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Transposition

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Have you ever had a difficult time envisioning heaven? Or maybe find that the vague descriptions in the Bible lack the vibrancy that some lesser experiences on earth can bring?
C. S. Lewis writes an essay entitled "Transposition" in the book Weight of Glory. It is about why we often view heaven in negative terms. We know through Scripture that there will be no marriage, no family, no tears; but since these things are fundamental to human experience, we struggle to envision a world without them. We know that in heaven we will be with God, so there is no question it will be very good; but sometimes we just lack the terms to think of it properly.
Lewis explains why this is a case and provides a helpful illustration: Imagine there is a woman who has been thrown into a dungeon. The dungeon is dark, the walls are damp; and apart from a small grate in the ceiling there is no other access to the world outside. Other than the blue sky that sometimes shines through that grate, everythin…

Loving the World

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Travelling is a great time to do some soul searching. My wife and I recently had the opportunity to get a way for almost two weeks, to go off the grid. To read, think, and do some self-examination. What I found in myself is something I had felt for a while but had failed to recognize: something called morbidness.

I do not mean morbidness in this instance to mean a fixation on death, or a fetish for strange, Halloween trinkets. What I do mean is an unhealthy pessimism: a skeptical escapism that cares little for people, and just wants to get away. The times that we live in do not do us any favors, and I wonder if anyone else can relate.

Looking at the world, scrolling through social media, observing family and friends--it is hard not to get discouraged. I have seen myself grow somewhat calloused and cold. Bitter. Selfishly waiting for the millennium. My recurring day dream is to go far away on a whale boat like Ishmael in Moby Dick or some isolated fortress in Idaho where I can live out m…

Book in Review: "Moby Dick"

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After reading Herman Melville's renown classic "Moby Dick" for the first time, this book has become one of my favorites. Melville writes with incredible skill as sentences are saturated with adverbs and adjectives; colorful metaphors are laden throughout. And while many today might find such meandrous writing painstakingly laborious (Just get to the point, Melville), I found it rather refreshing. In an instant gratification age where media looks to provide entertainment at the expense of meaning, there is nothing like a book that requires some thinking to accompany it.

It is with such writing that Melville makes whaling seem a most desirable career path (never mind it is currently illegal by international law!). The serenity of standing aloft the mainmast, is so brilliantly described that I, someone who has no real desire for sea-crafting, found myself longing to quit my day job for the escape of the infinite space of the sea. The work required in the industry gives the r…

Unlikeness in Sufferers

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Several weeks ago, I ran across this quote in the beginning portion of the City of God:


"For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So a material difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them." St Augustine, The City of God.
Suffering does not discriminate. The rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked (Matthew 5:45). That is not to say that there …

Can you go too far?

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I have been confronted by a couple of literary dialogues that have forced me to answer the question, "can you go too far?" Can someone fall too deep in the mire of sin and self that they are no longer salvageable?
Evangelicalism tell us no. The gospel tells us no, does it not? The classical story of the prodigal son follows many of our own journeys from darkness to light. The younger son demands his inheritance while his father is alive (which is the equivalent of wishing him dead). He goes off into the world and squanders the inheritance in profligate living: partying, drunkenness, and prostitutes. But the sensual lifestyle is short lived; a famine enters the land and the Prodigal is forced into poverty status. He is starving, and is employed as pig feeder--desiring even the "pods the pigs were eating" to fill his empty stomach.
The Prodigal is gone. Pretty far gone I might add--but he is not too far gone. It is in this lowly, impoverished state that the text says…

Book in Review: Conversion

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A friend of mine is a pretty big proponent of the 9marks model of church. While I am somewhat unfamiliar, he gave me this little book entitled “Conversion” for me to wrestle with both the issues and solutions raised within.
Author Michael Lawrence immediately hooked me with the introduction of this book as he writes of an all too familiar occurrence. He tells of a Christian family who had raised Christian children, each growing up in the church and each making individual confessions of faith. The children however, now that they are fully grown, have continued to live a moral lifestyle. They continue to be upstanding citizens and model individuals, and they continue to call themselves Christians. But what they lack speaks volumes: they don't go to church, they don't proclaim the gospel, and they aren't devoted to Christ. It seems that although they have acquired a very utilitarian moralism, they have missed Christ entirely.

I have seen examples like this occur ad nauseam. Ch…

Resting and Restless

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"Simul justus et peccator"
These words were spoken by Martin Luther to explain one of the strongest tensions in Christianity. "Simul" is the Latin word that we get our English word "simultaneous". "Justus" is the word that we get our word "just" or "righteous". And "Peccator" is the word that we get peccadillo from--or sin. The total translation is: "At the same time righteous and sinner." For Luther this accurately described the paradox that we experience as Christians. We are at the same time clothed in the righteousness of Christ, blameless before God--not of works that we have done, but according to His great mercies; and we are at the same time sinners. Paul explains this tension personally when he says in Romans 7:21-23: "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging wa…

Loving Humanity

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Herman Melville writes in Moby Dick of the lack of courage one of his characters (First Mate Starbuck) may display later on in the novel. Read the following excerpt slowly and enjoy the writing:
"But were the coming narrative to reveal in any instance, the complete abasement of poor Starbuck's fortitude, scarce might I have the heart to write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking, to expose the fall of valor in the soul. Men may seem detestable as joint stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may be; men may have mean and meager faces; but, man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes. That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves, so far within us, that it remains intact though all the outer character seem gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a valor ruined man. Nor can pie…

Becoming Greedy Christians

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If I had to pick a favorite character of the Old Testament, I might just have to pick Elijah. Perhaps my favorite Old Testament story is of his confrontation of the prophets of Baal, and the challenge that ensued on Mount Carmel. "Let's build two alters, each with one ox on them. You pray to your god and I to mine, and we are going to see once and for all which god is the True god." It is an awesome story, and I love Elijah's confidence throughout: His mocking tone towards the powerless antics of the pagans; his complete disrespect of their falsehood. And when push comes to shove, Elijah prays and God answers. I would love to have been there, but not too close.
Elijah does a lot of similarly amazing things throughout his life. He prays to God, and a drought comes into the land for 3 years. He prays to God, and the rains return. He outruns Ahab's chariot; and he brings a child back from the dead. Even at the end of his life, Elijah does not even die, but is rather …

Book in Review: The Vanishing American Adult

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As a 24 year old, I have long observed a general lack of maturity both in myself and in much of my generation. We may be able to get married, have children, and even purchase homes—but the vast majority of us lack traditionally “adult” qualities. This can be observed in the amount of money we spend on a monthly basis, the amount of time we spend playing video games and scrolling through social media, the avoidance of responsibility, the lack of work-ethic, the fear of long term commitment, the general softness and entitlement that characterizes us, the “self-centric” view of life we possess…etc. I could go on, but I will spare you.
We, and I include myself in this pronoun, have a big problem. We are not growing up. And that means America has a problem.
Senator Ben Sasse writes The Vanishing American Adult to address this problem and to give a few keys to break free from this forever young, “Peter Pan” syndrome. His tone throughout is not the “get off my lawn” old man rhetoric that you m…

Informing Emotions

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Yesterday's broadcast of Ravi Zacharias's "Just Thinking" was excellent. So excellent that I decided to put a link here for your enjoyment. It is about the need for us as Christians to inform our emotions. Why? Because emotions fluctuate daily, for some of us hourly. Sometimes we feel the Lord's presence and respond with joy, and other times--we don't feel anything. And while a religion that does not manifest itself in the emotions in any way is likely not genuine, a religion that is founded on emotions alone will quickly collapse, for it rests on sinking sands.
This is an area that I personally struggle with, as my personality is one that is apt to grow melancholy or gloomy surprisingly frequently. Ravi reminds us that while "feelings are a vital part of our being" we must always "condition them and bring to them information". So while we may be predisposed to feel a certain way by personality or even circumstance--we have no excuse. We mu…

Cast your bread upon the waters

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Ecclesiastes 11:1-6
Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. ***
Ecclesiastes is an interesting book of the Bible, a book which my young adult group has just completed a study on. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes has undergone a thorough deconstruction of things most valued in his time. His findings are sobering,…

Book in Review: "The Prince"

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The Prince is a short classic where author Niccolo Machiavelli looks at lessons learned from political leaders (princes) of the past and looks to give some advice for an aspiring price.

I will begin by saying: Machiavelli is not known for his morals. He sports a pre-Nietzschian “will to power” philosophy in which the expedient, self-advantageous option is always the right one. For Machiavelli there is no undergirding philosophy to which he is fastened to. There is no absolute ideal to which his prince is to daily strive. There is only power. There is only the acquiring, preserving, and expanding of your kingdom by any and every means necessary. Cruelty and deception are no worse than compassion and justice—as long as it serves your personal aims it is a tool to be used.

Such pragmatism is a brutal philosophy that has assailed the human race for as long as there have been humans. It also sounds to me like an exhausting, miserable way to live; not to mention quite contrary to a Biblical w…

Be Real with It

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Stories are powerful things. I was encouraged this past Sunday at church as several members stood up in front of the congregation to share what God has been doing in their lives. What followed from one person in particular was a personal story of severe brokenness and addiction—and how the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ never let Him go.
I think it is important that personal stories of Jesus’s victory over the chains of sin are shared frequently in the church. More frequently than is common. Too often we dress up in our “Sunday bests” and put on our happy faces when we go to church. We clean ourselves up; and ensure that everyone sharing our last name looks good and is on their best behavior. There, of course, is nothing wrong with cleaning up and looking good for church, and I am quite thankful the people who sit next to me in church don’t smell too bad! The problem is the motivation: Why are we so concentrated on putting our best foot forward when we go to church? While some …