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DeathBroughtLife

He willingly bore affliction in order to kill my addiction to sin. It's for Him I take up this pen.

Entertaining Ethics

Ideas are not to be merely entertained or conversed but judged based on their merit. Our postmodern society is working very diligently to discredit the reality that ideals have any moral implication or truth value. This is extremely evident here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4S0gHlKiho. Would these college students be willing to tell me that a rock isn’t an apple? Or if I claimed to be a monkey would they be willing or able to tell me I am not? At what point is relative thought intolerable?

If you went to purchase a car and the used car salesman tells you the old beat up, paint-pealing, piece of junk before your eyes is a new 2017 Ford Explorer which you can snag for the great price of $31,600, your jaw would drop in sheer amazement. Once you recovered from bewilderment you would either laugh in the guy’s face or sternly correct him that the car in front of you is actually a 1987, a grand thirty years older than he had told you. That would be unacceptable. Well the same type of absurd redefining is happening before you and it’s unacceptable. No, I’m not alluding to homosexual marriage, I’m directly speaking to the content of the video. It’s unacceptable that we cannot tell a man he isn’t a little girl. No one can deny patrons drinks if someone can identify as a different age. Thirteen-year-olds could rent cars, and forty-year-olds could get the elderly specials at Cotton Patch. I’m not arguing that this level of mental-illness or logical inconsistency is the norm but the ground for its denial is swiftly washing away.

The popularity of ethics: would verses ought

The brilliant Peter Kreeft gives some insight into this popular trend. It’s common for Christians to talk about the erosion of morality and the disappearance of ethics but they haven’t vanished at all, at least Kreeft is confident they haven’t. He argues that ethics have continued to be a popular subject, however the issue is that ethics are popular in discussion only. He states:

“We believe instead in discussion, in moral ping pong, in value clarification. . . “Facilitators” (no longer teachers, for there is no longer anything true to teach) encourage students to state and clarify their own personal values by asking questions. . . the only thing forbidden is for the facilitator to suggest that his beliefs are true, or even to suggest that there is objective truth in the realm of values, for that would mean that some of the students are wrong, and that would be “judgmental”, the only sin.”[1]

The discussion of ethics continues to flourish while firm beliefs in right, wrong, ought, or ought not are being eradicated. There is only so much usefulness in asking people, “Given the ability, would you have killed Hitler when he was a child?” At some point there needs to be a conversation about whether you should or should not have killed Hitler when he was a child. While the point of teaching is to stir up the thoughts of impressionable minds, the ultimate goal of teachers is to logically persuade hearts and minds toward virtue. Impressionable minds need to hear the difference between right and wrong because “what would you do?” questions only get students so far. Our generation of “I would” and “I think” ethics is an echo chamber where emotions are reinforced as correct foundational beliefs. Echo chambers that reverberate hallow and malnourished opinions only deafen the ears of those who should hear the sweet sound of real substance.

G.K. Chesterton said, “an open mind is like an open mouth: useful only to close down on something solid.”[2] When I was a child my parents could have held seminars where they asked me what my diet should consist of. They could have allowed me to participate in lengthy discourses about how many hours of television would be acceptable for my eight-year-old self.  Like the child that I was I probably would have asked for thirty hours a week. But there is a reason my parents told me what I ought to do and ought not to do. The existence and importance of truth (and rightness) must be more than discussed, they must build a foundation that is utilized as a launching pad for action.

“I feel” must turn back to “I should.” We can sit around college class rooms and give ethical propositions where students respond with “I would do this or that”, or “I would feel comfortable doing so and so.” But we shouldn’t do that, we should have teachers that have reasons for saying, “Students you ought to do so because it is right to do so.” We need teachers who want to hear what students think and desire to shift their thinking to what is correct, instead of encouraging error. Of course this is assuming students have the mental strength to hear they are wrong for the sake of good intellectual discourse and can appreciate that disagreement is a good, challenging thing.

G.K. Chesterton (sorry, I’m on a Kreeft and Chesterton kick) also said the primary danger of human intelligence is that it has the capability to destroy itself, meaning a generation can decide that the reasoning skills of humans are no longer a reliable source. If neither God or man can be trusted, suddenly everything falls into obscurity. “There is a thought that stops all thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. That is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed.”[3] If our own reasoning cannot be trusted and if there is no God, everything is permissible and nothing matters (thanks Nietzsche). Aside from wanting to remain in our sin, that’s precisely why we don’t teach ought and why we love to discuss should.

The danger: we know not our own weakness or strength

In addition to the potential daily absurdities, there are very real dangers before us: “Exactly when our toys have grown up with us from bows and arrows to thermonuclear bombs, we have become moral infants. If a child’s moral growth does not keep pace with his physical growth, there may soon be no child.”[4] Kreeft says we’ve advanced in our scientific and technological capabilities, yet, we’ve remained young and ignorant in our morality. We have not mentally or morally matured with our bodies. A three-year-old is quite the danger in superman’s body and a child with nuclear launch codes is a scary sight. When we have the capability to wage war, stifle free thought, or supposedly reassign gender, we must bare these abilities with a greater responsibility. We don’t understand that we are playing around with power and using it in way we shouldn’t. Five-year-old girls are being encouraged to transition.[5] There is a very small group of people who think they are animals.[6] There is a young woman who has chosen to live as a baby, and a 40-year-old man who thinks he is a little girl (an example from a previous blog).[7] These are real life examples, and honestly, I don’t know if the modern mind has any grounds to resist or denounce these matters. Reality has been intentionally shattered. There is no end to the fall when there is no ground.

Conclusion

It is not my aim to make an airtight argument for the existence of God or use the moral argument to convince you of Him. My aim is to get you to look, to think upon what is happening now, right now in your world. I want you to consider the ideas and the absurdities that are being taught to your children. If I can get you to see that there is something such as crazy, you just may see that there is something such as sanity, and that is my hope.

In the shattered and discarded pieces of ethical imperatives, duties, implications and moral obligations, we can recognize the need for virtue and truth. If you only look, the desperate need for rightness becomes painfully visible in man’s common misalignment with reality. Meaning, when a girl thinks she is a cat, there is something obviously wrong. If there is an acknowledgement of moral infancy, the clear need is for leadership. There is trustworthy guidance and moral imperative because there is immaturity (for immaturity is meaningless if there is no maturity). Likewise, the existence and appearance of craziness points to the existence of rationality. If we search, we will find truth, and as Chesterton said, we will find something solid and worthy of closing down on, for after all that is the purpose of a mind. Though we have been given faculties that can indeed reason and reason well, we should reason from the perfect constant: God. Morality derived from human emotion has proven itself quite useless. That clear and obvious uselessness oddly provides me with confidence. The wrongness gives me hope that there is a rightness; I don’t want to just think about what I would do, I want to know what I ought to do. The virtuous discourse belongs to those who breathe, think and walk. Ethical conversations do not belong in graveyards, they are to be breathed out amongst the living.

 

[1] Kreeft, Peter. Back to Virtue, 28.

[2] Ibid. 26.

[3] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy. 29.

[4] Ibid. 20.

[5] The little boy who lives as a girl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAHCqnux2fk

[6] The woman who believes she is transspecies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLmwLcLikX

[7] The woman living as a baby https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iA5OzZ4sSMQ & The man living a child https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCVRrybYWNE

 

 

 

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The Divide: Part I

Over the years I’ve become more and more aware of a divide that exist between us. During my first year of college the sides really started to become clear. With two groups so entrenched against each other the sheer harshness became increasingly obvious. In my eyes the battle lines were being drawn (or at least redrawn with permanent marker). Republicans were the champions of the Christian faith and liberals were my enemy, or so I thought. It was us versus them. I was caught up in a story with good guys and bad guys. And in case you didn’t know the bad guys were trying to destroy morality, family, and everything else good.

I don’t know when or how but at some point I questioned the intensity of my political allegiance and the veracity of my religious ideology. It finally hit me. The people I so vehemently disagreed with probably weren’t trying to end the world like a James Bond villain. I started to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe socialistic tendencies were actually birthed from a genuine desire to help people. Maybe anti-gun agendas were contrived toward a real goal of peace rather than a purposeful move to leave ourselves open to a secret authoritarian takeover.

Sure, there are evil people out there that specifically strive to dissolve the moral fabric of society, to call sin goodness, and righteousness bigotry. But there are also people out there that do not know the saving grace and goodness of Jesus Christ. They are not my mortal enemies, for I was among them, I was one of them. In fairness were we all born calling evil good and good evil. We were all born loving darkness, and we were all born enemies of God.

There is a real enemy; one who comes to steal, kill and destroy (spoiler alert: its Satan). But your gay neighbor isn’t him, and neither is your co-worker who has a PETA membership. The liberal news anchor may be an enemy of God (a person yet to be reconciled until the Lord) but he isn’t your enemy. And that liberal newscaster isn’t more an enemy of God than the unrepentant conservative man who sits in church service every Sunday. The truck driving, American flag waving, gun-toting veteran may be just as, if not more lost than the man who supports euthanasia and thinks that the government needs to increase in size.

It’s easy to forget that the leftist camp is made up of individuals. Yes, some argue for free college, and some think that binary sex doesn’t exist but they are people, image bearers in fact. Those image bearers are more than leftist people mocked in memes (don’t get me wrong, I love a good meme). I don’t agree with many leftist ideologies or beliefs but don’t mistake a camp, a system of beliefs or political stances for a person who needs grace, love and truth. Perhaps that’s worth remembering next time you’re discussing politics with your family at Christmas or reading tweets from celebrities.

Note: For the purpose of this post, assume the individuals who “lean left” to be self-proclaimed non-Christians, because I have no desire to mince political views with salvific implications or vice-versa. What I’m not saying: All left leaning people are unbelievers, and all right leaning people are Christians.

The Divide: Part II

I am a Christian. Jesus bled for me but I don’t bleed republican. Sure, I think my ethics and beliefs generally align far more with political conservatism but that doesn’t mean I get to blindly hate and despise the left. In transparency, sometimes liberals drive me absolutely crazy. On somethings, we just could not possibly disagree more. But leftist I still love you. In all of our disagreements I can’t afford to see you on facebook as “just another faceless liberal out to destroy the moral fabric of society”. Because when you’re fighting for equality in the transgender movement you probably think you’re doing something beautiful and profound. When you see the need to increase taxes and you have the desire to increase benefits, you’re probably doing it to try and help people out of poverty. You have pain, knowledge and experiences, and those things helped shape what you think and believe. As much as I was born into a conservative home, maybe you were born into the opposite. And I’d like to think since my childhood I’ve learned and questioned things in order to solidify my own beliefs but we probably have vastly different histories. When I understand some of the factors that made us different I can begin to see you as a person instead of a mere political ideology.

Several years ago when I found myself becoming more understanding of some leftist principles (I can understand the goals of environmentalism and welfare even if I don’t believe in the means), but I have swung back the other way. I have found it increasingly hard to put myself in the shoes of someone who supports anything like this (obvious not everyone does): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho or the grown man who left his family to become a little girl. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCVRrybYWNE Or the shout your abortion movement: http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/shoutyourabortion-proves-that-modern-liberalism-is-a-satanic-death-cult-2/ (ignore that title and just read the tweets). Or there is always the racist MTV video about white people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBluYsydAVc

I can’t defend these things, any of it, and I wouldn’t want to. So my understanding wanes, my ability to see things from the “other perspective” has begun to fade. But when that chasm of strong opinions and differences begins to widen, I can’t forget about the people who will be left on the other side of the canyon. If the divide is embraced, suddenly I’m all alone on the other side of the canyon with all the people who agree with me. Guess what? If I’m too caught up in so and so liking Hillary Clinton that I label them an untouchable leper, then what have I succeeded in? Nothing for the kingdom. If you really want people with the true King, you can’t divide, label and ostracize people into your own cut and dry kingdoms. Because our King came to save sinners, whether they be of the Democratic or Republican Party.

The Two Kingdoms

The world has its temporary lord, and Christians have their eternally established King of Kings. There are two kingdoms, darkness and light. God and His doomed enemy, Satan. There is a division. Until Christ comes again this world will never understand Christians, and Christians will always be separate. We don’t belong to this world, nor, its ways.

But the great divide doesn’t mean we get to point fingers at the leftist, complain about their ridiculous ways and ostracize them as ignorant people instead of people who need Jesus. More than ever I disagree strongly with a lot of ideas that are tightly held by most left-leaning people. But more than ever I realize I can find a little common ground (if sometimes but only a few feet) with them. More than ever I realize my fundamental and deep rooted disagreements cannot keep me from compassionately loving people.

The great divide becomes an issue when division is not separation of holiness and faithfulness to Christ but a division of political sides. You and I as Christ-followers aren’t called to hate liberals. We’re called to live differently than the world. Not to avoid all interaction with the “other side”.

Note: For the purpose of this post, assume the individuals who “lean left” to be self-proclaimed non-Christians, because I have no desire to mince political views with salvific implications or vice-versa. What I’m not saying: All left leaning people are unbelievers, and all right leaning people are Christians.

So to those who hold completely different views and beliefs than me, here is what you can expect from me-

  1. To see you as individuals instead of a cog in a large machine bent on destroying the world as I know it. Side note: Yes, I understand some strive to legislate sin away (that’s not possible), or condone their own wrongdoing.
  2. To still disagree with you passionately, honestly, often and strongly.
  3. To love you anyway. If you’re transgender, someone who has had an abortion or if you think we should have safe spaces on every university campus, I will do my best to love you. It truly breaks my heart when Christians comment on articles and proceed to belittle and call transgender people freaks. Mocking, making light of and joking about people’s personal struggles isn’t becoming, funny, or remotely Christ-like.
  4. To hold my guns looser, and the gospel tighter. I must realize that following Jesus doesn’t mean I get to elevate or hold my personal feelings above the souls of men. This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for intelligent conversation or political influence but it is a matter concerning the priority of the heart.
  5. Because I couldn’t just have four points. . . you can expect me to try to understand your point of view and why you believe what you believe.

Generational Condemnation

I’m not under some delusion that the individuals of the previous generations were all hardened, responsible, and hardworking adults. I’m sure there were foolish, entitled, weak men and women amongst the older generations as well. Despite this, millennials in particular have received a lot of condemnation and disapproval. Do not misunderstand me, I do see tears and stains in the fabric of our younger people but those stains and rips were not just self-inflicted. You can’t fully blame someone for not being able to sew if they’ve never been shown how, nor given the proper resources.

You hate my generation? You despise us because we’re lazy, godless, and of weak constitution? If so, you might want to look in the mirror because you are progenitors. You are the fathers and mothers. You are the coaches; we came halfway into a losing football game. You handed us a baton and told us to run. And we ran, we ran ourselves in circles to genderless bathrooms, a disbelief in truth, and an affinity for childlike adults. You handed us a baton when we were already off the track. So you are mad at me? You’re frustrated that pornography has become normalized, that definite genders are near extinct, that children don’t have two parents, that honor and morality are despised by society? Well I’m frustrated too but we didn’t achieve this in two or three decades. You helped us get here with bad ideology, weak churches, lack of discipleship, no engagement of culture, bad philosophy and the erosion of the family.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ll complain to my children one day about their generation because I already hate my generation (the way we can’t converse because we’re stuck in our tech, the way we’re selfish, and the way we stand for nothing but fall for everything) but I’ll also know it’s my fault. It’s already my fault. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Maybe we should all acknowledge we’re to blame for this, then maybe we can all acknowledge our responsibility in moving forward. May the Lord help us move forward because we’re in a downward spiral. As G.K. Chesterton said, “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth. This has been exactly reversed. . . The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. . . We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced.”

In this area G.K. Chesterton was quite prophetic. He wrote this many, many years ago but these words ring powerfully true. Our professors, philosophers, politicians and college students doubt the existence of truth, absolute morals and gender. This tree has been growing a long time, how long do you think the roots have been grounded beneath? Longer than my life, and the life of my friends. That tree has been planted for a long time, our fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers watered it and then blamed its growth on us. This isn’t new. I’m pretty sure all generations think the following generation is the worst. I really think we have some issues but so did those who came before us. Now let’s get over that and work to make it better. We have some serious replanting and gardening to do. As I have shifted some of the blame off myself you might be thinking, “what a millennial thing to do!” and even if your generalization is correct, did I get here alone?

The solution is not complaining about or hating the millennials. Instead of ranting about how much better things were back in the day (I know you walked to school uphill in the snow, my dad told me), do something. What can be done? Get involved with millennials or even younger people. Teach a Sunday school class, meet with some young men for prayer. Invite some guys over to watch football. Help someone build a resume and find a job. Just do something, love and invest in someone. On the other side of the spectrum, if you are someone who has rightly been told to grow up and be an adult, take that advice. Grow up because this world doesn’t owe you and when you fall you have to be able to get back up.

I remember there were Saturday nights where my dad would drag me outside and try to teach me how to change the oil in the car. Sadly, my eyes were glued to the television, worse, my mind was closed to learning anything mechanical. But he tried and he kept trying and because of that persistence sometimes there was success.

I have a father, more than that I have a good father. He taught me things like discipline but he also encouraged me. I remember we would be raking leafs outside and I’d ask if we could quit because the sun had already gone down. He would firmly answer, “no” and push us to keep working by streetlight. He taught me to be honest, to work hard, and to have integrity.

If you think my generation is full of spoiled, lazy brats then you did something wrong. Perhaps you were a good father like mine, maybe you taught your sons and daughters the meaning of a good day’s work. Maybe you taught your children about truth and morality. Maybe you didn’t do any of that. Maybe you inadvertently taught your children to be self-entitled over-sensitive babies. That’s partly your fault; some blame rest on your shoulders. So if you hate my generation you cannot escape the fact that you were our teachers, parents, coaches and grandparents. Yes, we’re ultimately responsible for ourselves but you might have done something wrong. If I haven’t invested in my fellow millennials or in those younger than myself, I’ve done something wrong. It’s time to do something right, stop complaining, start investing.

Photograph by Matheus Olivera

Tell Me I’m Wrong

If I were to tell you that I reside on a college campus in Fort Worth but also at a flat in London, you would probably assume that I’m rich. Why? Because surely I wouldn’t be suggesting that I literally reside in two places simultaneously. You would assume I live in London during the Summer and perhaps in Fort Worth during the school year. If not that scenario, you would guess something of that nature because to say that I exist at both places at the exact same time would be absurd. Absurdities are usually easily apparent, that is precisely why they are absurd. The idea of an elephant being both big and small at the same time is naturally strange and irreconcilable. If I said that I had cereal for four meals in a row, the statement may seem odd or just silly, but it isn’t absurd. Beliefs and statements are viewed as ridiculous in primarily two ways. First, things are often called absurd simply because they appear stupid from our point of view. More seriously, things are called absurd when they do not correspond with reality. When something harshly clashes against everything we know to be true, it falls into the category of absurdity. If you think Christians are unwarranted in their beliefs, if you think the religion is historically inaccurate, tell me I’m wrong. Tell me I’m stupid, try to convince me of your view, just please, don’t tell me we are all right. Please don’t tell me that my truth is my truth, and your truth is your truth. That’s not truth, I mean that’s literally not the definition. The dictionary says truth is, “the actual state of a matter”. This means that there is right and wrong and there is wrong. Truth explicitly says that there is falsehood but truth is the actual (correct) state of a thing.

You don’t have to choose Christianity (though that is my honest desire for you). You don’t have to believe that God exists but what you absolutely must do, with any honesty is realize that someone is wrong. It could be you. Either heaven exist or it doesn’t. Don’t pretend that mutually exclusive ideas are both correct. If you’re an atheist, don’t suggest that my belief in God is good for me but atheism is good for you. Either I’m wasting my life believing a lie or you’re going to face awful consequences after this life. Both of us will not be “ok”. If one of our beliefs is correct and the other one is false, that is pretty detrimental for one of us.

Please don’t insult my intelligence by telling me we’re both right. Just tell me I’m wrong. If I assert something that directly and logically contradicts what you believe, disagree. Don’t shrug it off and tell me its relative. If I tell you that I am both sitting down typing this in a booth at a pancake house and standing up in a forest writing with a pen, both aren’t true. We know this to be the case, although perhaps on an experiential basis. We’ve come to this understanding of life. We’ve learned this from years and years of experience. Either your computer is an apple product or it’s not. The white-ish liquid in your fridge is either milk or not. You are not able to determine its content by will or relativistic belief. Life doesn’t work that way. In regard to truth, you might cry out, “some things aren’t true or false, they are just preference!” Of course there is such a thing as preference. There are foods that are more appealing to certain people, but these items of consumption are either food or they aren’t. Would it be permissible for me to think that a book is food and therefore hope to gain sustenance from it? There is no preference between truth and falsehood. Relativity or preference takes place within a true assessment. I can prefer oranges over apples once I know both are edible, but I can’t decide that books are fit to be eaten and therefore make them my preference of food. There are things of preference and things that are observably true or false (you could ask about the difference, and I’d probably have to write a 25 page paper on it).

In what other areas of life do we accept subjectivity and relativity? What other area of life do we live this way? I can’t be 27 years old and 17 years old. Those assertions directly conflict. They both cannot logically be the case. That is completely impossible.

You’re either allergic to bee stings or you’re not. These cases are exclusive and I doubt I would have to convince you otherwise. So why have we accepted relativity in religion, basic beliefs concerning the universe, and the nature of man when we will not dare accept absurdity in the matters of minimum consequence? By maintaining exclusivity, truth, and objectivity in the minor areas of everyday life, we survive daily, but the grand narrative reveals us to be fools. We couldn’t go through a day if we fully embraced this relativistic ideology in its full implication. Imagine if the red light for me was green for you. Imagine if I thought I was an ape instead of a man. I would wander around eating bugs, beating my chest and possibly (but hopefully not) throwing feces. If relativity was followed through on its claims, then this couldn’t be deemed a mental illness. Instead of receiving treatment or being forced back into facing my humanity, I would be patted on the back and told, “enjoy your ants and termites”. That’s absurd, but we live in an absurd time. But mankind has always had a propensity to believe in absurd things, like ourselves. Why do we love absurdity? Because subjective truth doesn’t confront us, it doesn’t tell us we can’t be murders, it doesn’t tell us we can’t be both male and female. Objectivity causes us to submit to something deeper, the bedrock of the world, truth. We’ve begun to bury it. Dig it back up! We desperately need it. You already have the tools you need, a God-given mind, a moral sense, and the scriptures. You have your shovel. Start digging.

-Michael Davidson

 

Psalm 106 (Dawn is coming: part two)

Sometimes I find hope and peace in strange places. I absolutely love a good depressing song or poem. Add a rainy day into the mix and you just can’t beat it (no I wasn’t an emo kid in high school). In those moments of shadow and cloudiness, the need for light is ever obvious. In a strange way that I don’t fully understand myself, those sad songs and poems inspire me. They remind me that there are bad days and dark weeks, but hope is real. Hope is the possibility, the confidence that things can or will get better. Life can definitely be better; life will get better.

There is a beautiful song that says, “the shadow proves the sunshine”. Pretty brilliant, right? If we see a shadow, that points us to something. If there is a shadow, there must be light! There are a lot of shadows these days and I’m glad I can still find hope in odd places. If I can be honest, even up until last year I didn’t care for the Psalms (I know, it’s in the Bible, I’m a terrible person). However, this last semester I took a class on the Psalms and it completely changed the way I read this wonderful book. This particular Psalm is filled with a lot of shadows. It’s dark and the majority of it is anything but hopeful but it points us to the sun Son.

It might seem strange that I find such hope, light, and beauty in a Psalm that spends so much time recounting Israel’s every failed step. We don’t exactly think to ourselves, “hmm, I really need some encouragement, I think I’ll read about Israel’s rebellion”. Despite that, Psalm 106 has so much to teach us. Yes, it does point us to our own rebellion, sin, and pride but it also points us to God’s goodness, patience, and faithfulness.

You really just need to read the Psalm but if you’re still here, this is what is going on. The Psalmist says, “We have sinned, like our fathers”. As you know, Israel had a history, a past of disobedience and of forgetfulness. They did not just mess up, remember the Lord and get it together. They had a history of repeating that cycle over and over again. Further down the Psalm, it says that the Lord saved them. . . Redeemed them. . . Then they believed His words and sang His praise. Then like an unsurprising plot to a movie, it says, “They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel”. So they disobey, God saves them, they forget His rescue and then they fall into the same traps. They forgot God their savior. They went so far as to intermingle with nations that participated in child sacrifice. Now that’s a radical and extreme fall. It’s difficult to imagine reaching such a level of depravity.

We would never say it but that could be us. Without God we could literally reach that depth of wickedness. Keep that in mind.

Because of their idol worship and child sacrifice, the anger of the Lord was kindled against them. Yet it says, “Many times He would deliver them. They, however, were rebellious in their counsel. And so sank down in their iniquity.” The Israelites were drowning in their sin, and they would only continue to sink.

Here’s my favorite part of this Psalm. This line is incredible and it should astound you, “Nevertheless, He looked upon their distress”. Wait. Hold on, “Nevertheless”? Is the Psalmist really saying that even when Israel worshiped idols, ditched God, and sacrificed children that there is a “but”? Despite everything they had done, God saw them as sinful people in need. They had consistently revolted in heart and deed yet He “nevertheless” looked upon their distress with mercy. It’s an understatement to say that’s underserved and shocking.

Know this, no matter how far you fall, how hopeless your nation looks, there is a God. And here’s the beauty, in our sinful state, it can be said of Him, “Nevertheless”. We rebel, mock, struggle, cave in, nevertheless, He looks down at our distress. He looked upon the distress of Israel, and He looks upon ours. He sees you in your depression and He sees you captive to pornography. He doesn’t just see, the Lord cares, He loves. Remember I said that we could be the ones committing the wicked act of child sacrifice? Praise the Lord in His mercy that we are not in such a place, but His goodness extends even into our extreme depravity and disobedience.

This Psalm reminds me of one of my favorite verses in Scripture, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”-Matthew 9:36. These passages are near to my heart. He sees our distress, and He hears our cries. As the Psalm begins to conclude, it says this, “When He heard their cry, and He remembered His covenant for their sake. And relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness. He also made them objects of compassion in the presence of their enemies”. The Israelites were caught up in darkness but God in all of His light was ready to snatch them out. We too are in darkness but the Lord in His lovingkindness will see us through.

They faced consequences for their actions, God gave them over to their enemies. His judgement was upon them, yet He saw their distress and relented, all because of His great lovingkindness. Because of that, the Psalmist is able to cry out, “Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name. And glory in your praise. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel.” His patience should lead us to repentance, and His lovingkindness should lead us to praise.

Not only can we cry out to God for salvation, in our captivity to sin we can still cry out, “save me”. As a result, the writer says, “Let all the people say, Amen, Praise the Lord!”

As Matthew recounts for us, God has already looked upon our distress and He acted. God sent His Son because He saw where we were and we could never get where we needed to be.

There may be shadows but dawn is coming.

 

Dawn is coming

d0ef543052a8b070129eeb8991a02a45“So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” In Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, King Théoden poses this question right before his final garrison is about to be overrun. He faces impossible odds and death is at his doorstep. His kingdom is crumbling in around him, and right now I think that’s something we can all relate to.

As he considers everything that has taken place, Théoden briefly loses heart. He can’t help but be confident of his impending loss. However, after reality has wrecked his hope and strength, Aragorn calls him to one last stand. You know the story, they ride out to face impossible odds, and in the end, when their survival looks grim, Gandalf shows up, and it is his presence alone that sways the battle. With his help, the battle is easily won, and yet, if he had not come, the brave men who rode out would have surely died.

Death is always around us, but certain atrocities shake us out of our lethargic state. There is so much death, and I have the same question that Théoden asked in the midst of impossible odds. “What can men do against such reckless hate?” The answer seems to be, ride out and meet the enemy head on, which requires putting ourselves in a position to be defeated, and not just defeated, but (without help) miserably defeated. If we press on, if we go out of the garrison to face the enemy, it seems we will die. However, there may yet be a savior that will come in light and save us; we can only go out in obedience.

We face so much reckless hate. What can men do against it? Alone, nothing. It’s cliché, it’s been said, but it remains true. It needs to keep being preached, said, written, and discussed until it sinks down deep into the hearts of men producing action. So yes, this is another blog saying we need love, but it’s even more cliché than you think. This is a blog saying we need the love of Jesus.

We too face an impending loss. We’re outnumbered by those who are driven and characterized by hate but it’s worse than that. We too have natures that are bent toward this hatred of our fellow man. Spiritual death isn’t a plague, it’s an inherent condition. We’re dead on arrival, and that death only leads us to physical death.

Before the battle of Helm’s Deep went downhill, Gandalf had said “Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.” Aragorn rode out with this in mind, with the hope that Gandalf would show up on the fifth day. Gandalf had given his word, and that was enough.

I try not to make a habit of Jesus juking literature but this story causes me to reflect on our temporary but great struggle, the odds, and also on our assured ultimate success. So whether it was intentional or not, this particular story reminds me that we have a savior who will ride in at dawn to defeat the enemy. Yet, for now we must face the enemy, our own wicked hearts.

While He is coming at dawn, He already came once, and He rose on the third day. That is where our ultimate hope lies. Because of this, the harsh reality we face doesn’t have to confine us to a garrison in cowardice, but rather it empowers us to go out and fight the enemy. In our context, the weapons won’t be flashy swords but rather, love. The enemy will not be as obvious as ugly orcs, but rather the natural disposition of human hearts. Unfortunately, you and I are too often the enemy, but there is a savior who fights and lights up darkness. Dawn is coming whether we get to see it or not. We have the promise of hope.

Dawn is coming.

God and my Unbelief

I have a heart that naturally questions, and I overthink just about everything. I’m an expert at doubting God; disbelief comes so easily to me. It seems I’m not alone but maybe the Lord in His kindness has seen into our weakness and responded lovingly. Our gracious and good God saw it fit to provide the prophets, the coherent testimony of the Scripture, and His Son.

Despite our tendency to question, we’re called to believe. God has given us reasons to believe, He did not leave us blind, deaf, and unaware of Himself. When you and I were wandering this earth blind, deaf, clutching in the darkness of this world, He reached out for us. Not only did we stumble through this world because our senses are corrupted, we walked with chains on our feet, all while thinking we had everything under control. Christ walked among us, stooping down in humility, getting dirt on his feet, and sweat on his brow. We’ve been given the natural revelation of creation, what else could I ask for?

I guess like the rich man in Luke 16 I’m tempted to ask for further persuading evidence. When the rich man found himself in agony, he actually wanted his brothers to receive a warning so they could be spared the same fate. However, Abraham simply responds, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:30-31

It seems Abraham was right, even if someone would rise from the dead, there are people who will not listen. That should sound familiar. Aside from the fact that there are people who will ignore both the testimony of creation and the special revelation of the Son, my own heart wrestles with doubt. Someone rose from the dead and at moments I’m not persuaded. As much as I hate that, it’s just the truth. God is there but sometimes my flesh blinds me to divinity. God is good but sometimes my heart doubts that.

I’m so thankful that I have a God that allows me to cry out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The fact is, I have a history of doubt but the Lord has a history of helping me believe. I don’t want to be someone of little faith, because I know it’s impossible to please God without it but I’m thankful for a God who sees my weak faith and He helps me walk after Him. The story in Mark 9 ends with Jesus healing the man’s son. Even when the man struggled to believe, Jesus in His love and grace healed the man’s son. That’s a good God.

This doesn’t mean we can simply give ourselves over to doubt and unbelief, quite the opposite. God’s patience and kindness should help us to believe on Him. Certainly He calls us to believe on Him, even without sight. “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

We’re asked to believe in what we cannot see. We’re asked to follow Him faithfully without receiving physical evidence every step of the way. The good news is that when you and I wrestle with belief, in our tears we can cry out, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

You doubt God? Doubt your doubts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeY8lndPsdE

Don’t tell me

They told me going to church was for scared folk
That’s ironic because I’m not fearful of the world
Just the world inside this heart of mine
Because my worldview is skewed
I view from tainted windows
And what I see is that this existence is meaningless
It means less than a game
The goal is to make a name
At least I can win risk
But here, I catch my fist
In the air, crying out about God’s cruelty
Telling Him where the door is

The outside isn’t worrisome
It’s the inner man
So if that’s fear, title me a coward
And you should join me in my fear
We didn’t just adapt to the darkness, we were born in it
That’s the bane of our existence

Yes I’m scared, I’m terrified actually
Because practically, I’m an awful man
I find myself rebelling against the one who truly loves me
I’ve looked into my heart
I can’t even see where the sin starts
It’s on replay
Looping around and around
Confounded by my vileness
It’s confining, I need refining

There are lots of things in this world I find perplexing
I don’t know why people think dubstep is good music
And I can’t fathom why Picasa is considered to be a profound painter
I don’t understand how people can be proud that they’re from Oklahoma
But most of all, I don’t understand why I have to convince you that we’re vile
Why do I have to labor to convince you of the atrocities of humanity?
Have you ever looked in the eyes of our depravity?
Don’t stare too long because you may drown in those pools of darkness.
I can’t watch the news and deny we have issues

Do you realize that people actually still purchase human beings?
Don’t let that grace your ears so easily
Teenage girls are being bought like a pair of shoes
Just so someone can have sex, and someone else can make money

ISIS is beheading people
We still have nuclear bombs ready to kill hundreds of thousands
Parents are so addicted to drugs that they don’t put food on the table
There are men who beat their children
Husbands that cheat on their wives

Don’t tell me to look within
I can’t hear that one more time
Don’t tell me if I meditate enough, improve education enough, or legislate a few more laws things will change
You’re lying

It’s when I look within, I’m the most frightened of all.
Because I know my heart
And. . . don’t you see, the heart was the start to this whole mess.
If we’re the problem, do you think we’re the solution?
Does the machine repair itself?
Does man reject the doctor and look for healing from within?
Do you think we can just conjure up willpower to do better?
Can we just try a little harder to love one another?
Because it seems like we all just love to hate each other

Don’t tell me your solutions
Because I can’t hear them anymore
I just can’t hear it anymore

Perhaps you were right
Perhaps going to church is for scared folk

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