marble in the vastness of a cold universe and the Creator of it all wants a relationship with us. I think that John Piper points this out best of all in his book, God is the Gospel. In this book Piper does a fantastic job of showing that relationship with God is the ultimate good of the Gospel. So, all that Christ did was in order so that we might see our way back to a joyous reunion with our Creator. This is something that separates Christianity from all other worldviews.
     I know of no other religion wherein one might have a relationship with God the way we do in the Christian faith. I understand that in Islam, believers are Allah's servants and can merely hope to attain paradise. In Hinduism, many gods are obeyed but none relationally. In Buddhism the truth lies within and we must quiet our desires and cravings to reach enlightenment. There are no relationships here only service to a creator or a principle. Only in Christianity can we have a loving mutual relationship with our Creator. This relationship is, among other things, what sets the Christian worldview apart from other faiths.
     In fact relationship is part of God's very essence and being. Our God is triune, meaning that He consists of three persons in one Godhead. The trinitarian God of the bible consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One Being, three Persons. Not multiple Gods, just One. In the same way that a man and wife become one on their wedding day, the same is true for God's being; Three in One. This is how the Believer can express to the skeptic, the idea that God is love. In other worldviews a god created so that it could have an object for its love. In Christianity God is love. God can be love because love is expressed among the persons of the Trinity. Among the three persons of the Trinity one can see unity, community, and diversity. Just like the church itself.
     In recent days I have wondered at the many denominations that exist, and why so many Christians seem insensitive to their fellow human beings. (My wife says that I sometimes think too much. She may well be right.) I have concluded that the Trinity is an apt illustration for the Christian church because within the church there is unity around Christ, there is a diversity of opinion on certain doctrines, and a community of Believers that should stand with one another as one to lead the world to relationship with Jesus Christ. One purpose and center, yet with a self-contained diversity. Though, Believers have fallen into the Western world's culture trap of objectifying our fellow human beings.
     We consume pornography at an alarming rate, violent movies are normal fare in theaters, and broken homes have become an all too common thing. All of this is due to objectifying our fellow person and making them less than a creation in God's image. Men in our culture are encouraged to view women as sexual objects to be consumed and forgotten. Women feel this pressure and have begun embracing styles and social behaviors that only a short time ago would have been shameful. This open lack of shame and lack of reluctance to view sex and violence openly, or even be appalled by it, is due to our culture burning into us the need to serve ourselves at the cost of others. People have been transformed from beings with whom we should relate and have concern for, to vehicles for the fulfilling of our desires and objects for our entertainment. Is it any wonder we see children gunned down in our schools? Is it any wonder divorce is common,when relationships are given up on as soon as our partner stops thrilling us? Sexuality has moved from sacredness to a place of depraved consumption. People have begun to be viewed as objects for destruction or, at least open ridicule and scorn, when they stand in the way of our desire or convenience, or opinion. Movies are filled with the kind of thoughtless violence that we see spilling into our schools and streets. The cure for this is meaningful relationship.
     A restoration of relation is the only thing that can save us from this sad predicament.We need to begin to separate ourselves from the false reality that the movie screen and the social networks have put up before us and begin to relate to our fellow beings again on a closer level. We need to see their pain and joy, struggles and victories and not just see them, but feel them as our own and seek another's best in the same way we seek our own. That is the nature of relationship. And it is the nature of relationship with God. He wants us to see ourselves as He sees us; to live by His standards. Not so that He can limit our experiences, but so that, in Him and with Him, every experience may be novelty and we may finally assuage that burning desire within us all: the desire for that love, acceptance, and satisfaction that only comes through relationship with Jesus Christ.

May God bless and keep you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wanderings of Purpose

     The origins of this blog's title is, obviously, from 1 Peter 3:15: but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence [NASB]. I am well aware that this is not an "original" or "exciting" blog title. However, nestled in the heart of the verse that inspired this blog is the word defense ("answer" in some translations). The word "defense" in this verse is derived from the Greek word apologia which is the word which we derive  the term apologetics from.  This verse is teaching us that we should always be ready to defend the faith and give reason for the hope that is within us, but the verse ends, "with gentleness and reverence" or "with meekness and fear" in the King James.
     In this verse we are encouraged to defend our faith and give answers to those who ask. Certainly this would include giving well-reasoned, logical answers to those who question our faith and its legitimacy. However, we are encouraged to defend the faith with gentleness and reverence. This qualification may be the most difficult part of this verse for the Christian, particularly in a world that seems to be increasing the intensity with which it attacks religious faith. I know in the past that this was my biggest failure. I could articulate the faith reasonably well, but if anyone questioned my faith in what I perceived to be a hostile way, I would get very defensive and lose my composure. The very opposite thing this verse tells us to do.
     Even though I could give logical and sound reasons for faith in Christ, I did it with a wrong attitude. This is where it will do well for us, as Christians, to focus our energy. We may have the truth and excellent arguments for faith, but if we attack those who question us, or respond to an attack in kind, we have already lost the apologetic.God never calls us to be critics, but lovingly present God's truths. Christ has not called us to win arguments but to point people to Himself. This is the very foundation of apologetics. We are to dialogue with doubters, non-believers, and attackers with love, respect and humility. Christ has the power to change hearts and transform lives, but if we, his messengers, fail to speak that transforming truth in love and with compassion, then we have lost the battle.
     I want what is written here, in this blog, to be informational and intellectually enlightening. Though, more than that I want it to be jarring and make those that read these pages to sit back and consider the apologetic they are living. We, as believers, have the powerful responsibility to represent Christ, not just in our words, but in our lives and actions. Are we? Until we can begin to answer in our own lives the questions that others ask of us, and until we start living in a way that is consistent with authentic Christian faith, then we will never be the messengers of Grace that we are supposed to be. Living our faith is the most powerful apologetic of all.
     May God richly bless and keep you.
    

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Beginning....

     Let me begin this by saying that I am not a writer. I don't claim any real writing credentials. Most of what gets said here will be the wanderings of my over-active and poorly read brain. I hope the few folks who do stop by and read this blog will find that I have held true to the blog's title.
     Answers, Reason, and Hope will be a blog, I hope, about the truth of a Christian worldview and the all it entails, both good and bad. The Christian has come under increasing scrutiny in the United States, and many have become hostile towards us because of actions and words they find inconsistent with what the bible teaches. I will try,  here, to offer some insights on the reasonableness, truth, and consistency of the Biblical worldview to Christian and non-Christian alike. I pray that God gives me wisdom as I begin this journey and I pray that His name always will be lifted up in these posts. I also pray that you, the reader, will enjoy the insights and discussions here and that they will spur you on to further thought, prayer and reading. I am looking forward to this, as I hope you are. May God bless you, and keep you until you return here.