Why Can Prayer Seem Hard?

Maybe you’re not a Christian of the same type as me. Maybe you’re one of those to whom prayer comes easily and is not difficult. If so, you are blessed. However, I am willing to bet that there are several out there that are like myself. We don’t always know what to do when we approach the throne and our minds can stray.

I will say at the start of this that I do not see prayer in Scripture as a dialogue. I will not be writing anything on hearing the voice of God. I will admit, there are times I would like to, and I doubt that I’m alone, but I just don’t see that as a common practice in Scripture. I think if it happened even, I would become too focused on an experience and not focused enough on truth such as the Scriptures.

I thought last night about that. I thought that sometimes it seems hard to pray and those who read my blog yesterday know what I’m talking about.  I wondered though why it seems hard. What is prayer? Prayer is simply talking to God? Why would one have a hard time talking to God?

Maybe part of it is that we don’t know what it is. Some of you are thinking “Well you just told us what it is. It’s talking to God.” Yeah. I did say that. Does that mean we fully grasp what it is. It would make as much sense to say that kissing is having the lips of the male meet the lips of the female in a romantic gesture. It is only until you begin thinking about it that you realize what that really means.

What does it mean? If I knew entirely, I’d be a wiser man. It means though having the audience before you listening of the most awesome being of all and the most awesome one that will ever be. It means that you are in the heavenly throne room and you have the attention of the one sitting on the throne who can do all and knows all.

Yet what makes it hard? Could it be that we don’t believe he really listens to us? We know he hears us and maybe at times we doubt that. Do we think that he’s listening to us. Do we think he might be saying “Well here he comes again to go on and on about all these little insignificant things.”

Could it be that if God is the creator, God has more interest in his creation than we do? We may think it doesn’t matter, but God has infinite interest in it. That girl you have a crush on? God is interested. Your case of the sniffles? God is interested. Passing your final exam? God is interested. On deciding to be a missionary in a foreign nation? God is interested. No matter how big or small, God is interested.

Where did we get this idea God is only interested in big things? Are not big things themselves made of smaller things? Are we to say that a doctor who can perform major surgery is uninterested in dealing with the common cold? Could it be we have been making God in our image?

Could it also be we don’t see ourselves as good enough? I think many of us are still stunned by how holy God is and how sinful we are, and well we should be. However, are we not aware that if there was nothing good in us that he would not have us enter into his very presence? What is good in us? It is his image and that we are created in it. All the goodness we have is that which is participating in his goodness.

This isn’t pantheism. This is theism. We are participating in the goodness of God for there can be no goodness outside of him.  He allows us to come because we are image bearers and we as Christians have been made worthy to be in the presence of the holy of holies. We can truly boldly approach the throne.

Isn’t that a great verse also? He wants us to do that. BOLDLY APPROACH! We can walk right up to the throne and start talking to the one who sits on it. Isn’t that awesome if we think about it? If only we could grasp the truth that lies in this, and indeed, I am speaking to myself as well.

So why do our minds stray? I don’t know entirely. Maybe some of us just have a harder time focusing. It could just be that we don’t really know the truth about what we do. It could be we have become so familiar with prayer we have sadly allowed familiarity to breed monotony, something that no child of God should ever have. That, however, is another blog.

Well, these are my thoughts on prayer. Maybe I’ve blessed you some. Maybe you are like me and realize you’re not alone. Here’s a good suggestion. Pray for me. I shall pray for you as well. I may not know you, but God does and he can handle things. I hope that I will pray he does.

Isn’t it good to know?

Sigh. There are times I really would like to get home and write a good blog, but it seems difficult. My mind often has a hard time focusing unless it’s something negative. A train of thought I get going on can too easily become derailed or else split into a thousand directions. It’s quite distracting.

So what happens tonight? We have an influx of customers where I work where several different people come up at once wanting something, I find one of my favorite movies which a friend comes by and as a joke removes, to which I don’t find out until 2 hours later and not even by a confession from him, I work half an hour with two more who don’t even buy something causing me to take a late break, and it ends with a customer so crazy that I’m talking to him and thinking “Remember your karate classes. This is what you do if he throws a punch, a kick, etc.”


Keep in mind that this is going on amidst all the other issues I often have going on in my life. There’s the number of debates that I’m in and the work that I do online, there’s preparing the blog, there’s getting set for seminary, and dealing with all other manner of personal issues which largely resides in my own constant fault-finding particularly in myself. Whew!

There are times when one is just spent entirely it seems and there is not much one thinks they can give. I have been entirely thankful for my friends at this point. I have sometimes imagined scenes where I would just collapse in their presence and they’d understand and if anyone came by they would just say, “He’s worked hard and he’s recuperating now. Leave him be.”

It is either the emotions are spent or they are taking over entirely and it can be difficult to tell which. The world turns topsy-turvy and you wonder if it can just slow down. I should mention I got off at 11 tonight and have to be at work at 9 tomorrow for which I will wake up at 7 in the morning. Great recovery time. Such is life though.

I try to keep in mind at this point the stoic philosophy that these things happen. All of this will pass away. From the view of eternity, these incredibly stressful events at this point could seem like nothing more than a minor case of the sniffles and one that I will laugh at from that point.

Unfortunately, we’re not at that point yet.

It’s times like this though that I try to remember that God is on the throne. No matter how crazy things did, the Lord is still sovereign. Christ is still in charge. It is at times like this that I try to remember the peace of the Trinity. I remember that God is omnipresent and so the presence of the Trinity is omnipresent and that Trinity presence has peace and love in it. It is waiting there for me to accept it.

What keeps you and I from doing it? I suppose honestly, we are afraid of the love of God at times. I think of these stray cats I sometimes see. I love cats and when I see them, I want to take them and let them know that they’re not unloved. What do they do though? They run. If they would come close, they would get to have my love for them. They don’t trust it though.

Can we really not trust God? Yep. I think of the idea that some of us have that God will take us and make us do something utterly miserable to us to teach us how to trust him. I don’t really see this in Scripture and it seems centered on us. My guess is that God doesn’t make a big deal out of such things usually. Chances are, we take small choices to God and make them gigantic and we take what he considers the big choices and make them tiny.

As I go on my way, I must simply remember that God is on the throne no matter what’s going on in my life. Things aren’t as big as I make them out to be and I just need to learn to step back and focus. I need to pause and remember in all things that God is on the throne.

So that’s my rant for tonight with my reminder. Why say it? Because my guess is that you have those kinds of days also and you probably need someone to come and tell you that they’re just like you. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Commonly Supernatural

I hope a lot of you read my blog from last night. If not, I urge you to read it at this point as I plan to continue the thought. I kept it going after I wrote it and have toyed with the idea off and on all day. Sadly, my job usually distracts me so I spend more time in the off position than in the on position.

I thought that I could teach someone how to drive to another state if I wanted to. If I was a pilot, I could teach them how to fly to another state. If I was the captain of a boat, I could show them how to sail there. I could teach them all manner of ways to get there, but there is one thing I could not teach them. I could not teach them how to walk there.

That is something I find amazing. It is for us quite natural though so we cannot explain how to do it. I find if I’m playing a video game I have played for years, when a friend asks me for the controls to do something for the first time, I am at a loss. I have been doing it for so long, I have forgotten how I do it. The only difference in this case is that I don’t know how I walked the first time.

We say we teach our kids how to walk. We do no such thing. A child cannot be taught your thought processes whatever they may be whereby you learn to walk. Our children just naturally develop this ability and I see it as a mystery how it happens. We merely create the environment and encouragement for them to learn how.

We do not know the most of what we do. A child has the problem of wetting himself not because he does not know how to go but he does not know how not to. He has not learned that self-control and we would still be hard-pressed to teach a course to a child on “How to go to the restroom.” We could teach a child all the hygiene involved, but we could not teach him the main reason one goes in the first place.

Sadly, we have lost the wonder in these I believe because they are so natural to us. A good friend of mine (Who will be an awesome Christian counselor I hope someday) told me last night about the Lord of the Rings. It’s been years since I’ve read the books, but he’s a fanatic of them. He was telling me about a scene where the elves give some characters cloaks and one non-elf, Sam, asks “Are these magical cloaks?”

The elves are stunned. They don’t know what he means. To them, it’s completely natural. We think the same thing about what we do well. I do mathematics well in my head. I cannot tell someone how I do it exactly. I just do it. A fast runner might not be able to tell how he does it. He just does it.

We see the same in the animal kingdom. We can be amazed at the Bombardier beetle because he is capable of igniting gases within himself and shooting a flame, but if we could see into the mind of one who was a philosopher, he might well see his practice as quite natural and instead be writing treatises on how other animals do other things.

This is the miracle then that has invaded our world. The miracle is that which we view as commonly natural is in fact in many ways supernatural. It is a wonder of God that we have these many simple things that we cannot explain. We can explain how electrons move and why. We cannot do the same for ourselves.

We should spend our days in wonder that we are capable of walking. That my eyes open in the morning and close at night and I know not how should make me stand in amazement. That I can somehow lapse into a period called sleep that while I may aid you in reaching, I could not teach you how to do the act itself, is amazing. I do not know how I do it, yet somehow I do it every night. (Well, excepting two stay-up-all-night parties when younger.)

It is a shame that we have taken such commonalities and forgotten the wonder therein. Either these are incredible events or they are not. Yet if they are not incredible, I would think they would be easily explained. It seems no one else can do so. The atheist writes the books saying there is no God, but can he tell me how he moves his hands across the keyboard? Can he tell me how he even thinks? That he can analyze what he says and draw inferences (though I believe invalid), I find utterly amazing. It would seem though that it is not unfamiliarity with his subject that is his downfall. It is familiarity.

It is our age that seeks to find the extraordinary and we think we have to look past the common. Instead, we should define what is extraordinary first and then find that in the common. It is then that we can appreciate the unique acts the more. We should be amazed at the incarnation, but let us take it further. We should first have amazement that God is. We should then have amazement that he has revealed himself. The more amazement we find at these, the more we will be amazed when we get to “The Word Became Flesh.”

My suggestion? Let us look not to the unusual to find God. Why not begin with that which is closest to us, which is the usual. It could be that when we finish, we find that we called the unusual was really usual and what we called the usual was really unusual.

Do You Believe In Magic?

Last night, I had finished everything on my computer and was getting in some last minute reading as I often do. Reading before turning the lights out is quite enjoyable. I am one of those people who likes to carry a book everywhere with me. However, as I was reading, I went over to a small hallway between my bathroom and bedroom and flipped the lightswitch for the hallway and something incredible happened.

The light came on.

Now some of you are reading this and thinking “Has he finally lost it?” (I assure all of you, I lost it a long time ago.) “Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen when you turn on a lightswitch?” Well, yes. Of course it is. However, how often have we stopped to be amazed that that is in fact what happens.

When I fly on a plane, I find it amazing that the pilot says that we are flying to X city and lo and behold, that is where we arrive. We do not arrive in a different city. We arrive in the city that he has spoken of. It may not be the same as the magic powder in the Potter books, but it is still the wonder.

You can come to me and talk to me about the light and say “Ah. I will tell you why that happens. When you flip the switch, electrons…..” Yes, yes yes. I’m sure it’s all interesting. However, even if I know how it works, that does not tell me something. It does not tell me the why. Why was the system made that way instead of another.

You can tell me that is what the electrons do, but I simply find it amazing that they do that. I am caught in the opposite side of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man. He was terrified by the fact that 2 + 2 = 4. I am utterly amazed by it. It is a shame that we do not live in a world where people walk down the street and constantly live in amazement that 2 + 2 = 4.

Why are these things such? As a Christian theist, I cannot believe the flow of electrons is an accident. I believe that God made it to work X way and not Y way for a reason. I believe God made sexual intercourse the way he did for a reason. I believe the heavenlies move the way they do for a reason.

However, if I keep asking “Why?” I will eventually have to come to the mind of God. There is something about it all that reflects his nature. This would mean that there is some glory in all that there is. If it is his and it reflects his nature, then insofar as it reflects his nature, it is glorious, and it does not depend on my agreeing with it or not.

This means that I should have wonder all around me. Even without looking at things outside of myself I can find wonder. I should walk around in amazement that I have these two things called legs that end in two things called feet and that they seem to motivate me everywhere that I go.

In the cartoon, Peter Pan, Peter Pan tells the kids that they can fly. When they ask “How?” he says, “It’s easy. You just….” Peter Pan cannot explain it. Who could? It would make just as much sense for me to try to tell you how to move your arms. I do it and I know I do it and I do it when I want to do it, but I could not dare tell you for a second how I do it.

Should that not hold me in awe? Should that not make me realize that the universe is far greater than I thought. I can attempt to explain it all, but such a small world it would be. It would be thinking that because I know all the hows of the universe, then that makes it less fascinating. With a mind behind the universe, that makes it more fascinating.

I have no quarrel with science then. Finding out how things work makes them more fascinating for it shows how complex they are. Let us suppose the scientists are right and find some theory of everything, that universal law that explains why everything does what it does. It should not decrease wonder. I would be amazed that God could sum it all up in one simple truth.

So why the title? Because I believe such is quite close to what would be called magic. Even if you could explain the way magic works in the stories, it would still be incredible that when you say “Hocus Pocus!” something happens. I find the belief that the plane can take me to the city as amazing as the idea that teleportation could take me there. In fact, I should find the fact that my own two feet can take me there amazing.

There is much concern these days in our world with the idea of magic. There are people who will ban the Potter books for instance and refuse to have anything to do with them. I pity such people. I have no problem with condemning the occult for it is the occult. I have a problem with condemning fantasy simply because it is fantasy.

I would much rather though meet the person who believes in magic than the one who does not. I would that we were steeped in paganism rather than materialism. With paganism, all we have to do is get people to abandon one god for the true God. With materialism, we have to get people to abandon no god for some God. However, the saddest part is that usually, there is a god and that is the god of self, and he is the hardest god most often to forsake.

It is a shame our world does not see the magic of what we have. It would hold us more in amazement everyday if we did. Tonight, some people will not sleep well wondering why their checkbook doesn’t seem to add up. I understand the concern and we should help people financially if we can. However, I will do my best to work not concerned with why a checkbook doesn’t add up, but with more amazement that 2 and 2 do to make 4.

Approaching the Pulpit

I have just today found I’ve been accepted to Seminary. Alright. Had to get that good news out. The blogs will still continue though. However, the story that I am sharing is from before this time. I have been speaking to my church about my high hopes of Seminary and wanting to preach one more time before I left town.

An odd feeling comes over someone then and I am still working through this. I have had this come to bear more on my own life as somehow, humility has come up in my conversations and my friends on here have identified me as humble, which I find absolutely shocking. I don’t see myself as humble, so all of this has given me much to think about.

I looked at the pulpit after mentioning my request and thought. I really felt quite unworthy to enter the pulpit. I really saw what an honor it was. You’re up there giving the message that the people often believe is practically from God himself. Many people believe that their preacher is practically infallable and don’t digest what he said. I realize that while I may examine and question some things my preacher says, a lot of people sadly don’t. I have to take that into account.

A lot of people believe in the calling of God. I don’t. However, I do believe in the seriousness of the task. I find a side in Scripture we don’t usually speak of. I find the desire to be a success and a desire to be a teacher. I don’t see anything wrong in that. I don’t think we should set out to be failures.

This is the area of difficulty in many ways. We should want to be good in what we do and desire a good name, but we should do it for a greater glory, and sometimes that is hard and I hope I do that. I know my friends would say that my hope to seek his glory first would indicate my character well. It would be good for me if I believed all about me that they do. I am incredibly thankful for my friends in that regard.

It is all about simply trying to see onesself as one really is. I think of the prayer of Soren Kierkegaard where he said “With your help Lord, I will now become myself.” That is where I think humility and pride lie. Humility is seeing onesself as one is. It is not humble to lower yourself. It is prideful though to exert yourself as what you are not.

So that is the goal. We are to see ourselves as we are and that is the way that God sees us. God has no false beliefs about us, but we often have false beliefs about us. God’s goal is also to help us become ourselves, and that is who we are in Christ. We are to take on his identity more and more every day. We are to be shaped to be more like him. That’s hard to hear really. I want to resist that a lot. There is a part of me that cries out still against the hands of the potter.

So then I think about the pulpit again. I think that people do say I have strengths and ideas to share and such. However, I still see myself as unworthy. I don’t think that’s it though. I think that’s what makes it a gift. I don’t deserve that gift. If I did, it wouldn’t be a gift. Getting to spread the gospel though is a gift. It’s a great gift. We are invited to be co-laborers with Christ, and that is an honor.

I’m glad to be in the pulpit. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. I love public speaking. I have no hesitancy about being before the crowd. At the same time though, I approach it with some fear and trembling. I like to hear what people say afterwards, but I pray they are learning as well and applying.

The pulpit is a great place and it’s also a gift. Like any gift from any friend, it is to be treasured but treated with respect.

Jokes in the Sermon?

I was talking to a friend last night and shared a proposition with him that I plan to write on at a later date. Tonight though, it’s awfully late and I don’t really feel like deep philosophy and theology at the moment, so I shall stick with a basic look at a text. I was telling him my idea that I hadn’t really thought about much before, but I was seriously thinking about now. That is the idea that God is funny. I don’t mean that in a mocking sense. I mean that in a serious and honorable sense. God is that which brings delight by being who he is.

I told my friend that I believed the Bible contains jokes. I mean that in a positive way the same way a good speaker such as a preacher will often mix jokes in with his message. It keeps the audience in a good mood and aids for the retention of what is being said. You can hear a joke just once and remember it well.

This will also mean we have to alter our modern conception of Jesus. I’m not speaking about that which is found in the creeds. We dare not abandon orthodoxy. I’m speaking about the Jesus in the media. If there’s one thing I just can’t get into, it’s biblical movies. They are usually entirely dry and boring. (In fact, my favorite scene in Luther is when he talks about 18 of the 12 apostles being buried in Spain, the joke part!)

Do you really see Jesus like that? Do you see Jesus as this purely solemn guy who walked around and never cracked a smile? When you think about him speaking as you read the gospels, is he always speaking in a monotone? Is all he knows in the area of theology and the Scriptures? If so, I ask you to abandon that view for awhile.

I took my friend to Matthew 7 with the plank in the eye passage. I reread that passage last night. I’d like you to think of Jesus smiling as he delivers this sermon and think of him fluctuating his voice or winking playfully into the audience or using expressive gestures to show absurdities. Much of Jewish humor was by exaggeration. Keep that in mind.

Picture Jesus talking about that example first. He’s made his point about judging and then he expounds on it. Grant me some paraphrase here. It sounds like he’s saying “Just look! You want to go to your brother while he has a speck in his eye and you,” and I picture him here holding his hands out in front of his eye as far away as he can as if to hold the plank. “have this loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong plank coming out of your eye!” You can just imagine the audience laughing. “Get that plank out of your eye! Then you can help your brother!”

Then he tells us not to give dogs what is sacred or throw pearls to swine. It’s a “Duh!” moment. Surely the Lord had to say that with delight. You can read the passage an think “Well obviously, I wouldn’t do that.” That’s Jesus’s point. This is so obvious that you wouldn’t miss it, and yet you do it every day!

We are told then to ask and it will be given. Knock and the door will be opened. Seek and you will find. Let me state something else obvious here. How else will you be given something unless you ask for it? How else will you get the door opened unless you knock? How else will you find unless you seek? Jesus is still using humor.

He then speaks about if your son asks for bread will you give him a stone or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake. He basically says, “A good father won’t do that will he?” Of course not! Obviously! Yet this is still Jesus’s point. You don’t approach God the way you approach a father. These fathers here are evil even and they give good. Have a little trust in the Father. Don’t you think you’re being silly?

He later gives an example of false prophets. Really think about this description he’s giving. They come like sheep but they’re really wolves. What a play this is! One can just picture the image of a sheep being replaced by a wolf. How do you know the real ones? Grapes don’t grow from thorn bushes nor do figs grow from thistles do they? Obviously not! Again the point! Good trees produce good fruit! Bad trees produce bad fruit! The obvious is the humorous!

He closes by teaching the parable of the two houses built. Think about the humor there. Obviously a house built on sand won’t make it! The absurd example makes the point. One can picture Jesus imitating the wind blowing and gesturing to indicate that one house stands while the other tumbles down.

All of this in what is said to be the greatest sermon of all.

Yes my friends. Our God is a God of humor. I encourage you as you read the Bible, read it with new eyes. This isn’t meant to be a boring book. It’s an enjoyable one. It’s not all fun and games of course, but there is humor hidden therein. It’s just waiting to be found. Now how do you find again? Oh yes! I remember! Seek!

Something Exciting Around Here

Some of you are going to think I’m unusual for this. (As if you didn’t have enough reason to already think that I’m unusual.) I carry my digital camera with me to church if I remember it. I have one of those things where I can hang it around my neck. I also visit the church library every Sunday to see if they have anything new in and make recommendations if need be. (Churches. Please support your libraries)

The librarian today sees my camera and asks if I’m planning to take any pictures. I tell her I’m not. I just like to take my camera when I go somewhere. I never know if something interesting will come up. To which she responded in a questioning voice, “Something exciting around here?”

And that statement stuck with me all day.

Why is it that it seems so amazing to think that something exciting would happen? I still have this contention that you could make a major motion picture out of anyone’s life and it would be interesting. I have many friends who are into the series 24. I’ve never seen it, but I bet you could make a real-time TV show of anyone’s life and it’d be interesting. (Well, maybe not when they’re asleep, but if you could get into their dreams then….)

As I write about that, I wonder why I don’t even consider sleep exciting. That is the body rejuvenating itself after a long night. There’s something odd to that. As one who has been in enough surgeries, I find it amazing that I can enter a state like sleep and be cut open and not even feel it. (Although darn it, I sure felt it when I woke up!)

It seems like we should realize our lives have more adventure than we realize. Perchance if we all started thinking of them as adventures, we’d enjoy them more. We can chide people for “playing games” but could it be God is the best at playing games? This life is the adventure that he has designed for us. Yes. The consequences are serious, but every game has consequences.

Isn’t there excitement everyday? What goes into the colors that you see? The world could function in black-and-white, but it is not. It is full of color. We could have food without taste and it’d still be nutritious, but it has taste. What of the joy of several emotions? We could be made like robots with no emotions, but we are allowed to experience joy, happiness, and love.

Ah Love! That is the big one! I can recall one time truly being in love with a lady and I certainly know it was a joy. While I miss it, I do not regret the time in love. Love is such a great joy. It didn’t have to be that way. Animals reproduce without love and I think it seems only dolphins have intercourse for pleasure. God made it different for us. Why? Why are Proverbs 5:18-19 and Song of Songs in the Bible? Could it be God wants us to see how exciting this gift is?

What about simple entertainment? My Sunday afternoons are relaxation time. I only have the internet for MP3s at that time. I’m listening to them and playing for the moment, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. God didn’t need to have any of those around, but he does.

That even gets me thinking further. We’ve all seen people who don’t have one or more of their senses. Have we been thankful for ours? It seems it isn’t until I meet someone who is deaf that I really appreciate my ability to hear. It seems I don’t learn to appreciate sight until I meet someone who is blind. Dr. Paul Brand works with leprosy patients in India who can’t feel pain due to problems with their nervous system and writes about “the gift of pain.” That is a book title of his. He thinks it’s wonderful that we can feel pain and don’t have to worry about mutilating ourselves because we feel nothing. He even tried to create a synthetic pain system once and couldn’t do it! What do we do? We complain and whine if we stub our toes!

As I write, I get thankful that I have the ability to write and to think out these ideas, and I’m all the while honing it. It is truly a gift. Maybe you have one that you can sing or paint or play a musical instrument well or something of that sort. Give thanks for it as well. It is exciting.

Thus, I believe I have found many exciting things just in my ordinary (or not so ordinary) life. I believe I shall stop for now though for if I keep going, I will never reach the end of this blog. You want more things though? Here’s an idea. I’ve got the ball rolling. You go out and find them yourself now.

Shining Like Stars

I was talking to a friend last night in another state (I mean physically. Not the state of sanity in relation to mine of confusion) and he was talking about apologetics. He was echoing some of the sentiments I’ve echoed in feeling like he’s often alone in the apologetics endeavor and then going into an Elijah moment. (For this friend, I would also like to say that you rock. I’m glad I know you and you’re an awesome guy and hopefully we’ll see each other again soon.)

Many of us can relate to that. I can often go into my church service and see the people and think “I’ve been taking the intellectual bullets for you all week. Have you noticed?” I’m not saying I do it for a reward or the praise of men. I really don’t. It’s simply the right thing to do and I remind myself of that many nights when I’m up late talking to someone in need. I just simply look and wonder if I am all alone at times. Apologetics, sadly, can be a thankless job. To be blunt, it seems any position in ministry can be a thankless job.

I asked my friend to consider his job and mine. Many people come to see us every day and few of them would know that we are apologists. In some ways, it is like living with a secret identity. I find that kind of cool in some ways, but kind of saddening in others. The point though is that it can seem like we are just tiny specks.

However, I also consider that while those people that approach me don’t know much about me, I in turn don’t know much about them. Maybe there are some that I worked around today who are apologists as well. Maybe my friend had someone come to him who was a minister and he knew nothing about it.

I then told my friend to turn to Philippians 2. This is one area where I think we who take Scripture seriously can make a mistake. There is that great passage there that talks about the deity of Christ and we can get so caught up in that part of the chapter that we forget that there are other parts to that chapter. We can do this with many other places in the Bible. Have we ever, for instance, considered Romans 9 without thinking first of the Calvinism-Arminianism debate?

Philippians 2 though speaks of us as stars shining in the universe. I asked my friend to consider how big the sky was and he said it was quite big. We could consider it practically infinite. I asked him then if we could compare the Earth and the sky. The Earth isn’t infinite of course, though neither is the sky, but from our perspective, both can seem such. The Earth has so much for us to explore.

Philippians 2 tells us though that we are like stars in the universe shining. I like that metaphor. I look at the sky at night and it’s so black, but then there’s that glimmer of light. It’s a star that can’t be quenched by the darkness. Those stars are light years apart, but they sure seem close from our perspective.

I ask my friend then and I ask you as well to look at our world here. It might seem like we’re alone, and at times I do feel like I am, but we are not. There is the company of our friends who are fighting the same battle. I’ve said before that not all of us are apologists. I’m thankful for my counselor types who are just standing alongside me cleaning up any wounds I receive. Remember that in King David’s court, there was an official position identified as the friend of the king. Our friends should receive no less honor.

My friends, if you are fighting this fight, fear not. You are not alone. Go out and shine. Light up the world for Jesus Christ.

Before we ask why we’re here

Often times in the discussions of philosophy and theology, one question that comes up is “Why are we here?” I think this is a question everyone should ask of themselves at some time. However, as I pondered this question recently, it occurred to me that I never see a prior question being addressed. That question is “Who are we?”  or maybe even “What are we?”

It seems that if we want to know the purpose of a thing, it might help us to know what that thing is first. I could find a tool with a wooden handle and a top with a blunt end and a pronged end and wonder what that does. If I am told it is a hammer, I will then think “A hammer is used when building with nails” and can then understand the purpose of the tool that I hold.

Yet it seems that while we know what many things are in our world, we don’t really know what we are. Are we cosmic accidents just wandering along on this journey of life condemned to die a pointless and meaningless death? Are we parts of God who have forgotten our divinity and need to be reabsorbed back into the divine? Are we creatures created in the image of God? What are we?

Notice that how you answer this question will also change how you answer others. If man is an accident, then there is no reason to value him. He is only good as a tool. It is what he does that matters and not who he is. This can easily lead us to utilitarian ethics that will deny the value of man. This is what is going on when a baby is aborted because it’s “inconvenient.”

The same could apply if we are parts of God forgetting that we are divine. If that is the case, then we need to act like it. We can be the ones who are determining good and evil for instance. We will approach the world differently if we believe that it is all an illusion or that it is all divine.

If we are created in the image of God though, then we will see that our purpose is to reflect that image. If we are Christians, we will see that this is done by walking in the model of Christlikeness. (Well, hopefully we will see that.) We will see our fellow man as one who bears that image and based on that, he is one to be respected.

We will also see that morality has a basis. It is rooted in the triune God and that our ethics come from the love of the Trinity. Each person of the Trinity values the other person for who they are and not what they do. In that regards, I am to value my fellow man the same way.

I also see who I am. I am not an accident. I am a wonderful person that uniquely bears the image of God. I am made to walk as Jesus did and in the end, I will walk beside him for all time. I have been made as the crown of God’s creation and I am to live my life to give him glory.

Interesting isn’t it? Once we know what we are, it is easy to understand why we are here. If we are accidents, well who asks why an accident is here? It merely is. There is no higher purpose behind it. If we are deity ignorant, then our goal is to remove our ignorance which will focus largely on ourselves. (This is why in India, you don’t really help the poor. That messes with their karma which in turn messes with yours.)

If I am created in the image of God though, then I know why I am here. I am here to glorify God and I do that best by doing what John told me to do. I do it best by walking as Jesus did.

Making A Difference

 (Writer’s note: Due to a connection problem, I had to wait til this morning to put this blog up. Let’s hope tonight things are normal.)

In Final Fantasy VI, the world enters a time of ruin and the party of do-gooders is split up. One girl in the party awakens and she is guided along as she finds everyone else including a man named Setzer who is in a state of dejection after seeing the world and wants to give up. The girl, Celes, tells him though that before the world entered ruin, he was the strongest fighter there was and nothing stood in his way and he faced death head on. He doesn’t like the way the world is? Then do something about it! With those words, Setzer gets back his strength and joins the party who ends up doing just what Celes said. They save the world.

In Final Fantasy X, the party is fighting to gain a power to defeat evil, but then they find that the idea of defeating the evil for good is a myth. They refuse to give up which means that they have to fight past the one they thought would help them the most. The hero Auron gives this speech then:

“Now! This is it! Now is the time to choose!
Die and be free of pain or live and fight your sorrow!
Now is the time to shape your stories!
Your fate is in your hands!”

I love that speech. Why? Auron knows the truth. You have great sorrow now and you can die and be free from it. Or, you can choose to live and fight it. Your stories are being shaped and how they will turn out at this point is up to you. Are you going to be the hero of the story or the victim? Are you going to conquer the world or let it conquer you?

I suppose this is one reason I love games so much like this. They have the people changing the world and you’ll rarely find that it is the super types that do such. It is usually in the Final Fantasy series ordinary people. If they have any powers, they usually wrestle with great doubt or other internal difficulties. For instance, Tidus, the hero of FFX, is a champ at the popular sport in the game of Blitzball, but constantly hears his domineering father saying “You can’t do it!” and criticizing him in his mind.

What’s the point? Each of these characters does make a difference. Yesterday, I wrote about changing the world. The truth is that we all change the world every day. We all change everyone’s world we meet (And in many ways, everyone else through who they meet) and we all change our world everyday. We are becoming more like Christ and enabling others to do so, or becoming less like him and hindering them from doing so, and that should make many of us pause to think. It certainly makes me pause.

The question is not will we make a difference. The question is “What kind of difference will we make?” When we leave this world, we would have left it for the better or for the worse. Some of us will be like Setzer at the start and say “I can’t make a difference. It’s a lost cause.” For that, we need people like Celes and Auron.

Yes. We need people who will be honest. It’s not a lost cause. It’s a dangerous cause and it’s a tough cause and the battle won’t be easy, but the battle can be won because it has been won. We can take this fight anywhere. If we believe the gospel, we should believe that we can take it anywhere and it will make a difference.

If only we had adventurers like Paul, and let’s be clear, Paul was an adventurer. I am convinced that if we really had a video game based on a character playing as Paul and having to face the dangers he faced, it would be a best-seller. Paul’s life was filled with danger. Why’d he do it? Because he believed the gospel could change the world. Look at his letter to the Romans. He wants to carry the gospel to the far ends of the Earth. Spain was no simple task. This was a man who was staying around the Jerusalem area to deal with the “Christian threat.” Now he wants to travel the world.

These people do exist. You can find many of my type known as apologists who are going out into every area out there and making a difference because they believe the gospel is true and can change lives. They may go to other countries where Christianity is not warmly received or to university settings where secularism reigns or on the internet in the midst of the common man or to some other places of dreadful opposition, like family and work. (For any concerned, I do have a Christian family but for those who don’t, these can be the hardest people to talk to.)

Why should we go though? Because the gospel is true. We can live our lives in confidence of the message of Christ. The more we believe it, the more we will live it and tell others that we believe it. When we do that, imagine the difference that we can make. How can Christ make a difference in the world though if we never go forth with the good news?

Friends. We’re making a difference right now. We all are. Wouldn’t it be great if at the same time, we were making one for Christ?