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.

Our Anger Is Justified

I was watching Fox News yesterday and heard Bill O’Reilly talking about watching the video and the pictures of the VT shooter. As he was talking to a news correspondent, he said that he was just filling up with anger and he could only imagine how those students felt who were there. I had to agree with him. Each time I saw the pictures, I had an anger raising inside of me also. An anger that someone was sick enough to do something like this.

At the same time, I’ll see the video of the group Mika from their song Grace Kelly where a female on a piano says at one point “Getting angry doesn’t solve anything” and see the pianist raise his finger in the air as if that was a powerful point made. Partially, they’re right. Getting angry doesn’t solve anything. It’s what you do with that anger.

This gunman had a lot of anger. Were there some things he was angry at rightfully? Sure. We should all be angry at debauchery and hypocrites. However, the solution to anger is not to play judge, jury, and executioner. Anger can be a good thing when you control it. It is never a good thing when it controls you even if it’s anger for the right reasons.

Yet many of us have an anger. In fact, it’s quite natural in the grieving process. Many of us might not have had much to grieve. We weren’t close to the situation. We weren’t numb with terror. It doesn’t mean that we’re cold. It’s just the way things are. Many people die every day and we don’t spend our days in sadness. We grieve more over a death the closer to it we are.

However, all of us can have that strong sense of injustice. We all have that built-in moral compass that tells us that this was wrong. We look at those images and hear that video and one word that keeps popping up in our minds is “Sick.” We look at such actions as inhuman, and indeed, they are.

I ponder though that many of us don’t allow ourselves to feel that anger. We’ve looked at strong emotion often times in our society as a bad thing. I was at a Christian bookstore tonight where I saw a chapter about what a sex-crazed Christian is to do. The Christian view of sex has been one area I’ve been most interested in so I took a peek at it.

The story was of a group of men together and they were all praying and having fellowship at some Christian retreat. At the end, one 29 year-old bachelor confessed that while he had never had intercourse, he had resorted to pornography and masturbation simply because he had a strong sex drive and he suggested that they pray that God eliminate his desire.

The author of the book then told this guy that that wasn’t really what he wanted. If he had his sexual desire removed, he wouldn’t really be him. I did not get to see past that, but I would say the next thing to ask for would be self-control. That’s what we all need, and that’s what has been lacking.

Our desires and emotions are not bad things. They are there by God. Sometimes, we can have them at the wrong times and sometimes they can be excessive, but they themselves are not bad. As I have said before, Christians are not Buddhists and we should appreciate our mental systems and the wonderful way God made them.

Do you feel anger at what happened? Good! I hope you do! I think we should all be angry! I would suggest though that we remember the words of Mika. Getting angry doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t, though I think I have a different idea drawn from it than what Mika would have me draw from the song.

Don’t just get angry. Do something. I have my own ideas politically what I think should be done, but this is not a political blog so I won’t do that. If anything, I would send my anger towards the moral decadence that is flooding our society. I would also send my passion out in ministry. If there’s one thing that can save this world, it’s the gospel.

So go out, get angry, and make the world a better place through that anger.

Partial-birth abortion ban and VA Tech

Today, our world had two major events take place. The first one was that we found out about a package that the VA tech gunman had sent to the news media who unfortunately played the tape and showed the photos. The other event was that the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial-birth abortion. Is there any connection to the two?

I believe there is. Everyone is decrying what happened at VA Tech and rightfully so. This is one thing conservatives and liberals are agreeing on. Why do we decry it? Because we know life is valuable in itself and just because you have some pains with someone else, that does not give you the right to be judge, jury, and executioner.

Yet that is what happens everyday with abortion.

Immediately upon hearing about the Supreme Court ruling, the cry of people like Nancy Pelosi was heard. A woman’s rights have been violated and her health could be at stake. We should not ban a safe medical procedure.

Safe for who? Those babies who have that horrible event happen to them probably don’t feel safe.

Now if this was about protecting a woman’s health, I have the solution. Let’s say that abortion will only be allowable in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. In fact, I’d be generous and grant even cases of rape or incest at this point. Let’s just get rid of abortion for convenience at least.

I simply find it amazing that we treat life so cheaply at its most innocent state, and then wonder why some people treat life so cheaply later on. I am amazed that our society doesn’t have any self-control when it comes to keeping our pants on, and then we wonder why events happen where psychotic people lose control and go on a rampage.

What’s happened? The message has been received. Life can be eliminated if it’s an inconvenience to you. Your own pleasure should be at the forefront.  We have come to the nation’s altar of sex to perform our fertility rituals before the deity, only to find that the philosophy that is used there produces dangerous results elsewhere.

If we’re going to say life is valuable, it needs to be valuable at all points. Otherwise, we are just defining people by function and we will determine which functions are more valuable than others and then, which people are more valuable than others. If lives are sacred when they’re college students on campus, they are just as sacred when in the womb.

Listening to the philosophy of the other side, I find it amazing that so many babies can be aborted in one year and no one says anything. If there had been 32 partial-birth abortions, no one would have said anything. They would have stood up and said that this was a woman’s right.

I disagree, and I think the pro-life position is the consistent one here. Life is sacred at all times and it’s time we started treating it as such, from the womb to the tomb.

My Concern With VA Tech

I said yesterday that I would be writing about what concerned me the most about this tragedy yesterday. Today is that day. Let’s be clear it’s a tragedy. My boss had to laugh some when a news station described it as an “unfortunate incident.” Getting locked out of your house is an unfortunate incident. 32 deaths in cold blood before someone murders himself is just evil.

What I’m not going to write about though is how the school or police should have handled things. I do not have any authority in that area. I do not know enough about the situation and there are already enough people doing that. I am a philosopher though and a theologian and I am going to write on that area.

Today, we know the identity of the shooter and we know a lot about him. I remember hearing on a news station today someone describing it and saying that you couldn’t fire that many shots at once. Something in you would stop you. It’s not human to keep doing that.

He was right. It isn’t human. This is what happens when people fall from being human and make themselves less than human, something we all sadly do everyday. The most truly human person to ever live was Jesus Christ and we all fall short of that. If you ever want to know if something is human, look to Jesus.

I believe this is largely a result of our falling away from God. Because we do not have the right view of ourselves, we do not know who we are anymore. Many people know I believe in four types of alienation in the fall. We are alienated from God, the world, each other, and ourselves. We no longer have true views of any of these.

Unfortunately, I can only see it getting worse. This has been called the worst massacre in our nation’s history. I don’t see things getting better. Eight years ago, we thought Columbine was the worst. I pray that we shape up in time before we have another such massacre that is even worse than this one.

One thing that will need to be done is to stop the idea of moral relativism. I was terrified yesterday as I thought about the evil I was seeing on the screen and remembered that I have talked with people who have said that there is nothing that is truly evil. It is all a matter of opinion. They may not like it and they may not approve of it, but they cannot say it is really evil.

Friends. If someone says that what happened on 4/16 was not evil, they don’t need an argument. I think they need a psychiatrist. I’m hesitant to say such though since probablysome psychiatrists would think the real problem was that they even had any feelings of right and wrong about it. We have become masters of the therapy of sin.

Yes friends. Some things are just evil as some things are just good and too often, we have sacrificed the idea of truth about good and evil at the altar of political correctness. Oh no! Let’s not offend anyone! Some people need to be offended. If you don’t think the actions done were evil, then I will be more than happy to offend you.

But let us speak of the positives as well though. There were many brave students and teachers who risked their lives, and in at least one case gave their lives, so that others could live. We need to honor these people. They don’t tend to want honor. They’re merely doing the right thing. They need to be honored anyway. We need to stand up and say “These are the kinds of people that we commend in our society.”

What we can learn from yesterday is that evil is real. There are patches of evil everywhere. No one was expecting this young student to go on a rampage. Well, it happened. The darkest evil of all can often be that which lurks in the hearts of men. Unfortunately, I believe our society is making it easier and easier for such evil to take place. A good society has been defined in one that easily enables you to be good. Does that match our society? I think we all know the answer.

My solution then? First off, we need to repent as a nation and turn back to God. We need the Christians to stand up. We’ve heard before about the homosexual movement coming out of the closet. As one speaker I know said, when they came out, it seems that they pushed the Christians in.

No. We have the truth. We need to stand up with that truth. We need to show the world that Christ did walk out of that tomb nearly 2,000 years ago and that that does make a difference. If this truth is so revolutionary and life-changing, we need to show it.

After all, rebuilding society and changing the world starts with you and me. It’s too often been made the next guy’s responsibility. Well, it isn’t. It’s ours, and we have a duty to be salt and light as followers of Christ.

Our Grief Today

Today, our nation witnessed the worst massacre in its history. Many of us were shocked around the Noonday hour to hear about a shooting on the Virginia Tech campus, but few of us would have thought it would turn into this. I spent much of today being around TVs trying to hear anything I could about what happened.

I have a lot of thoughts today about what happened. I’m not speaking of the political side or the side of how the events were handled or the number of gunmen or stuff like that. I will leave that to those in that area. I have a lot of thoughts on our view of suffering and evil and morality.

But that’s not for today.

One thing I’ve told people who I work with in this field and respect me is how to handle people in grief. I’ve said that if a mother comes to you and her son just died in a car accident and she wonders why God let this happen, that they had better not be a philosopher or an apologist at that moment.

She needs a friend at the moment. A friend and a minister and a counselor. She does not need a philosopher or an apologist. Now a few weeks later, you might be able to discuss such issues, but they are not to be discussed then.

Now I don’t know the people that died today, but I would like this blog to merely be a reflection on some possible scenarios so we can take to heart this tragedy and want to make a difference so it doesn’t happen again.

Let us pray for these people then:

For the son who simply wanted to go and get a degree and make the world a better place.

For the daughter who had hoped to fall in love with the man of her dreams and will now never get her chance.

For the young man who was about to pop the question to the girl he loves.

For the senior who was getting ready to graduate and face the world.

For the mother, whose daughter will never get to borrow the wedding gown.

For the father, who will never throw the ball with his son again.

For the young man, who never got to tell that girl in class how he really feels about her.

For the young brother, who will never go fishing with his oldest brother again.

For the young sister, who will never have girl talk with her oldest sister again.

For the Freshman, who was so eager to face the world.

For those who were lost, and do not have another chance.

For the teacher, who was just trying to encourage fresh young minds.

For the husband, who will never treasure his wife again.

For the wife, who will never feel that embrace again.

For the couple, who didn’t know their last kiss would be their last.

For the student at his church, who will leave behind an empty pew.

There are no doubt many more.

Friends. This hit home for all of us today. I’m not usually emotional, but I sure felt it writing this out. It reminds me how precious and valuable life is and how we can all take it so often for granted.

As you pray tonight, remember to pray for VA tech and all the families and friends involved.

MySpace

Like many of you that are on the net a lot, I am on MySpace. I have most of my friends on there being those that I graduated from High School with. I find it amazing to just look through the list and see people that I knew so many years ago when all of us were just preparing to go off and face the world and I wonder where they are now.

Some of them are depressing. I see friends that are happily married and making good money with good careers and I wonder, “Geez. Where did I go wrong?” I find to be a relief that some of them are still single also. Not everyone is out there yet living their dream. Some though seem to have strayed from the path they were on and I wonder if they’re really the person I remember.

It is this though that makes me think of the impact of lives. I look and think about each of those people. What kind of witness was I to them back then when I was ignorant of so much I know today? What would they think of me if they saw me today? If I encounter any of them again, will I need to do any kind of ministry?

I think about that tree of graduating students and how we branched off. Many of us still live in this city, but a lot of us don’t. I wonder when I see the families on there how I’ll be with my own. A friend of mine recently asked me if I’d ever thought about what it would be like to be a Dad. I told him I had. I’ve thought about that kind of thing a lot.

Looking at these people though reminds me that the adventure is still going on. The story hasn’t been finished yet and it’s still going on. I get surprised especially though with how many people have seen me and wanted to add me on to their MySpace. I really didn’t have a lot of friends when I was in High School after all.

Seeing these people wanting to add me makes me wonder though how many people I might have been making an impact on. It’s the same kind of thought you have as you look through your old yearbooks and see all the notes that everyone you knew left. The Senior year always has the biggest ones. After all, you may never see anyone there again.

What can I do with that today? I can look at how I live today. I can realize that there might be more people out there who are viewing me in a high way that I hadn’t realized. I think we all need that. When we think there’s no one there, it could be that there’s someone who’s really praying for us every night.

And if there’s someone praying for you, isn’t that encouragement enough?