Happy Plastic People

I don’t listen to a lot of music. I’m just really not a musical guy in that way. There is a lot of music I do like to hear though. I like the theme songs to some TV shows, such as having Smallville’s “Save Me” as my ring tone on my cell phone and I do like music from video games I’ve played for years.

When it comes to church, I’ll admit that I prefer the old hymns. A lot of what we listen to in CCM I consider fluff. Some of it, I consider outright heretical. I think it’s a same that Phillips, Craig, and Dean are sold in Christian stores when they deny the Trinity. The old hymns though had good music to them and good theology. I love listening to “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Especially when it says “God in three persons, Blessed Trinity.”

There are exceptions to CCM. This morning, I heard two of the girls at our church sing a song during the offertory by Casting Crowns. It’s called “Stained Glass Masquerade.” If Casting Crowns keeps producing stuff like this, I will be pleased. They are one of the rare “real groups” that I see out there. I’d heard this song before but seeing the words on the projection screens really hit home with me what was being said.

The song talks about us going to church and putting on these smiles because we can’t show everyone what’s going on inside. Why? Well, it’s church! Church is for good Christian people! Good Christian people don’t suffer like that. They don’t have doubts and problems and failures like that!

Casting Crowns is enabling us to take the mask off. We all go through that and the sooner we admit that, the sooner we’ll be able to face our problems and help one another. We’re told to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. You can’t really do that if you can’t share those burdens. For the record though, I do understand. I wouldn’t share my burdens with the church as long as we put up this attitude of spirituality.

Spirituality…That’s part of the problem isn’t it? Francis Beckwith has said that when Christians argue, if they can’t win with facts, they’ll trump with spirituality. How often have I heard in a debate with a Christian when they can’t refute my argument, something along the lines of “Well you need to read your Bible more.” or “You need to be more in touch with God.” On a moral issue, I’ll be told “You need to learn to discern the spirits.” Translation: I’m more spiritual than you so I’m right.

Casting Crowns has it right though. While we’re playing and putting on faces, people are suffering. It’s not just those outside. It’s those within the church. If we are to be Christ to those outside of the church, it’s going to start with being Christ to those in our midst who are suffering.

I encourage you to join me then in working to change the church. Maybe we can then end this stained glass masquerade.

Determiner of Value

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in a debate with some atheists on the VTech shootings. The debate is actually over whether we can really say the shooter did anything wrong. I find this simply amazing. We can say we don’t like it. We can say we wish it wouldn’t have happened, but call it evil? Certainly not!

One thing I keep seeing is that the atheist accepts that they are the one that determines if anything has value. Nothing is valuable in and of itself. It only has value insofar as it’s valuable to them. Meaning? It doesn’t exist either. Something is only meaningful if it brings meaning to the person. All non-physical properties then are arbitrary.

But friends, if nothing is valuable in and of itself, why should I treat it as such? If human life is not valuable, why should I treat it as valuable? If life truly has no meaning, why should I live as if it does? It seems that the reason for conferring value and meaning on things is to avoid the conclusion of atheism. Everything is meaningless.

This was what the Supreme Court indicated in the Casey decision. It said that one of our fundamental rights was to define life as we know it. Apparently though, that isn’t too fundamental. The shooter was defining life and we all saw how that turned out. He defined those lives and his own as unvaluable.

If the atheist is right, then I really do see no way we can condemn the VTech shootings. We can merely say “I didn’t like them” or “They seem evil to me.” One wonders why they shouldn’t be liked or why they seemed evil, especially if terms like good and evil are really meaningless terms.

However, this is a dangerous position. It turns each of us into a god, and we all know what can happen when man sees himself as God. What is to stop us from acting on this belief? If I believe all life is meaningless and there is no absolute right and wrong and there’s no judgment to come, then why shouldn’t I live the way I want to here?

Someone might say that it’s for the good of society. Why should I care? Someone might say “You could get caught and punished.” Let’s suppose I couldn’t and I knew that. Why shouldn’t I then? The action should be seen as wrong not because of what can happen to you, but because of what happens in the action itself.

My ultimate problem is that deep down, we really can’t live this way. Deep down, we do know there is such a thing as evil. We may not be philosophers who can define it, but we know what it is. It seems that if the only way to live in atheism is to construct meaning and value where they do not exist, then I will stick to theism, where I do have meaning and value and a basis for such. I choose to avoid a view that contradicts reality and the only way I can live with it is to deny the logical conclusions of it.

Are We True?

I deal as you know in the area of Christian apologetics. Our goal in Christian apologetics is to show the world that the message of Christ is true. I have many reasons why I believe it is and I believe I can refute those who contradict as Paul tells us to do in Titus. However, there is a concern among Christians and I know it because I’ve shared it myself. Christianity is true, but what if I am not?

This hits hard in our emotional culture. We live in a society where we say “Well, I prayed that pray, but I’m really not sure,” or “I don’t really live the kind of life that I ought to live.” I doubt there are few of us who have never asked these kinds of questions. Gary Habermas spoke on this at an apologetics conference I was at last year and when he asked how many people have doubted their salvation, several hands went up, and that includes mine.

We live in a world where our feelings dictate us more than they should. A personal doubt can be a gnawing cancer that eats away at us. For many of us, we can’t just say “Ah, that’s nonsense” and get rid of it. Instead, we have to analyze it and see if it could be true. Odd that we never learn. That analysis never does any good.

Instead, we often make ourselves feel worse. We get into the case of the tail wagging the dog where we have a belief and it’s not based on evidence but instead, the belief produces evidence that is not true but due to our emotional turmoil at the time, we take it as if it is the truth.

Of course, we don’t just stop there. Once we accept one false belief as a fact, we are ready to deduce other “truths” from this one “truth.” The whole belief is flimsy and people looking outside can usually tell us that it is, but we tend to not share that with them. After all, in the church, that goes against the good church image.

My solution to this? We need to learn to realize that what we are going through is common and I would encourage the church to be a place for doubters. Too often, we fear in the church that we can’t confess our sins and questions. If we can’t do such, why should we expect the world to?

Also, we need to learn to ignore our feelings at times, especially if we’re melancholy individuals like myself who are analytical to the core and quite obsessive. Our friends can often give us good feedback. It might be painful, but they always have our best interests at heart.

Lastly, we need to learn truth, and this is the truth about the gospel as well as the truth about health and psychology and other fields related to this. The best way to counter an error is with the truth. It works with apologetics and it works with our own personal lives.

Dear friend, if you are doubting, it is more likely a sign that you are true. After all, we only doubt what matters to us. Rest assured. You are in the truth and that truth will set you free.

Calling evil evil

I have been in a discussion with someone over the VTech shootings. I have been shocked seeing as I’m debating with an atheist that they are hesitant to call the shootings evil. Any word is being used to describe it that can be used except evil. Of course, I expected this from moral relativism, but it is still fascinating to see.

It makes us realize why we have so much evil here. We just don’t have the guts to call it evil. If we live in a society where good and evil are so blurred that we cannot call evil evil or good good, then why should we be shocked that man who tends to lean towards evil naturally brings about more evil?

We can speak of social conditioning all we want. Call it evil. We can speak of an abnormality in someone. Call it evil. We can speak of this one as being psychologically ill. Call it evil. Yeah. There were multiple factors involved, but let’s get to the bottom line. This action was evil.

In fact, in this situation, most people don’t even know what evil is. Ironically though, many of them do see other things as evil. When Christianity teaches that you ought to avoid sex before marriage, well that’s evil. When political parties want to denounce homosexual marriage, well that’s evil.

After all, in our society today, the worst evil and most likely, the only evil, is intolerance. I am getting set to respond to an editorial tonight where someone wrote a letter to the editor and in answer to someone said “That’s an intolerant argument.” Odd thing isn’t it? He never mentioned if it was true or not but the word intolerant is meant to be a sting to show the falsity right off. Why isn’t this arguer though tolerant of intolerant arguments?

Ultimately then, moral relativists I find don’t like to call other actions evil that clearly are, but when someone invades their turf. It’s evil. You better not speak about my right to an abortion or my viewing pornography on the internet. No. Evil is only a term used to promote their welfare.

In response, the moral objectivist must speak of all evil. I must even speak of my own evil. I am not totally good after all. There is evil in me and if I’m going to argue against what the relativist does, I’d better live by my own doctrine and say, “Yes. I need to repent of the evil in my own life.”

Our benefit is, at least we have the guts, or should, to recognize it.

Water Wigglers

I came back from my lunch break today to find a co-worker of mine playing with a water wiggler. I had never seen one before and at that time, I didn’t even know the name. They’re these little plastic things that contain colored water and they move so fluidly in your hands. It’s not easy to describe, but she saw that I was easily fascinated by it.

Indeed, I was, and before too long, she’d brought another one over still in the package and I bought it. It was a worthwhile spending of 88 cents. I just could not get over the whole night this thing moving up and down in my hands and how it’d fall to the ground sometimes and I’d just scramble for it.

What point am I making? My first point was simply in explaining my fascination to people is that I am easily fascinated. The things everyone else considers corny and childish, I can so often love. I find it quite difficult to lose wonder in something once I start to have a love for it. (Assurance there for who ever my Mrs. is one day.)

I ponder that in contrast to our society of mass consumerism. Of course, we all buy new things every now and then. However, I believe we live in a society that more and more believes that you have to keep buying new things in order to be happy. I even saw on a TV gameshow today a quote that someone had calculated that happiness costs 4.8 million. A lot of us somehow made it without that much money.

I was discussing this with a friend of mine yesterday. Since being in my own place, I’ve found I’ve had to cut my budget a lot on the things I always wanted to buy before. However, I’ve actually found that I’ve never been happier. This friend of mine buys new stuff constantly and has often called me to tell me that he’s bored.

Could it be we’ve lost sight of old joys? I grew up in the video game age. When I see children buying the latest Zelda for instance, which I do want to play someday, I tell them that they missed the golden age. You want to play real Zelda? Go home an download the original Legend of Zelda. I played that in the late 80’s. I have the Nintendo Collector’s edition disk with that game and 3 other old ones on it and I can thoroughly enjoy putting that one in still.

It’s those past joys that I find myself returning to again and again. Those are the ones that give true satisfaction. I’ve looked through the strategy guide for Twilight Princess, the new Zelda game, and I keep saying “Wow! This enemy was in the original! This one was in Ocarina of Time!” It’s those connections that bring the joy.

Maybe instead of buying so much new, we should rejoice in what we already have. Let us look to the good of the past and celebrate it. Let us also remember that there is one who has ceased creating since day 6 and his creation should not have lost its wonder on us. If God finds pleasure in creation and God is easily fascinated by it, so should we be.

And even more, let us be delighted in him.

1 John Prologue Thoughts

I was reading the Prologue to 1 John last night. I was stuck mainly on the first verse. There are times you will read a text of Scripture that you’ve read so many times before but then, you will return to that text and you will notice new things that you had never noticed before and be struck in ways you never had before.

That was what happened to me.

It’s the simplicity of the text in many ways. You can picture the demeanor in which John would say this. He’s not angry. He’s speaking in a gentle tone with a group of people he loves. What amazes me about this is that this is the same John who was called a Son of Thunder by Jesus.

In Luke 9, Jesus is wanting to go through a Samaritan village and they refuse. What do James and John say? “Lord. Do you want us to call down fire from Heaven and burn them?” They wanted to be Elijah. You don’t want our Lord? Fine! Then BURN, BABY BURN! That was why they were the Sons of Thunder. They had quick tempers.

Do you see any of that in 1 John? No. I believe this is simply the transforming power of Christ on John’s life. John refers to himself in the gospel as the disciple whom Jesus Loved. It doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t love the others. It means that John is just so amazed that Jesus loves him. Especially when you consider who Jesus is!

And what does the prologue say? That which was from the beginning. This should utterly shock us as we get into it. The eternal. The reality that always existed. Yes. That reality. That is what we are talking about. The eternal has united with the temporary. Heaven has intersected with Earth.

Then he says that that is what we have heard. Consider what happened in Israel during the Exodus. Israel told Moses to not have God speak any more to them or they would die. Hearing was something, but hearing was not enough to reveal the awesome truth of the one they followed.

Then that which we have seen. Seeing is better than hearing in a way. If you can see and hear something, you know it better. Yet consider the case of Isaiah. He saw YHWH, the Lord of Hosts, and it did not show him yet the immense love of the one he was with. People who saw YHWH always feared that they would die.

Then though, things get personal. It becomes that which we have looked at and touched. This is a good counter to the docetic heresy that said that Jesus did not actually take on a physical body. For the ancients, the idea of deity taking on physical nature permanently was anathema. They wanted nothing to do with it.

Yet that is how intimate that Word became, and that is when it was revealed to us the intense love the Father has for us. The love so intense that as John says in 3:1, that we should be called children of God and then adds, “And that is what we are!” The news is almost too much for us.

And as I think about the use of the senses, I think of other tools we use and I ponder.

How often do I use my eyes to see the unholy instead of the holy?

How often do I use my hands to touch the unclean thing instead of the clean? (Or we could say the clean in an unclean way. Sexual intercourse is good, when done in marriage for instance.)

How often do I use my ears to listen to the unholy instead of the holy?

While my mind could think on matters that fit Philippians 4:8, how often do I use it to think on things that don’t fit?

While my heart could love the good, how often do I use it to hate the good and love the bad?

While my mouth could praise God, how often do I use it to destroy men created in his image?

All of these I ponder.

I can only pray God will transform me better to be in his image. I pray that you’ll pray that for me also as I remember to pray it for you.

VTech and 24

I have a lot of good Christian friends who are into the popular series, 24. I have never really seen the show. In fact, until a few years ago, I hadn’t even heard of it. I just don’t really watch a lot of TV and I have no desire to get caught into another show. The few I see now are enough for me.

However, I have seen Christians complaining about talk of guns in light of VTech. The show, 24, has been under attack in a popular hangout of mine. I’m going to trust my dear friends that this is not a total anti-Christian show and that they can watch with a clean conscience. I do want to deal with the link being made between the problems of guns and 24 and VTech.

My friends. Guns did not commit this evil. 24 did not commit this evil. A sick psychopath committed this evil. (Let’s take a cue from Greg Koukl also and not name him. That would be what he wanted.) I believe that we are unfortunately, looking too much for an easy scapegoat to pin this all on.

I see TV used as a scapegoat constantly. Do I support everything on there all the time? No. Let’s consider this though. Could children be watching TV because they’re not being given interest by anything else? Maybe we have been slacking as families and this is why TV is such a problem.

I grew up in the video game age and I love them. However, now I have Christian apologetics and amazingly, the more I do this, the less time I spend with my hobby. Why? My mind has found something to keep it engaged. There are other things that can engage someone be it reading fiction, writing, art, music, or sports. TV is a scapegoat though.

I wonder about parents who think that their kids will immediately get a whole worldview by all they see on TV. I have no objections to someone being cautious, but I would also say that I do not believe in insulation. I believe children do need to learn all worldviews. Of course, this doesn’t mean letting them watch porn on the computer, which they shouldn’t do, but letting them understand how other people view sexuality and why that is invalid.

If one has children and their worldview is so weak that it can be destroyed by a book or a TV show or a video game, then their worldview wasn’t that strong to begin with. Maybe we should be focusing more on parenting skills and instilling morality into our kids so they can approach books and TV and video games and make right decisions.

Ultimately, this brings us back to the real issue. What really was the source of this evil? It was the heart of man. It is sinful. We want to stop this kind of evil? Instill morality. Could it simply be kids are less moral today because they have no reason to be moral and no morality they can find at all?

Can other factors influence? Sure they can. But how strong that influence will be will depend on how kids were raised up beforehand. Will a young man be tempted on a date with his lady? Of course. What will determine how he responds though? The morality he was raised with, and that is where our focus should be.

Argument for Joy

In his book “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Heaven But Never Dreamed Of Asking!”, Peter Kreeft gives what he calls an irrefutable argument for joy. As I look at it, I cannot seem to find any way to refute it and I will confess, I did feel joy the first time that I read it.

The first argument is that God only wills that which corresponds to his nature. God’s nature is joy. Therefore, God wills joy. The second argument is that Love wills the joy of the beloved. You are God’s beloved. Therefore, God wills your joy. If these are valid, then you should have joy.

So why don’t we have joy?

I think the main reason is that we live in a society where we make our beliefs based more on feeling than on logic. We have equated joy with a feeling, but is it really so? I would even argue that there have been times in my life when I have known joy, but yet, there was sorrow at the same time and I could tell you precisely about those times.

Our feelings have a way of creating reality for us. They don’t change the external world of course, but they change the way we approach it. For instance, if I am climbing on a ladder at work, the ladder can be quite steady, but because of my fear of heights, I can get the feeling that the ladder will fall. Lo and behold, I keep coming up with evidences that it will. How many times has it? None. How many times has it come close? None.

This is often what I speak of as the tail wagging the dog. I have a case of OCD in many areas and I routinely find myself dealing with this. My mind can create a belief and it can quickly find evidence to show that that belief is true. Lo and behold, after some time, nothing changes, but I see that the belief was false. It only existed in my head.

In our society, it would do us a lot of good if we could control our emotions and sadly, the church hasn’t been much help. Especially when the church tells you to do as you “feel led” as if God is giving you divine guidance through feelings. Is it any wonder so many Christians are so confused on this area?

What do we do? Simply realize the truth. We have joy. Let’s look at some things that we believe that should shatter our world if we consider them.

We believe a God who designed us all and created us.

We believe that he is Lord over all.

We believe that he loves us more than anything else in this universe.

We believe that the second person of the Trinity who is fully God took on flesh.

We believe he loved us enough to die a hideous death on a cross for our sins.

We believe that on the third day, he rose from the dead so we could live forever.

We believe he’s preparing a Heaven for us.

If only we could grasp these! If only we could realize that at every moment of the day, the love of the Trinity is all around us. If we believe that God is omnipresent and that God is love, then we have to agree that love is all around us. Even if we don’t feel it, God loves us immensely no matter what!

Think about that, and get some joy.

Faith In Humanity?

During the Convocation the day after the VT Tech shootings, I think it was the Buddhist speaker who said that at this time, we need to have faith in humanity. Well obviously, if God is out of your system, then you’re going to have to go with the next best thing. I find this an odd statement though.

It is events like this that cause me to NOT have faith in humanity. Don’t get me wrong. Human nature is a good thing. Humanity is a good thing. We are fallen though. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot turn one hair on our head from white to black. We often find our greatest battles are not with others but with ourselves.

This does not mean that I do not have some degree of faith in certain humans which is understandable and I think good. You can’t live refusing to trust everyone. I have faith in my friends that they will be there to support me when I need them to and that I can hopefully do the same for them.

It also means though that I am realistic. Take the idea today of believing in yourself. My friends I think count on me in many cases that when an argument against the faith arises, they know I’ll be there to fight it. However, I do not think that it would be a lack of faith to say that I could not hit a home run pitched by Nolan Ryan in Yankee Stadium. My body just isn’t built for that.

And this is what confidence is. Confidence is being real with yourself and admitting what you can do. Pride is seeing yourself as more than you are. False humility is seeing yourself as less than you are. In fact, true humility and confidence should go hand in hand. We should be real with ourselves.

Thus, do I have faith in humanity? No. I do not believe humanity can save us from the evil we saw. I have faith in God though that he can make humanity what it was meant to be.

Nameless Ones

I was taking the trash out in my place tonight. I walked down the steps to the garbage bin and saw a cat leap off and then run away from me. It stared at me for awhile after I threw away my trash. I got down to indicate for it to come my way, but the cat had no desire. It just watched. I came closer and it ran off.

As I went back upstairs forlorn, a thought occurred to me. That cat might not even have a name. I was hit with a degree of sadness upon thinking that. A name is given to one who matters. A name indicates that one is to be set apart from the rest. This is one reason why we can be bothered in public when someone else has the same name as we do.

This is the glory of naming. It allows us to make distinctions. When Adam called a dog a dog, then that was its name. The dog was different from all the other animals. When he said, “dog”, he knew what he meant. He did not mean a small creature that says “Meow.” There’s nothing wrong with that creature of course, but it is not a dog.

What about your name? I know what my name means and I take delight in it. When reading Scripture, it is important to pay attention to names. The names meant so much back then. That is why names were so often given by God. The parents didn’t just look through a baby book. The names meant something about the child.

We can see this in the VA tech shootings. To the gunman, they were probably just faces in the crowd. To us though, we have seen their names. We know them now. It wasn’t just a statistic then. These were real people that died that day. These were ones set apart from everyone else.

I saw this just yesterday in my own self. I went to get some photos done for my application to Seminary. The photographer and I looked through the shots on his computer and I got hit with a jolt. That name he keeps saying is me and that person on the screen is me.

I would even compare it in some ways to what an out-of-body experience could be like. I was really speaking about myself in a way the ancients never probably could. That image on the screen points to a person with actual existence. Have we ever really marveled at the wonder that we really exist?

The Bible tells us also that God knows our names. They are written on his hands. He will give us a stone one day with a name known only to the holder and to God. Could this be a name for us? Maybe. If it’s a name for God though, it’s done to indicate his uniqueness to all others.

This is a great joy that should mesmerize us. God knows our name. When you pray, he knows who it is that is praying. It is not a faceless soul out there. It is a person. Your name makes you unique from all others. God said Job was unique and there was no one else like him. I wager he could say the same for all of us.

Tonight, celebrate your name. You are set apart from all others by it.