Tuesday, December 13, 2016

2016 --- The Cracked Foundation

Here's a detailed description of 2016 in just one word:

Well, 2016 has been one heck of a year. In many ways, it feels like everything we once assumed cannot be counted on. Cleveland won a championship, the internet mourned a dead gorilla for over half a year, racial tensions exploded, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination --- and then the presidential election --- and so much more.

And for me personally, things seem to be even crazier. So many things have begun and ended. I had my last high school theater performance with some of my best friends, I graduated, I started college, two sisters got engaged, I gained a brother-in-law (and another next year!), and I had my first break-up (so yeah, maybe I was secretly a little bit salty when I was at that wedding). I moved out of the house I had lived in for 18 years --- oh yeah, I became a legal adult, too. I started playing Ultimate Frisbee, I have a significant chunk of a novel written, I changed my major that I had planned on for ten years (literally; I first decided I wanted to write when I was 8). I have roommates for the first time in my life (and an awesome floor as well). My lifelong career plan has taken a radical shift. I rarely play video games. I've seen my cat about four times, and I became obsessed with a band for the first time in my life. I've written more poetry this year than I will ever admit to.

If there's one thing I've learned from this year, it's this: Nothing on this earth is stable. There is no foundation that will support you through all the insanity of life. Not family, not friends, not achievements, not living situations, not talent, nothing. Anything can be lost. 

But God. 


Thematic song to close the post: How Firm a Foundation, version by Chelsea Moon

Thursday, September 15, 2016

EVERYBODY struggles

Hey, I've got a great idea that will surely keep everyone moving forward.

How about we compare our struggles??!1!1!11!! Yay!@!@!#!*$!!!!!

No. Freakin stop.

The thing is, everybody has struggles.

Yeah, racism in America sucks. It sucks that minorities have to deal with that. Yeah, sexism sucks. Yeah, disability prejudice sucks. Yeah, it sucks that poor people can't get health care. Yeah, it sucks that people like Brock Turner are let loose. Yeah, it sucks that ____.

Keep the list going.

Take Orlando. Terrorism, hate crime against the LGBT, Islamic extremist, call it whatever you want.

Did you know that happens every day?

Orlando happens every day. Every. Single. Day.

Approximately 50 people shoot themselves with a gun every day. Total daily suicide rate is approximately 114, according to the AFSP.

Do you know who 70% of those people are?

Middle-age white males.

Not the homosexual teens who struggle with identity. Not the oppressed women who aren't paid the same as the men. Not the people of color who have grown up in a rigged system.

The middle-aged white males. The ones who are supposed to have some sort of charmed, perfect life. The ones who are oppressive. The ones who just don't get it. The ones who are, in many cases, voting for Donald Trump. The misogynists, the racists, the privileged, whatever you want to call them. Those are the ones killing themselves.

Now, those other problems I mentioned? Yes, those are serious problems! We should seek to love the homosexual teens. We should seek a fair and equal system.

But never assume that someone doesn't struggle simply because of their gender, their race, their sexual orientation, or anything else.

Because everyone struggles. 

And because of that, everyone must seek to understand each other. Take the plank out of your own eye first, so that you can properly see the struggles someone else is having. Men, see how that girl might have struggled with being compared to men. Women, see how that guy might have struggled growing up without a father. And so on.

Opportunity =/= happiness.
White skin =/= happiness.
Success =/= happiness.
Money =/= happiness.
A career =/= happiness.
Education =/= happiness.
Health care =/= happiness.
Acceptance =/= happiness.



Friday, August 26, 2016

Moral Evolution

Evolution can never explain morality.

Here's 2 reasons why

1. The chemical/electrical/neural basis.
       If, indeed, we have simply evolved from a pool of amino acids, then all our thought processes can be broken down to reactions between the chemicals and neurons in our brains. That includes all thoughts/feelings we may have about morality.
       Therefore, all our thoughts about morality should be considered equal. They are all A. From the same source of evolution and B. Involve the same chemicals/neural reactions.
        If the connections in your head tell you, "Hey, human sacrifice is probably bad," and the connections in a tribesman's head say, "Hey, human sacrifice is good," who are you to say that is wrong? What is inherently wrong with stopping the continued motion of some connected reactions/hormones/genes?
        The same processes that say, for one person, "Racism is bad," can say for another person, "Racism is okay." If there is no higher authority to distinguish, then both views are of equal authority. They are both the product of the same amount of evolution, they both rely on reactions in the brain, etc. So, one may cause pain. What is inherently wrong with causing another evolved meat-sack pain? Their life-span is meaningless in the context of 4.5 billion years of evolution. As long as the survival of the species/gene pool is not at stake, there is not a *logical* argument to be made for an inherent issue with causing pain. The view of the majority (that pain is bad) does not make something true. It just means that more chemical reactions happen to result in one speech/thought pattern than a different one.
          People who ascribe to the view may respond with, "how could you say that," or "I hope that the only reason you're not out there killing people is your ancient book".
          This totally dodges the question. Because the only reason that can be cited for morality when God is discarded is the basic life processes and evolution that led to each individual's existence.

2. Natural selection and our moral beliefs are, in some cases, mutually exclusive.
      For example, many people, from all beliefs/political ideologies, think that caring for those who cannot care for themselves is good. To some, it means loving your neighbor. To some, it means the government should provide healthcare. To some, it means philanthropy is admirable.
      Yet, logically, this view could not come as a result of evolution. Those early hominids who expended resources to help the helpless would have been at a disadvantage, and therefore natural selection would have killed them off. The 'kindness to the helpless' gene would have been eradicated, because it would have been an unlivable lifestyle when resources were scarce, and survival was at stake.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism

Here is a list of every Bible verse in which we definitely see an infant getting baptized, or are clearly commanded to baptize infants:

1.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Novel Incoming!

This is just a quick update on what I'm doing with my blog and my writing and stuff.

This summer, in lieu of getting a job, I have committed to writing 20 hours a week. At first, this number seemed a bit daunting. But I quickly stumbled upon a story in my head that started out as seven pages, then 25, and now has ballooned into a 25,000 word beginning of a story.

I hope to complete this story by the end of the summer, with somewhere between 100,000-200,000 thousand words. Then, of course, there will be editing and revising and all that, and it'll probably be crap and I'll have to redo most of it to make it even slightly workable BUT it's going to be a complete, full-fledged novel. So I'm excited.

This is normally where I'd include a caveat, such as "If I maintain the motivation" or "As long as I have enough to write about" but I've determined that those excuses will not be acceptable.

If you're interested in reading drafts, let me know. Even if you just read the first 5 pages and say "This doesn't interest me" or "This is exciting" that's helpful!

Good song:




Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ode to Jud

Ode to Jud

Oh sad and hated, yet glorious Jud
How your smokehouse felt like home
You worked and powered through the mud
And through many fields you would roam
Your Judly jaw jutted forth
And there was a scowl in your forehead
And your wild hair was fully worth
The pain it brought each night beforehand
Every day I settled in
To your emotions and frightful chin
I scrubbed your dirt onto my face
And fell into your clothes embrace
Though ripped and torn and splashed with... tea?
They began to feel a lot like... me. (thanks Catey!)
As I think back to
When I was you
And you were me
For all to see
Those were great times
So many crimes
And your own knife
Would end my life
Saturday night finally came ‘round
Tears certainly did abound
But for me that wouldn’t do
I had to see those last shows through
Then we came to Sunday noon
One last time our tunes we’d croon
And once again we all said
“Oh no, it seems Pore Jud is Daid”.
Thanks to the cast
It was a blast!
And to our crew
We couldn’t do it without you
But in a blink
The show was done
Though I do still think
I shoulda used a gun.




Just remembering an amazing show!! Thanks to everyone involved and everyone who came to see it!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Thoughts on Graduation

As a senior with a week and a half of high school left, the question I'm asked the most is (in some form or another), "How do you feel about graduating?"

Honestly? I don't think it's a big deal.

Now, I realize that from a world perspective, the blessing of a high school education is a huge deal.

However, my point is that the moment of graduation itself is not the life-changing moment that people make it out to be.

I will walk across that stage, receive my diploma, and sit down again (that's how it works right?). Will I feel any different in that exact second? Probably not. I'll be next to all the same friends. I'll be thinking about all the same things. I'll have all the same knowledge that I had the day before. I'll have the same plans for my future. The only difference will be the card in my hand.

What about later that day? I'll talk to people, be congratulated a million times, take an unending hailstorm of pictures, and semi-fake smile until my face hurts. Basically, I'll be in a horror movie.

That night, or maybe sometime the next day (after partying it up) I'll drive home. That's probably when it will start to hit. That weekend will probably very emotional. By Saturday afternoon, though, I'll be heading to grad parties. Seeing the people that I may have just said goodbye to the day before.

Sunday, there will probably be a couple more.

Then, Monday morning will hit. I'll wake up, and realize that I do not have to attend school that day. I'll be 'free'.

And I'll be a changed person.

But not because of graduation. That won't change me. My friends that graduated last year were not radically changed because someone handed them a diploma.

No, they were radically changed by the last four years.

My point is, it's not the moment itself that will be radical, life changing, or impactful. It's the four years that moment represents. Those were what changed me.

And I've already experienced them, recollected them, enjoyed them, suffered through them, and been delighted by them. I don't need graduation to let me do that.

So why let this one supposedly "huge moment" affect me?

I've already been affected. It's been amazing. The people have been amazing. The knowledge has been amazing. I've been changed. My life has already been changed, and I don't need a diploma to know that.

Yeah, people may drift away. I'll miss them (some more than others). But the people I care about will not fade, not right away. I'll hang out with them, as usual. We'll carry each other through to college, when I'll be able to form new friendships. Will it be easy? No.

But that's nothing new either.

So, the real reason I have a tough time answering the question, "How do I feel about graduation?" is because I don't set it up as a mountainous event in life's terrain.

People are rarely truly formed by momentous events. Far more often, it's what makes those momentous events happen. Sure, the moments stick out. But that doesn't mean that's what life is about.

However, I'm also 18. I realize I haven't lived life out. Maybe in 2 weeks, I'll rescind this entire post.

And maybe the American presidency will be bought for a few billion dollars. I doubt either will happen.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Being "Real"

As a musical worship leader (I play keys, and occasionally sing or play auxiliary percussion) I think a lot about being 'authentic' and what it means to have integrity; that is, to be the same person at all times, and to not be fake with who I am or what I believe.

There is a lot to be said for authenticity --- you shouldn't put on a mask every day to conceal your real self. I do not want to be one person on stage, and a completely different person at all other times. I often feel like I am that way.

However, it's not about doing the same things at all times. It's about who you are, and why you do the things that you do. So, I believe I can lead worship at some times, and talk about dank memes at others, without losing integrity (and if you don't know what dank memes are, don't worry about it).

Paul says in 1st Corinthians 9: "To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." 

Paul did not lose integrity by becoming all things to all people. Rather, he did it to build a relationship with them, and then through that relationship he brought them to faith.

One of my favorite bands of late is twenty øne piløts. Now, unlike a lot of their fanbase, I don't have serious struggles with depression or mental illness. Many of their lyrics do relate to those issues, because the creator, Tyler Joseph, has severe struggles with those things.

What drew me in is how consistently real they are. They do not cover up their problems; they do not sing about cheap pleasures, like sex, drugs, or money. They sing about what really matters to them. The other cool thing about them is that they are, indeed, both Christian, but their songs do not in any way require faith to appreciate, and their lyrics can all be interpreted for each individual listener. They have, quite literally, saved lives (just read the comments on their videos to see). They also are real about their spiritual doubts --- they even have a song entitled "Doubt".

One of my favorite verses is from "Ode to Sleep"


And the trees wave their arms and the clouds try to plead,
Desperately yelling there's something we need,
I'm not free, I asked forgiveness three times,
Same amount that I denied, I three-time mvp'ed this crime,
I'm afraid to tell you who I adore, won't tell you who I'm singing towards,
Metaphorically I'm a whore, and that's denial number four.
Now, not all of their lyrics are that loaded with biblical reference (the story of Peter's three denials). But it's a beautiful description of how, even in their intensely real lyrics, they fear showing their true intentions. And indeed, I'm glad they aren't a "Christian" band. If they were, they would not have anywhere near the following they have (probably) and they would not reach the people that they do reach (the depressed, the broken, the doubting).

I love this band, because it's a great example of how they will be what they need to be to reach the broken. They believe, though it may be tenuous at times, but they still relate on an intensely powerful level to their listeners without preaching to them. (Also, the last line of that verse is pretty much the most vulgar they ever get!)

The point is, you do not need to be speaking the Gospel at all times in order to be a Christian with integrity. This does not, by any means, give you license to say whatever you want then claim you are just following Paul's footsteps. However, it should give you the freedom to build relationships with people by doing things that will help you connect with them.

That got a little rambly and twisty, but I hope it makes sense.

Song of the day: Taxi Cab by twenty øne piløts. This deserves a little explanation. It's one of their older songs, when the band looked a little bit different, but there are a lot of Christian themes in the lyrics. I invite you to open up the description of the video where the lyrics are and see if you can find them. I'd love to hear interpretations!!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

U r dum

Picture a football field. That football represents every fact you could possibly know

If you were to cover it with how much you know now, how much would you cover? (bascially how much do you think you know)'

If you would use anything more than a grain of sand, you're lying. Really, you couldn't say more than an electron.

This post is about the sheer amount of things there could be to know, and how insanely little us humans can actually know. And to think --- God knows it all.

Let me get you thinking about all the things you do not know:

How many people died on May 14, 1490?
How many tournaments have there been for Call of Duty?
What did Alexander the Great do on his 8th birthday?
How many grains of sand are on Lake Superior's beaches?
What was the name of the 141,582nd person to ever be born?
How many sins did George Washington commit on July 4, 1776?
How many people are praying right now?

Stars, electric guitar, Halo, baseball, atoms, the ocean, Zimbabwe, potatoes, trees, Wi-fi, anatomy, the Mayans, pianos, geography, geology, giraffes...


I could go on for pretty much forever. There are just so many things that we could theoretically know. To consider ourselves anything more than stupid is, well, dumb. Nobody in the universe knows more than .000000000000000000001% of all you could possibly know.

Think of this a different way.

Lets say every person you ever meet knows 1,000 things you don't know (a ridiculously low number). This can range from what they ate for lunch yesterday to the name of every character in their favorite book to facts about WWII.

There are 7 billion people or so. That means you could meet 7 billion people who each know a thousand things (again, a very low estimate) that you don't know. 7,000,000,000 x 1,000 = 7,000,000,000,000.
Willy Wonka - Oh really? Tell me more about how much you think you know














That's 7 trillion things you do not know. And God knows them all.

But amid all that, He still knows you.

Psalm 139: 1-3
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.



Song of the Day: You Know Me, Bethel Music


Friday, April 15, 2016

Repetition in Worship

This one's going to be quick.

Some people don't like how a lot of modern worship songs are repetitive.

Revelation 4:8

"Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
Holy, Holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come."

That, along with Rev 4:11, gives us a pretty clear example of repetitive worship - for eternity. Of course, rich imagery is also another great aspect of worship, and you see that throughout the Psalms, Hannah's prayer in Samuel, and many other places. There's times for both. But neither should be disregarded as worship, and both can be embraced as a means of praising God.

After all, any truth about God is worth saying more than once!

Song of the Day: Here as in Heaven - Elevation Worship (singing starts at 50 seconds)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

THIS will take 3 SECONDS of your TIME!!

You probably clicked this thinking, "Maybe I'll be able to read this in 3 seconds" because that's what I made it sound like in the title. I also used capitals to denote a false sense of urgency.

Haha, clickbait.

Anyways, I actually would like 3 seconds of your time. Actually, I'd like you to take three seconds of your time.

I'm talking about reactions. This goes back to a post I did nearly two years ago now about the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People which everyone should read.

Here's my point.

When you're going to react to something, take *at least* three seconds before words exit your mouth hole. Please.

Say someone announces a change in schedule. Before saying, "This ruins EVERYTHING!!" just take three seconds. Think, "Hey, maybe this really won't affect my life much" or "Hey, I can adapt to this easily and move on within 5 seconds so maybe I don't need to say anything".

If someone takes the time to formulate a sentence/idea and toss it in your direction, please, at least take 3 seconds before giving an opinion on that idea. Especially if that idea requires you to change something about yourself or your plans. Most people will naturally react negatively to any change that might be presented, whether that reaction makes any sense or not.

Here's the thing: You are in full control of your reaction. You can control how you feel about a change.

I might get shot for that kind of statement, since people love to (myself included) blame their circumstances for their actions/reactions. Don't believe me? Well, come out from under that rock.

This is extremely clear politically. Left-wingers tend to blame rich people for ruining everything, and any problems created by lower class people are caused by the environment they grew up in. Right-wingers tend to blame the government for creating their problems, or ISIS or whatever.

Bogus.

The actions of rich people don't *force* you to take out loans that weren't worth it. The government isn't trying to restrict your rights by taking away guns, they're trying to keep people *safe*.

Now, these are big issues I'm talking about, but this is extremely applicable to every day life. What this all boils down to is patience.

And if you want to really go crazy with it, take 5 seconds. When someone is done speaking, just pause. Process what you heard. Make sure you understand what just happened before words flow out of your face.

I'm not great at this, but it's something everyone can work on.

Song of the Day: We Wait for You (Shekinah Glory) - Cory Asbury (?)



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Poetry

(Note: the colored message serves as the last line of the poem)

The collective scriptures
They are filled with omens
All pointing together
To this very moment

Threads of life
Connect every page
Genesis to Revelation
Throughout the ages

They proclaim one thing
They yell it out
His message to us
The prophets shout

We are redeemed!
Life has now begun
Death's been defeated...

Song of the Day: A great Easter song, Forever by Kari Jobe. This version has  a spoken word in the middle of it, which is why it is so long. I figured a lot of people would know the song, so if you want to hear something new, just go to about 7 minutes in to hear the spoken word.

P.S. In all the YouTube videos, Vines, and blogs I've put out there (in total, probably around 100 pieces of content now beyond simple facebook posts), I've never really asked for anything beyond questions/comments. However, I would just like to say that likes, comments, and shares (!!) do really mean a lot! I don't write this kind of thing just for myself,  --- that's what a journal is for, haha --- I write so that hopefully someone can learn a new truth about God, or have encouragement, or encounter God in some fashion. So if you think my posts can do that, then sharing them with others would really mean a lot to me!

But anyways, thanks for reading!

P.P.S. If you didn't get it, the colored message says "The victory is won" :)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Agony

"God! Abba, Father! Please, my God, take this cup from me! The agony of what is to come is known full well to me, Abba! I know your plan, God, but please.." Jesus sobbed. "Please God..." Tears streamed down his dirt-covered face. His robe was torn from where he had ripped at it in desperation.

"Abba, if anything can be done..." His hands ripped at the ground he was kneeling on. His knees were bruised from spending so long in this position, and his hair was chaos. Jesus' forehead was forcing itself into the dirt, as he sobbed his prayers to his Father.

He looked up into the sky. The mental agony of what he knew was to come caused his sweat to be tinged with blood, giving his face an eerie, reddish cast. He shouted to the Lord on High, "Father! Please!"

But with finality, he let himself fall to the ground, and said, "But Lord.. if it be Your will." He lay there, tears leaking out his eyes, staring at the grass.

He heard a commotion approaching. He shut his eyes and thought, "It begins".

Hours later, after secret, illegal trials and the sentencing of a weak-willed relativist, the beatings began.

Blood and flesh were ripped out of his back. His scalped was pierced with thorns. With each swing of the whip, the King cried out in torment. His vision was full of blood, and every lash felt like fire on his spine.

The Alpha and Omega had never felt a longer moment in his existence. The pain was his world; the taunts of the onlookers no longer registered. Nothing did --- except the brutality of the scourging.

"Carry the cross!" The words were accentuated by a lash of the whip. Jesus moaned, and attempted to stumble to his feet, before falling flat on his face. "Get up!" Screaming, Jesus rose to his feet, and grabbed hold of the crossbeam. Somehow, he started to take steps.

Soon, though, it was too much. Finally, after he had fallen several times, the guards forced another man to carry his cross for him.

The rest of the journey was a blur of sheer pain. It could have been seconds, minutes, or years to Jesus. He felt the Romans lay him flat on the cross, and then he let out another sobbing scream as a nail was driven into the nerve in his wrist. The process was repeated on the other wrist, and there were no tears left for Jesus to release. His mouth was open, but no sound got out of his raw throat except the occasional moan.

Next came his ankles. Then the cross was raised into the air.

Jesus was forced to push himself up off of the nail in his ankles in order to breathe. For hours, he somehow managed to keep going. Every breath, he fought through the pain to last one more second.

Somewhere, in this total fog of excruciating pain, he found the strength for one of life's hardest acts.

Forgiveness.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they have done."

He continued on. The worst was yet to come.

"ELI, ELI, LEMA SABACHTHANI?"

He was utterly alone. Never before had the flesh of the Trinity experienced separation from the love of God the Father. The physical agony of the past hours paled in comparison to being forsaken on the cross that day.

Eventually, he could no longer continue. His bloody, naked form hung on the cross, flesh ripped off of his body and nails in his wrists. He breathed one last time, and whispered, "It... is finished."

Friday, February 26, 2016

Probing God

So to wrap up that last blog, its time for Know thy God.

A lot of this has to do with my post just a little a while ago, about asking questions. The key is that you cannot let questions about God, the Bible, souls, Jesus, or salvation go unanswered. These questions are more important than any other questions there are; these questions deal with eternity.

That's kinda a while.

And you have to know what's going to be happening for that while. It's not the kinda thing you can just put off for later; "Oh, I'll just think about whether or not I'll be around for forever some other time, it doesn't really sound important." That's clearly ridiculous.

And it's exactly what Satan wants. He wants you to be complacent, and just accept things as they come. He wants you to think that eternity is a problem that can be left for later -- you know, after you type that paper, or beat that level, or text that friend.

But it can't.

I don't think any question about God is too small or too big (other than the patently ridiculous, such as the rock He can't move or whatever).

Do you wonder if animals have souls? Seek an answer. You may not find a clear one, but to just ignore the question is very similar to what many do about human souls.

Do you wonder about how the Trinity really works? Seek answers. I really don't like when people say, "I will never understand x about God!" because it can seem like they are dodging questions. They aren't necessarily, and there are certainly things we cannot truly understand about God, but that is no excuse not to try. After all, "Nothing is impossible through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).

That is why I like to theorize about time (see my post about the time/space bubble). I cannot on this Earth come to understand exactly how time works, but I can progress closer to God's truth about time. Just because the ideal is impossible does not give anyone an excuse not to strive towards it.

So don't let anyone tell you a question about God is too small or too big, or unimportant. If it concerns the nature of the all-powerful, eternal, omnipresent God, then it's worth seeking an answer. If you seek in prayer and in wisdom, the Counselor given to us, the Hagios Pnuema, the Spirit that lives in us, can lead us into truth, and knowledge of The Truth.

Song of the Day: The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Realizing Why

I'm going to expand upon something I said this morning, when we recapped Vision4Life in chapel.

For those who don't know, Vision4Life is a program Concordia does every year, where we split up into guy/girl groups, then go out and serve somewhere for a day. While the guys are serving, the girls stay at CA and hear some messages, have worship time, and play games that require teamwork and cooperation. The next day, we switch, and the girls go out and serve while the guys stay at CA.

Then, on Thursday we have an extended chapel, in which we have an open-mic session, meaning anyone who wants to can go up and speak about something God has done in their life, or hard times they've gone through, things they've learned in the past two days, or shout-outs to people they appreciate.

I ended up going up to the mic first, and I said something that, quite unintentionally, helped to set the stage for the rest of those who were led to speak.

Basically, I briefly covered three things that I have found to be of paramount importance. They are, in short, Know thyself, know others, and know thy God.

Know thyself
The first one is "know thyself" from the ancient Greek saying, "gnothi seauton". You have to know who you are, and more importantly, why you are who you are. Examine the things you do, and figure out why you do them. This doesn't mean you second guess yourself, but try to know. Why did I get angry at that thing? Why did I respond with sarcasm? Why do I avoid certain people? Why am I afraid of what people think?

Don't be harsh on yourself, just try and honestly answer those questions. Do you respond with sarcasm because it's simply funny (that is a valid possibility!)? Did you get offended by that comment because it was actually cruel? Do you fear what people think because you wish to be the best you can be, or could it be that you've never known acceptance?

If you know yourself, then you can begin to change yourself, and shape yourself into the person God wants you to be. If you leave these questions unanswered, then you'll be trying to build a house without knowing what the foundation is made of. You might even end a sentence with a preposition.

Know others
This comes next, because it flows right out of knowing yourself. Take those same questions that you asked yourself, and apply them to others. Is someone loud and obnoxious? Maybe think about if they've gone through intensely difficult times, and are trying to find a way to cope. Does someone always look at the negative side? Maybe they've been continually disappointed, and fear having their hopes dashed one more time.

Now, you shouldn't assume you know the answers to these questions unless you've heard the person themselves confirm them. Your reactions to different experiences can certainly give you insight into why others might act the way they do, but two people's experiences are never exactly the same.

The key is that you ask the question, at least in your own head (it may be slightly rude to go up to someone and ask, "Hey do you do x because you've been terribly hurt?"). If you ask the question, you will find it much more difficult to judge that person. And, if you end up knowing them more deeply, then you will be able to truly love them much more easily.

Jesus commanded us to love one another as ourselves. If we can seek to truly understand other people, then we can truly begin to love one another. To love someone, you don't technically have to know them, but if you do know them, then you can discern how to love them best. If they are antisocial because they simply like having time alone, then you might love that person differently than someone who is antisocial because they've been hurt.

Know thy God can wait until next post -- as the most important part of the list, it deserves a bit more.

Song of the day: Start Somewhere by TobyMac


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Problem with Bernie Sanders

Here's the thing:

I like everything Bernie Sanders says. Free college? Sounds awesome! $15 minimum wage? Hey, I'll probably have a minimum wage job in the coming months, I'd like that extra cash! Getting big money out of politics? That sounds fair to me. Equality for everyone? Of course I want that.

However, I don't think most people realize what the fundamental issue is behind everything Bernie says. It's not that he's a 'socialist' or that he's old, or that his speculation tax won't work, or whatever.

I propose that in fact, it has nothing to do with his policies at all.

It has to do with worldview.

Okay, into a little background. Last semester, I took a college Introduction to Literature course, in which we read Red Plenty. It is basically a 400 page group of stories about communist Russia, and how the Russian government aspired to an ideal but failed miserably. At the same time, I took an advanced Readings in Theology course. In that, we talked a lot about worldview, and how a messed up worldview can lead to a lot of other issues. In How Now Shall We Live, Chuck Colson suggests that there is a fundamental worldview issue that has invaded our world today. I connected these two classes, and came to a realization about the underlying reasons why communism will always fail, and what this pervasive worldview is.

It has to do with human nature. Today, many people believe that human nature is basically good. As a philosophy, this is generally called Humanism. A lot of this in the modern era started in the 1700's, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. Many people like to think that, as a whole, humans are good, and that they naturally will be good. They believe that society, money, lack of education, or traumatic events are what make them do evil.

Don't agree that this is everywhere? Then ask yourself - why do we always try and explain away the bad? Someone murders? Oh, they had a bad childhood. A father leaves his family? Oh, he had a mental disorder. A gunman shoots up a school? Oh, society failed him. Yet no one tries to explain acts of great goodness! I  mean, why would they? It's human nature, isn't it? No one looks at a person like Mother Theresa and says she has a mental disorder. They say things like, "Faith in humanity restored!" as if it was what all humans were naturally meant to do.

This, in fact, is the philosophy that gives rise to socialism.

Capitalism, and America, is founded on the idea that man is inherently evil. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, which he used to defend the Constitution, "Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without restraint."

Capitalism is built on the idea that people will be greedy, and try and cheat one another. However, under the free market system, the goal is for this cheating to balance out. For example, if one person tries to raise prices to an unfair level, another will lower theirs and benefit.

However, socialism does not conform to this fundamental truth about human nature. Socialism tries to say that, if we just set up society correctly, people will naturally fall in line and work together for the common good. Give them free college, and they'll tackle the big issues. Raise their wages, and they won't waste the money.

This truth can be found in the Bible, but it can also be found in human history. All of human history is plagued by evil. Egypt was screwy, the Greeks were sickening, the Romans watched people get eaten by lions, the Middle Ages were a disaster, the Catholic church started the Crusades, the French Revolution was... revolting... Even America, who some believe to be the greatest country ever, had slaves and destroyed millions of natives.

And Bernie tries to come in and say, "If we just throw off the mantle of the rich oppressors... If we just educate everyone... If we just do this... we will be good!"

I wish it was that easy. I wish, if we just set people up, that they would just do things right. I wish that solving our issues was as easy as educating people. But what do educated people do? They flock to Wall Street. They build the atomic bomb. They scam those who don't know enough to stop them. I'm not saying they always do these things - but education does not make a moral person - just a smart one.

So, in summation:

My problem with Bernie is that his misconception about human nature causes many of his ideas to be flawed, no matter how much I wish they weren't.

Song of the Day: I Will Arise and Go to Jesus - Michael Card's version (I think this is close to the version I recently heard at Bethel University's Bethel service)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

? <-- The Backbone of Intelligence and True Faith

I think a lot of people view Christians as this blind group of people who never question their faith. People think that Christians are just spoon fed beliefs as children, and eventually that's all they know. Yet these same people will often go through life without ever actually asking the question, "Is God real?" and if they do, they already have an answer before they begin to seek one. It's like if I were to ask, "What is 2+2" and only accept 3 as the answer.

Asking questions is everyone's most powerful tool, believer or non-believer. We must ask questions. If we sit in the pews, and simply accept everything the guy up there says, we will never really know truth. We may hear it or see it, but it will never really be within us. If we sit in science class, and just accept that nothing condensed into everything randomly exploded and became something, we won't seek out any other possibilities.

These questions can, and should, spread across all sorts of topics. Did Jesus exist? How did the universe start? What is the evidence for evolution? What should the pattern be for marriage? Does God love everyone? When should we be baptized? How does time work?

Now, I'm not saying you should call into question everything a teacher/pastor/leader says. But you should certainly investigate for yourself. The Bible has answers, science has answers, friends have answers, parents have answers, pastors have answers, teachers have answers... Answers come from a variety of places.

But ultimately, they all came from God, just as all truth does.

One important reason we must ask questions about what we believe is so that we are not surprised by them when someone else presents them. If someone asks about the validity of the Scriptures, and you have never asked that yourself, you may lose a chance to defend your faith, or your own faith might be damaged. If someone asks about the Resurrection, and you've never explored the history behind it, you may be at a loss.

The bottom line is that we must stop letting others determine what we believe, whether they are Christian, Atheist, Muslim, or politicians, and we must start thinking for ourselves. God gave us this incredible mind - let's use it to know Him and His truth.

John 16:13 "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come."

Song of the Day: Wake Up Sleeper by Gungor

Friday, January 29, 2016

Subtle Shifting Shadows

Subtle Shifting Shadows

Subtle shifting shadows
In the corner of our eye
They follow in our footsteps
No matter what we try

We turn, and they are gone
They flee at sign of light
We question if they were there,
But then day turns to night

Suddenly the darkness
Is no longer hiding
We find we are surrounded
And the fear is quickly stifling

We try and light a candle
To keep the dark at bay
But it isn’t in our power
To turn the night to day

We crouch back in the corner
Hands above our heads
We shut our eyes in terror
Of the monsters at our beds

Before we know it
The door slams shut
We can no longer see
What the night has brought

We rip our hair
We sob and plead
If we could just make
The darkness flee

If only we could realize
The Light is all around us
But we cannot feel the Presence
Of His holy justice

We do not create the day
The Light’s not ours to make
We need only be translucent
So it can shine through our heartache

Light is alive
It moves and breathes
It fills our actions
It lets us see

In the darkness
All men stumble
But when He shines
The darkness crumbles

It is not us
Who crush the enemy
The Light in us
That is our remedy

So when we cower
Deep in the dark
To His calling
Our ear must hark

He gives us eyes to see
And ears to hear
The lame can walk
Men need not fear

So when our shadows
Stalk our pathways
Don’t turn around

But to the Light give way


Song of the Day: It is Well by Bethel Music

Friday, January 15, 2016

Predestination vs Free Will

I think this is topic that trips people up.

Does God choose exactly who and who will not believe? And did He do it before the creation of the world? If so, then do we really choose to believe? If we choose to believe, then does God not choose us? And if we don't choose to believe, and instead, God just selects His 'elect', then what is the point of preaching the Gospel? Will He not just choose anyways? Yet did not Jesus give us the great commission? And if God loves everyone, what is His basis for only choosing some? No one deserves being chosen, so is the choice arbitrary and meaningless? And if the choice is arbitrary, how can God possibly be loving? How could God be love, and yet only choose a few sinful people among a race of equally sinful people? Yet, if the choice is truly ours, then how can one explain all the passages about predestination?

See, I just came up with a host of questions about this in about 2 minutes. It's not easy - well, actually, people make it difficult. Personally, I think it is easy. The issue is this - people look at predestination from a perspective of earthly, linear time.

God doesn't care about linear time.

If you've read my blog about the 'space-time bubble' you may see where this is going. Basically, I think that a good (comparatively - nothing can come close to the truth of God's eternity) analogy for space/time is a bubble. We are in the bubble - God is outside of it, He is the bubble, and He is in the bubble, all at once.

If you think about it, this makes the whole predestination topic simple. If God is outside of time, then He can choose someone at the moment of their conversion. They had the ability to choose to believe. However, in God's view, we are in this bubble, and He doesn't care about when time starts and ends. He selects us, from our perspective, at the moment of our repentance, but from His perspective, it was before the world was made.

We are forced into a three dimensional, 'this, then this,' approach, but God is eternal. His decision to choose was made at the moment we believed; and this decision echoed throughout time - from before the creation of the world, til the resurrection of the dead and eternity.

Song of the Day: It's actually a spoken word. "Good News" by David Bowden

Friday, January 8, 2016

Book Review: The Gospel Truth

You may have seen my recent facebook post about the book The Gospel Truth. I thought I would do a little bit more elaboration on my blog.

It is written by a Christian from Barbados. He used to be a Jehovah's Witness, until, through a series of people he witnessed to, God called him out of the Witnesses and he became a Christian.

The story is about a Witness named Kamal, who knows his Bible better than any non-Witness he knows. This leads him to think that he must have the correct doctrine. He has a series of encounters which make him question the Watchtower organization, and cause him to wonder about things such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the true nature of God.

If you have never actually known a JW, this book will give you a lot of insight into how much they know about scripture, how they worship, and what they believe.

It spends a lot of time explaining and defending the doctrine of the Trinity and of the divinity of Christ, countering many arguments against them. The book is mostly about the Biblical evidence of the Trinity, mixed in with the life of  Jehovah's Witness.

It is independently published and edited, so it is not formatted exactly like a book you may pick up at Barnes and Noble, but it is definitely worth the read.

The print length is about 220 pages, but the print is quite large, and it could likely be completed in one Saturday.

https://www.createspace.com/4850686

It can also be downloaded through Amazon, but the author receives a higher percentage of the money from the createspace link.

Song of the Day: O Love That Will Not Let Me Go by Ascend the Hill


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Is Being Good Enough?

I think it is extremely interesting that people believe that doing good works could outweigh the bad things we have done. As if all God requires is that we do 51% good, and only really bad people like Hitler actually deserve Hell.

This fits no standard of human justice.

In fact, such a view is, honestly, inane.

Picture a courtroom.

Someone is on trial for doing a crime. Anything - theft, murder, whatever. In the eyes of the judge and jury, something wrong has been done.

Does the fact that the person on trial volunteers at homeless shelters, or gives to charity, or mows neighbor's lawns mean anything?

No! That's ridiculous. Crime deserves sentencing. It doesn't matter how philanthropic you are - if you murder someone, you should be jailed.

Why should we hold God to a lower standard than our own judges? That simply does not make sense.

More analogies: Should a cop not give a speeding ticket to someone who volunteers at the Humane Society? Should a referee not penalize a player who is normally an extremely good sport? Should a teacher not accurately grade a student who usually does well?

The whole "balancing the scales" concept of good/evil deeds simply does not make sense when thought about in any human situation. Forgiveness is the only thing that eradicates evil deeds, and even then, it doesn't pretend they didn't happen. It acknowledges the evil, and says, "I still love you".

Song of the Day: This is Not the End, by Gungor