20081031

Echo of Victory

I'm going to switch things up a bit. This time around, I've posted a short work of fiction as food for thought. Enjoy!

Echo of Victory
By C.E. Anderson

The single fluorescent light buzzed mutedly, the only audible disturbance in the otherwise silent chamber. It strained to cast its green glow across the barren white-washed block room, barely illuminating only a table, chair, and three persons. One of these sat at the center of the light in the chair at the table, his incarcerated hands resting on the surface of the elevated plane. His orange jumpsuit radiated an eerie neon quality given it by the lighting. He was calm, composed, resolute, staring into space as if his current situation was but a mere trifle and below his notice.

The remaining beings were two plainclothes officers who stood opposite the prisoner in the shadows along the wall, the only thing giving away their status being the badges that hung on their belts and the sidearms strapped to their thighs. One was a rookie, fresh out of the academy and on his first month of duty. But any officers who underestimated him had already been proven sorely mistaken; having graduated at the top of his class, in his short time on the force he had already been instrumental in the apprehending of several dangerous fugitives, like the one seated across from him. Now he was conducting his first interrogation. His young face hardened in thought as he sized up the prisoner, trying to decide what approach he would use.

The second officer was a seasoned veteran, bald head glistening in the pasty light as he rubbed the stubble on his chin. He’d seen his share of whackos before, and had interrogated enough of them to know how this would play out. He was only there as the supervising officer, a sort of moral support for the rookie as the younger man learned the ropes. He would let the kid burn out his energy, but he wouldn’t learn anything useful, no matter what cockamamie techniques he’d just learned at the academy. This nut wasn’t going to say anything. None of the ones like him ever did.

Davis, the younger, glanced at Silverman, the older, who promptly gave him a soft nod. It was time to get the ball rolling.

“Mr. Patterson,” Davis began, stepping into the light and leaning on the table in front of the prisoner, “Are you aware of how precarious a position you are in?”

Patterson just glanced at him stone faced, silence his only reply.

“Well then, let me illuminate you as to your situation,” continued Davis, taking the silence for smugness. “Best case scenario, and I mean best case scenario, you’re looking at twenty-five to life. As things stand, the death penalty is much more likely, I would say even probable.” As a matter of fact, Patterson was all but guaranteed death.

The slightest grin cracked on Patterson’s face as he stared emptily at the table. Did he think that was funny?

Davis ignored it and pressed on. “But, the chances of you receiving the lighter sentence become much more likely if you will cooperate with our investigation. So, do you have anything you want to tell us?”

Still no reply. Davis switched gears.

“Come on man,” he said softly, leaning in towards Patterson, “I want to help you, I really do. But you’ve got to help me for that to be possible, see? What do you say?”

Patterson looked up and stared into Davis’ eyes. There was no fear in the convict’s pupils, only confident certainty. It started to unnerve Davis; he hadn’t ever seen anything like it. Patterson’s crimes were capital; he was a dead man walking. He would have to be crazy not to be at least a little afraid. But crazies always wanted to brag about what they had done and run their mouths. This guy was silent as a stone and cool as a cucumber. Davis didn’t get it.

“You don’t talk much do you?” said Davis, straightening up.

Patterson didn’t break his silent streak.

Silverman, who was still leaning against the wall, pulled a cigarette out of the pack he had in his rear pocket with his left hand. He extracted a lighter with his right hand, and proceeded to light up. He puffed away in silence for a moment as the two other men stared at each other.

“Give it up, kid,” he said between drags. “He’s not going to tell you anything.”

Davis ignored his partner and pressed on: “How many of you are there in the city?... Where do you meet?... How do you communicate with one another?... Do you interact with other cells around the country?” Davis fired off questions rapidly without waiting for a reply, not that there would have been one anyway. “With every one of these questions that you help us answer, your chances of getting a lighter sentence increase.”

Only eyes responded, unwavering, unrelenting, unnervingly calm eyes!

“I just don’t get you fanatics,” said Davis after several moments of silent irritation, “I really don’t. You go around in open rebellion, knocking on death’s door like you’re playing ding-dong-ditch. It’s disgusting.”

“Do you fear death?”

Davis almost jumped; Patterson had actually opened his mouth!

“Of course I do,” replied Davis several seconds later after recovering from the surprise. “Anyone with half a brain fears death.”

“Why?”

“Probably because no one really knows what happens when you die.”

Patterson grinned: “I do.”

“Every religion claims to know,” huffed Davis. “Buddha has his nirvana, Allah his forty virgins, and God his heaven, and then you have the atheists like me who say there’s nothing. What makes you so sure you know?”

A change came over Patterson. A passion washed over his face and a fire burned in his eyes.

“It’s the same assurance that has taken away my fear, the same assurance that has given me peace, the assurance that regardless of what you do to my body you can’t kill my soul, the same assurance that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”

Davis didn’t respond, taken aback. Perhaps Patterson was crazy after all; that was all nonsense after all… wasn’t it?

“You can kill me, officer,” Patterson went on after pausing, “but I know I would go on to a better place. If our situations were reversed, could you say the same? Would you have my peace, or would you be terrified out of your mind?” Patterson’s eyes were all but glowing, and demanded an answer.

Davis was quiet for a moment, then said: “You’d have to be crazy to believe what you do, but you’re not crazy. How can you be so certain, so peaceful?”

“It’s not as crazy as it sounds,” Patterson said with a warm smile, his face coming to life. “If you’d like, I can tell y…”

The bullet entered Patterson’s skull, not letting him finish the sentence. Blood and brain matter splattered against the block wall behind, and Patterson’s shell collapsed lifelessly onto the table. The gunshot echoed loudly for what seemed like an eternity as Davis stared in shock.

Silverman replaced the still smoking pistol to its holster, took a final drag from his cigarette, then tossed it to the floor and stamped it out.

“He was getting to you, kid,” said the old officer, concentrating on his shoe as he rubbed the cigarette in to the floor. “It happens to the best of us, but you can’t let them get to you like that.”

“Y…you’re right, of course,” stammered Davis, still trying to recover. He had seen plenty of videos of people dying, but had never witnessed it himself. Now he knew he never wanted to again.

“Well,” Silverman said looking up at the body, “chalk up another win for the good guys. Hopefully, soon all the Christians will be just like him.” He turned and headed for the door. “C’mon kid, let’s get something to eat. I’m starving.”

Davis followed, almost stumbling as the queasiness hit him. He cast one last glance over his shoulder at the body before leaving the room. He could almost swear Patterson was still staring at him from the pillow of pooling blood around his head on the table. Something Patterson had said had struck a chord somewhere deep within, and Davis couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that somehow, he and Silverman had in reality lost. There was an echo of victory in Patterson’s lifeless eyes as the empty gaze bored a hole in Davis’ soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” — Tertullian

20080724

Frontline

“Stand beside, or step aside for the frontline.”

Now that’s the sort of talk I love to hear. Of course it doesn’t make as much sense without the context of the song it’s yanked out of. Here, let me give you the first verse so you can get a feel for the song…

It’s not like I’m walking alone into
the valley of the shadow of death
Stand beside one another, ‘cause it ain’t over yet
I’d be willing to bet that if we don’t back down
You and I will be the ones that are
holding the Crown in the end
When it’s over, we can say, “Well done”
But not yet, ‘cause it’s only begun
So, pick up, and follow me, we’re the only ones
To fight this thing, until we’ve won
We drive on and don’t look back
It doesn’t mean we can’t learn from our past
All the things that we mighta done wrong
We could’ve been doing this all along


And then of course it goes into the chorus, the last line of which is quoted above. The song is titled “Frontline” (obvious, no?), and it’s by the band Pillar. I must admit, I like the song. I’d definitely recommend it as a download for the digital music player of your choice. A warning is in order, however: it’s pretty rockin’ stuff. If you can’t stomach that genre of music so well, at least look the rest of the lyrics up for me, kay? I think that you’ll come to like the song too.

Actually, it’s encouraging to me. If you look out over this younger Christian generation, that sort of “let’s get this fight rolling again” mentality is rather widespread. You can see it in the music we listen too: the above Pillar song is one of a plethora of popular Christian songs I could point out. You can see it in what we do: the number of young people going out of various sorts of missions endeavors seems to increase exponentially every year. You can see it in what we say: I’ve been (figuratively speaking) hammering this message into the skulls of my not-so-similarly-minded peers in just about everything I’ve written since I started writing. And I’m not alone, not by a long shot.

It’s refreshing, seeing that many of this generation want to rid the Church of the apathy that has smothered it for about two generations now here in America. Yeah, I’m sure some of you would take issue with me on that statement, and if I was being technical, I’d take issue with me too. Obviously, if the church had been completely apathetic, there wouldn’t even be a younger generation. BUT, I think that anyone looking at the events towards the beginning of the last century would, if they were honesty, say that that generation bought into the lie that the Church should keep to itself, and leave the running of society to the government. To a large degree, the church surrendered many of its responsibilities to the government. Yes, the Depression was a hard time, but it should have been the Church rallying to help people make it through, not the government. That’s just one example, but in many arenas the Church gave its own ground to Uncle Sam, public education (Uncle Sam’s inbred and retarded child), and non-profit organizations. The Church unfortunately acquiesced when they said it needed to stay in the arena of “spiritual matters” behind its closed doors on Sunday, and leave reality to those properly equipped to handle it.

Sigh.

So now, two generations later, society’s a mess and the Church still struggles and to ground itself in the reality of people’s lives. And yet we wonder why Sunday morning Christians are still such a problem. The apathetic Sunday morning system the Church let itself get compartmentalized into generations ago is obviously and inevitably going to breed an apathetic Sunday morning Christian, that whole “reap what you sow” thing. So yes, it’s immensely encouraging to see that this generation knows things have to change and wants to either prevail or go down fighting.

But now I have to sigh again.

I hate to say it, but unfortunately many of this generation, many of my generation, are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The Church has become obsolete, they say, so let’s just chuck it. Essentially, that’s really what this whole new “Emergent Church” thing is about, tossing anything that even half-way looks like it was related the Church as it has been. This new book that’s been causing waves, The Shack, it runs along the same lines. I haven’t read it yet (although I intend to), but I’ve read several reviews and an interview with the author in World Magazine. To a certain (and admitted) extent, the book is about removing the organized Church from Christianity. As if that were actually possible.

I can identify with them to a huge degree; I’ve given the Church plenty of tongue lashings myself. I can understand the frustration. We’re hyped, we’re pumped, we want to fight something, to get to that frontline and give the enemy our best shot. The apathy plaguing Church absolutely disgusts us, and of course the gut reaction is to run. Much of the generation is flying out the Church doors, weapons in hand and battle-cry in lungs as they charge off, looking for that frontline. You have to admire their guts and die-hard spirit, it’s inspiring really. They’ve just missed one, small thing. The frontline is just under their noses, it always has been. It’s not in the trenches “out there” somewhere...

It’s in the pews.

Does the Church have problems? Oh yeah, you’d better believe it. Have we made some pretty killer mistakes? Heck yes. But if the Church was perfect, it wouldn’t really be the Church then would it? Christianity and the Church are inseparable. The Church is where the battle is and always has been. It’s where the frontline fight really is, bet your life on it.

One must admit, there is a certain logic to the “chuck the Church” perspective. The Church has been a Lone Ranger convention for a long time, a place where the individuals come together 4 (at best) out of 168 hours a week to discuss how doing their own thing the other 164 hours is going. Well the convention isn’t going well, so what does one do? Break up the convention of course; Lone Rangers don’t need one anyway. Quite logical, it does in its own way make sense.

The only problem is this: there were never supposed to be Lone Rangers. It’s the Rangers that need breaking up, not the convention. The Church is supposed to be a living breathing body, a family of people living life together day by day. The battle lies in making that happen. But, you say, the Church is supposed to reach out and change society; that’s where the battle should be. Wrong: the Church is supposed to overflow into and possess society. The idea that the Church is over here and it needs to reach society over there is only part of the compartmentalization that caused this problem in the first place.

The real fight is breaking the Church out of its compartmentalized mindset that crippled it in our society two generations ago. That’s the true frontline for you, and it ain’t your momma’s frontline either. This one’s going to be a doozey: entrenched habits die hard, very hard. It’s going to take a defibrillator the size of Texas to reawaken this sleeping giant we call the Church, call it The Great Awakening Round 2. But that’s the fight I’m headed for. So like Pillar said…

“Stand beside [me], or step aside for the frontline.”

20080713

Giving in to Grace

Sin is the only thing we’re supposed to hate as Christians, and I’m finding that I hate it more and more, especially within myself. I mean sin is the whole reason Jesus had to come and die; it’s definitely worth hating. It’s only by God’s wonderful grace that we can (and have been) saved from sin. But even though we’ve been saved, we still have to deal with it in our lives, and it’s a yucky process.

What especially irks me are those really repetitive ones, you know, the sins that you just can’t seem to shake off no matter how hard you try? Everyone’s got them, and if you say you don’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to call you a liar. But whatever yours may be, are they not the most irritating things? Yeah, everyone knows the key to ridding yourself of sin is confessing and repenting, that’s the preacher’s version. But how do you DO that? Confessing is fairly easy, but how do you turn 180 degrees around from doing something that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem get yourself to stop doing? I mean I’ve tried everything to kick these things, and no matter what or how hard I try, they still come back to bite me.

I was feeling rather down in the dumps about my own clinging sins recently, and it really had me down. They just make you feel like a failure as a Christian if you’re honest with yourself, and no one likes feeling like a failure. You feel like you let God down. Well, I was talking to someone about how I felt, and while engaged in the conversation an incredible thought occurred to me.

What about grace?

It’s interesting. We only really talk about grace a lot when we talk about salvation. But there are three parts to the life of a Christian: salvation, sanctification, and glorification. Salvation is being saved from sin’s penalty and is a one time thing (at conversion); sanctification is being saved from sin’s power (or becoming more like Christ) and is a life-long thing; glorification is being saved from sin’s presence and will happen when we get our new bodies in heaven. (And yes, I just gave you a whole semester’s worth of Bible College for free.) Grace obviously plays an enormous part in steps one and three. After all, grace is the only reason those steps are possible. As a matter of fact, the only reason any of the steps is possible is because of grace.

Why then do we not talk about grace when we talk about becoming more Christ-like?

I believe that it is to our detriment that we don’t emphasize grace when we talk about sanctification. It’s like we say that we get saved and get to go to heaven because of what God did, but the becoming Christ-like part is our part of the job. We don’t believe in salvation by works; should sanctification be any different? I say not.

Let me explain it this way. Let’s say (hypothetically) that you have an anger problem. You’re saved and you’ve been a Christian for years, but you just can’t shake it. You’ve tried everything you know, from counting to ten to taking deep breaths, but you still lose it when that idiot cuts you off in traffic. You’ve prayed and confessed and done your very best to repent, but when that jerk down the hall in the dorm won’t stop playing “Sweet Home Alabama” as loud as his stereo can go (at 2 A.M. mind you), you charge down there and take a bat to the stereo till that infernal machine is silenced forever. You just can’t seem to control these bursts of anger. This if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed-try-try-again all over again business is only leaving you feeling defeated in your Christian walk. What are you to do? (And this sin doesn’t necessarily have to be anger; you fill in the blank.)

Here’s my point: what if there’s nothing you can do? Maybe the only real way to be rid of this leeching sin is to admit that you can’t. Maybe it’s like salvation. We say that no matter how hard you work, you could never save yourself. Well maybe no matter how hard you try, you won’t ever sanctify yourself. What if the only real way to ditch these clinging sins is to simply admit that we cannot do it ourselves? Maybe it’s only in surrendering our volition to the Holy Spirit by admitting that we can’t that He is finally allowed to take over and rake this muck out from inside of us.

Now don’t get me wrong. This does NOT give us license to sin as much as we please, any more than the fact that we can’t save ourselves gives us license to sin. It just means that we have to man up and say we can’t do it. God alone can save; God alone can sanctify. I think it’s part of human nature for us to try and do things for ourselves. Even the unsaved will try to earn their salvation in some manner or another. We condemn this as wrong when it comes to salvation, but then we turn around and do a different form of the same thing when it comes to sanctification; we try to earn it. But we can’t earn it.

Giving into grace is the only solution.

When that realization hit me, I was psyched! It was the first time I ever looked at the sin in my life that way. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I can’t beat these sins, and I felt like screaming it out to the whole world. I can’t do it; there is absolutely nothing I can do. But God through the working of the Holy Spirit can. Now I’m just plain flabbergasted. How could I have been so stupid as to somehow think that sole responsibility fell on my shoulders to do this? And why would God want to sanctify anyone so dumb?

Well, that’s grace for you.

“Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that can pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all [my] sin.”

20080629

Cancer

Cancer is one nasty bug.

Of course you can’t even really call it a bug. Unlike most diseases that are caused by bacteria or viruses, cancer doesn’t come from without. The fact is this sickness that some call the most dangerous illness to face human humanity comes from within. It is our own bodies turning against us.

If you do a little research on cancer, you’ll find out that at first it doesn’t really seem like a big deal. All it takes is a cell, one single cell, the smallest unit in the body, deciding that it’s going to do its own thing. That cell decides it wants to grow at its own pace, so it takes over one of the cells around it. Then more cells are taken over, and the process continues. These renegade cells begin not only consuming the good cells, but also taking resources that those good cells need. The rebels continue to grow and grow, going from microscopic entities to tumors that can be as large as a softball, sometimes even larger. Those tumors, in turn, can be lethal, not to mention the fact that the cancerous cells are slowly eating the body alive. That’s what the most dangerous disease facing our bodies is, that’s cancer.

In my opinion, it’s also the most dangerous thing facing the body.

Oh sure, we’ve got the enemy that prowls about like a lion, seeking whom he may devour. But what kills more people annually, cancer or lions? Please don’t misunderstand me; Satan is a very powerful enemy, and I don’t think we take him seriously enough. BUT, what we take even less seriously is something far more insidious than an external attacker. It is members of the body refusing to take orders from the Head. Instead the renegades do their own thing.

Let’s face it: this is a rampant problem. Everywhere you turn, Christians (or at least people who call themselves Christians) are “doing their own thing,” not taking God’s will or Scripture into account in the least. They seep into churches, infect others with their ways, and consume resources that the body needs to do its true work. I think it’s pretty obvious that this is undeniably sin. Not only is it sin, it is the cancer of the church. And it’s spreading astronomically, mostly unchallenged at that.

So what do we do about it? Paul doles out some pretty powerful punches. “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. (1Tim. 5:20)”Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)” Jesus himself addressed what to do with such people in Matt. 18:15-17:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Well, why don’t we do that in our churches then?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s a good answer to that question. It is no secret that church discipline is by far and large a joke. Sins are spreading like gangrene, as Paul put it, but corporately we’re not doing much about it. Sure, if someone has an affair we’ll kick them out of the church, but what about the “factious man”? What about the habitual liars? What about the stabbing gossipers? What about the boasting proud? What about the man-pleasers who place the rich and nice looking at the head of the proverbial table? We won’t even bring their sins to their attention, much less get to the disassociation phase after multiple warnings. So the cancer grows, and grows, and grows, choking the life out of the church.

What are we going to do about it? I suppose that’s up to us, isn’t it? Here’s a novel idea: why don’t we try doing what the Bible says, just for once? Who knows, it might just take care of the problem.

20080616

Switchblade to a Swordfight

What is the deal with the Armor of God? I mean I’m not saying that it’s bad or anything, none of the Bible is bad, but why is it that we concentrate so much on this one particular thing? I mean honestly, I’ve probably heard more sermons and lessons about the Armor of God than any other portion of Scripture, perhaps besides the crucifixion and the Great Commission. (Of course the latter would be my dad’s fault; there was a time when I was a boy that I could have preached his Great Commission sermon verbatim and saved him the trouble of preaching it again as we visited churches to raise support.)

Anyway, I find it interesting that the Armor of God attracts preachers and teachers to itself on such a regular basis. Although, you do have to admit, it is a good analogy. It even sounds exciting. It just has that ring to it. Strap on that Belt of Truth! Don that Breastplate of Righteousness! Lace up those Gospel boots! Grab that Shield of Faith! And slip that crowning Helmet of Salvation over your head! Now that’s attention-grabbing, face-reddening, pulpit-pounding stuff!

But then, almost as an afterthought: oh yeah, and don’t forget that sword thing, you know, the Word of God? Maybe it will come in handy for something.

You can’t really blame the preachers for this oversight can you? After going on passionately for an hour about the various pieces of armor, by the time they get to the sword they’re just plum tuckered out, so it only gets a passing mention most of the time. Paul put it last on the list anyway, didn’t he? Besides, Christianity is supposed to be a “religion of peace.” Weapons can’t be that important, right?

Wrong, dead wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’… For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Mt. 10:34; Heb. 4:12)

I think perhaps there is even an underlying motivation behind what we might want to label a simple oversight. Hearing about armor makes us feel safe, and secure. If we’ve got armor, we can safely stay where we are. It keeps us from having to run away scared. If and when we get attacked, having armor means we are protected and, all things considered, even comfortable when those fiery darts come whistling at us. It makes us feel all nice inside, being told we have armor. But a sword, that’s a completely different matter entirely. Those are used for attacking and other such nasty business. They had best be left alone, had they not?

Then we turn around and have the gall to wonder why we’re losing ground in the war for our culture. And make no mistake, it is a war.

Oh, have no doubt; there are the brave souls who try to muster a fight when the hoards of darkness strike. They attempt to make a stand when our religion is ridiculed and our values are assaulted. But using their own words, their comeback has the battle-effectiveness of a letter-opener. The most intelligent and eloquent of us might even manage to muster a switchblade, but they’re bringing a switchblade to a swordfight. These brave ones are easily beaten down as the enemy charges unchallenged through our ranks, not quite so benignly armed. As the few courageous are swallowed up in the swarm, their comrades watch complacently, hiding behind their armor, while everyone leaves our most powerful weapon un-cracked, gathering dust on a shelf.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to know that we have an armor that our God has given us. We should even be thankful for it. But that knowledge should give us a greater peace and courage to be good soldiers, not an excuse to stick our heads in the sand and safely ignore the battle.

Considering that Paul used these ancient tools of war as an analogy for the Christian life, perhaps examining the successful strategies of ancient warfare might help us in this dark hour. There are three things that I think we could afford to learn. First of all, ancient warriors had their swords drawn in times of battle. Scripture is our sword, and it must be the weapon we use when we go into battle. This war will not be won by our own words, no matter how charismatic the speaker, no matter how clever his arguments, no matter how unbreakable his logic. God’s Word alone will stem the tide and bring victory.

Secondly, successful ancient warriors not only had their swords drawn, but they were skilled in their use. The best warriors trained constantly. Their swords were in their hands on a daily basis, even if they weren’t engaged in battle every day. I guarantee you, if a warrior had simply picked up his sword for an hour three times a week, he would not have lived long in battle. Our swords are not meant to be just taken out at church. They’re not even meant to be casually laid on one’s lap in a moment of meditation that quickly leaves the brain. They are weapons meant to be wielded. We must know them like the back of our hand, daily training ourselves in their use. Then we must be ever ready to engage the enemy with them.

Finally, ancient warriors were victorious when they stood together. Phalanxes of troops easily defeated bodies of foes many times their size, even foes much larger and more dangerously armed than themselves. Their unity and coherence as a team on the field of battle made them victors when there seemed to be no hope. It is no secret that the backbone of the most powerful armies of the ancient world was the phalanx, just look at Alexander the Great and the Romans. Jesus himself emphasized the importance of unity. “…any city or house divided against itself shall not stand… keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are…” We must stand together, or there will be no standing at all.

This reasoning begs many questions. Do we have the courage to see Scripture drawn and gleaming in the hands of every Christian in this nation? As God’s warriors, do we have the resolve to be properly trained and ready to make use of our blades, swords more potent than any other weapon imaginable? Do we have the humility to understand that the differences that divide us are insignificant when compared to the ties that bind us, the humility to stand as one in the name of the Savior that unites us all?

The day when each of those questions can be answered in the affirmative will be the day the tide turns. That will be the day when we will have laid aside every encumbrance, and will truly be running the race that is set before us. That is the day I hope, work, and pray for. Hopefully, you can say the same.

20080614

My Generation

An essay I wrote in a moment of frustration last semester...

I’m an avid Titans fan, and you know what? I really think that they’ve got a shot at making the Super Bowl next year. We’ve got a new offensive coordinator that calls much better plays than the old one did, and if we can pick up a clutch receiver from the free agency to complement our running game, the offense should be unstoppable. The defense was good this past year, but if we can pick up a shutdown corner to help in the secondary, the defense will be incredible. Playoffs should be a given if we make some smart moves this off-season. You know, I like talking about the Titans.

I like talking about movies too. That Bourne Trilogy was really something wasn’t it? But it still can’t touch Lord of the Rings, nothing can. The Star Wars series is OK too, but you have to admit, hands down the old trilogy was WAY better than these new ‘pre-qual’ things. And if you ask me, M. Night Shyamalan is the next Alfred Hitchcock. Who knows, maybe he even surpasses Hitchcock. You know, I like to talk about movies.

Music is fun to talk about too. So is TV. And oh, don’t get me going about how PCs are head and shoulders above Macs… By the way, iPods and iTunes are of the devil; give me a Zune any day… If you ask me, Starbucks mocha frappachino is by far the best drink you can buy for $4… You’ve got to admit, it’s really a toss up between the Wii and Xbox 360. I mean who could ever choose between Masterchief and Mario?... You know, I like talking about all these things.

But there is so, so much more.

Yeah, those other things are fun and amusing, but they’re… flat. I want to talk about things that get my heart burning, that strike that reverberating chord deep inside. What effect has humanism had on modern philosophy? How can we combat the post-modernism that has conquered our culture? What is the nature of truth, where does it come from? How should our Christianity play itself out in the world around us? What can we do to stem the tide of abortion? Is politics something that we should have a part in? How does our worldview affect our decisions and actions? These are things I love to talk about.

But when I bring them up with my peers, more often that not I just receive blank stares.

If I get any response at all, it’s usually either (a) stop being a smart-aleck, or (b) stop being argumentative, or (c) both. I try to gain information and knowledge, analyze how it applies to me and my life, and use what I’ve learned to make better decisions; does that make me a smart-aleck? I believe with all my heart and soul that truth is worth standing on and fighting for; does that make me argumentative? Am I the only person in my age bracket who feels this way?

Am I the only one that sees our country going down the tubes? Does no one else see that we’re so permeated with our self-absorption that all most people seem to care about is their own comfort and enjoyment? Does no one else see that gay-rights, abortion, and other liberal agendas are gaining ground only because the good sit, say we’ve already lost, and do nothing? Does no one else see that while we complain about how our food tastes, there are thousands who are starving and would kill for what we throw away? Does no one else see that if our generation doesn’t stand and fight for truth that transcends beyond ourselves and what we feel and think, our country will be destroyed? Does no one else care about the fate of our children and grandchildren who will have to live with the consequences of our decisions today? I’m calling out: is there anyone?

Am I the only one that sees Christianity as a war rather than a joy-ride? Does no one else see that Jesus promised us trouble, not comfort? Does no one else see that the Bible says go out and make disciples, not stay put and earn money? Does no one else see that Jesus said a house divided cannot stand, not squabble and separate over your differences? Does no one else see that our faith is so much more than going to church, praying, and reading the Bible; that it demands obeisance in everything from washing the laundry to casting our vote? Does no one else see that while we’re enjoying our culture’s entertainment, people are dying and going to hell without having even heard the gospel once? I’m calling out: is there anyone?

Surely, there must be others like me. Somewhere deep inside us, we must realize that we have been watered down to ineffectiveness by what our culture has been feeding us. Down in the depths of our being, we know life’s meaning cannot just be the sum of the things we want and enjoy. If we as Christians would actually be still, quiet, and cut out the distractions for just a moment, maybe we would hear the Holy Spirit prompting. Or maybe we do hear Him, but we use all these pleasures and entertainments to drown Him out because we know He is calling us to do things we don’t want to do, things that make us uncomfortable, things that might even hurt.

Or do I have it all wrong? Am I really just being a smart-aleck, just being argumentative? Is pleasure more important than wisdom, ‘getting along’ more important than truth? Are these things that ignite my inner being, in the long run, just frivolities? Is life’s meaning really just the sum of the things I want and enjoy; do I have my priorities mixed up? Maybe so, you tell me.

I’m an avid Titans fan, and you know what? I really think that they’ve got a shot at making the Super Bowl next year…

20080611

Predestination in the Light of Quantum Physics

Hey everyone,

I figured I'd give you all a blast from the past; this is an argument I wrote up for a debate back in high school...

Quantum physics basically says that we actually live in a 4 dimensional universe, and not just a 3 dimensional. The three dimensions are simple and just about everyone understands them: horizontal, vertical, and depth (in math, they're explained in terms of the x, y, and z axes). Quantum physics looks at time as a sort of fourth axis of existence, which is different from the more classical view of time. If you were to give every place in the universe coordinates using quantum physics, it would have the three coordinates of its place and its time of existence.

So to illustrate what that means (in theory), look at it this way. I'm in Africa right now, and I'm NOT in New York. But just because I'm not there doesn't mean it doesn't exist now. I'm just not there in terms of my three dimensional existence "experiencing" New York. According to quantum physics, time is sort of the same way. The past is existing "now", I'm just not there experiencing it. The future is existing "now", I'm just not there experiencing it. We as human being are limited by time just like we are limited by place: we can't be anywhere or any time other than where we are and when we are.

That's where the omnipotence of God comes in. Just like He's not limited to three dimensions (He is everywhere at once), He's not limited to time (he's at all times at once). So how do I see this working in terms of the Calvinistic view of predestination? That particular view assumes that at some previous point in time, God chose all who would be saved and come to know him. All the people who are, were, and will be Christians are so because "long ago before the foundation of the Earth" He chose them.

Are you maybe beginning to see my problem with that in light of how quantum physics works? God is in no way whatsoever limited to time. I totally one hundred per cent agree that God chooses people who will be saved (I also believe we choose him just like a bride chooses a groom, but that's beside the point). What I don't agree with is that He did it "before" in the temporal sense of the term. Why? Because that premise assumes that like us, He's limited to time. I don't believe that. I believe He's choosing people in the past "right now" just as much as He's choosing people in the present "right now" just as much as He's choosing people in the future "right now". He is at all times of existence doing all things "right now".

We as humans tend to put emphasis on the past acts of God because in the manner God created us to exist, we have a way to "see it" from what others have passed on to us and the fact that we are gifted with memory. So when you or I do anything, we assign a point in time in the past of it happening. If we chose the red shirt over the blue shirt yesterday, we think of ourselves (and correctly so) as doing it yesterday, not today, because we're not doing it now but have a memory of doing it at a particular moment before. Because we do that ourselves, we do the same thing with others. If Ben decided to buy new shoes last week, we (and he) say last week (or any point in time you may like) because he has a memory of doing it then, but he's not doing it now. So with everything we try to describe, we describe it in that light so we can understand it better (and rightfully so).

The problem I have is when you say that God has to operate like that. If you want to say He did something "before", that's totally fine because in a sense He did. But in terms of His existence He's doing it 100 years ago just as much as he's doing it 5 minutes ago just as much as he's doing it now just as much as he's doing it 10 minutes from now just as much as he's doing it 40 years from now. He is existing at all those times at once.

Is that hard to understand? Yeah, but so is the fact that he's three persons yet one God. It's all just part of the nature of our indescribable, uncontainable, and incomprehensible God. :D But, as with all aspects of his nature, we can grasp it just enough to know that we can't ever possibly truly understand it.

If thinking that God had to "choose you before" for you to be saved makes you feel better, by all means believe that. It really doesn't matter that much in my opinion. The most important aspect of Christianity is how one lives in the existence that God has given us. We can argue about these various theories till we're blue in the face, but it still doesn't change the fact that we're all commanded to live a Christ-like life and to do what the Bible commands us to do.

20080604

A MUST See

I stumbled across something today that a friend of mine put together. It's his wife's testimony, and it's incredibly powerful. Please give it a look, I think you'll be glad you did.

Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMW_Z2Jwqns&feature=user

Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnWsX2T8ek0&feature=related

20080602

Stories

Why is it that we like stories?

Indeed, it is so obvious that humans like stories that asking the question of whether or not we like them in the first place would be moronic. But why does humanity like stories? No matter what culture you go to, no matter how civilized or uncivilized they are, no matter what language they speak, you will find stories and storytellers. It is amazing that while an exchange of literature cross-culturally may yield some differences, literature world-wide is remarkably similar. There is no doubt: humans have an enormous propensity for stories.

When I look at literature, I see two main types of story-arcs that almost all of the best-loved stories follow. As a matter of fact, these two types of stories seem to split their appeal between the sexes. Yes, I’m being somewhat stereotypical here, but bear with me. Look at it this way: what kind of story is it that boys generally like? If you think about it, you’ll notice that guys like stories of straight up good verses evil, with the hero fighting on courageously even when things look darkest. But at the moment what all hope seems finally lost, the hero overcomes and saves the day. Think about it, am I wrong or do I perhaps have a point?

And what about the girls, what sorts of stories do they like? They typically like stories where the protagonist (be it man or woman) is in love with a significant other, but there is some sort of trial or obstacle that separates them. Through courage and bravery, the protagonist overcomes and the two lovers are finally united in that happy, gushy, romantic moment. Once again, am I wrong or do I perhaps have a point?

Yes, I am generalizing somewhat, but if you look at the stories that appeal most to you, the ones that you like best, I think you’ll find that they contain one of these two plot arcs. As a matter of fact, the best stories weave the two together and have a wide range of appeal across the sexes, and even across cultures. Yes, the specifics might be different and there are variations, but generally speaking the stories that humanity in general likes follow these archetypes. Stories like this simply have an appeal to us.

Anthropologists who study foreign cultures for a living have noticed this fact, and indeed the stories, proverbs, legends, and mythology of different cultures very often proclaim the same overarching messages. Similar story-arcs, characters, and themes enumerate the one-ness of humanity in this regard. It is even true that our Bible shares similarities with these universal story-types. As a matter of fact, that is what leads many anthropologists to conclude that the Bible is just another cultural legend, peppered with mythology and larger-than-life events. But we as Christians don’t (at least shouldn’t) believe this to be the case. We are still faced with a valid question, however: how can this be? How can our Bible be so similar to these other stories of an obviously un-inspired nature? Is there some sort of accident here? Are the anthropologists simply wrong?

I think not.

I agree one-hundred percent with the anthropologists; elements of the Bible are remarkably similar to many stories found in many cultures. One would be a fool to not notice that the Bible even contains stories that follow one of the two plots I described above. Guy story? Check out David & Goliath and Gideon, just to name a couple. Girl story? Try Ruth and the story of Jacob & Rachel. The only difference I have with the anthropologists is this: I think they have it backwards. It’s not that the Bible imitates other stories; it’s that other stories imitate the Bible. I would even go so far as to say that our propensity for stories is God-ordained.

As Christians, we don’t really believe in coincidences; I don’t believe that it is random chance that we are drawn to stories the way we are. God created us, and while we are fallen, God originally called us good. I firmly believe that the human desire for stories was instilled in us by our Heavenly Father. Why? To guide us right back to Him. What better way could be used to draw us to Him than this: to instill in us a great affection for stories, and then provide us the greatest story ever told? Before you accuse me of being off my rocker, think about it. Consider the two story arcs we keep talking about.

Guys, do you think it is a coincidence that Christian life is over and over again compared to that of a soldier? Do you think it is a coincidence that a scene is described in Revelation that shows humanity at its darkest hour, when suddenly the sky opens and a white rider comes storming out of the clouds at the head of the heavenly host? I don’t know about you, but as a guy that strikes a chord deep inside and makes my heart want to sing.

Girls, do you think it is a coincidence that we as the church are called the Bride of Christ, and that there are a plethora of parables that use the symbol of a bride and groom? Do you think that it is a coincidence that after Satan is finally done away with once and for all in Revelation, we find an account of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, where the tear will be wiped from every eye and there will be no more pain or death or suffering, where we’ll be with our true love forever? I’m not a girl, but that sounds like the most romantic thing anyone could dream up.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. That looks to me as if the ultimate story has been woven, one that appeals to all of humanity across any and all racial or ethnic boundaries, one that grabs equally both the hearts of men and of women. And that’s not even the best part. What is the one thing everyone wants when they read a story? To be a character therein themselves. That is what God offers us through his Son Jesus Christ, a chance to play a part in the greatest story that ever can or will be told.

Let’s be honest. As Christians we tend to get bogged down in what appears to be the tediousness of our faith; we often focus in on ourselves and an extremely narrow portion of the whole story. Is God interested in the things that challenge us on the day to day, in our own individual stories? Most assuredly so! But those things pale in comparison to the one cosmic and epic story we have been called to participate in. It’s an interesting paradox; in a way it’s all about us and in a way it has nothing to do with us. We’re engaged in a struggle that surpasses any of us individually but affects us all corporately, the battle for human souls.

So what’s the point of this whole soliloquy? I challenge you to evaluate yourself, as I am challenged to evaluate myself. Are we so focused on our own needs and our own lives that we’ve lost sight of the big picture? Has our focus drifted from the Great Commission objectives that our commander-in-chief has given us to our own meager designs? Maybe you need to ask an even more fundamental question: are you even sure you’ve accepted your blood-signed invitation to join the story?

But most importantly, I hope you are encouraged. I hope that focusing back on the prize gives you renewed courage to “fight the good fight.” I hope you are strengthened with a renewed understanding that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” There is a peace and strength that comes from the realization that it’s not all about us individually. And finally…

I hope you have a new-found appreciation for stories.

20080601

The Beginning

At the recommendation of a friend, I have started a blog. Perhaps (and hopefully) some of you will find my thoughts at least interesting, if not thought provoking. ^_^

I must give credit to another friend of mine for the title (Truthmonger), considering they were the first person to ever call me that. You know who you are. ;) The moniker describes me aptly, I think, hence the title.

And what's with calling these things blog anyway? Is there really any sort of sensible etymology behind the word? Yes, you do have to call them something, but why 'blog' of all things? Of course one must then ask: why not? I suppose there isn't a reason not to call it a 'blog', so blog will have to do.

Well, rest assured, there will be more to come. My brain never ceases to produce the occaisional odd thought... ;)