Musings on Christianity 53

Musings on Christianity 53

What Must We Know?

As deep and detailed as the Bible is, Christians must always be sure of the most important thing. We look at the commands. We look at the law. However, none of us can ever hope to perfectly live those commands, neither the letter nor the spirit. 

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).”

The fundamental Christian principle is the person from whom the name of the religion is derived. Apart from Christ, we are lost. It is Christ who lived the perfect life we couldn’t. It is Christ whose death paid the price we couldn’t. It is Christ’s resurrection that justifies those who believe in Him. 

Wherever else one’s Christian walk takes him, the Christian walk does not begin until one confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).

A Christian life begins in mourning, for indeed we morn our sins, realizing the price that must be paid and understanding that we need a savior. The Christian life transitions to joy when we see Christ for who He is, our God in the flesh who was made to be sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

This is a humbling position to accept. I, for one, wanted to earn my place in the world. I wanted to earn God’s love, and I wanted to earn my “right” to go to Heaven. Realizing that there was nothing I could do to justify myself to a perfect and holy God demanded the realization that I needed a redeemer because I could not redeem myself. But there is a joy in this realization. Our God who made us does not need us. He doesn’t have to redeem us. He didn’t send his Son to die for us because He had to, for God existed before all things, and He will always exist. So why, then, did He do it? The answer is simple. He loves us, and He wanted to redeem us, and doesn’t want any of us to be lost (2 Peter 3:9). 

Living a life seeking to earn love and earn a way into Heaven was exhausting and fruitless. It wasn’t until I realized that love is a gift that I realized God’s love was already there. 

God shows His love for me (and everyone) in that while we were lost in our sins, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). 

So rather than work to earn a thing that can’t be bought, I now work content in the knowledge that God loves me. The mind shift is critical. I don’t work to obtain a gift I’ve already been given. Who does? Instead, I desire to do everything, not for the sake of what I already have, but in gratitude for everything I have been given. 

This means that whatever happens, if we hold fast to this truth and remember it always, God will work in our hearts and mold us to be more fruitful and pleasing to Him (Philippians 2:13). 

We are still human. We are still trapped in our human flesh. We will live and suffer and rejoice and celebrate as every human does, but it is not the things of this world we rejoice, cerebrate and suffer for. Instead, a Christian does everything for the Savior who redeemed him. 

This message is only burdensome to those who would seek to earn their place in Heaven or those who seek to justify their goodness by their own right, which is impossible since no sane person would ever declare himself perfect. This message is freedom for those who hear it because it declares a path to Heaven that provides redemption through Christ’s death and sanctification though the earnest desire to be more like our great redeemer. 

It is this message that I leave you with, dear readers, because it is a message that tells us we need not judge one another if we remember we seek to do everything to the glory of God. It tells us we need not fear because whatever happens on this earth is nothing because it is but an instant compared to the rest of eternity. It tells us that we have an example to follow in Christ and an advocate when we stumble. 

I hope this message reminds believers of the fundamental truth that brings us all together as a body of Christ, and I hope this message finds those who are seeking truth in a world dominated by lies. May our lord Christ watch over us and guide us all the days of our lives. May His peace and truth be a light that shines within us all the days of our lives. 

For our panel: What is your parting message to any who may be reading this?

The End.

Finally! A Promotion Website That Works! An Endorsement for Audio Book Boom

Finally! A Promotion Website That Works! An Endorsement for Audio Book Boom

If you’ve been visiting this blog for the past few weeks, you may have noticed how many reviews I’ve had lately.

A few months back, I saw a huge spike in my audiobook downloads for Caught. For the longest time, I was baffled (but happy). But I wanted to see what happened. A flash of inspiration led me to google the book, and there I found it on this promotion website for free promo codes.

You see, Shawn Compton, the wonderful narrator who did Caught, has a royalty share with me. When a copy of Caught is sold on Audible, he gets half of the royalty money. I can only assume he posted his promo codes, which all of us get, on this site, and boy did it work!

The site is Audio Book Boom. It has two sort of options. One is where they just post the codes for anyone to use on a certain book. The other, which I prefer, is where the promoter receives a shared form with a listener’s email and Audible review information. The promoter can then look at the person requesting a code and send a code out if they wish.

This is easily the best $12 per title I’ve ever spent on marketing. I think the price is fair since audio book codes for titles published after March 26, 2020 don’t receive royalties. They are still downloads, but the purpose for the ACX promo codes is to generate reviews and interest. At worst, this $12 gets you a number of reviews. At best it gets you reviews and royalties, but that only applies if your title was published before that date.

The first test run I did was for Stealing Freedom. The first run got me at least 15 downloads and at least 5 reviews. That means this was the first promotion website I’ve used where the money I paid was actually less than the money I made.

I did another campaign, this time for five of my six titles. In total, both campaigns earned more than 75 downloads and 15 reviews. Again, best promotion results by far. Those are just the direct numbers. I’m seeing follow-on sales for pages read in KU, purchased ebooks, and Audible.

This image was taken from the website so I could endorse their product.

I’ve never been able to land on a BookBub promotion (I would love to hit that lottery), but this is easily the best promotion because it gives me both downloads and reviews.

So if you are an author with a bunch of audiobook codes you don’t know what to do with, do this!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Glory of Heaven by John MacArthur

Book Review: The Glory of Heaven by John MacArthur
Image taken from the book’s buy page on Goodreads for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

The Glory of Heaven by John MacArthur offers a Biblical perspective on what Heaven is really like.

I’m not happy with how the book started. It’s got nothing to do with MacArthur or his wonderful work. Instead, it has more to do with the fact that the first portion of the book devotes a ton of time to refuting near-death-experience books published today. I can appreciate that this book may have been written to offer a Biblical counter to these stories, but I’m not personally invested in mortal perspectives anyway, so investing time on points of view I’m not interested in at all just felt in the way to me.

Once MacArthur finished his refutations, he then went on to offer a comprehensive look on Heaven, which is hard to do Biblically since the Bible doesn’t have a ton of references. Most of them are short, and all of them use symbology that hints at an idea that can’t be articulated or understood by a human mind.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2
This image of Dr. MacArthur was taken from his church’s website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

I did appreciate the additional attention MacArthur gives to angels, as that’s an area of interest to me.

In an appendage, MacArthur then returns to his refutations of other various near-death experience books. I think I would have been more willing to spend time (even though I’m not interested in those perspectives at all) listing to those things if I had been given what I wanted (the Biblical view of Heaven) first, instead of tucked between a series of critiques of books I have no intention of reading.

As always, this is a great Biblical analysis despite the critical interjections. While some may actually appreciate the comparisons, I didn’t. Regardless, I did get the information I was looking for, and it absolutely fueled my passion to see the Kingdom of God when he sees fit to call me home.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Musings on Christianity 52

Musings on Christianity 52

How Do The Ten Commandments Fit In?

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me an keep my commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it, you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:1-17).’”

We finish our analysis of how Christians should act with the Mosaic (and it’s important to note it as such) covenant that most know as the Ten Commandments. Something we must acknowledge before hand. We live by grace, not by the law. The law condemns us, but grace brings life (2 Corinthians 3:6). 

I say that not to negate the law, but to remember that one could obey these commandments to the letter and still fail. Indeed, no mortal man has or can actually live by the letter (much less the spirit) of the law. 

The commandments start where every command starts, with the most important law. I spoke about loving God with all your mind, heart, spirit, and strength in a previous chapter. The next two commandments are really just deeper ways in which we show our love for God. If you loved your parents, you wouldn’t make new parents for yourself. If you love your parents, you wouldn’t take their names in vain. A God we love with our entire being is one we don’t try to cram into an idol, and we certainly don’t create for ourselves another god to worship when we already have the one, true God to serve. Ironically, God may be the only name so frequently taken in vain. None of my sons have ever said, “Matthew darn you!” None of my sons have ever used my name as a swear. I don’t imagine any of your children or loved ones have done it either. Indeed, when we speak ill of someone, and that person finds out, we immediately recognize we were in the wrong. 

Rather than jump down a rabbit hole trying to understand why people feel so free to use God’s name so flippantly, we must simply recognize that regardless of the reason we may be tempted to do it, we should not.

I’m going to skip over the fourth commandment for just a while because it demands a certain perspective.

The remaining five commandments are simply better ways to love your neighbor, which we discussed in another earlier chapter. We begin by honoring our father and our mother. Indeed God places our parents over us to serve as a representation of the relationship we share with God. Several segments of the Bible (1 Corinthians comes to mind as well as Ephesians) expressed the representative nature of the family in that the father is the head, the wife is the church, and the children are to be trained. 

To honor our parents is to honor our God. One may quickly argue some parents are not worthy of such honor. My own biological father was one such parent. But this brings to mind the same paradox we face whenever we encounter temptation. We humans want to live in a world where our obedience to the law is somehow predicated on everyone else also obeying the law. From the time we were children, we proclaim, “But everyone else is doing it,” or “But this is the reason I am the exception to this rule.” There are no conditions to the laws.  I am not asserting that we should break one command even if our father and mother tell us to. My parents could never have ordered me to kill any more than I could honor them by doing something so deplorable. 

Are some of you remembering how God ordered Joshua to kill? God ordered several deaths of all sorts. Please remember, dear readers, that God is a perfect, holy being. It is his right to judge. Indeed only He could judge rightly who is to live and who is to die, who is to have eternity in Heaven, and who is to have eternity in Hell.

What about war and the military? I can understand one asking this, and it ties to the next commandment we must look at.

I took great detail to talk about murder, but I must address the spirit of this law to show just what murder looks like in the eyes of God.

“‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21-22).’”

While no one ever disputes it’s wrong for one man to shoot another, we must look to the words of Christ to realize that a man who becomes angry at another is in fact guilty of that same crime. Please don’t be ridiculous. I am not saying a person should shoot whoever he is mad at because he is guilty of the crime anyway. Rather I am saying that a man with anger in his heart (a man like me), is in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Such a person as I must seek to change because we can not love our neighbors if we harbor anger in our hearts. That anger isn’t about the person. I assert that anger is quite usually far more about the person feeling the emotion than it is about what the other did. Indeed, if one were to articulate what they wanted to say, they would have to say, “He made me angry!” 

First, to say such a thing gives that person authority to change how you feel. Oddly, we cry out our right to feel and think whatever we want while, in the same breath, we give up that right by allowing what others do to change those feelings. If this paragraph has helped you see the paradox, I urge you to reflect on why you feel the emotion of anger. What were you denied, and is it really worth killing over? What was taken from you? Is it really worth killing over? 

There are circumstances where one may absolutely say it is worth killing over. But then we place ourselves on the throne of judgement. While I wish anyone wronged justice, I would not meet that justice out myself. 

The key to obeying this command demands one search his own heart and ask himself what is most important. For a Christian, this must be God. This means that one of what I may dare to say is only out of a few righteous forms of anger comes when proper worship of our God, the most important being in our lives, is threatened. I should be much more angry about a policy that denies me time to study the word than I am at my wife for wanting to talk to me about her day when I’m trying to read any other book. The letter of this law is obvious, but the spirt of the law is critical to understanding the value of love. Note the remainder of the verse. This same paragraph shows us how to address that issue righteously because Christ knows that we become angry. The commandment then offers the grace in that we can reconcile with our loved ones to save one another. So we should. 

But now I must come back to what I previously mentioned about the military. As one who served in the United States, I have always affirmed that I am not a killer. Perhaps I am unique in that viewpoint, but since I am the one writing this book, that unique perspective counts. You see, I never said I was a killer. I saw myself as a defender. I defended my brothers in arms. I defended my country. I never sought to kill. I never sought to harm. Many I served with felt similarly, at least to a degree. Luckily, I never had to kill. But I do not see the act of defense as an act of murder. To protect someone else is not to strike down one in anger, as Christ went on to explain. To protect is just that. There are other dangers in this path, but we are not in a nation that demands we serve in the military. Indeed, even in our military there are ways to serve that don’t require one to make the choice to kill or not to kill. I only offer my perception as one who served his country. Would I have killed in the like of duty? Yes, because I believe in the mission I was ordered to perform. Do those who oppose us feel equally committed under a similar belief? Perhaps. I this regard, I must joyfully seek the guidance of the panel.

The seventh commandment again is obvious on the surface and has deeper meaning.

“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).’”

While I wouldn’t make this a statement where women can wear what they wish however they wish, I would say that a man who’s eye is drawn to a woman with lustful eyes is wrong. This works in the same way for women and men. A person may notice someone is attractive. However, when you stare or long for that person, you become guilty. I say again, modest dress is a consideration one makes to help one who may be tempted avoid such things, but the tempted must be resisted even a willing tempter. Do not ever fall victim to the idea that the temptation is responsible. When we succumb to sin, whatever the reason, however strong the temptation, we are to blame, and only us. 

The final three commandments then continue to offer actions we can avoid that will help us be more loving to our neighbor. Indeed, I would affirm that the tenth commandment is critical even though it is placed last. Indeed who commits adultery but the one who covets someone else’s spouse? Why would one steal if he didn’t first covent what another had. I affirm that if one could focus on being content with what he has, no matter how little, he would avoid a great many other sins.

At present, that’s very easy for me to say, and I admit it. I’m not a millionaire, nor do I have such wealth that I can be foolish with my money and not fall into debt. However, I have more than a homeless man and maybe more than some other working husbands. So if you read this and think, “It’s easy for him to say be happy with what you have when he has all he could want,” I must, in my current circumstances, agree. 

However, I’ve previously written about need and want. I think anyone can look at others and see what they have. But why? What reason does one have to look at another’s possessions or life if not for the strict purpose of being covetous over what someone has that he doesn’t or even covetous over what he has because others might want it? 

Please remember what we should always be seeking.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”

If rather than looking at what we do have or lamenting what we do not have, we instead look to serve and honor the God who created all things, we will be well. I am not promising prosperity. I’m also not declaring a socialist planet where people only have the very least of what they need. I’m simply stating that we will first have the most important thing: the promise of eternal life in God’s abundant kingdom.  After this, on this planet, we can trust that, at the very least, God will care for our needs. 

Now we return to the fourth commandment and what it implies. 

When this chapter began, I had to remind people that this was part of the Mosaic covenant. I had to do that to explain why this commandment is no longer enforced and others still stand. 

I must first explain the purpose. You see, while the first three commandments reign supreme as the most essential because we must love God above all, and the bottom five commandments stand firm because we must love our neighbor as ourselves, the fourth commandment is actually for ourselves. It is the one commandment that was put in place for the individual. It was not placed there for others to deny. Nor was it established as a way to honor God. Indeed to work to serve God honors him, so doing nothing for a day only allows us rest, rest God showed is good to take, rest God allowed us to have in the same way that he had it. 

How can I say such a bold thing? Christ told us.

“And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not the man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).’”

Indeed, if one truly wishes to observe The Sabbath for the Glory of God, then good for him (a very personal paraphrase of Romans 14:5-9).

What I first stress is that The Sabbath was put in place to provide people a chance to rest, but we are not obligated to observe the Sabbath anymore because Christ fulfilled the covenant of Moses so that we might now live in His new and better covenant. 

Does this create a paradox? Not in my estimation.  In every covenant there were rules put in place for specific reasons that were accounted for in future covenants. Adam only had (from one point of view) one command. He certainly wasn’t given The Ten Commandments. There were reasons. You see, Adam was innocent, completely unaware of right and wrong. Indeed, pointing those things out would have made him aware. Once the fruit of the tree was consumed and Adam’s eyes were opened, that knowledge required further guidance. But we still didn’t receive the Ten Commandments for thousands of years. 

The only law that never changes is the original law to love God and obey him, indeed obedience is a demonstration of love and trust. Adam disobeyed, and so the curse fell on man. That disobedience was corrected not by any act of sinful man, but by the obedience of Christ, who died, as was His duty from the Father, and was raised again. 

But Christ serves as our example and the Spirt serves as our redeemed conscience. So we follow the example and commands of Christ because we hold fast to his promises. This means we still love the LORD our God and our neighbor as ourselves. This also means that we take the measures listed in The Ten Commandments to help guide us to do so. As for the day of rest? We may set it aside, but we are no longer commanded to do so. Neither should we judge the one who sets it aside for the glory of God. The explanation takes us back to what I said earlier. God didn’t establish that command as a form of honoring Him. He graciously gave us that command to provide for our rest. 

We may teach our sons to go to bed at 9 p.m. We do so to teach them good habits (I am here speaking about my own sons). However, my oldest already knows that I will no longer uphold that rule when he turns 16. I trained him to work and rest as is wise, but I did so not for my glory, but so that he had rest and energy to do what he must. He may need to work. He may even choose to stay up late to do something he knows needs to get done. He’s not dishonoring me by staying up to finish his homework or the dishes. 

This concludes the analysis of the laws that are either more well known or seen to be more important from my own human perspective. I must conclude by once again stating that one who honors God above all and loves his neighbor will instinctively conform to the lesser laws. For any seeking to honor God and be loving to his fellow man will do well.

In the next (and last) chapter, I will address that which every Christian must know.

For our panel: Is a person who serves in the military guilty of murder if he kills in the line of duty? Why or why not? How would you explain Christ as the fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant? Are there other commandments I haven’t addressed in the previous few chapters that must be addressed?

Objective Met! 100,000 Impressions Per Month!

Objective Met! 100,000 Impressions Per Month!

Greetings all,

The bad news is that the streak of weeks with reviews has officially ended, which is sad, but not too discouraging. Not having reviews to share lets me offer insight into other things.

A while back, I posted a blog explaining a marketing initiative I wanted to complete. I reached that mark in early September, and now I wanted to share the results.

One thing I noticed is that I’ve doubled my monthly sales. I have to word it that way because that’s the positive way to say it. However, I was only selling an average of two books a month online, so now I’m up to four. But when I think about this information, I’m still more encouraged. I know that the more people I can get my book in front of, the more sales I make. That gives me hope that more work in this regard will yield more fruit.

In the month of September, I had 1,849,502 impressions and from them 749 clicks. That honestly cost me $157.30, and the four sales and $15 I made hurt a little bit, but we can’t get too carried away because this was always the first step.

So far in October, I’ve had 428,790 impressions and 212 clicks (in just nine days). This means I’m getting views, and I’m getting clicks. Now as expensive as it is, I could absolutely have more clicks, but improving my click-through-rate is something that just takes time and attention.

All images from Pixabay. I just have to keep climbing. Letting go certainly wouldn’t work out for me at this point.

What’s interesting to not is while I have one sale so far this month, and I had four sales last month, only three of those five sales were from AMS marketing, at least not directly. My theory is that people may see an advertisement and make note. Then then come back when they are ready. I also think that the more I work to increase visibility on my end, the more Amazon responds. I can’t prove this theory. I don’t even know how to test it, but I do know that I am doing more now than I was.

The biggest question is how to turn more of those clicks into purchases. One thing I need is your help. A lot of people on Amazon base their purchases on reviews. If you’ve read my work, leaving a review is your way of recommending the book to other readers, and I need those recommendations. I have to try and find a way to generate about 50 reviews per book to have a chance.

The other way to get more people who click on my add to buy my books is to do some work on my book description. I posted a blog about this a while ago. So I have to make time to do that.

So where do I go from here? Well, I want to improve my click through rank and increase my impressions. The way I’m doing this is seeing what key words are being clicked and generating new campaigns based on those keywords. This will easily give me more impressions, but it will hopefully get me some more clicks.

I also have to be patient. Right now I’m losing money much more quickly than I’m making it, but I have to stay this course. People can’t buy my book if they don’t know it exists. The quicker I solicit reviews and get my book descriptions improved, the (hopefully) quicker those clicks will net returns.

Honestly folks, I’m just doing my best here. I don’t know if there’s a better way or not. This is just the approach I’m working on to help my business grow. There were and are a lot of other factors that contribute to my low number of sales. I can’t rewind time and make different decisions, but I can put in the work to to start changing things. Stay tuned to see how the efforts worked out.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: World One by Vail Henry

Book Review: World One by Vail Henry

Spoiler Free Summary:  World One by Vail Henry is a fascinating look into a world that has been abandoned for the sake of a digital world. Think a dramatic, creepy Ready Player One without the video game or pop culture. In this story, there is a small group of people who don’t want to be lost in the virtual world. They seek connection. These people are shunned. Kat is trying to change that world, but there are those who don’t want the world to change. They profit from the business of virtual life, and they’ll do anything to continue raising the profits.

This cover image was taken from the book’s Goodreads page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character:  The characters are charming in one way and horrible in others. By horrible I mean they’re not good people. I hated the male lead because of how insensitive he was to his wife and inattentive he was to his son. However, the reasons he acted that way made perfect sense. This made the characters strong, but not my type. I probably would have enjoyed this story more if the male lead was a bit more rounded out. However, one character (none are memorable enough for me to recall their names) had a wonderful arc. She started off just some woman who was clueless and lost and evolved quite well. I was impressed by that arc.

Exposition: There was more exposition than I could really accept. There were several points where we were seeing things happening, but we were forced to listen to them as if being told rather than watch events unfold. There may have been an effort at poetic musing, but it just came off as exposition that dragged down the plot. This is where the story could have improved the most. I was told a lot, but I wasn’t shown much.

Worldbuilding: While it could have been better, it was still fascinating for what it was. There is the digital world, the real world, and a sanctuary (for lack of a better word). We see the most of the real world, but we don’t experience it much. We see the sanctuary, which cool because of their customs and vague magic system. This is probably what interested me most about the book, and I so wish I had more to sink my teeth into.

Image of Ms. Henry was taken from her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: This was ok, but I need to note accent and style in writing. Sometimes a character’s voice or vocal mannerisms are great for video, but they don’t work in the written word. What would be a great asset in a video format just comes off hard to read in text. I could follow the conversation, but I had to work harder than I think a reader should.  

Description: This was another area of improvement. I’m seeing it a lot in the last few books I’ve been reading. Metaphors and similes are great, but if they’re overused, a reader can’t tell if they’re literally seeing something of just reading poetic imagination. This story made it hard to tell a lot of the time.

Overall: Where Ready Player One was a fun and nostalgic take on a population immersed in virtual worlds, World One shows us how disconnected humanity would be and challenges us to consider if we’d really want to live in a world without real people and real connections. The prose and exposition are a bit much, but the characters and world are fascinating.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Musings on Christianity 51

Musings on Christianity 51

What Are The Things God Finds Abominations?

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19).”

I’m not saying that other sins aren’t sin. I’m not claiming that anyone can commit any sin without repentance and be saved. I’m not saying that there are things some people hate that aren’t on this list. But the word of God gave this expressed list as the seven things that are an abomination to Him. This, to me, implies that of all sins, these are the ones he finds most egregious. Indeed I willingly submit to more trained pastors to offer correction, but absent a degree in Biblical studies, I can only read and interpret the word as well as any other mortal applying basic hermeneutics. 

So I wanted to devote a chapter of this book to those seven things and offer application. I also hope others will contribute to the discussion. 

Haughty Eyes

Hebrew writers put a lot of stock in primacy. So I too feel we should pay close attention to that which is named first in any list in Biblical writing. To think of all the things I see in myself that I don’t like, my pride and arrogance may be what God finds most disdainful. 

Notice that all of these things speak to the heart and how one treats others (or looks at himself). Presented first is one who is arrogant or disdainful, for only such a person could look at others with haughty eyes. 

This changes my perspective a lot. I’ve spent my whole life constantly being indignant over some “wrong” I observed. Some may even want to say things like, “it’s ok to be angry.” But where does that anger come from? Where does any anger come from? In those times, I’m not righteously angry, disgusted over someone’s sins against God. I’m angry because I feel something was denied me; I feel like something was taken from me; I feel like I was belittled. 

All of those thoughts are self centered and based on a perspective as one with haughty eyes. People who feel enraged should carefully look at why they feel these emotions and challenge themselves to see it from a Godly point of view. If your anger is based on your own pride or desires, then your seeing through haughty eyes. This is what I tell myself these days when I’m angry (and I’m angry a lot). I don’t want to be an angry person anymore. I don’t want to be a prideful person anymore. I’m up against decades of practice where I validated my perceptions and opinions, seeking to elevate myself. This has to stop. This has to be purged from my life because I can’t love my neighbor if I look upon him with haughty eyes. Neither can anyone else.

If we are driven to “show” others how “right” we are, we no longer care about that individual. Working with this motivation doesn’t seek unity or understanding; it demands submission to your viewpoint. Christians should demand they submit to God’s viewpoint and no other’s. 

A Lying Tongue

I can’t stress this one enough. I’ve always found it odd that we will see protests against so many things (a lot of which are indeed sins against God), but I’ve never once seen a single protest against lying. I see people seek to justify white lies or lies to make others feel better. People lie to get into office or keep their office. People lie for entertainment. A lying tongue is one of seven things that are abominations to the Lord above, but it might just be the one thing everyone seeks to justify in their own right. 

Lying is wrong. There is no explanation that makes it right. There is no circumstance that makes it appropriate. There is no situation in which one should use it. 

So why then do people smile and nod their heads when others say, “Everybody lies”? 

Over and over again, Scripture tells us to seek truth. Love truth. Embrace truth. Fix your thoughts on what is true. 

This abomination is one that God even emphasized by placing in the ten commandments. In fact, one can argue this one abomination is repeated (though different in circumstances) three times (see below). 

When we live our lives, we should do so striving to never lie.

This doesn’t mean we are obligated to shout out whatever truth we wish. Shouting “fatty” to the overweight person on the street or calling someone who committed adultery a slut isn’t loving or honoring anyone. In fact, if you’re shaming others to elevate yourself, you’re looking upon that person with haughty eyes. Make no mistake, a demand to avoid speaking lies does not conversely demand one let whatever true words he wishes fly from his mouth.

Hands That Shed Innocent Blood

Here is where I probably offend a great many people. It’s obvious that society as a whole sees murder as wrong. This sin also has a place (a deeper emphasis) on the ten commandments. So I submit that most understand the killing of another is wrong.

This is why abortion is also wrong. The argument is based on the perspective of the term “life.” When does life begin? For those who seek to better define this concept, I have at least an intellectual understanding. If life doesn’t begin until birth, then an abortion isn’t the killing of an innocent child. 

However, I don’t really understand that line of thought. If we stomp on a cocoon, we don’t  say we terminated a cocoon. That butterfly or moth may or may not have died, but our act of stomping on it denied it that chance. 

Then there is the argument of choice. As a man, I’ve no doubt I’ll only be seen as another man telling women what to do with their bodies. Here’s the thing. I didn’t tell you to have sex. But this world sees sex as an activity like running or video games. To which I say, “OK.” But No runner blames the concrete for the blisters on his feet and no one with bad eyes ever condemns video games. 

It is my opinion that a woman and a man are indeed capable of having as much sex as they want. But sex seems to be the one thing everyone wants to do without being accountable for doing it. The thing I’m most against is abortion as a means of ultimate birth control.

Some men want to run off whenever any woman becomes pregnant. Some women want to have sex, but they don’t want to be parents, and I respectfully can’t see the difference between a woman who got pregnant without meaning to and the driver who hit a car she didn’t see. Sure, neither woman meant for it to happen, but no one expects the car to pay for injuries sustained in an accident. Some people shout, “pro-choice” as if they’re being denied the right to sex. No, they are not. But anyone who makes a decision of any kind must then accept the consequences of those decisions. You’re not being denied a choice, you’re being told to accept the path those choices put you on. Also, I would be the first to vote for a dead-beat-dad law, one that forces men who sire children to at least provide financially for the child he sired.

Naturally this leads to those who unfortunately didn’t choose. My grandmother was raped. She didn’t ask for sex. She didn’t choose to have sex. The choice was denied her. As a mortal man, I can’t express to you how sympathetic I am to those who had this most sacred choice stolen from them. My grandmother may not have had abortion as an option. I’m not even smart enough to know. What I do know is that she gave birth, and she died very shortly after. Her parents raised that child, and, unfortunately, that child didn’t grow up to be very good either. Some may see this as justification. I do not. To kill an unborn child is not denying the evil that person could become. To kill an unborn child is nothing more than killing an unborn child. What was done to someone was (in my human eyes) the worst thing anyone could do. If I were a political figure, I might not fight so hard against this sort of abortion. I can even admit that, but I will never say that action is right. At what point would any of us want to kill another for what someone else did? Should we kill the parents of a serial killer because they raised such child? Should a robber’s child be killed because his father was a robber? We should love, care for, and support victims of such crimes, lending them any help we can offer, but not matter how horrible the crime of the father is, does any child deserve to die? Would I turn my back on a woman faced with this unimaginable choice? No. Not at all. In this regard I just can’t imagine how difficult this would be. 

This also applies to pregnancies where one or even both parties may die. If I trust in God, I leave to him the choice to grant me life or grant me death. If I kill, I’ve lost my faith in God’s sovereignty and tried (though no mortal really can) to thwart or overpower His will. If we are alive, we have hope. Death denies anyone a chance to live on this earth. I speak of bodily death. Spiritual life and death is also in the hands of God.  

You may disagree (passionately) with this position. If you are Christian, however, there is no such grounds. It is simply against God’s wishes for any innocent blood to be shed for any reason. One may wish to debate this further, but once the word of God speaks, the real debate becomes whether or not one is willing to submit to God’s (not my) authority or not. Even there you do, in fact, have a choice to make. That right isn’t actually denied you. Some people say to make abortion illegal would only mean people would have illegal abortions. I’m of the opinion that abortion is already illegal in God’s eyes. Making it illegal in this nation would only align with God’s law. People do illegal things in this world. If one were to make murder legal, it wouldn’t suddenly make murder right in the eyes of God, it would only make murders feel free to do so. 

Does this mean I will personally lash out at you or condemn you? No. I don’t have the energy or time. I don’t have to judge you. If my words make you feel judged I would challenge you to ask yourself why. One only feels defensive when they already know they are wrong. If an unborn baby isn’t alive, then what is there to debate?

A final point of discussion I hear regarding abortion is one seeks to defend one’s rights “up to” birth. Pro life is more about pro birth. People only want babies to be born, but they don’t care what happens after the baby is born. 

These ideas may be the most ridiculous. If the world is responsible for every baby born than somewhere around seven billion people owe my children money for their college tuition. This argument assumes that every life is the responsibility of every other life, and that’s just not true. If we tone down this argument, claiming that we need more laws to help underprivileged children and more funding for such children, I can agree with that. I can petition and vote for such laws. In short, if the child is actually alive, I can fight for his rights, but before I defend a child’s right to prosperity or a happy life (something no human being is promised), I must first fight for the child’s right to live in the first place. I can do nothing but pray for a murdered child. 

This will probably be the most inflammatory portion of this entire book. This is absolutely a heated subject. Before anyone feels compelled to flood my blog with hateful (haughty) comments or take whatever other option they want against me, remember I’m nobody. I am one man with this opinion who feels that opinion is based firmly on the word of God. Maybe I’m wrong. The best news you have is that I’m not the judge. I’m just a man who gave his frank opinion on a volatile topic. You may freely make your opinions on this topic known. You have that right (you were born). But I already freely acknowledge your right to disagree and your ability to do whatever it is you want. I can’t stop you. All I can do, and all I have done, is point out my interpretation on how God sees it. 

A Heart That Devises Wicked Plans

This actually ties to the above point and several others. I’m of the opinion that any time one devises a way to do what he wants regardless of what God wants, he’s guilty of this abomination. When one uses self-justification to do something, they’ve already taken God out of the equation. Now, not every independent decision one makes is sinful. However, what this speaks to is the one who knows he should do otherwise instead seeks a way to do that which is in his own heart. 

I originally thought to type out several examples of this, but I am honestly making an effort to transition from the tension I very likely created in the above passage. 

The correct action from a Christian perspective: Filter your intended actions through the Word of God. The Pharisees were guilty of this abomination. They denied God’s command, “Honor your mother and your father,” and selfishly protected their money, “What I would give you is given to God (Mark 7:1-13).” This means that one can not violate God’s law under the pretense of following God’s law. 

When I catch myself looking for a way to do what I want, I hope God works in me a heart to first challenge myself to see if if the thing I’m seeking is a thing I should do. As stated in a previous chapter, we should be God-centered in our thinking. So rather than looking to devise ways to do or get what we want, when should instead seek to do what God wants us to do.

Feet That Make Haste To Run To Evil

This is a heart that is eager to sin. This could also be someone who knows what they are doing is wrong, so they rush to do so quickly, seeking to do what they want before anyone might see. 

More interestingly, this might be considered a catch all to any who rushes to sin. Even if the sin they seek isn’t on this list, if they’re rushing to their sin, they’re guilty of this abomination.  

A False Witness Who Breathes Out Lies

One may say this is a repeat of having a lying tongue, and I don’t argue. However, this specific purpose for lying bears discussion. Lying is bad in and of itself, but to lie by false witness is another particular form of such an abomination. One may lie to make himself seem better or to avoid punishment for his own sin, but one who lies about another is especially abominable. It’s wise (as all God’s words are) to cut off one who would avoid lying for one reason, but freely speak falsely about another. 

To take this further, this does not necessarily mean one who knowingly lies about another. Indeed, I would think one who is quick to speak about another without first determining the truth of his words is still guilty of this abomination. How often do we feel free to offer our opinions about others without bothering to see if we’re just rumor mongering or gossiping? Which brings us to our last abomination.

One Who Sows Discord Among Brothers

Call it what you want. Call it stirring the pot, playing Devil’s advocate. Call it venting or getting your thoughts off your chest. If you’re spreading rumors or speaking ill of someone who isn’t there, you’re sowing discord. 

To rebuke one or speak to someone to gain understanding and come closer together is good. However, if your goal is to justify yourself or convince others to see someone through your (perhaps haughty) eyes is to commit this abomination. 

In these abominations I notice a trend. Most of these abominations have everything to do with one’s viewpoint. Indeed many of these can be tied to a person thinking about his own desires. This means that one devoted to loving God and his neighbor would easily avoid these seven issues to begin with. But these sins are also (for the most part) easier to hide. One would have to verify everything another says to find the lies. And we are often haughty or prideful in our actions or viewpoints. 

I’ve been guilty of almost all of these abominations. I can only say I’ve never shed innocent blood. Even then, Christ tells us that one who hates his brother is guilty (Matthew 5:22), so in this, I’ve also proven my actions abominable. I don’t offer these from a position of one who’s never done any of these things. Instead, I confess my guilt and urge others to look at their actions to see if they are guilty of the same. It is the heart that loves God above all that resists the temptations to do these things, and the more one seeks God, the more likely one is to turn away from these abominations. Indeed the one who loves God can not do such things. 

For our panel: What are your thoughts on these seven abominations? While given special attention and named as abominations, does making those distinctions truly mean these sins are the greater sins? If these aren’t the greater sins, what are? What does someone like me (one who acknowledges he struggles with pride and arrogance) do to turn away? How does someone who’s exercised such pride and arrogance into his life even start to seek humility and respect?

More Reviews, Even A Few International Reviews!

More Reviews, Even A Few International Reviews!

Greetings all,

I’m once again blessed to be able to share reviews with you. These reviews are particularly close to my heart for a few reasons.

First, I have my first international review. Over at Audible.co.uk, I have two reviews.

Kathrine Leach left this short and sweet three-star review for Caught:

“good story”

“It took a while for me to get into this book but once I did it was quite good. I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.”


D M Reynolds left this very kind four-star review for Stealing Freedom:

“Disturbing”

“This story is soooo plausible given our current reality. A true dystopian tale for our times. It explores – lightly – the extremes of censorship and expression. At the same time, it’s an action-packed cheer-for-the-robbers kind of adventure. Much of the world is essentially the same as ours (which adds to the plausibility). The cops are hot on the trail of our heroes… and yet nothing is quite as it first appears (just like a good heist movie!) Enjoyed this story. The length and narration both suited it very well. I received this audiobook for free in exchange for a fair review.”


It really means a lot to me to see that my work is starting to spread. Not only that, but people (at the very least) liking it! I also got some new reviews on the U.S. version of Audible.

Adam Bogovich left this five-star review for Stealing Freedom:

“Short and to the point”

“We start our journey 5 years into a dystopian society. You meet some rebels who you don’t get to know too well, but pretty well for the time allotted. The plan that unfolds is pretty clever, and i feel like if there was more time to build on the world/characters, the twist wouldn’t have been surprising; so it all works out. Other than that, the narrator was great as well! I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.”


I’ve saved the most special set of reviews for last. Theres a philosophy I hold to as an author:

The first sentence you write determines if the reader will finish the page. The first page determines if the reader will read the first chapter. The first chapter will determine if the reader finishes the book. That book then becomes a promise. “If you liked this book, you’ll love my next one.”

The reviews from Shawna that follow are a beautiful representation of how true this is. They also represent everything I strive to do for readers and as an author. Shawna, if you’re reading this, thank you so much. Please see just a bit more at the bottom.

She first listened to Caught:

“Different and amazing!”

I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review. The title first caught my attention – I am a sucker for anything Greek Mythology related. Oh dear author, you know my heart’s true love and you don’t even know me. The book started a bit slow. I wasn’t sure where it was going at first and then I started piecing it together as I went along. It suddenly picked up and Oh boy! I love the plot, the premise and everything about this book. It is strange, different and creepy. I really could not stop listening to it. The narrator was absolutely perfect and had amazing pacing. I was not disappointed at all by this book in any way.”


This book became my promise (from my point of view) to Shawna. I’m thrilled that she liked Caught. I’m so happy that it was good enough for her to decide to try more of my work. Then she listened to Stealing Freedom:

“Great story”

“I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review. I do not like multiple narrators. In this instance, they did okay and I was able to listen all the way through but the double narrators did ruin my enjoyment a little bit. I am going to find an ebook copy of the book instead and pretend the narration did not happen. This was a great story which has a very real feel to the premise. You can definitely see this happening in the future…..No unauthorized communication and strict punishment for breaking the rules about communication. It was very chilling to think that even right now, we are slightly limited on our freedom of speech. Is this a glimpse of the future?”


This review alone is flattering. I wanted (in this case) listeners to truly ponder what a world without protest or free speech would look like. She next read Sojourn in Captivity, and left the first review I’ve had for that title on Audible.

“Too Short!”

“I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review. The only thing that displeased me about this audiobook was the length. I wish it was longer and that there was more to it. This is the second book by this author that I have listened to in the last week and I am starting to believe that I need to write this name into my favorites list. I love magic, fantasy, faeries, werewolves, vampires etc etc. This book was right up my alley and I absolutely loved it. I hope the author will continue with this because sign me up! Lots of action and adventure and well written. Even though it’s a short book, pick it up! You will not regret it!”


Don’t worry Shawna, I have an entire series planned for that universe (an entire universe) and Elele is one of several main characters. There’s a lot more to see there. This was just designed to introduce you to her.

Now we get to the part that’s especially rewarding. Check out this review she left for Repressed!

“Hooked on this author!”

“I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review. Ok Weech, you got me. I am yours. This was a shorter book but the third that I have listened to by this author and I am now setting up an amazon alert for this author. You have won my heart. I may be older (I will not state my age because it is embarrassing) but I do love me some YA. This was written slightly different to the previous book, Caught, because it was geared towards a different audience but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I do wonder if the author is going to have 2 different types of books for this series: YA and adult? Either way, I will definitely be reading all there is to come.”


I must respectfully disagree, Shawna. It is I who am yours. In choosing to read my work, you’ve made me your author. You’ve made my stories something you value, and that is a blessing I cherish. It is a gift I mean to care for. It’s my duty to never disappoint you or break the loyalty you’ve given me. Should I write something you don’t enjoy, I hope you’ll forgive me and allow my next book to set things right.

Being an author (as a business) is about loyalty. Every reader offers you their time. The author’s responsible for rewarding that time with entertainment. I can only hope that more people will try my work and feel the way that Shawna did. I hope she’s tried The Journals of Bob Drifter, and loved it. I hope she’s one of the first to pick up Betrayed, and I hope it answers her questions (and leaves her with a whole new list of them).

Reviews like this make hours and hours of writing, proofreading, designing, and formatting worth it, and I can’t thank all you readers enough.

Thank you!

V/R
Matt

Book Review: The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Book Review: The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

This isn’t going to follow my normal review format because I didn’t read this in a normal manner.

The cover for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

You see, I read The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner book to my three sons. It started out as something I was just going to read to my youngest. One night, my older sons grew curious, so they finished it with their younger brother.

I think my youngest was still a bit too young to truly enjoy a story like this. The youngest is a fantastic reader and his comprehension is good, too, but he’s still only 8.

Boxcar Children was such a favorite of mine that I found a way to put a Boxcar easter egg in The Journals of Bob Drifter. I loved it when I was a kid, so I wanted to take the time to read it to my sons.

If I’m being honest, I don’t think they loved it. They didn’t hate it by any means, but it didn’t capture their imaginations. The older boys just finished The Hobbit. The youngest is still a fan of The Book With No Pictures, which I must read to him every night it’s my turn to read to him.

The diversity in age and the fact that my little boy is still more entertained by shorter stories means it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but they did enjoy it. They had fun talking to each other about the plot and what might happen next. They were all big fans of Watch.

So for me this wasn’t so much about reading a book I already love; it was about sharing something I love with my sons. I do this in a few ways, but this was the first time I tried reading one of my favorite stories for bed time. I don’t think this will be the last time I try. I don’t know that the boys will give the Boxcar Children another try, but they’ll like sitting with me and sharing things, and this is the more important goal.

We should share our loves with our loved ones. Having the chance to read this story was a great opportunity to share my childhood, and I’m glad I took that chance.

Gertrude Chandler Warner

It was also nice reading the book myself for the first time in maybe 30 years. It was a lovely walk down memory lane. I frequently re-read stories. I usually do it because they’re part of a series, but even if they aren’t, I encourage you all to pick up a book you haven’t read in forever. I always find it rewarding.

While my sons didn’t enjoy it as much as I did when I was their age, I urge you to read it to your children. At worst, you’re going to read a charming rags-to-riches tale that warms the heart.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Musings On Christianity 50

Musings On Christianity 50

What Does It Mean To Love Your Neighbor

People today are far more interested in the manner in which they are loved than the manner in which they give love. People cry out, “You’re supposed to love your neighbor!” I typically see that when their goal (the reason they’re throwing that commandment in someone’s face) is to actually say, “Just let me do what I want!” The next most common reason for throwing that verse in someone’s face (observationally) is when there is a disagreement about some course of action or lifestyle choice.

Before we look up to Christ for his example on neighborly love, let’s just take a look at where these paths would lead if we take them to their logical conclusions.

Is love letting people do whatever they want? If the answer is yes, then any parent who ever denied their child a single thing is unloving. If this is true, then any manner of crime is really nothing more than an opportunity to love criminals because everyone (an absolute term) should be able to do whatever they want (another absolute term). This means that any act, no matter how despicable or detestable is permissible because it’s what the person wants to do, and it’s “unloving” to deny someone something they want. 

I hope that when you see it put this way, you can see how utterly ridiculous that notion is. Love is not, nor has it ever been, letting people do what they want. It can’t be. So the idea that one should, “live and let live” falls apart on its face because some people are ignorant of the harm their actions could lead to (children) or simply uncaring about the consequences of their actions (criminals). 

Naturally, some would would argue, “You know that’s not what I mean!” They argue that one should indeed be allowed to do whatever they want, “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” 

That’s all fine and good, except what people don’t understand is that sin always hurts. We can’t try to live in a world where “hurt” is only evaluated by visible effects. After all, I am fully capable of doing whatever I want and be willfully ignorant of the consequences of those actions. That again wouldn’t make me loving, it would make me a psychopath. 

There is no situation in which love can in any way be defined as the act of just letting people do what they want. 

Some reading this may then say, “But you’ve said several times (even in this book) that you’re not telling anyone what to do.” 

I’m not. I’m not however condoning those actions either. This book is designed to be a cooperative Christian evaluation to better understand Christian living. The fact that I don’t feel the need to repeatedly argue over every commandment every moment of my life doesn’t make me unloving or unChristian. If we define love by the manner in which we perceive love, we don’t actually understand what love is. Love is an action verb. One can be loved, but grammatically that person is the object of the love. The only way everyone can love is by loving, so we can not be loving by demanding to be the object of it. 

Those reading this have the choice to accept what I am saying or deny it, and I’m not the judge to determine their righteousness. Christ is the righteous judge, the rest of us folk are just folk. With this in mind, I share my thoughts, using the truth of scripture as well as I know how to form those ideas and admitting that my human mind can never perfectly comprehend God’s sovereign design. 

This leads me to that second commonly implied phrase: Some people believe that they should be able to say what they want to say and be left alone. 

This nation has a freedom of speech that we must defend.  This nation has a freedom of protest that we must also defend. But the right to speak and protest do not come with the requirement of the hearers to agree. Some would even say something to the effect of, “everyone has a right to his or her opinion.” 

I don’t really want to debate that phrase (but it would be interesting to discuss), but even if it is true (I’m not sure either way) that still doesn’t actually imply that everyone must therefore agree with those opinions. In fact, that’s impossible. If we grant each person their right to an individual opinion we must, therefore, recognize that those opinions can’t en-mass agree with each other. The idea that everyone has a right to his or her individual opinion demands that people recognize that not everyone will agree.

Then I look at social media. I can’t look at social media for very long. Sure, there is some beautiful conversation, and exchange of beliefs and ideals, but more often than not, I see something like the following:

“I have an opinion! If you don’t share my opinion, unfriend me now because you’re a horrible human being! This is the opinion, and those who disagree with me aren’t worth knowing.”

Now how, exactly, is anyone supposed to be allowed to express their opinion with a blanket statement like that? People who post comments like that have already established that they’re God, and none who disagree with them are worthy of being in their presence. Ironically, some of those individuals then deny the existence of God even while acting like they are God. A comment like the one above is a beautiful example of how to be unloving. Only a perfect and Holy God could make laws for people to follow and then justly deny His presence to those who don’t follow those commands. Ironically, people balk at God’s laws, but feel perfectly justified establishing their own laws. People debate the existence of God, but have no problem denying other people into their circle.

I don’t see how that makes sense. If God must be one who’s tolerant of everything and would allow anyone to do anything, how then is that person justified denying anyone of anything? If God is just, and He can make commandments and then justly deny His presence to those who don’t obey those commands, then we must follow God and obey His commandments, careful to be sure we don’t try to overthrow God by establishing our own laws. In neither case can any human justify a stance like the one above.

Of course there are those who aren’t that oppositional in a post.  

“I have an opinion,” they say. 

Maybe the first reply is something completely rational.

“I disagree,” they may say. “Here is my contrary opinion.”

But that’s when all pretense of polite society vanish. Further replies are full of vitriol and anger. The discussion withers away from an exchange of ideas and beliefs (the beautiful marketplace of ideas) to personal attacks and accusations that sometimes have nothing at all to do with the original opinion. 

If love is the right of people to share their opinions, you must then allow everyone to share those opinions.

Our very freedom of speech and protest in America is a perfect example of that. I hear things I vehemently disagree with. I see protests for things (or against things) I stand against (or for). The beauty of this nation’s freedoms is that they allow for people to be heard. It still doesn’t demand others listen, nor does it require such. The marketplace of ideas (a phrase coined by Justice William O. Douglas in the Supreme Court decision United States v. Rumley in 1953), only ensures that ideas can reach the market. This puts the onus on people to accept or reject them. 

This chapter has reached the 1,300 word mark, and some may be thinking, “I thought we were talking about love.”

Welcome to my point of view. People who want love to be about what others allow them to do or what others allow them to say are not talking about love. This is because love isn’t defined by the recipient. 

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

There is the definition of love. Love is sacrifice. Love is a gift. Love is not a requirement. Love is not based on the person receiving it. Love is an action. 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).”

So how then do we obey God’s second command an love our neighbor. Christ gave us an example of this during one of His debates. 

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live (Luke 10:25-28).’”

He were see Christ affirming the importance of the great commandments. If we do just those things, all will be well, but that doesn’t actually show us how. The Lawyer saw that gap and challenged it.

“But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay when I come back.” Which of theses three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise (Luke 10:29-37).’”

There is so much more to pick apart here than just the application of love. However, I don’t want to get caught in debates on whether this is an endorsement of socialism or universal healthcare or any other political distraction. Christ wasn’t talking to a ruler about how a nation should be run. Nor was he talking about how a country should be led. He was answering a direct question about who a man’s neighbor is. Using that as context, we can look at this for what it essentially is.

We love our neighbor by caring and providing for them. Note that Jews and Samaritans were bitter rivals. Jews had such distain for Samaritans that they would walk around the land just to avoid it even if going through would help them reach their destination more quickly.  

Love is sacrifice. Love is a man using his own supplies to help someone beaten and robbed. Love is sacrifice. Love is a man using his own money to provide someone a place to rest and heal. 

Again some may want to distract from the message to pursue another message. We’re talking about a man who was robbed and beaten. We’re not talking about someone who threw himself into debt or a person who hasn’t gained experience to get a better job. We’re talking about a specific event in time and how it shows love. 

We show love by treating others how we want to be treated even if they don’t treat us that way. This means love isn’t reciprocal. Love is not dependent on being loved. Romans 5:8 (quoted above) shows us how selfless love is. While we were at enmity with God, he still sacrificed for us. Even as they drove the nails into His hands, Christ did not cry out for justice or vengeance. He did not curse them as the executed him. He didn’t do any of that. Nor did he charge his apostles to seek justice for his name. Instead, while they were driving the nails into His hands, He asked God to forgive them. His great commission was not a campaign against anything, but a command to teach others. 

“‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).’”

Too often we demand love and yet are unwilling to offer it. We cry out in general for human rights and equality, but we deny the sick or homeless person we drive by. Even in this, we can fail. We toss out some change to a homeless person, which doesn’t actually help. At best, it only provides a momentary comfort. 

But to love our neighbor as ourselves demands persistent action on our part even if we are denied love by everyone else. This can be hard. Even in relationships, people desire reciprocal love rather than offer love. 

Does this mean a wife who’s been cheated on 16 times should just “sacrifice” and let her husband cheat? No! Even Christ allowed for divorce in that regard. Love, therefore, is not the willful ignorance of transgression. This means we are allowed rebuke. We are allowed dispute. Love allows for a person to address grievance.  But even a lawful divorce of that sort doesn’t demand the husband (who should) repent and stop cheating; it just allows for the wife to leave an unloving marriage (for the reason of sexual immorality). 

But more important than relationships where there is an expectation of love is the acknowledgment that “our neighbor” is not limited to “people we like” or “people we associate with.” 

Our neighbor is anyone to whom we show mercy. Our neighbor is anyone to whom we show compassion. Our neighbor is anyone. 

Does this create a sort of circular paradox in which we must then allow others to do what they wish? No!

That’s because love isn’t tolerance. Love isn’t willful ignorance. 

There may be even more to peel back here. On this Earth, God has provided us all things. While we are on this Earth, we are given choices. God, who can justly cast us away, lovingly allows us the choice even if it might cost us eternity with Him. He didn’t do this without caution or warning. He’s provided the truth through His word. He’s provided us salvation through Christ. God has given us every opportunity to love, honor, and serve Him. It’s up to us to do so.

We do that by loving others. We do this by loving our neighbors as we would be loved. And the more we Love as God loves, the better we will be. This means we love with grace and truth. We love with generosity and discernment. We love with integrity and patience. This is a start to loving our neighbors.

For our panel: What other examples of neighborly love can we find in Scripture? Does love obligate tolerance? How do we apply these lessons in our life? Does this lesson on neighborly love apply to a nation’s laws? How do we step away from the desire to receive love and step toward the path to be loving?