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... ;)