Of all creatures, man is set apart by his ability to respond at length. Other creatures appear to be able to make inquiry and even reply through a series of grunts and gestures, but man alone has been endowed with the responsive power so-called reason.
Lowering his chin almost imperceptibly, Adam slowly closed his eyes. With an increase of force likely to be noticed solely by his closest family, he exhaled the entirety of the deep breath he had been holding as he watched his sons. He leaned his head forward until his chin rested on hand, which was on the top of his staff, as he reopened his eyes.
“What?” Eve asked.
He didn’t look at her. Though his eyes were open, he did not see anything but the garden.
“What?” Eve repeated.
Worried by Adam’s silence, Eve did not notice the look on Cain’s face. Adam did not have to.
“Abel!” he called at last. “Here,” he motioned for his son to come close.
As Abel listened to his father’s words, he looked towards Cain only to see that Cain was staring at him. Some new feeling arose in Abel, one whose name did not yet exist but which he wished would never have surfaced.
The next month was not pleasant for the family. Adam would not let his sons out of his sight. Eve worried.
“What are you saying, Cain?” Abel asked when the two brothers were in the fields, some distance from Adam.
“I’m saying He-” Cain motioned towards the entire sky, “-He spoke to me after that day.”
“And what did He say?” Abel replied.
“He told me If you do well, will not your face be lifted up?”
Relieved, Abel said, “That sounds true.”
“But then He said,” Cain continued, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you.”
Alarmed and looking for Adam, Abel said, “Why wouldn’t you do well, brother?”
Adam awoke from his daydream and did not immediately see his sons. Scanning the horizon with growing panic, he soon calmed down. The two men were seen facing each other, apparently talking about something. Then Abel took a step backwards, as if to place some distance between Cain and himself. Adam grabbed his staff and began to run, cursing himself that he did not stay closer.
“STOP!” Cain commanded Adam, Abel lying lifeless on the ground. “Do not come any closer, father.”
Adam stopped and closed his eyes and saw the garden. Cain bumped Adam’s shoulder as he left him there with Abel’s body. Then Adam buried Abel.
That night, Cain had nightmares of the voice saying, “You must master it. You must master it. You must master it.”
He awoke to the sound of thunder, soaked in sweat.
Then Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
I don’t know about your town, but in mine the main grocery store has become a very large employer of special needs folks. The spoiled rich kids call these people “specials” for short and because they have enough wealth to not have to understand things like life on planet Earth. Given that I was the spoiled rich kid too, I was embarrassingly uncomfortable when I saw this hiring trend. But over the last year or so, I have come full circle with such force that I am often dizzy. I didn’t do it by choice. It took the Word of God. But I think I now see what Jesus meant when He said, So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit…Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Despite what the world often tells us, the goal is not homogeneity–the goal is the glorifying God our Father through building the Kingdom of Heaven as proclaimed by the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
Here’s another thing. As an adult, I still produce the thought, “I just am uncomfortable because I don’t know how to act around them.” H- has never evidenced that she has of yet had that thought. Don’t misread me. It’s not that she has “acted” perfectly around all people, it’s that she just acts. H- is a child. Jesus also said, truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
My point: Our problem is we do not readily discern between child-like, dogmatic, immovable, and unshakable faith in Jesus Christ and NOT child-like, dogmatic faith in the things that we build on this foundation. But the distinction is real. And now is a good time to start making it. Jesus also said, therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock
Now for some fun. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this display just now at the store. Transformers will always have a special place in me because my helicopter was the first transformer in the first movie. But that place just got smaller and more remote. Could they get it more wrong? When I need a recommendation for which razor-maker is doing the best these days at ensuring I don’t accidentally bleed-out next time I shave, it will only and ever be accepted from man-flesh. Sorry, Prime.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, X, viii-x.
Not long ago, a certain boy found himself curiously free from the normal assault that accompanied the end of the school day. His walk home began no different than any day before. While always a bit like a gauntlet, on this day he made his way down the hallway with no interruptions. The uneventful moments were filled with the buzz of weekend plans, clangs of locking metal, and worshipful snickers other boys directed towards Billy as he downed a shooter and lit up before even leaving the building.
Teachers puzzled over the boy. He turned in flawless homework, and proved it was his own with perfect in-class test scores. But he would not speak while at school. The walk home, however, was a different matter altogether.
The boy had Christ in his heart, in his mind, and was not afraid to summon Him when necessary. The Devil knew this and called one of his Imps over to him.
“But we are powerless against that Name,” the Imp responded when challenged.
“I didn’t ask about your weaknesses, you fool!” the Devil seethed. “I gave you an order. Now go!”
“I’ve tried that!” Billy said. “I told you I’ll do what you ask, Imp, but I will not strike the boy. He has done me no harm. I like being able to use your powers, but this boy doesn’t seem affected by the curses you gave me. His Chri-”
“-Don’t!” the Imp interrupted violently. “Do not say that name. Ever! Do you not know what would happen to us? I’d be done for, and you’d be as powerless as you were when I found you unable to fight off your drunken father.”
Taking a swing at the Imp, Billy screamed, “Say one more thing about my dad and I’ll kill you!”
Leaning back to avoid the attack, the Imp’s eyes lit up as he watched Billy feed on rage. He feigned, “Sorry. I’m sorry. Just don’t ruin this, kid.”
“Okay, okay,” Billy said. “What’s the plan this time?”
“You’ve tried breaking his things?”
“Yes. I’ve broken and torched just about everything he has brought to school. He just replies, ‘You-know-who says, Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth...'”
“You’ve tried insulting him?”
“Yep. He just says, ‘You-know-who says, Blessed are you when people insult you.‘ I’m telling you, Imp, this boy is not like the others.”
The Imp and Billy sat and thought.
Visibly impatient, the Imp began, “Wait a minute, we’re working too hard. Let’s get lazy.”
“What do you mean?”
“Next time, instead of directly challenging the boy, I want you to give him something that will take his voice away.”
“Yes,” the Imp whispered, as if to himself. Growing louder, he continued, “We’ve been going at this one all wrong. What’s the newest mirror-like thing that all your kind looks at?”
“I’m not sure what you mean?”
“ANSWER ME!” the Imp screeched. “That thing you all stare at when you are with each other? Your kind never used to do that. What’s it called?”
“Yes,” the Imp said. “Your phone. Does the boy have one like yours?”
“I think so, but he doesn’t seem to care about it.”
“Fine, fine. Here’s what you do. Call him over to you and make friends with him. Tell him you’re sorry and you’d like to be his friend. Do what you have to to get him to look at his phone more and more. We’ll simply silence him.”
“Oh, I see your game now. Silence. Yes, I can do that. I even know just what will work.”
“He’ll be working against himself soon enough. Maybe I can even get that vacation I’ve always wanted,” the Imp fantasized.
“Hey, boy!” Billy said, “Can I get your number? I want to text you later about this Bible app my aunt installed on my phone.”
“No, no. Stay there another week. Enjoy yourself. The next round is on me. You earned it. Brilliant, I tell you. The boy went from three hundred mentions to just a single mention each week,” the Devil delighted. “The best part,” the Devil paused, wiping a tear as he laughed, “The best part is he thinks we’re losing!”
It’s been exhausting, but the Holy Spirit has finally given me the promised rest. I’m not sure why I had to wrestle for nearly a year, but the LORD works in mysterious ways, of that I’m certain.
Summarizing: My seminary’s required course in Christian Apologetics included mentioning/teaching the available logical arguments for defense of Christianity. This included an argument named after the Muslim that developed it. For reasons including the professor’s utterly shameful assertion, “You might be the smartest Christian someone ever meets” and the fact that I lost a war to Muslims, the whole thing did not sit well with me.
Shortly after that, in the media coverage of events happening in Europe and America there was a seeming surge in “Islamic” terrorism that peaked, for me, with the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who thought I had at least kept the fighting at a distance–and now a Christian seminary student with a growing appreciation for the Word of God, both Jesus and the Bible–I finally picked up the Qur’an to see what it says first-hand. To my shock–and I cannot emphasize this enough–to my shock I learned, not that Islam is inherently violent, but that Muhammad had deduced Allah from the “god” of the Old Testament and New Testament (no different than a Deist deduces some manner of monotheism). And this was exceedingly troubling to me.
Worse than troubling me, it tempted me into foolishness. You see, I believed, and spent the last ten calendar months attempting to persuade others, that logic–or man’s wisdom–must be removed from Christianity.
To what end? In short, Christians that knew this already agreed with me. Christians that disagreed, remained unchanged. In other words, no one budged. I didn’t make a dent.
Then finally–finally, finally, finally–the Spirit spoke. What did He say? Turn with me now to 1 Corinthians 1:19 where these words are recorded, “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever, I will set aside.'” Dum, dum,dummmm. Who destroys the “Wisdom of the wise”? The Living God. (How? Through his Word–both Jesus Christ and the Bible.) No man, not even me, can do it.
Therefore, I am officially done messing around with the wisdom of the world which God has made foolish. From now on I am preaching Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, but also the Weakness of God and the Foolishness of God.
If you’re aware of the spiritual war, I encourage you to likewise limit yourself to preaching Christ too. To those who are called, Jews and Greeks, Christ. Arguments don’t save souls. The Blood of Christ does. Preach Christ. Christ and only Christ. Or as yesterday’s namesake put it back in 377AD-ish,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I bought a pocket sundial. I bought it because a lot of my recent reading has caused me to question my assumptions about everything, including time. You see, the Christian Bible has many instances where man’s conception of “time” is kind of poo-pooed. And with many of you sensuous heathens being incapable of listening to words that follow, “The Bible says…”, I needed to find a different way to get you to the Word. Now, with my sundial in hand, I finally can demonstrate what the biblical writer’s were saying in a non-threatening manner. Here’s how.
Suppose I have my pocket sundial. And suppose after a leisurely midday meal I set the device correctly and the sunlight passes through the hole and I read the time to be 2:45. Now, suppose you check your phone and it reads 2:52. Well, you know me; I’m stubborn as a mule and I insist that I’m right. And I know you; you’re arrogant as Icarus and you insist that you’re right.
Who is right? By what measure can we agree?
In the end, I have a piece of pretty metal upon which a spot of sunlight shines and you have an electrified screen upon which an Arabic numeral appears. All we’ve demonstrated is that time is a convention. I’d feel smart if my namesake didn’t express the exact same truth nearly two thousand solar-Gregorian-calendar years ago when he said that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day–without pocket sundials or portable electricity at his disposal.
But noooo. I couldn’t just listen. So I bought a pocket-sundial. And on the seventh day of owning it, I found my thirty-five year old self expressing to a friend, “Did I tell you I wrecked my car the other day? Sometimes I feel like, ‘if I can just make it to forty’…” as if I hadn’t learned a thing.
Christ is all and in all. Don’t give an inch.
I used to think it was Christians who were virtually mindless robots, all saying the same thing. Since receiving the Holy Spirit, I can report from the inside that Christians are certainly not robots and moreover we are certainly not nearly close to saying the same thing about anything. It’s like part of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation in a person includes suspicion of everyone and everything–often including what the heck the Good News of Jesus Christ even is. We’re the most disorganized, freewheeling “people group” I can imagine. (Though, we are rightfully sure that we’re on our way to glory!)
But you non-believers, whether Deist, Atheist, Muslim, Agnostic or any other heathen flavor, you all are robots. After listening to your first five words I find I can accurately forecast your entire train of thought–especially if one of those words is “Trump.”
Or maybe it’s just that you all watch the same shit and I read books.
(Seriously, turn off the television.)
One of those books, pictured here, is not a must read. In fact, do not read it (unless you’re a Muslim feeling like the world is out to get you). It’s depressing. I just wanted you to see the title and maybe begin to consider that the last Christian in a region/society has already died many, many times.
With the Quebec Mosque terrorist attack, the West is officially back in the game–and playing to lose.
Christ Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I don’t know what to write.
If Thunder walked into your life, could it convince you to turn down the volume? How about if you met Lightening? Would you look up for Lightening?
Ah, but let’s not kid ourselves. You and I, we need the rain. We always have.
Despite the above, I believe there is hope. I see the peaceful way forward. And I am working on concrete projects which encourage us to challenge our assumptions, which can lead to peace. Specifically, I’m working on re-tooling how we teach our children math. (Speaking of children, pray for our children, especially H-. I don’t imagine too many six year old’s find themselves forced to work through Euclid’s Elements as their dad works on a Master’s thesis in New Testament.) But I need help, so contact me if you possess the rare trifecta of time, hope, and the Holy Spirit. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I must believe there is time.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
After falling flat to his face, he did not stay down. He would not stay down. The voice was unmistakable. He knew where he had to go and he knew he must run.
The door tried to stop him but failed. Once outside he ran unbridled. First the parking lot then the field then across the river that was too wide.
Nimbly dodging any cars that refused to slow, he made it past the last man-made obstacle. Only one voice could stop him now.
Beauty was unable to keep pace.
Like the periphery that faded with focus, his memory too was stunted by his remarkable speed.
He did not hear the cheetah give up. He did not feel the eagle miss.
Eyes fixed onward and upward, he did not see the blades of grass become shards of rock or the blood with which his path now painted.
His shirt lost to the wind. He welcomed the new freedom and speed.
The rocks grew bigger as he ran higher. His hands coated the terrain with their own hue as they helped climb.
Above the clouds, the sight tripped him. He tucked, rolled, and landed in stride, not even slowing enough for sound to catch up.
Closer closer, higher higher, he bounded from one boulder to the next, leaving behind more than his mark.
All false summits forgotten, his focus sharpened for the last time. Plans filled the remaining moment.
He saw the rock. He saw color become colors. He saw round become flat. He saw smooth become textured. He saw now become ancient. He saw high become low.
His fingertips reached skyward as he powerfully planted his right foot. All creation below searched in vain to see what he grasped as he pulled himself high into the air.
Chest out, shoulders back, fists balled at the end of arms flexed behind him, his body reached its summit. He cried out one word.
As his blood-drenched toes felt the earth once again, his legs did not have the strength or desire to fight the fall. He heard his flesh smack as he crumpled to his knees.
Covering his face with his pained and bloodied hands, he sobbed.
Then he prayed like a sinner.
The combination of three semesters’ time and many thousands of your dollars (via the post 9/11 GI Bill–thank you) every once in a while has resulted in some insight which is uncommon. I want to bring these to your attention as a “thank you.” Up for discussion in this post is “belief” vs. “will.”
This has been on my mind because I often ask fellow Americans, “What do you think about what’s going on with terrorism?” The response is often, “Well, we lack the will.”
The first time I heard that, I thought, “Hmm. That’s sounds about right. I don’t think I can argue with the fact that we have no national will.”
But then, forgive me, I was clicking around the news clips and stumbled upon an Imam preaching. Guess what he was dissecting? The need to have stronger “will.” Ruh-roh, Raggy! There is no way Islamic thought and Christian thought match up. And they don’t. Do you know how they diverge?
It has to do with the word “believe.” From the beginning, YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, required “belief” from the Israelites. Then the NT writers pick up the word “believe.” But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? What did it mean to believe in YHWH?
Two analogies ought help us. What if I said, “The walls of the house believe the roof”? Or, “Through breastfeeding, the mother believes in her child.” Can you understand the meaning of the word “believe” in those usages? Good. Because those two uses begin to capture the sense of the word. The Christian believes in Jesus Christ, not meaning that we assent to his existence, but that we uphold Him as Lord of all creation.
The nuance here that is often overlooked is that in the case of the house, the roof stops being a roof without the support of the walls. And in the case of the nursing mother, the child stops being a child (dies) without the support of the mother. This begs the question, “What happens if no one believes in Christ Jesus?”
Well, put bluntly, that is the million dollar question.
The Christian, the man or woman who upholds Jesus Christ as their King, believes He is King of Kings regardless of what people believe. On the other hand, the non-believer believes if Christians recanted en masse, Jesus would fade from history, and also that there is no resurrection or eternal life. (This should not be news to anyone.)
What was news to me, and maybe to you, is that as I did a word-study on “will”, I discovered the only “will” mentioned in the Bible is God the Father’s will. And His good and perfect will is all-powerful. That is to say, while the Bible acknowledges that we have wills, from the beginning we are commanded to align our will to His will. Most poignantly Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. YOUR WILL be done…”
In other words, strengthening our will for our will’s sake is not biblical. To call for a strengthened will is not biblical. Calling for a strengthened will is too worldly, it is too human. It’s similar to suggesting that we all do some push-ups in order to not die. Most starkly, to call for strengthened will is what Islam’s preachers do. Sometimes we’re not stopping the advance of that evil book because we’re preaching bad theology. This is why sticking to the Word is so important. It’s confusing out there.
So I have repented. I have changed my ways. I don’t talk about will anymore. Instead, I call for belief in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle Peter said to his hearers in Acts, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
The Apostle Peter’s words speak to us still, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
Belief in Jesus Christ is what saves us from our God’s wrath–not a strong will.
I fought in Iraq.
Not often, but sometimes while I was there I felt a unique-to-me sensation which I later determined to be my body’s response to feeling afraid-for-my-life. For me, this kind of fear feels similar to run-o-the-mill crying. But whereas everyday crying feels localized to my face and eyes, afraid-for-my-life doesn’t leave any part of me untouched–plus it is many times more intense. Put another way, I might say crying cuts like a scalpel, afraid-for-my-life cuts like a semi-truck.
That said, as I keep reading about these attacks, I hear the interstate. What about you?
Maybe you don’t think you’re smart enough to see what is going on. It’s not that difficult. If you can read, you can get it.
Here’s what I could track down as the formal response of some of the West’s leaders. One formal statement is different from the others. Can you discern whose it is and how it is difference? Or do you need pictures?
Germany – Merkel: “We have to assume it was a terrorist attack.”
Russia – Putin: “This is a shockingly cruel and cynical crime committed against peaceful civilians.”
America – Trump: “Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying terror attack in Berlin.”
America – White House Spokesman: “…we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”
Poland – Szydlo: “…with pain and sadness we received the information that the first victim of this heinous act of violence was a Polish citizen..”
London – Khan: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the awful suspected attack on Berlin last night…”
Can anyone explain to me what Khan means by “suspected”? Does he not know what “an attack” is? Does he not know that even if it turns out to be the equivalent of a Columbine or Sandy Hook mass-murder that it is still an attack? Is he really asking us and expecting us to withhold forming an opinion?
What about you? Are you with Khan? Am I being silly? Does he seem reasonable to you? Should we put our ability to match like-with-like on hold? Also, who is he praying to? Allah? The same god that the “suspected” attacker prayed to? How does that work?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is only path to victory. For H-‘s sake, do not believe the lie that the war is against flesh and blood.
Our God’s Word–the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who loved the world so much He sent His son Jesus the Christ to die for us and whom He resurrected on the third day, this God and no other–could not be clearer: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Do not send our children to fight flesh and blood. Instead, turn off the television and fulfill your calling and proclaim the Gospel. In our day this looks like ensuring and insisting the people in your life know that Our God is not their god. This begins with you knowing this is the case. Do you know this? Do you know our God? Do you know Jesus? Really know Him? If you have any doubt, then track down a “Christian” and ask them to remind you what the Gospel is. If they don’t seem to know, or if what they say doesn’t sound like good news, thank them for their time and find another one. (Christian churches are a good place to start…)
Receiving WordPress’s latest auto-reminder email that suggested I need to renew this blog made me feel like WP was growing impatient and about to put another persuasive turn into the vice. That said, I gave in, spilled the beans, forked over the cash–however you want to think of it–I succumbed to the belief that my words might matter. Here is an overdue post to mark the occasion.
My Evangelical, protestant, Christian seminary might just embody the most defeatist attitude I have ever seen.
As some of you know, I began to notice this after the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando (which occurred after 9/11, which occurred after the first attempt to knock out the Twin Towers in 1993).
As well-read academics, the professors and most of the students are aware of the English language’s five letter word “dogma.” But I am convinced they do not know what it means. Do you?
All I would like to suggest here is that dogma has nothing to do with giving up. Here at school, dogma is treated as the thing at the end of the argument. The fail-safe. When all else–when all logic, when all argumentation–fails, the Christian simply declares, “dogma.” Come to think of it, it’s almost used like saying “uncle” when wrestling around with older siblings or cousins. (Or Uncle Bob).
This approach, dogma as the fail-safe, is a grave, grave mistake. Ohio State was another data point.
The Christian knows we have the victory in Christ. That’s primary and ever will be. Start there and end there. Never stray from there.
The tangible way to do this is with Christian love. With the only real love. With the love that is rooted in the Cross.
The conversational way to do this is asking questions until you demonstrated that you actually are listening and curious to discover what he or she thinks. Don’t stop when he repeats Wolf Blitzer or Obama or Trump or Clinton or Megyn Kelly (why is she in the headlines so much?) or John Stewart or Trevor Noah or John Oliver or whoever. I don’t even watch TV and I can’t help but hear what these people think. And I don’t care what they think. I don’t know them. Neither does the person you’re talking to. Keep questioning. Become an expert in listening.
It is our Christian duty to restore dignity to people. It is our Christian duty to announce the available redemption. This starts with Christ, not fails with Christ.
Being dogmatic does not mean giving up. It means honesty. It means integrity. It means that from the ‘get go,’ you proclaim, “I know my assumptions. Do you know yours?”
One final way I can offer to help re-frame ‘dogma’ in your mind is by comparing it to confidence. Think of any person you would call confident. Then ask yourself, “Would anything meaningfully different be communicated if I called them dogmatic?”
Michael Jordan = confident or dogmatic? Trump = confident or dogmatic? Obama = confident or dogmatic? Your pastor = confident or dogmatic? Your military members = confident or dogmatic? Joel Osteen = confident or dogmatic? Moses = confident or dogmatic? Muhammad = confident or dogmatic? Paul = confident or dogmatic? Martin Luther = confident or dogmatic? Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, any A-List Actor or Actress etc.
Confident living is not silent. Dogmatic living is not giving up.
Being dogmatic is not giving up. Christians, don’t give up.