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?

I Have Finished the Developmental Draft of Betrayed! Any Interested Beta Readers Out There?

I Have Finished the Developmental Draft of Betrayed! Any Interested Beta Readers Out There?

Greetings all,

I’m happy to report that I’ve finished the Developmental Draft of Betrayed! Obviously I’m far behind my publishing schedule, but I am still working to write and publish stories I hope you’ll all enjoy.

Betrayed focuses far more on Dom and Kira than Caught did. If you read Caught carefully, you’ll see little breadcrumbs that I left for you that will make Betrayed a bit more satisfying. There are indeed more of those breadcrumbs in Repressed, but that story is really more to show how Kaitlyn has grown and what her motivations are.

Where Caught was a horror mystery with action, Betrayed is much more action oriented. Caught was probably 60-40. Sixty percent Wes Craven and forty percent Tom Clancy. Betrayed is probably 20-80 in the same ratio. There are some elements of horror and dream sequences, but the book drives more into the action and the characters.

Remember, Oneiros was always (and remains) my origin story to a superhero universe. Betrayed is the book that sparks that flame.

Here’s a vague book blurb:

Oneiros has been operating for more than six years. They’ve worked quietly to complete all the missions police were unwilling or unable to take on, but all of that is about to change.

Zac Kingsley, a soldier with the Army’s most secret military unit, receives orders to destroy Oneiros. He’s a brilliant military leader, and he was once Dom Moretti’s best friend.

Oneiros must now defend themselves against the government that made them, the government that betrayed them.

Old friends become enemies; current bonds are tested, and a new threat reveals himself.


If that description catches your attention, you’re in luck! I need beta readers! Beta reading is a bit more work than alpha reading. Beta reading is where I’m looking at the finished product the same way I review any story. I want to see through the readers eye to make sure the plot twists are believable and satisfying. I want to make sure the story moves at the right pace. Those who agree to beta read will, of course, receive special thanks in the book’s acknowledgement section.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, please email me. Because I want to publish this as quickly as possible, I’m asking any beta readers finish reading and providing feedback by Oct. 25. That basically means you’d have to read and respond to about one chapter a day.

In the meantime, I’m back at work on Discovered (the end of the Oneiros Log). I still have about half of it to write (my completion percentage is based on chapters that I’ve outlined). I’d love to finish the Discovery Draft of that before I get the feedback for Betrayed, but that’s currently more of an ambitious goal than an expectation at the moment.

I hope some of you (I’m hoping for 10 beta readers) are willing to help me make sure Betrayed is a great story, but I’m already grateful to you all for the support you’ve shown me over the years. I’m going to keep working on writing great stories with sympathetic characters.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Story Review: The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch by Shawn Speakman from Unfettered II

Story Review: The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch by Shawn Speakman from Unfettered II

Spoiler Free Summary:  The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch by Shawn Speakman is the final story in the Unfettered II Anthology.  The spring witch is sick. Her children set out to defeat the troll that inflicted her with the illness, but the truth of her disease is more complicated than they know.

Character:  I can’t say I specifically remember the names of the characters, but I remember them the way I remember people I met in my travels and remember fondly. These characters are charming and sympathetic even if their names aren’t memorable. I also have to remind you that I listened to this on Audible, and it is harder for me to remember names I’ve heard as opposed to names I’ve read. These characters band together. This story is analogous to Speakman’s own life and, in a way, my own. The characters were easy for me to connect with because the subject matter was near-and-dear to me.

Exposition: This was fantastic. I don’t actually remember much exposition in this story. I do remember some prose, and I have to admit that if some find this a bit nostalgic, self comforting, or even preachy, I would probably not argue with you. However, I think the majority of this story’s strength is its connection to its intended audience. If you’ve ever seen someone you love pass on and felt helpless to do anything about it, you’ll enjoy this story. Even if you haven’t, I’d say that the story still holds up because Speakman limits his prose and exposition very well.

Worldbuilding: While I got what I needed from this story, I didn’t really get what I wanted. This is clearly a fantastical world with wonder and magic, but the scope of the story isn’t wide enough to warrant too much world-building. While I wanted to linger in this story more, I understand the editorial need to keep things down.

This image of Mr. Speakman was taken from the About Page on his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: The dialogue was good but not impressive. Some of the characters’ charm comes from the dialogue. This story is driven more on emotion and pace than development of character.  

Description: This was good if not great. The scenes were vivid. I may have wanted a bit more description of the characters, but the ending was a lovely use of description to create emotion.

Overall: I have to admit some bias in this because the content is near to my own heart as both Mr. Speakman and I lost our mothers to cancer. This story perfectly articulates how hard a person fights to hold on to people he loves and yet how it ultimately isn’t in a person’s power. This was my second favorite story in the anthology and was a great way to end it. I think the five or so strong or outstanding stories here make up for some of the others that were frankly underwhelming, and this story is an example of what I mean. This story was worth the price of the anthology itself.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Musings On Christianity 49

Musings On Christianity 49

How Does One Love God With All His Heart, Soul, and Strength?

“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).’”

In the last chapter, we discussed the most important commandments. There are more, and a Christian should always seek to grow and improve. However, if we’re not focused on the most important things, the little things probably don’t hold much weight. 

In fact, we need to understand that following all the other commandments is meaningless if we don’t love God. It is our hearts that God judges. Our actions should reflect our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). 

I was sitting with a friend discussing this command. I’m an absolutist, which isn’t a point I care to debate. This is relevant because I know these commandments very well. I casually lifted up a glass of water that was on the coffee table and said, “When I drink this water, I’m drinking because I’m thirsty. How the heck does one honor or love God while drinking water?”

Way back then I was on to something, but I didn’t understand what my problem was. I do now. I was using self-centered thinking. 

When we normally accuse someone of being self-centered, we think of someone completely selfish. This is someone who’d leave all the work (including and especially their own) for others to do because they want to go home.

My own growth demands I be less selfish. Does that statement mean I’m completely without generosity? Actually I’d hope most people who know me would be quick to say how generous I am. That’s because I’m selfish with my time. I’m selfish with my goals. I’m working to grow in this, but the realization of my problem is what led me to the solution.

I need to think not of myself, but of God, in all things, at all times. Back when I made my declaration of why I drink, I didn’t understand I was pointing out a critical mindset that helps one determine what their heart is set on.

Back then, my thoughts were focused on my thirst and my desire for water. Don’t misunderstand; of course, we have needs. We get hungry and thirsty. But rather than think, “I am thirsty. I want a drink of water,” I should instead think, “Thank you, God, for caring for my needs and providing me with water.

To love God with all your heart, soul, and strength doesn’t mean you don’t do anything but pray and read the Bible all the time. God didn’t demand that of anyone. He chose David and Solomon to rule. He gave Job animals and land to care for. What needs to change is your heart. 

Sometimes that heart change will mean you step away from things that have no place in God’s eyes. It’s just the nature of it. If you imagined a world where your biological father could always see everything you said and did, you’d probably stop doing a thing or two. Your Father in Heaven can see everything you do. When we keep this in our minds, we do a better job of avoiding the other things. 

This is why keeping that commandment first in your mind is critical. If you truly are able to spend more and more of your day thinking about God and how what you’re doing does or doesn’t honor Him, you’re moving in the right direction. 

I’m not pretending or even claiming I’m doing this. As self-centered as I’ve always been, I constantly catch my thoughts focused on the wrong things. I’m human. We’re all human. That doesn’t change what we should do. 

So that’s what I’m trying. When I play cards with my grandparents, I thank God for the time he gives me with them. When I eat, I thank God for the food he provides. 

We can use this to weigh what we’re doing in our own conscience as well. If you’re not wiling to thank God and praise him for what you’re doing, it might not be something you should be doing. 

The goal is to always align what you’re doing and what you’re thinking to God. The more you do that, the more you’re setting your thoughts and heart on Him. 

Does that mean we can’t have any fun? Not at all. God allows us time for work and a time for rest. God allows us time for leisure. Just check what you’re doing for fun against his law. One also should avoid letting the gifts God gives become more important than the giver. I’m not aware of any commandment that demands constant prayer and reading of scripture. However, if you’re never doing anything to serve God, which is a pretty impressive list, how can you, then, truly assert you’re seeking Him?

This heart condition is the most important, and maybe it’s the least considered. People can do all kinds of nice things. They can feed the homeless and volunteer at church. They can do any number of things to look good, but if those works are done for the praise of other humans or done simply to check a box, I’d challenge you to check your heart because that is what Good looks at. 

Some may feel accused by this. I don’t know your heart, and I’m not pretending to. If God is at the front of your thoughts, then you are serving Him to His glory and your reward. Looking at yourself and ensuring that’s what you’re doing isn’t going to change it. However, think about how you respond. If you’re like me, you might use a lot of “I” statements. I give this much every paycheck. I volunteer this many hours at church. I did all these things. 

If your justification is yourself, you fall short. Even as I type this, I feel convicted. Again, I already know I have to improve here. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this. If I can help myself grow, maybe I can share that journey with others and help them grow. 

I never want anyone to feel like i’m writing this from the perspective of an expert. I’ve always affirmed I’m growing. However, in my growth, I sometimes feel discouraged or overwhelmed by people who are experts. They’re so far ahead of me (at least as far as my mortal eyes can see), I feel like I have no hope of catching up. Even that is measuring to a standard that might not be fair. 

We seek to imitate people in our lives. In business, I try to imitate people who are successful in business. At work, I try to take ideas from other teachers I respect. However, I’ve found through my life, there is also a lot of wonderful help to be found from those who are where you are in your journey. We can encourage one another. 

If I’m training, I might want a trainer to give me wisdom, but I certainly don’t want to work out with him. Rather, I’d like my trainer (if I had one) to provide guidance while I work out with someone similar to my current state. 

The other hard truth, however, is I probably don’t want to spend too much time with people who are not interested in (metaphorically) getting fit. If I’m trying to diet and live better, spending time with a person I know is going to eat out for every meal and spend hours in front of a screen isn’t going to help me move in the right direction. 

Did I just say you can’t ever hang out with people who aren’t of the faith? No. I don’t really think it’s possible to be apart from the world. But the metaphor holds up over the long haul. Good influences lead you to the places you want to go. Bad influences might seem fun to hang out with in the moment, but what happens months or years later when you realize you haven’t achieved anything you were after? So am I telling you to never hang out with anyone who isn’t Christian? Absolutely not! But if you claim to be Christian, but you never hang out with Christians or spend time serving the body, are you really Christian? 

Again, I expect some will find this very stand offish, and I’m not trying to be. In this case, I’m used to it. As a writer, I’ve had several people talk to me about writing. I’ve been in some writing groups and even formed one or two. The thing is, they weren’t writing. So after a while we just sort of fell apart. I don’t think less of them. it was just clear that they weren’t interested in being writers, and I am. I want to talk about writing. I want to brainstorm. I want to ponder great works of fiction and analyze them. Some people are into that for a month or two, but only people truly committed to the craft are willing to stick with it.

The same is true of the faith. I’m very comfortable around non-writers. I have several dear friends who aren’t interested in writing and aren’t even that invested in where I am at with my writing, but we’ve never gotten in a fight or felt our relationships were threatened because I’m a writer and they’re not. 

Part of that is because I have writer friends. I have fellowship professionally with them. I can always reach out to them and communicate with them. They recharge my writer instincts and hone them. 

If writing is something I love this much, how much more so should it be with Christianity?

I will acknowledge that there is some scripture that might (at least at my level) indicate how Christians may or may not associate with non-Christians. 2 Corinthians 6:14 comes to mind here. However, I haven’t studied this as carefully as I’d want. People do this too often. They read a single verse and run with hit. They also read one verse without reading others that might give it more context. Consider, for instance comparing and studying that verse with 1 Corinthians 5:10. There’s a lot to consider there that I don’t feel confident in making proclamations about. Consider also that we are commissioned to go forth and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). It would be impossible if we only associated with non-Christians. So please do not misconstrue what I’m saying. We need fellowship. We are commanded to love and honor God in all that we do. We receive grace when we stumble because our hearts truly seek for God even as our flesh tempts us. 

What I am saying is that we should strive to invest in our faith just as we invest in anything we care about. Consider again my writing. I’ve told several people honestly that I don’t think they really want to be writers. “Why not!” they’d ask, indignant that I’d dare challenge their love for writing. “Because you never make time to write.”

Of course, then all the reasonable justifications come out. “I work a full time job. I have a wife and kids. I have to keep up with my housework. I have school.” 

Of course you have things you need to do! However, how many video games have you played today? How much television have you watched? 

“Don’t I deserve free time?”

That’s exactly my point!

We spend our perceived free time doing exactly what we want. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten pretty rude when I think my free time is being threatened. 

However, our time is not ours from a Biblical perspective. It’s all God’s, and He gave us this time on Earth to honor and glorify Him. He graciously allows us secular actives and tenderly cares for our rest even from the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). 

But if we see life as an obstruction to life, we’re contradicting ourselves. If we see being a parent and doing our work as obstructions, then we’re not appreciating the children we’re given or the jobs we have. Some may even challenge me on the statement that these things are seen as obstructions, but they’re not the words I use; they’re the words people use when justifying why they’re not doing what they want. They do this to hide the other things. They use the things of their lives that are easily more important than any hobby or career ambition, and they do it to cover up the other things they do that they already know they could stop doing to make time to write. Those are the precious few hours where we truly have no Earthly responsibility. 

I challenge people who claim they want to be writers to see how much actual time they spend not writing. I equally challenge people who claim to be Christian to see how much time they spend not growing in the faith. It is your time from a certain (humanly-centered) point of view. How are you spending it? To be anything requires commitment. As we’ve previously discussed, you’ve either chosen to follow Christ or you haven’t. That means you’re spending time doing what He wants you to do. 

A Christian understand this is the first commandment and contemplates that commandment. It’s the center-point of a Christian’s thoughts and actions. Am I perfect? No, and I never claimed to be. There are moments in every day where I feel so ashamed because I was half way through a fantastic temper tantrum, during which I never once thought about how God would actually want me to handle that situation. 

Then God mercifully helps me see what I’m doing. I realize I’ve been angry because I’ve seen some of my time taken away, and I’m angry because I saw it as mine. Then I pray, and ask God to help me remember that I want to follow His plan and walk in His path, and so the time I have is not for me, but Him.  

This is what I hope you take from this chapter. To truly love God as he should be loved, we must fix on Him as the center of our thoughts and actions. This should honestly make even the most devout Christian feel a degree of conviction. I don’t know a single person I go to church with who wouldn’t confess their thoughts don’t drift. This doesn’t mean they’re not saved, by the way. It simply means all of us could do more, and we should seek to do more. 

Because if we do just this, it would be worth more than any other offering or sacrifice (Mark 12:33). 

For our panel: What are ways we can ensure our thinking is God-centered even when we’re at work or at home? Is there some Biblical guidance on how much time we should spend studying? Colossians 4:2 tells us to continue steadfastly in prayer, how do we do that? Does the slightest deviation from our hearts and thoughts condemn us? Is there a point at which a self-proclaimed Christian should challenge him-or-her self if they realize they’re not spending a lot of time thinking about God?

A 5-Star Review for Caught

A 5-Star Review for Caught

Greetings all,

I’m thrilled that this is the third week in a row where I have (at least) one review to share with you! We’ll see how this all progresses, but I’m just so happy that people are trying my work and enjoying it.

This five-star review comes from Kayla Krantz, who is an author. She has several books and collections available.

She reviewed this book everywhere, and that’s just so wonderful and kind.

Please see her review for Caught here.

This review is special because Krantz isn’t just an author; she’s an author in this genre. I love when readers like my work, but when my peers acknowledge it, I feel a special appreciation. To me it’s like getting a vote for the Top 100 in the NFL because the players also vote on that list.

If you like my work, there’s a chance you’ll like hers too. I haven’t tried her work yet, so if you do, and you like it, please let me know in the comments. My TBR has somewhere around 13 books on it (before the new Stormlight drops), so I’m just trying to get caught up before I add to that pile more than I already plan to.

Once more, I’m so grateful for the review, and I hope it encourages people to try my work. As always, if you’ve read some of my work, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Audible, or all three.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Story Review: The Thrill by Brandon Sanderson from Unfettered II

Story Review: The Thrill by Brandon Sanderson from Unfettered II

The Thrill is honestly nothing more than the flashback sequence from Oathbringer by Sanderson. You can read my review on the full book here.

I was a bit bummed seeing this. It’s not new content. It’s not an alternate universe. It doesn’t provide new information. Sanderson is my favorite author in the game these days, and I’m always excited for new material. I don’t even mind re-reading it. I’m currently re-reading The Way of Kings as a way to get ready for the new Stormlight book. For people who haven’t tried any of his work (if they exist), this is a nice introduction. I’m a huge Dalinar fan, and this arc is wonderful. I just wish I had new Sanderson rather than stuff I’ve already paid for and enjoyed.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Musings on Christianity 48

Musings on Christianity 48

Are All Commandments Equal?

Some ten years ago, I wrote a short story called Entrance to the Light. The story was about a group of people on a bus that crashes. After they die (not a Biblically sound premise by the way), they see God and understand their sin, repenting and receiving salvation. Again, you actually have to repent before you die, but my message was more about the last person in the story. He was a liar. The killer and the adulterer had been admitted because of their repentance, but the liar was denied because he never repented. The point was that unrepentant sinners go to Hell. 

This is true. Whatever your sin, no matter how bad or how small, if you do not repent of your sins and (according to my faith) turn to Christ, you will go to Hell. There is no sin you can commit that is so “minor” that a perfect and holy God will simply let it pass. Christ died so that whoever believed in Him and followed Him would have salvation. He did not die so that we could go on living our sinful lives however we wanted because He picked up the bill (a very broad paraphrase of Romans 6:2). 

However, while every unrepentant sin results in damnation, not every sin is equal in God’s eyes. The first five books of the Bible have several names. The Pentateuch simply identifies them as the first five books of the Bible. They are sometimes called the Laws of Moses or even (since Moses was God’s chosen spokesman) called “The Law.” 

Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy have the most extensive list in terms of the Old Testament. The sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7 expands on a number of those laws. Galatians has more information.  

First, not all of those laws from the Pentateuch are in effect. Christ declared all foods clean, so humans can really eat pretty much any animal they want (Mark 7:19-23). Christ declared that the sabbath was for man, not man for the sabbath (Mark 2:27). There is no Christian requirement for a day of rest. With each representative (even Adam) there was a covenant, a promise made by God to His chosen representative. Christ brings a new (and the best) covenant, and through him we have an updated list of commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).”  

So again, Christ did not die on the cross to allow us humans to live however we want and still go to Heaven. Instead, we show our love for Him by keeping His commandments. 

But if we analyze the history of each covenant, we see God responding differently to some sins than others while people are on the earth. Some sins He is (or even has been) far more patient with than others. Some sins required physical punishment or even the death penalty. 

We know we should strive to be perfect because God is perfect (Matthew 5:48), but we can not attain that perfection while we are still in the cursed flesh we inherited all the way from Adam. Ultimately, the combination of salvation and eternal life is a free gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).  

What all of this brings us to is the realization that there are some sins that are far more egregious than others. And here is where my limited knowledge becomes a source of frustration. From the day I wrote that short story to today, I’ve been far more concerned with the most important concept of Christianity. I was aware of the sin in my life, and horrified that my sin would lead to damnation. I wasn’t worried about the severity of that sin. I hated its presence in my life, and so I tried and tried to eradicate it, afraid that any sin, no matter how small, still led to Hell. 

That mindset would be true if we were still bound by The Law, but we aren’t. The Law brings death, Christ and grace bring life (2 Corinthians 3:6). 

So my mindset has shifted, as any who walk the path eventually see. We are unfinished works. 

In Salvation, we became new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

But while we are new creations of Grace, we are not yet complete and perfect works. God is working in us (Philippians 2:13). 

When confronting sin, the temptation is to respond to all sin in the same manner. If Christians respond to all sin the same, we’re missing some critical points. 

First, with the exception of repentance vs refusal to repent, God Himself did not treat all sin the same. If God responded to all sin with immediate and permanent death, we’d all already be damned. God did not kill Adam and Eve and then start over. Do you realize he could have? I do. It boggles my mind trying to figure it out. God had the power. There certainly wasn’t a lack of dirt to form a new man. But rather than destroy what he had already made and made well (Genesis 1:31), he redeemed man through Christ. When God gave Moses the Law, it came with various punishments for various crimes. Some theft required monetary replacement while some other crimes required stoning. 

Second, if we treat every sin the same way and lash out at it in the same way, that anger (even if it’s Biblically righteous) will just come off as noise. Think about the guy at work who’s always mad about his company. After a while, don’t or wouldn’t you eventually get to a point where you see him or her and think, “Oh, here he comes again. What’s he pissed about this time?”  When we elevate all sin to an extreme, we leave ourselves shouting and lamenting, and we just become noise. 

Third, treating all sin the same requires either elevating one sin to a status God didn’t give it, or degrading another sin below how abominable it is in God’s eyes.

This means we must seek out and work on all the sin in our own lives, paying close attention to those which might be bigger problems than others. This is a blessing. God is more patient with some sins than others. This allows me to focus on the issues in my growth that are more important first. Then, I can begin to work on the smaller issues.

I’m still not permitted to continue in my smaller sin just because it is smaller. Neither am I permitted to covet or practice one sin just because I’ve turned away from a more egregious sin. It simply gives precedent to the issues that are more important.

This means we have to be more diligent to the bigger things. This means we have to focus far more on some issues. If we allow lesser issues to overtake larger ones, we’ll inevitably fall into those issues and be lost. My pastor at church says, “If you make the little things big, you inevitably make the big things small.” The big things must always be the big things. We don’t ignore the little things. We just don’t let the little things become more important than they should be.

So what are the big things?  This is my failure. I am, regrettably, among those who looked at all sin the same. So I frankly don’t know the answer with confidence. However, the word of God (as always) provides some insight. 

The most important: Christ Himself gave us the two most important laws. These are the commandments we must ensure we’re following every day, all day, not matter what. If we’re not doing these two things, we’re already lost. But these laws are not simple tasks. It’s not like, “Mow the lawn, and make your bed.”

Indeed, these laws are about our hearts, and what we seek with them. 

“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).’”


There we have, straight from our Savior, the two things we must never fail to do. I’m of the opinion that if anyone can simply follow those two commandments, all would be well. God, our loving, merciful heavenly Father, knows our hearts. He is patient with us. His discipline is done in patience and love, to make us more like His son. 

Next chapter we will look at those two commandments more closely, but I first wanted to provide an overview on what I found in the Bible as the more important commandments and more egregious sins. 

Since we’ve already looked at the most important commandments, let’s look at egregious sins. Did you know that God expressed seven sins He hates in particular? As people continue to protest, debate, argue, and philosophize what things are worse than others, God kindly gave us a list. 

See Proverbs 6:16-19:

“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 breaths out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

We will study those in particular in future chapters as well. 

You see, I don’t have an exact count on all the commandments from God. Sure, there are the ten commandments, which we will look at as well. But if you just read Leviticus and Deuteronomy, you’ll see just how extensive The Law really is. Read the rest of the Bible and study Matthew 5-7 and Galatians, and you’ll see the Law is hopelessly extensive. We can’t follow it perfectly. Even if we were in some way able to start following every law perfectly from the moment we read it, we can’t go back and erase what we did in ignorance. This is, again, why the grace offered us through Jesus Christ is ultimately the only rational method of salvation. No human I’ve ever knowns has earnestly said, “I’m perfect. I’ve never done anything wrong in my whole life.” I’ve never even met someone who’s said, “Well I wasn’t born perfect, but since I’ve ready the Bible, I’ve never done a single thing wrong.” 

So if we’re all ready to acknowledge our imperfection, what way is there to be reconciled to a perfect and Holy God? The only possible reconciliation we can have is if someone who was able to be perfect and did live a perfect life paid the price required so that His righteousness could be credited to us (Romans 4:5). 

How can I proclaim to be perfect if I can’t even offer to you the extensive list of commandments that must be followed? I can’t even provide you the number. 

It’s horrifying. I’m supposed to honor a perfect God by following His commands, and I don’t even know what they are! Wait. Be patient. Remember, some things are far more important. God has revealed to us the things that matter most. As we grow, we will see more and more how we might honor God in what we do.

Does that mean anything outside of the nineteen (seven abominations, two great commandments and ten commandments) things I articulated here are simply “fair game?” No! Just because theft isn’t inherently listed there doesn’t mean theft isn’t wrong. In fact, I urge you to remember that one of the abominable sins is feet that make haste to run to evil. That one abomination accounts for any who rush off to a sin just because it’s not one of these listed. 

Also, if you’re using this book to structure your life, I’ve failed and even sinned against God. This isn’t the book you’re supposed to use to base your life on. The Bible is. This book is nothing more than one Christian pondering the only book that really matters. If more people just read and studied the Bible more every day, working to apply it in their lives, the world would be well.

How can I make such a blanket statement? I’ve already gone through the logic diagram. If you don’t actually believe in a God, nothing I say really has any importance to you anyway. 

The more valuable question is, “Why do I believe that statement above is true?” 

Well just go look at those nineteen things. Are they really so bad? I challenge you to think about a world where everyone treats each other as themselves. Where would police brutality go if every police officer treated a suspect the way they would be treated? Where would racism go if every white person treated every black person like, you guessed it, themselves, people? Where would we be if no one ever wanted to shed innocent blood or make haste to do evil? 

I dare say even if you didn’t believe in God and simply avoided those seven abominations, the nature of your salvation may still be a point of dispute for some (not for those who are Christian), but the condition of this planet would still be much better.  To rephrase, the world would be a better place regardless of who goes to Heaven or Hell. Here I must digress and point out that no matter how great this world could be, it would pale in comparison to Heaven. No matter how bad this wold could be, it would pale in comparison to Hell.

Yes, the first commandment still demands a whole-hearted love to God, the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac .Remember I’ve already acknowledged you either agree with that, or you don’t. This is a Christian belief. But God is patient. He’s shown His willingness to let humanity go where it truly wants to go (a paraphrase of Romans 1:24-25). This means though that we can turn away, but we can turn toward Him as well. On this world, we can hold fast to these principles and enjoy a more peaceful earthly existence.

This is a wold that could be. We could live in a world where everyone follows these commands regardless of where their hearts lie, and the world would be a better place. We wouldn’t look upon one another with haughty eyes and judgement. We’d simply live, and God would judge. We would judge ourselves and others according to the same standards, which is so much better than any system we have now. 

In future chapters, we’ll study this list more carefully. 

For our panel: What is the actual, comprehensive list of commandments a Post Pentecostal Christian should seek to follow? Are there other, more important commands or more egregious sins I failed to mention? How does one apply these commands in one’s own life? Does the committing of any of those sins immediately condemn a person? Are there truly any unforgivable sins?

And The Reviews Keep Coming!

And The Reviews Keep Coming!

Greetings all,

I’m still receiving reviews, so I’m going to keep sharing them. I’m still not ready to make an official reviews appreciation day. That depends on if this very wonderful marketing effort has follow-on results. Still, it’s nice to have reviews to share with you. So let’s get to them!

Here’s a four-star review for Stealing Freedom from Megan Dann:

“The Worth of Words”

“I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.”

“This book contained such an original concept about censorship and, quite literally, the worth of words. Not so much character-driven, but heavily plot-driven with tension and action packed for such a quick listen. Really cool idea; can’t wait to see what else the author comes up with.”

“Narration was okay, didn’t add to or detract from the story.”


Here’s a five-star review for Stealing Freedom from Catrina P:

“Freedom of speech”

“For a short story, this tale sure packs a punch. Such an intriguing concept… it’s against the law to communicate. The unauthorized use of words is punishable by pain (shock collars) or if blatant enough, death. A small group of individuals plan to take back their freedoms, or die trying.”

“This was my first exposure to M.L.S. Weech’s writing. I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to seeing what else is available.”

“For such a short story, a dual narration seemed a little much. However, both Lisa Negron and J.M. Needham both did a nice job.”

“I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request, and I have voluntarily left this review.”


Here’s another five-star review for Stealing Freedom from Loki (probably not related to the Avengers):

“A probable disturbing look into the future”

If you prefer reading, the e-book is available on Amazon!

“A nice shot story with a possible future where they can take away our words, and a small group of people who will put there life’s at risk to change it! only real complaint about the book is I wish it was longer and build the world a little more.”

“I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.”


Here’s yet another five-star review for Stealing Freedom from Shanna Tidwell:

“Great short story”

“This was a great story. I could see this being made in to a movie or maybe an episode of black mirror or something like that. I liked how everyone thinks they are smarter than everyone else but still one outwitted them all.”

“Very interesting concept and it definitely held my attention the entire time I was listening to it!”


“Lisa & J.M. did an excellent job with narration. I will be looking for more by this author and this narrator.”


“I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.”


Here’s a five-star review for Stealing Freedom from Jeff M:

“Interesting premise, delivers on it”

“I’m always down for a good short story and was intrigued by the premise of this one. Glad I gave it a try. Well written, properly paced, this was perfect as a short story. Thought the narration was good too, though some of the character voice choices were a little wonky. Overall, I’d highly recommend this to fans of sci-fi and good writing.”

“I received this as a review copy at no cost other than an honest review.”


Here’s a four-star review for Stealing Freedom from D M Reynolds:

“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.”


Not to be outdone, The Journals of Bob Drifter received a five-star review from Ronja:

“Well written, Suspenseful and Touching. Loved it!”

“This is a slow burn paranormal/ urban fantasy thriller with a hint of romance and mystery. This is not a book for people who are in a hurry to get to the scary part. (or people who want to know exactly what is going on after the first few chapters).”

“I really enjoyed this Story!
It pleasantly surprised me by being so well written, thought out and touching.”

“Every character was well developed and felt real (not just the Main Character), and I felt interested in each of their stories.
Bob is a great main character. Smart, compassionate, funny and easy to love and relate to.”


“The book is well balanced. It’s serious but also has some humorous dialog.
Some things go the way you want, others not. This keeps the story believable and suspenseful/ exciting. The ending was very strong. It completes and elevates the whole book, and I love reading such endings.”

“About half the book is written from the first person perspective of Bob Drifter, narrated by Gary. The other half consists of chapters with various other characters in the story (also written in first person). The male characters are narrated by Gary too, and the female characters are narrated by Angel.”

“Because Gary narrates a much bigger part of the Audio Book than Angel, her parts felt a bit out of place in the beginning. But after a few chapters narrated by her I got used to her narration as well.
I think both Gary and Angel did a very good job.”

“I got this Audio Book for free (thanks!). I’m voluntarily leaving this review.
Opinions and ratings are my own and not influenced by how I got the Audio Book.”


I just want to take a moment to thank all of these people for listening to these audio books and offering reviews. I’m a busy guy. I have three sons. I work full time. I try to write or edit a chapter a day. I know what sort of effort it takes to even listen to an audiobook these days. I’m so thankful.

Please, if you’ve read or listened to my work, please consider leaving a review on Audible, Amazon, Goodreads, or all three. These reviews really do help.

Thanks for reading (or in this case listening)!

Matt

Story Review: Little Wren and the Big Forest by Michael J. Sullivan from Unfettered II

Story Review: Little Wren and the Big Forest by Michael J. Sullivan from Unfettered II
Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Little Wren and the Big Forest by Michael J. Sullivan is the eighteenth story in the Unfettered II Anthology.  Everyone knows not to go into the forest. Everyone. But Wren’s lost a sheep, and her brother needs to find it. When he doesn’t come back, her parents leave. When they don’t come back, she goes looking. What she finds is a terrifying situation that forces her to pit her wits against an ancient creature bent of bringing something terrible to life.

Character:  Wren was one of the more memorable characters in this anthology. There was a good amount of fear and bravery. Being young, she couldn’t be that competent (unless she was a prodigy, which she wasn’t), but she makes up for that with sympathy and proactivity.  

Exposition: This was also fantastic. The story flowed seamlessly and was very hard to stop listening to (I listened to the Audible version). I don’t remember any point at which this story slowed down at all for me.

Worldbuilding: This is probably where the story fell short a bit for me. The reader honestly gets everything he needs, but this world seems so fascinating, and we don’t get much information on how this world operates. This might be from a larger story or series, which would mean fans already familiar with the world already know what’s happening. Even though I did get what I needed, I wish I had a bit more of this world to enjoy.

This image of Mr. Sullivan was taken from his about page on his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: I can’t put my finger on what this story reminds me of, but a significant portion of the story is Wren’s battle of wits with the creature she meets in the woods. That conversation was very well done and is probably why I enjoyed this so much.  

Description: I was satisfied with the description in this story if not impressed. Perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t put this story in my top three from the anthology was because I would have liked a bit more sensory data here. Levels of description in order of desired outcome: 1) The reader knows what’s going on. 2) The reader can imagine some of the scene or characters. 3) The reader can imagine all of the scene and characters. 4) The reader has vivid imagery and imagination of the story. However, the highest level is this: The reader FEELS like HE is the character in the story and FEELS like he is in the story. I have the description for this story somewhere around 3, which is good, but not great. A story this fantastic deserved a bit more.

Overall: This was a rather disturbing fairy tale. It’s compelling in its conflict and imagination. While I wouldn’t call it one of the greatest stories ever, it’s certainly deserving of being read or listened too. If you like your youth fairy tales a bit on the darker side (I.G. Witches or The Watcher in the Woods), this is probably right up your alley.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Musings on Christianity 47

Musings on Christianity 47

It’s As Simple As A Choice

The purpose of this chapter is to remind readers of the choice they made. It’s the same, ultimately-simple choice we discussed a few chapters ago. You can choose to be Christian, or you can choose to not be a Christian. If you choose to be a Christian, you have chosen to live a Christian life by Christian values. 

What happens is people get angry at those Christian values or rules. That’s always confused me. If you’re not Christian, you don’t have to follow the Christian rules. 

One possible explanation though is that some Christians strive to ensure all humanity follows those values. Christians believe certain things, and they vote in accordance to those beliefs. They support causes according to those beliefs. Some of those beliefs are in direct contrast to the way of the world. 

A major source of conflict is when people support their beliefs and others don’t. I was playing a video game one night. I didn’t do very well. This particular game requires teamwork. One of the people I was playing with didn’t feel as though I did a particularly good job. He sent me a message using language I won’t repeat. I don’t honestly remember all the details, but he eventually asked what my deal was. You see, he kept trying to get me to lash out in anger. On another night, I might have, but that night, by the grace of God, I didn’t fall for that temptation. In some mocking way he asked why I wasn’t shooting insults back his way. I told him, “I’m a Christian.”

His next message declared all kinds of things. I received things like “I’m a terrorist” or “666” (I remember that last one clearly). It dawned of me.

“This guy is just doing all he can to make me mad for the sake of making me mad.”

That’s when I realized that people sometimes get angry just for the existence of a different opinion.

I won’t pretend Christians don’t fall for this temptation. I see plenty of things that I fervently disagree with, and sometimes my anger gets the best of me. But this is where things come to a head.

I can tell you what I know (and I’ve never pretended to be more than just some guy working to understand the truth). You can choose to accept what I say, or you can choose to reject it. It’s ultimately that simple. Neither of us needs to loose our heads about it. When I say, “I believe this is wrong.” You have every right to say, “I believe that it’s right!” 

For Christians, we don’t judge the situation by our own reckoning. We believe humans are flawed creatures to begin with. What can my mortal mind reason out that the Almighty doesn’t already know? This, in my mind, should eliminate much of the debate. 

If you’ve rejected Christianity, you’re going to live the life you’ve chosen to live. I’m not able to stop you. I can, and will, continue to proclaim Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His commission. You can choose to listen or not. 

But if you are a Christian, we have a standard to turn to, to test and judge rightly (John 7:24). Christian debates, in my mind, should always end with the disputing parties looking to scripture. 

If someone shows me in scripture that what I am doing is expressly forbidden by God, then I need to stop. The person pointing out the scripture to me isn’t making me stop; God’s commandment is ordering me to stop. 

Yes, some people are out there twisting the word of God to make you do things or not do things you have every right to do or every right to refuse to do. I can’t stop them from speaking, and neither can you. But we don’t listen to men, at least not just any man. I’m a member of a church. I give deference and submit to their leadership by choice. I chose to submit to their leadership because I believe that they understand God’s word better than I. If there’s ever a question or a doubt, I can bring the matter up to them, and we discuss it with love and respect. We look to God’s word for clarity. 

What happens though is pride gets in the way. I see it all the time in all sorts of situations. Maybe I’m a work and someone says, “You’re supposed to document this interaction with a student.” Someone get’s called out, and rather than just accept the information and move forward, they get defensive. I’ve done it. 

Why? 

I believe the desire is to elevate myself (when I do it). Ask yourself how often you’ve said something like, “Everybody does it” or “Nobody else does it.” 

That’s lowering the standard from God’s commands to that of the other mere mortals around you. Ultimately, who cares how you look in comparison to those around you? 

If you combine all the religions and philosophies of the world, you still only come to a possible three situations when you die.

  1. You go to Heaven, where there is only joy, love, and peace. Who cares how many people are in paradise with you? I’d be a bit more concerned with who isn’t in paradise if I’m concerned about anything at that point. 

2) You go to Hell, where there is eternal pain and torment. We’ve talked about this situation already, but if you’re suffering unimaginable pain and torment, I’d imagine you’d be more angry about those who influenced you than those who tried to convince you to resist temptation. Why do I believe this? I’ve been in trouble before. I’m sure you have too. That’s when I hear, “They did it too!” I’ve even said it myself. I’ve been so mad at people who showed me the wrong example. I’ve been angry that I never saw the right example. But even in times when I wasn’t punished alone, I wasn’t comforted. If all my brothers and sisters were right there with me while I was being punished, I wanted my punishment to end. I’d even turn in someone else just to end my punishment. We see it in court. We see it at work. We see it everywhere. Readers, if you’re suffering in Hell, the chances are, your biggest concern will be the fact that you’re suffering in Hell. No amount of others around you will ease your pain. 

3) Nothing happens. 

Those are really the only three things that could happen when we die. You ultimately believe in a Heaven, Hell, or both, or you don’t. But how you compare to other mortal people around you is meaningless in all three of those situations. If you’re in Heaven, it doesn’t matter what those who were with you on Earth did because you’re in Heaven. If you’re in Hell, it doesn’t matter what those around you did because you’re still in Hell. And if nothing happens, no one cares about anything because you’re dead.

So there’s no scenario when comparing yourself to another person really does anything for you. Whatever religion you follow, you should submit to the rules of that religion. Then, when we all die, the correct religion will be proven one way or another. Just remember it was you who chose that religion. If you don’t have a religion, then live as the Israelites in the time of Judges lived, doing what is right in your own eyes (Judges 21:25). Then, when we all die, we’ll find out. Just remember, you choose to live that way.

Why am I spending so much time on this topic? Because people want to argue, debate, or fight over beliefs, and it’s just not profitable in any respect. Sure, if someone asks why I believe a certain thing, I tell them. Every now and then, I see a meme that honestly hurts my heart. I might send a message to the person privately and ask, “May I explain why that hurt me?” or “Would you like to understand how a Christian sees that?” If the post is just there to anger Christians, I don’t bother. People who do that are seeking anger and argument, and I don’t have time for that in my life.

But we’re about to talk about Christian law, and I need you to remember something.

Do you want to be a Christian or not?

If you don’t want to obey Christian law, then don’t be a Christian. It’s that simple. You don’t need to fight about it. You don’t need to argue. You just choose.

However, if you choose to be a Christian, you then must learn how a Christian should live and behave. These rules shouldn’t burden you; they should set you free. You just can’t have it both ways. 

You can’t say, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I’m going to go ahead and lie to my father.” You can’t say, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I really feel I should spend my life with this person instead of the one I’m married to, so I’m going to divorce my spouse so I can spend my life with this other person.” 

But here’s the beauty of being Christians. For those who truly repent and seek forgiveness, we are already forgiven! The price is already paid! 

I’m indeed Christian, but I’m as far from perfect as I could ever imagine. I have sinned. I will sin again. I won’t do so blatantly and without remorse, but I’m going to mess up so long as I’m in this cursed flesh. But I won’t do so habitually. I won’t pick “that sin I’m going to do because no one is perfect.” I’m going to do my best to live as Christ wants me to live, appreciating the forgiveness and Grace He gives when I stumble. 

So when I talk about Christian law, I’m absolutely saying these are things Christians should strive to do (or not do) at all times. I don’t present them to accuse you. I don’t present them to condemn you. They’re simply the ways a Christian should live. They’re not presented as I think they should be. They’re presented from the Bible as the standard and word of God Himself. It’s not my opinion, God never asked for my vote or input. They’re just the rules I’ve chosen to live by, and you can choose to live by them too. If you choose not to live by them, well, I can’t make you. We don’t need to argue or debate. 

Some may want to. I can imagine someone asking me, “Who are you to tell me how to live?” Nobody! Again, I’m not the one who made the rules. God made these rules, and He’s the creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all the host of them (Genesis 2:1). How do I know what God wants? I study the Bible, to learn what He wants.

Again, I’ve answered the debate about the mortal authors of the Bible. I’ve answered the debate about those Christ chose to lead the early church. I’ve addressed all the conditions that apply when one ultimately chooses to obey Christ or not. That is the choice. If a person can actually choose to turn from God (and they can and do), then I’m certainly not going to make you listen to my mortal mouth. 

But it isn’t my goal to get you to listen to me. It never has been. My goal is ultimately to get you to listen to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who created the world. The God who loved us so much, He sent His only Son to die for us so that those who come to believe in Him can have eternal life (John 3:16). If you’ve already rejected that message, then go on about your life. But if you’ve chosen to believe in Christ, I urge you then to look at the things He’s told us, He’s telling us, to do. 


For our panel: Do Christians have the right to tell others how to live? How should a Christian respond to one who’s rejected Christ’s commandments?  What do we do when a conflict presents itself because of our faith? Why is it people react so passionately to Christian values (both believers and unbelievers)? How can one best present their viewpoints for mutual upbringing without turning it into an argument?