Dark Saturday

Have you ever wondered how this Saturday was for the disciples?

Their Lord had been crucified. No doubt, they were tired from a restless evening, but did they get any that night? Were that all together in order to have a fighting chance should the leaders of the community knock on their door? Were they sitting up late at night reviewing the facts wondering where things had gone wrong?

What indeed? All of their hopes and dreams had been planted on this man. This man had said that he was the source of life. He had made the strongest claims that anyone had ever made, and yet, they did not doubt his sanity. Maybe they did then though. They’d seen him die and he hadn’t resisted. Maybe there was a lot of insanity.

As I ponder it, I wonder if the disciples counted those the darkest 24 hours of their lives.

Maybe we’re not that different though.

Maybe it’s Saturday for you. Maybe the world seems out of kilter and nothing seems right. I often think about times when I am in that place and I say “I just want to wake up one day and have 2 + 2 = 4 again.”  This is a crazy and mixed up world and sometimes, it does seem like the good guys are losing.

For us, it can seem like God is absent at time. Be sure of this. We say it feels like he is. Where do we ever get such a notion? I know of no concept in Scripture where it talks about feeling God or even “Feeling the Spirit.” So much of what we claim as truth about God today can often be traced to our feelings.

Yet, those feelings don’t just go away. However, in the midst of our trials, we can remember the disciples. There was a Saturday when Jesus was dead. That day went and that day seemed to be a hopeless day. However, the disciples did not realize the joy they would have the very next day.

We all know what day that was.

So I say in closing, remember today, that there are dark passages in life, but the day of the Lord is coming.

Good Friday

Picture yourself as a first century Jew. You’ve been mesmerized by this man named Jesus who is going around teaching and working so many great wonders. This man has a moral code that you know you can’t reach, but yet, you believe you are accepted by him anyway. No one has ever spoken like this man. He is the best man you have ever known.

Then, the leaders of your people strip him and crucify him on a cross in shame for all the world to see.

Imagine if someone came to you then and said “Did you know that 2,000 years from now, this day will be looked on as Good Friday?” Imagine how you would react! This is the greatest man I ever knew that is being humiliated in the worst death of all! What could possibly be good about this?! What kind of sick people live 2,000 years from now?!

Yet today, we seem to call it Good Friday quite easily. It is doubtful the disciples saw it as such. They were more than likely watching in horror. I see no reason for us to think that the disciples were watching and one of them said “Oh! I get it! Jesus Christ is dying for our sins!” No. Their world had been thrown into confusion provided it even lasted. They were followers of a man who had been condemned as a criminal. They could be next.

Today though, we know the truth. It is Good Friday. We celebrate it not because the story ended on the cross, but because the story began on the cross. The darkest moment led to the brightest moment. The greatest evil led to the greatest good. The God who reversed things then though, is still around for us in the 21st century.

Today, remember what happened on Good Friday. It is still the same God. He sent his Son for your sins. How much more will he give you all things?

Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings

Whew! I’ve had a full day. After a lot of internet debating, I did go to see my grandmother in her new assisted living place, went to see my mother back home, went to the library, went to get my cell phone upgraded, went to the new Ninja Turtles movie, and finally I went to Border’s with some friends. As I told a friend tonight after all this, I’m feeling tired.

Which is appropo since I’m talking about feelings.

I’ve had a lot going on in my life today and I tend to think that when I get a lot going on, my feelings just go all chaotic. It’s one of those situations where you look back on a happier time and miss it and you just want to wake up the next day and have 2 + 2 = 4 again. Being happy takes a lot of energy really and my personality is quite melancholy.

I would also say I’m one to give too much credence to feelings, and we all do that today. A man might go home one evening and he just doesn’t feel love for his wife. You know what he’s supposed to do? Love her. If we all acted on our feelings, we would all be in trouble. In fact, most of us would either be in jail or dead.

Yet I thought about what I was asking. I was praying that God would restore some joy and happiness that I believe past and current events have sapped from me. As I thought about that, I remembered then what I have so often told people before. It’s amazing that we’re so terrible at following our own advice.

Christianity is not about a chasing after feelings. Feelings are things that move up and down. Christianity is about chasing after Christ. I fear too often in Christianity that we make feelings the goal. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to feel happy and joyous. That’s not the goal though. The goal is to be like Christ, and frankly, we might have to suffer for that. Christ himself was not exempt from suffering. Why should we be?

If we chase after feelings though, are we not missing him? Is not he our goal? How would that work in a marriage? Do you chase after your spouse just so they’ll make you feel good or for who they are? Of course, this gets in line with C.S. Lewis’s first and second things. If we chase after second things, we lose second things and first things. If we chase after first things, we get both. If we chase after the person be it God a spouse, we get the good feelings eventually. If we chase after the feelings, we don’t get either.

So what am I to do? Follow what Lewis said about the Law of Undulation in the Screwtape Letters. I keep fighting. Heaven may seem absent and the world may be a mess, but that’s no excuse to keep fighting. Pray for this writer always though. He most certainly needs it.

Encourage One Another

I’d like you all to think about a day that you were really down. One day where you had the Monk theme song part going through your head of “No one seems to care.” Then, you go to your internet and check your email and there’s a message just out of the blue from a friend telling you what a blessing you are.

It might not be that. It might be a letter in the mailbox. It might be a friend dropping by out of the blue. It might be a phone call. Either way, someone has sent you a message when everything was wrong just to let you know they think you’re special. How did that make you feel?

Now, I’ve had those days. What does that kind of thing change about the external world? Absolutely nothing. However, it does change me greatly. I suddenly seem to have the strength to press on. It just wows me that someone thought so much about me that they decided to take the time to let me know.

What got me thinking this? You all might be surprised, but I am my own worst critic and I think I have an inferiority complex the size of Texas. I thought today though about some skeptics I address. Maybe my arguments might not seem the best to me at times, but I thought about judgment day.

What if a skeptic makes his defense before the throne and God says something like “Well, someone already answered you on that years ago and you rejected it.” After all, if God affirms what you say, then it doesn’t really matter what anyone else says. I then thought though about the community in Heaven.

Remember the song Ray Boltz did? “Thank You.”? It was about a man who had a dream that he went to Heaven with a friend and this friend meets countless people who are there because of so many little things he’d done on Earth that are described in the song even as “unnoticed.”

Won’t Heaven be a place of encouragers also. Our life will not be spent just loving God. We will be loving one another and building one another up. We will be exuberantly glad in the joy we experience in one another as well. Whatever relationships you have here, I do not believe Heaven destroys those for they are good. I believe Heaven amplifies those.

Then I take that further. If we are going to be having love and joy and celebrating each other in Heaven, why are we not doing that now? When was the last time we did that? I took some time out recently to publicly recognize a dear mother-figure type in my life as a wonderful and awesome person. So many people chimed in also. That took only a few minutes, but I bet it will leave a lasting impression for a long time.

Dear friend. Love your neighbor. Chances are, they really need it. I know I have several days and there are probably many days when you need it as well and you just don’t want to ask for it. Be there today. Surprise someone. Of course, don’t do this to where it is just habit with no real meaning behind it. Love them because you think they are worth loving.

You’re going to do that for all eternity. You might as well start now.

Only A Gentleman Can

By now, faithful readers of my blog know that I am single. They also know that I am always on the lookout for Mrs. Right. I would hope that they see me as someone of strong Christian character, despite my many flaws and failures. However, there are two things said about me that might surprise some.

#1: I am a gentleman

#2: I am a huge flirt.

Now some might wonder how these two go together. As I have pondered this idea though, the idea has occurred to me that only a gentleman can truly tastefully flirt and appreciate a lady’s beauty. Of course, I would say that it is easier to be a Christian and be a gentleman than a non-Christian and a gentleman. This is because we do have a basis for a morality on how we treat men and women and as I have argued in other places, for sexuality as well.

C.S. Lewis told us to think of the man who is craving what the world calls sex. (I prefer intercourse for the term.) Now, there is a proper way to strongly desire sex, and that is to see it as a gift of God reserved for marriage and the young man and woman will merely have to control their hormones while they wait. Lewis is not talking about that person. He is talking about the one who is an addict.

Lewis tells us that such a man is said to be wanting to find a woman. Lewis answers though that a woman is the last thing he wants to meet. He is looking for pleasure only and a female body is the apparatus by which he plans to get that pleasure. In other words, he does not want her. He wants her body only.

Only a gentleman then can truly appreciate the beauty that is the lady. The difference is as profound as the difference between looking at a telescope and looking through it. The man who sees the sex as the end misses out on the lady overall. The man who sees the lady as the goal though, gets the sex and the lady. He also realizes though, if he is a Christian, that her beauty is not the end. The pleasure she brings him and he brings her through the act of intercourse is not the highest good. Both of these are hints, and I’m quite sure, very enjoyable hints, of a greater reality, that to be found in the beauty and relationship of God.

This is why it’s truly gentlemanly to honor the lady’s body. It is not an object to be ravished. It is a treasure to be cherished. If you had a diamond for instance, what would you do with it? Use it as a toothpick? Scrape the gunk out of the sink with it? Or would you do something more like set it somewhere safe and treasure it always? You might even want to do so so that everyone who meets you can see the rare jewel you’ve got. (The analogy is not perfect of course. There are some beauties of the lady that are not meant to be displayed in public.)

This gives the gentleman the advantage in that by honoring the beauty of his lady, he is allowed to savor it all the more. Like watching a lovely sunrise, the gentleman when approaching the beauty takes in all that he sees, but does his best to be respectful realizing that he’s dealing with a rare jewel.

Unfortunately, this is too often disregarded. Too many men look at porn and then somehow think that they can respect a woman’s body. Can redemption and restoration be found? Yes. It is best to avoid it altogether though. As for married men, too many of them spend too much time having lingering glances at other women, not realizing their wives are most likely comparing themselves to those women and feeling less than adequate.

So my conclusion? Be a gentleman. A gentleman honors his lady while constantly pursuing her. Also men, pursuing does not end when she says “I do.” Pursuing takes place your whole life. You never cease to be the man letting your lady know exactly just how much you love her.

Remember biblically, you are the king of the castle. That part is said enough. Here’s what follows. Treat your lady like a queen. Do so. Be a gentleman.

Christians Aren’t Buddhists

The title seems self-evident, but as I look back on my own life, I wonder if I have really lived it as such, and probably a lot of other people have done such. In our lives, we want so much to avoid sin that it could be that we take an extreme that is just as sinful as that which we seek to avoid.

<> The Buddha saw that all suffering came from desire that was unmet. The way to avoid suffering then is to eliminate desire. Unfortunately, this seems to have the end result of killing the patient where the end goal is to reach a void where you cease to be known as Sunyata.

In some ways, we can admire what the Buddha intended. He’s right in some ways. Suffering does come from having our desires unmet in many cases. However, the Christian view is not that our desires are the problem. They are fallen. If anything, our desires are too weak.

There are many desires we do view as neutral though they can be indulged to a wrong proportion. The desire for food is good, but gluttony is not. The desire for drink is good, but even that needs moderation. It is good to desire entertainment, but not at the expense of avoiding work. I am tired in the evenings and desire sleep, but not to the extent that I sleep all day.

One of the most difficult ones though is sexual desire. A lot of couples have a hard time on a honeymoon because they’ve had the impression all their lives that their desire is somewhat negative. Wives need to know it’s okay to desire their husbands sexually and husbands their wives.

As a single guy, this is a hard one. When I see a beautiful lady, I need to realize that God made me to be attracted to her. He has just made the ultimate fulfillment of that attraction fit a specific time and place. Of course, there are improper ways of handling the desire, but why pray for it go away? That’s like praying that I cease to be a guy. I should just pray for self-control.

In the book “More Jesus, Less Religion” author Jack Felton talks about how he specializes in counseling men who struggle with sexual addiction. He talks about guys who come in and say “I was on the beach and I saw a pretty girl in a bathing suit and I responded.” (He means internally. Not going up and talking to her.) His answer is “Well of course he did!” After all, that’s how guys made healthy males and he’d have a lot more to worry about if he didn’t respond at all.

If anything though, our desires are too weak. We are far too easily pleased. We settle, as C.S. Lewis says, for making mudpies when God wants to give us a day at the beach. If anything, our desires are a clue. We are always wanting more and more and that endless desire can only be fully realized in God.

The goal then? Not to cease to be. The goal is TO BE. We are to be who we are meant to be in God finding all our desires ultimately pointing to him. This doesn’t mean you ignore the desires here. Those desires are clues to the desire of God. Jesus says he must be our bread and drink, our very sustenance. The imagery of marriage is used to explain his love. The imagery of parenthood to explain the fatherhood of God.

Dear Christian. Your desires are good. They are simply to be controlled, but then, that desire for holiness is a good thing as well is it not?

Why Aren’t We Angry?

I was reading an article last night on how the Early Church Fathers used satire on their opponents and referred to them as antichrists and other such titles. Such language is actually common in the NT. It made me think that they made these statements because their Christian hope was their greatest joy in life and these people opposed that.

I thought about that some more this morning out of the blue.  Our preacher preached on John 19:28-42. His message was on what the death of Christ accomplished, but as I listened to the Scripture being read as the congregation including myself stood, I found an anger swelling inside of me over what was being said.

I don’t usually get emotional, but I remember hearing it today and thinking “No! This is pure evil!” Indeed, it is. We hear the story of the cross so often that I think we forget what really happened there. All within me said “He in no way deserved this!” I thought I had a proof of the resurrection then (Which I can argue for anyway) because surely, if anyone could conquer death, it had to be Jesus. Surely history would be all wrong if Jesus just remained dead.

It won’t convince a skeptic of course, but it should embolden us. When King Clovis, the first king of the Franks, was hearing about the crucifixion of Christ for the first time, he put his sword on his hilt saying that that wouldn’t have happened if he had been there. We can all be thankful that God allowed this to take place for our salvation, but if we had not known what was going on, how many of us would agree with Clovis? How many of us would get our weapons out and be ready to fight?

Such anger I think is good and necessary. We Christians don’t get angry enough. There are some things we should not get angry over, but there are some things we should. My sister was once a singer at a theme park. One day, a celebrity guest told her that she looked really good in her clothes, but she would look better if they were all off.

Imagine if it was your sister. How many of us would have immediately leaped forward ready to defend our sister’s honor? How many of us would do the same for our mother or for our loved ones? What docile mother would suddenly become a force to be reckoned with if her children were in danger?

My friends. We need to get angry. We need to look at the way the world is treating Christ. We’ve spent enough time being pretty and nice. Paul told us to put on armor and fight and we need to do that. This won’t be an easy fight. There will be injuries and our opponents don’t play nice.

It doesn’t matter. The cause is great and it’s worth fighting for.

Where does truth reside?

I was reading an article by Francis Beckwith just now on moral relativism and he made a statement about how Americans tend to have a relativistic stance that assumes that we cannot know the truth even if it does exist. Beckwith is an excellent Christian apologist and I’d heard such a term before, but I really started to wonder about it.

Does truth exist outside of us, or does it only exist inside of us? Do we create truth or do we discover it? It seems that if we were to be the ones who were discovering truth, then that would mean that there existed truth outside of us. What would this truth consist of though? Is it a material reality or an immaterial reality?

Truth is a relationship between two things. If I have an idea that I am writing my blog and reality indicates that I am writing my blog, then the truth affirmed is that I am writing my blog. The idea in my mind corresponds to the activity in the real world, and thus is true.

Yet how do we differentiate between material things and describe their relationship? We speak of them being bigger or further apart or drawn to one another by magnetism. Of course, this is a small listing. The adjectives we use are adjectives that describe physical attributes, the only attributes that can exist in a materialistic world. All that exists must be that which is material. If anything immaterial exists, then materialism is refuted.

Yet, do we really believe truth exists? In his book “The Mind of God” Paul Davies gives an illustration. He suggests that we take two propositions. We will call the first one A and the  second one B, and we will have two scenarios. Both have A being “There is no absolute truth.” If B says in response “A is true”, then that is absolute. If it says “A is false” then there are absolute truths. In either case, absolute truth exists.

Yet would truth really exist if minds did not exist? LEt us suppose that a scientist invented a trasnport machine and went to an alternate universe where there were no intelligent minds. When he’s there, do things suddenly become true? Let’s assume it was just like ours, except in this naturalistic universe, life never evolved. Does the statements he’s making about the distance of the Sun from the Earth become true when he says them, or does he find the distance and report it because it’s already true?

However, if this truth exists, then there must be a mind if truth is a relationship between two things, the thought and the world outside of the thought.  In order for this to be the case though, there has to be a mind always affirming all of these truths. Of course, the Christian has the answer. There exists truth because there exists the eternal mind of God that affirms all truths in all worlds.

Let us remember also who we are. We are followers of him who said he is the truth. If we are to be people of the truth who affirm the reality of the truth, we need to start living the truth.

Fear Factor

I don’t remember what sparked it, but either talking about fear last night or this morning with someone put a thought in my head that I’ve been off and on playing with today. I doubt I am in the minority of writers when I say I often write from my own experience. I have had a lot going on lately and in many ways, it’s one of those times where I want 2 + 2 to = 4 again.

I find I could be in good company. I always get a comfort when I read about Paul who talked about fears within and about how he wanted to see his friends so that he would have less anxiety. I remember a professor of mine once said you could put the Pauline epistles in one hand and a book of abnormal psychology in the other and you’ll find Paul had a lot of his own struggles.

Yet I find the fears I face are those from within, and those are the worst kind. Now there could be external factors involved. There is one event in my life I am still dealing with that came up recently and there’s also my preparing to go to Seminary which leaves one with a whole host of doubts and questions, as well as the realization that a friend of mine who I’m quite close with is getting married before I.

Yet I find the worst fears are those of uncertainty. They involve looking at one’s life and just wondering about all the events that have happened and what the future holds. I also find something else in this. I find that if there is anything that is good at destroying pleasure and happiness, it is fear.

<> Think about it. Can you really enjoy anything when you are living in fear? Can you be happy and afraid at the same time? Pleasure and fear are incompatible. Pleasure involves a relaxation and a freedom from that which is negative. Fear is always negative. I don’t think caution is. Caution is good. Fear isn’t.

I believe fear also gets us to believe that which isn’t true, but it does start with something that is true. I have a fear of heights for instance and I can’t stand being on ladders. Now I can be up somewhat and have the thought, “If I fall, it will hurt.” I think it’s quite likely that that’s true. However, it then becomes “If you go any higher, you will fall.” Then it’s “Don’t stand where you are. This ladder’s gonna collapse.” Fear always likes to play out the worst-case scenario.

But why does it make things false? Simple. If we saw the truth, we would not have fear. If we saw the God who is in control of all things, we would have no fear. Fear then is the making of something into what it is not. In my own life for instance, I find I can have a sort of “Crisis of the Week” that will seem to have the whole fate of my personal universe involved, and the next week, it’s gone. It’s not answered or refuted. Just gone. I look back and find I was making a mountain out of a molehill and say “I’m glad I’ll never have to deal with that again.” Unfortunately, those words never seem to hold over time.

If only for a glimpse we could break free of fear, and I think a good way to do so is to get off of ourselves. How many of you would like to rush into a burning building? Some adventurous thrillseekers might but most of us would say “No thanks,” when we saw the reality of one. Now change the scenario. Someone you love is inside that building and you can save them. Will you rush in and help? The number has probably sizably increased.

Fear is often about what happens to us. When we get off of ourselves, our fears can vanish. It is amazing how many of our fears can vanish when we have a case of infatuation for instance. However, something else along the same lines that makes our fears vanish is worship. Worship draws us into the presence of God and the celebration of who he is. How can fear reside with that?

I’ll grant all my readers this. Worship is hard then. It’s hard to worship God when you feel like you’re at your wits end and you’re not sure if you can trust him. We are to praise him in all things. The Philippians 4 passage comes to mind at this point. We are to praise him in all things. Whatsoever has what fits in that list Paul mentions is what we are to think about.

Dear Christian. Be released from fear today and pray that I am. Remember that even the shepherd needs some help every now and then.

Perfectionism

At the last point today, I decided I’d blog about perfectionism. This is something I struggle with greatly, and chances are, a large number of you Christians out there do as well. Now do we believe in the idea of Christian perfection. Yes we do. However, we also realize that in the here and now, we have not yet attained it, but beat ourselves up for not having done so.

In some ways, this desire is in all of us. Why does the child cry at the store? Simple. The world isn’t perfect. They’re not getting their toy or brother is hitting them or Mommy isn’t giving them the attention they want. This longing in us is a good thing. Unfortunately, we put it at a time where it doesn’t apply.

<> This kind of thinking does not allow us to make any mistakes and if we do, we make the worst one of beating ourselves up for it. If we were really good Christians, we would not make such mistakes. No one’s justifying committing a sin of course. However, when we commit them, it doesn’t do us good to endlessly beat ourselves up for them.

I think this also applies to our constant need for certainty. One reason I didn’t ask a girl out usually in High School was because I wasn’t certain about them. Geez. Who is? Unfortunately, I still find such a trait in me today. If absolute certainty over an issue doesn’t exist, then I am in anxiety over it. That 1% chance of being wrong is exaggerated to 100%.

What decision in life do we face with certainty? What man on his wedding day doesn’t have any case of cold feet? In fact, why would he have cold feet? Simple. He’s making an important decision. I don’t have anxiety about shopping at the grocery store because that’s not a major life event. I do about other decisions though that are major life events.

I also find this in the area of apologetics. Did I give the perfect answer? I think those of us in this field can fall into rough territory if we count our success by the number of converts we see. Christ, at the end of his earthly ministry, did not have a huge multitude following him. In fact, they were quite against him. Are we to say he was poor with his arguments? The synagogues ran Paul out. Was he poor with his? Felix told him that he was insane even!

Naturally, if our answers aren’t perfect, we will begin the comparison game. Who has the perfect answer? Well, it seems like everyone else does. However, if we were honest, we’d see they don’t even have what we have. Converts are actually few and far between in this field.

So what good do we do in apologetics? We do see converts of course, but we also deal with hard questions and remove any threat in them. Our answers are a blessing to those who are in the church. It has been a huge blessing to me when someone contacts me out of the blue and says something that is an encouragement to me based on something I’ve said.

What can I say on this? Don’t beat yourself up. Let the past go. Yeah. It’s hard. I wish I knew how to do it. In this, consider me a beggar telling other beggars where to get bread. I am merely a wounded soldier trying to help others with the same wounds.