Musings on Christianity 38

Musings on Christianity 38

Why Do We Need to Forgive

In previous chapters, I talked about forgiveness. I think sometimes people feel like forgiveness is only for the offender. Anyone who’s ever been forgiven knows it’s a great feeling, but forgiveness isn’t just for the transgressor.

For a long time, I had a lot of trouble with forgiveness. I didn’t want to let go of what my biological father had done. I didn’t want to let go of things that were done to me. I really felt like if I were to forgive them, it would have made it like it had never happened. Forgiving these things would mean I was ok with what was done.

I’m not so sure of that anymore. What I know though is that I needed to let go. I held on to anger and bitterness, and that doesn’t do anything to anyone but me. That anger, that resentment, builds up. It calcifies on a heart and makes it hard. It made me hard. It made me unreasonable and uncompromising. When people agreed with me, they found me a wonderful ally because I would fight tooth and nail. However, when people were in opposition, I was inconsiderate, unloving, and unkind.

I did it wrong. A lot in my life, for my whole life, I did everything the wrong way. I withheld forgiveness for reasons I’d believe anyone would support me for having, but all that ultimately did was corrupt my heart. Even now, I have a tough time letting go of offenses. I have a tough time forgiving even though I know I’m every bit as guilty as the next human being.

Withholding forgiveness doesn’t do anything to hurt the offender. But what it did to me was deprive me of a heart unburied by resentment.

We’re instructed to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Ephesians 4:31).

This instruction makes us more like Christ, who died for all of our sins, but it’s for our benefit. It empties our hearts of things that poison and corrupt.

Bitterness takes root in a person and only causes that person trouble (Hebrews 12:15).

I didn’t know what it was doing to me when I was younger. I was just an angry kid who grew up to be a grumpy man. Even now, I’m argumentative and bossy. I don’t think I’m the most overbearing man in history. I don’t think I’m more obstinate than anyone. However, I’ve come to realize that the bitterness I held on account of truly wrong things only bred myself into being a bitter person.

I trained my body and heart to be unforgiving and resentful. But if we as humans only practice withholding forgiveness and embracing anger, we only become more a part of the problem. I go back to that young, angry kid, and I wish I could tell him:

I wish I could tell him you’re not forgiving him for his sake, though it is kind to him. You’re forgiving him so that you can have peace in your own heart. Your forgiveness isn’t justification for the wrong that was done. Your forgiveness doesn’t mean it wasn’t wrong; it means that even though it was wrong, your heart holds onto peace. You’re heart chooses love and peace over resentment and bitterness.

I’m not saying there isn’t true injustice in the world. Obviously this world is surrounded in injustice. This nation is opening its eyes to the injustices it’s practiced for 244 years. But there are some who are embracing the outrage and resentment, and as a human, I can understand and sympathize. But I look at my sons, and I look at the students I teach, and I feel it’s a far better lesson to teach love and kindness. I feel it’s much more beneficial to work on one’s own heart.

We should seek and pray for justice. We should redress our grievances. Yet even as we cry out for justice, let us do it out of love for those who deserve it rather than against the offenders who commit atrocities.

I mention that because of the times we’re in, but I still understand I don’t really know the first thing about persecution or injustice

What I do know is what it feels like to be wronged in a horrible way. I know what it is to hate someone.

But I grew to pass that hatred into myself. Hatred breeds hatred. Anger breeds anger. The only cure for evil is good (Romans 12:21). The only cure for hate is love.

In this chapter, I’m not speaking on the behalf of transgressors. I’m imploring those who were like me to let love rule your hearts. I know what it is to despise a person. But that anger brought me nothing but pain. I know what it is to be angry, but that anger brought me nothing but scorn.

Don’t choose my path. It’s long and dark, and it’s so hard to turn back from. By the grace of God, I have seen the light. I want to type that I’ve found a heart of love, and I am more forgiving and patient, but I have so far to go. I don’t want this in my heart. I don’t want this thorn in my side, and I would save anyone that pain.

For our panel: What can someone do when they realize they have so much resentment in their heart? How does one find it in their heart to forgive something that was truly terrible (abuse, assault, murder)? What are some other benefits of letting go of anger? Why is it so hard to let go of anger? What Bible verses can one turn to for help in these matters?

Musings on Christianity 37

Musings on Christianity 37

Did We Really Descend From Adam And Eve

One of the biggest questions and most difficult concepts to wrap my head around was the concept of Adam and Eve. There are a lot of theories out there that seek to reconcile the Genesis account with modern science.

Scientifically, one should evaluate the facts. When someone uses science to debunk anything rather than learn, they’re not using science the right way. We learn from experimentation. We look at the facts and try to understand what they tell us. We may start with a hypothesis and test it, but we don’t alter the test or conditions to get to our hypothesis; we test the hypothesis and reconsider that hypothesis if it fails the test. Only through constant testing under the most controlled settings can we truly gain the most valuable information. The difficulty comes from the fact that history is not a controlled setting. We can no more effectively evaluate the genetic integrity of the most ancient human corpses than we can use the genetic integrity of someone born tomorrow to determine the integrity of those ancient corpses.

We don’t know the rate of degradation, and even if we determined that rate now, we don’t know that it is constant.

I mention these things because the effects of incest are clear in this time, generations after the Genesis account.

Of all the questions about religion, this is the one I feel the most confident in discussing. I’m not a scientist at all, but I am a journalist, and so I know a thing or two about research. 

What I’d like to share with you is an interesting piece of information I came upon, and how people reacted to it.

About six years ago, I was doing research for a book I was writing. I wanted to base one of the characters on Genghis Khan, and I learned that as of that year, 16 million people were descended form Genghis Khan. That information was from National Geographic.

I posted the information on social media. The post, like a lot of my social media posts, got about six likes and three comments. Here’s the interesting thing, all three comments didn’t dispute the fact that 16 million people descended from one human being. Instead, they said it should be higher!

Now I didn’t really think about this until my social media kindly reminded me about the post. I have a different set of eyes, a new heart, and a new mind after those years. I, like humanity, have evolved.

I can’t help but wonder: Why is it no one blinks at a National Geographic post saying at lest 16 million people descended from one man, but there are several people who then want to state it’s impossible for humanity to descend from one person?

This isn’t a scientific argument. It’s an argument of reasonability. It’s an argument that I present to you based on consistency. If you can accept that up to one percent of the world descended from one man, then I’d argue you have to at least consider that the world as a whole did indeed descend from one man. Especially if one argues that this singular heritage from a descendant about 800 years ago doesn’t result in any genetic degradation that would be likely today.

Now, one may argue, “but that’s only one percent.”

That percentage must only increase as we travel back in time. All of Khans brothers and sisters (I know of seven) descended from his father. The brothers and sisters of that man all descended from his father.

When my mother died, I looked at how many children descended just from her, and I was amazed. She had several sisters and a brother. The further back you go, the more narrow the family tree becomes.

Seeing this made the concept of humanity descending from Adam much more plausible to me that it was years ago. I lack the scientific expertise and acumen to prove this or demonstrate its plausibility in a technical manner, so instead I looked at it through a scope I’m more comfortable and experienced with.

If we accept that 16 million people descended from one man. Then we must also remember how a family tree works. The more children a pairing has, the more potential (not every woman born gives birth, and not every man born sires a child) there is for an exponential increase.

I found that report in 2004, and it was a year old. Today, as I typed this, I found another report from, published in 2010, that expanded on this information and went into detail about something called “super-Y” lineages. These are lineages that have a significant number of people descending from one father. The Y chromosome passes from father to son, so using that chromosome allows one to accurately track from father to father.

I understand this isn’t definitive proof by any stretch of the imagination. That’s not my goal. My goal is to help readers at least avoid immediately rejecting the Biblical account while simultaneously accepting a trend that at least shows a significant number of people can indeed descend from a single father.

Another important thing to note about the historical record is that while we all descended from Adam and Eve, the Bible records an extinction event that reduced humanity to Noah and his family. That’s significant because it shows something that current science has discovered and is working to understand. 

While spending some time researching the concept of humans and their evolution, I found a very interesting bit of research. A study by Mark Stoeckle of Rockefeller University in New York and David Thaler of the University of Basel in Switzerland published an article in Human Evolution, and it reveals a mitochondrial history leading back to, you guessed it, one original pair.

Now, news sites are debating what that really means and even its conclusions, because that’s how news and science work. They look at the data and test it. While this study shows a single couple did indeed produce the world as we know it, it says that couple existed about 200,000 years ago, which doesn’t align with the Genesis record either. The dating of information is sketchy at best though. Some dispute the mitochondrial data. Again, I’m probably not going to prove anything to readers definitively. However, I hope this at least opens your mind to the possibility.

Where most of this book looks at how I use the Bible to analyze my actions and thoughts, I felt compelled to veer a bit. The necessity arises from the concept of racism in the world. The most baffling thought to me is the idea of racism at all. We are the human race. This data indicates that at some point along the line of human history (however you measure and track it) we’re born of one mother and father. The evolutionary changes (and those were incredibly small, I promise) that caused our skin colors to darken or lighten or our eyes to narrow or widen are effects of environment that would, given the same amount of time in the same environment, absolutely change your physical appearance as well.

The Bible doesn’t just teach us to love every man as we want to be loved, it shows us that these are our biological relatives in some respect. We are one race. And as a member of that race, I strive to focus on that truth and obey the command to love others as I love myself. This chapter was just another way to look at that command and understand how it helps humanity.

For our panel: This chapter was based on research from a journalistic standpoint. Do you have access to more scientific studies that help explain the genesis account? Why are people so ready to accept genetic information about one historical figure, but so against the Bible as a historical record? Is there a good place people of scientific minds can go to obtain data for themselves? Is there a divide between faith and science? If there isn’t why are science and faith often put at odds? If there is a divide, how does a person with a scientific mind come to accept the Word?

Musings on Christianity 36

Musings on Christianity 36

Should We Seek Vengeance?

As the landscape of our country continues to recoil in the aftermath of protests and police brutality, I’ve noticed several people crying out. Some of the things I’ve heard frighten me. I’m not going to pretend to know what police should do. I’m not going to pretend to know how to move forward. Do I understand that people are persecuted and angry? Of course I do. Do I understand the desire for justice? Of course I do. But there are a few things that I contemplate as people discuss things.

We shouldn’t put our faith in man (Psalm 146:3). After all, it was man who led us to this point. It was Adam’s sin that brought the curse on mankind. It was men who formed our nation. It was men who formed the laws. It was mankind who passed on ignorance and racism to their children. It was men who killed all those for whom we currently cry out for justice. Man destroys and kills. Jesus, and only Jesus, saves.

I made it a point for the first chapter of this book to be plain about the nature of man, and it isn’t good. That’s not to say each person is himself or herself as evil as possible, but we are mortals of flesh with motivations borne of that flesh. People will pursue their desires, especially in such a time as this, where people are taught things like, “find what makes you happy,” or “live your truth,” or “you have a right to be happy.”

But what is the cost of happiness? How can truth, which is defined as that which is in accordance with fact or reality, be different for each person? If truth is only in accordance with reality and fact, than an individual can’t have a different truth unless he or she is in a different reality from another. We want truth to bend to our own perspective, but it is to truth we should submit our perspectives to. We should withhold our opinions until we have the truth.  I’ve mentioned this a few times in previous works, depending on how you measure happiness, everyone can’t be happy.

I hear a lot of people talk about money. Everyone should be happy, so everyone should have money. Money is a limited resource. There’s only so much of it in the world. I don’t know that anyone has actually sat down and determined the amount of available money in America and then tried to divide that amount by the number of people 18 or older. Even if that number was more than what some currently make, it might be less than you currently have. I chuckle sometimes at people who say things like, “The super rich should give their money to the less fortunate.”

That would be a very kind and generous thing to do. Those who did so would pile treasure for themselves in Heaven, if they are among the redeemed (Matthew 6:19-20). But for those of us in the middle, who are scraping by and starting to see themselves growing prosperous, how willing are they to give? Do you give to every homeless person you pass? Do you give to everyone who asks? If you do, then I applaud your generosity. However, if you’re not giving everything you don’t need, and remember, we’ve already discussed what need is in the previous chapter, why do you expect others to give? 

This might seem an accusatory chapter, but that only depends on your own conscience. If you’re of the opinion that you’re generous and helpful, then who am I to contradict you? But if you feel convicted, look at yourself and judge, because it is our own actions we should judge first.

Which leads me to the point of this chapter. I’m seeing a number of people crying out for justice, and you have that right, but I urge everyone to remember who justice belongs to.

“Vengeance is mine, and recompense for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly (Deuteronomy 32:35).”

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord (Romans 12:19).’”

I’m not innocent of this. But I honestly see it so differently now than I did even a few years ago. I meant what I said in the last chapter. I’ve given Heaven and Hell a great deal of thought, and I don’t want anyone to go to Hell. That doesn’t mean I want to hang out with them or that I agree with everything they say, but I certainly don’t want them to go to eternal damnation.

Now a days, I pray far more for salvation of those who truly wrong me than I do vengeance or even justice. I do this for a few reasons. First, if everyone deserves justice, we’re all screwed. Justice would be all of us going to Hell for our sins. Justice would be everyone being punished.

Again, people may buck at this idea, but just please ask yourself, “Am I perfect? Have I never sinned? At all?”

The price of sin is death (Romans 6:23). It’s that simple. A just response to sin would be our execution. But God in his mercy and grace showed his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8). 

If I want justice against my enemies, why do I deserve mercy? I posed that question to myself; I leave it to you to consider posing that same question to yourself.

But what do I know of true suffering? I’ve never faced racism or persecution. I’ve never been beaten by police or had my motives questioned just because of the color of my skin. I can’t have any clue what that’s like, and I certainly don’t know what it would be to endure that in some  way for more than 200 years. But I can’t make mankind love one another. All I can do is love the people around me the way I want to be loved.

I can also pray for justice in those circumstances.

However, it is in these times where we most desire vengeance that we must cling most strongly to the Word that tells us it is not ours to pay. I can pray that God brings justice, and I do. I pray even more firmly that people turn from their ways to Christ. I pray they honor the triune God who created man in Their own likeness, after their own image (Genesis 1:27). People who hold onto that truth can’t hate another man based on anything as fickle as skin color or nationality.

We should report crimes we see. We should watch out for our fellow man. We should spend time together and support one another.

Vengeance of wrongdoing can make one feel justified, but better that they wouldn’t be wronged in the first place.

I struggle with pride and frustration. I battle these temptations so much I understand Paul’s thorn (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). If I’ve made any progress in this, it was that I’ve learned how love can change a person. In a world where we seek justice and brotherly love, we can only attain such through Christ. Man has failed us time and time again.

I saw a few memes through the weeks where people talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. They say something to the effect that he protested peacefully, and people still murdered him. That saint suffered the same fate of our savior, who did nothing but preach love and fear of the Lord, and even after being declared innocent, the people cried out for his crucifixion. If mankind would kill the Son of God, what man, no matter how wonderful, stands a chance?

The fault lies in the heart of humanity. But like all evil, God used even that crucifixion for good, for it is by that crucifixion that Christ paid the price for our sins. As for justice? God showed Christ as the one perfect man by raising Him from the dead and placing Him at his right hand. And there, Christ intercedes for us (Romans 8:34).

My hope and desire is that people seek love, peace, truth, patience, and kindness. My hope is that people hold on to the truth that justice eventually comes to all. I’m not saying I don’t understand those who have had enough. I just urge people to stay above those who are wrong. Remain better than those who’ve harmed others. Keep yourself holy even if others are unholy around you or mistreat you. You do this to glorify God. You do this the remain innocent in a world of hate and selfishness. Where anger, pride, and hate have led men to murder, theft, and destruction, let love, peace, and mercy lead you to holiness, righteousness, and joy. 

For our panel: How can a people so long persecuted find any sort of peace? How can those same people maintain faith that justice will come? How do those who would see their black brothers and sisters receive justice and mercy help? How does a citizen support justice without taking it into his or her own hands? What ways can we demonstrate love and support for humanity?

Musings on Christianity 35

Musings on Christianity 35

What Holds Some People Back?

What is Heaven like? I’m actually reading a book about that right now. Oddly enough, you can read several accounts on near death experiences, but the Bible should be viewed as the authority on Heaven. This isn’t actually a chapter about Heaven. It’s just a question I want readers to ponder. If you’re like I was when I was younger, you pictured a world where you only did the things you liked doing here on Earth. Maybe Heaven is where you do nothing but watch football. Maybe Heaven is just a never ending feast with all your friends and family. Maybe Heaven is a giant party. None of those theories about Heaven are anywhere near correct, but I’m building to a point, so please bare with me.

While this isn’t a chapter about Heaven, I will tell you one thing I know without any reservation. Whatever you imagine Heaven is, Heaven is greater. The problem is that humans only know this broken, sinful Earth. Sure, there are fun things on Earth. But when we become fixated on the things of this world and start imagining Heaven as anything like this place, we’re not giving Heaven enough credit.

Imagine the best day of your life to this date. Imagine the happiest you’ve ever been. One second of Heaven will make that day seem worthless by comparison.

So why, then, would anyone not want to go to Heaven? Why, then, would anyone not seek the path to such a place?

The things that hold people back from believing are often tied to the pleasures of this Earth. God, our loving Father who gives us such wonderful things, blessed this world with so many wonderful things. One thing I feel happens though is that we start to see the gifts as God rather than the God who made the things we enjoy so much.

These gifts, which in and of themselves may not be sinful, become idols, which makes the action sinful. I’ve mentioned previously that anything you’re willing to sin to obtain or sin because you don’t get is an idol. One should look at their lives and consider those things. Time is a wonderful thing, and I struggle mightily with “my time.” The second I consider it mine, I’ve placed myself and the thing on which I want to spend my time on God’s throne.

These idols hold us back from the Kingdom because we’ve made that activity or action the ideal in our mind. However, Heaven is so much greater than anything you could do here on Earth. This is why Christians should be fixated on getting there. Maybe rather than imagine Heaven as a place where we can only do things we do here, we should imagine Heaven as a place where no matter how fun what we’re doing right now is, being in Heaven will be that much better.

Another thing that holds people back is money. Of course we want good things. Of course we want to provide for our family and ensure we have a comfortable retirement. It’s not sinful to have money. What is sinful is to make money God. God, who created the heavens and the earth; God, who created the world and the fullness therein, doesn’t need money. When you’re with him, you won’t either. His very presence and person is light and joy.

The concept of wealth is something I wonder about sometimes. Why do we need money? To buy stuff. What stuff? Food. People can plant food and raise animals for food. Sure, you’d have to buy the animals, but it could be done. This world has done an amazing job of convincing us that we “need” so many things. When you think about it though, humans don’t really need a lot to survive. Yet the quality of that survival is dependent upon amenities that span beyond survival. Sure, feed me some slop, shelter me from the elements, and provide me water, and I will continue to exist. However, we thrive as we have more.

So we’ve developed the thought that money is the need when money was literally invented as an exchange for the goods we actually need to sustain ourselves or thrive. Even in this world, money isn’t the need. At best, money is the means by which we obtain those needs. But Biblically, that’s not the way it really works. The way we obtain our needs is seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness. If we do these things, our Father, who is in Heaven, will add to us all these other things (Matthew 6:33).

How will God provide? He’s God! He’ll do it however he wants. But if he can arrange for the survival of wild animals and plants, he can absolutely ensure the survival of the race he created last, humanity, who are worth so much more than birds and plants.

So is money really sinful? Not in and of itself. Solomon was the wealthiest, wisest man of all time. Daniel was a king. Joseph was second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. These are all saints. None of them were perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they had good times. They also had bad times. David was chased throughout Israel. He had to live in caves and beg priests for food (1 Samuel). Joseph was sold into slavery and then thrown into prison (Genesis). Solomon wrote an entire book of the Bible speaking about how he’d gone chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes).

It’s hard for people with money to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:23).

I’m of the opinion that this is true because we start to worship the money rather than the God who blessed us with such wealth to begin with.

One who sees the kingdom of Heaven rightly, as so much better than all the wealth of the earth, wouldn’t covet that money so much.

That doesn’t mean we should be foolish or unwise with the money God entrusted to us. It just means we need to remember that this, too, is a gift from God, and we should worship the creator, not the creation.

It’s hard for me not to think about money sometimes. I have to remind myself that it’s not money I need, it’s God, the creator of all things who can give me everything I need. Like anyone, I work hard to earn a living. I aspire to earn more as an author. I wish I could send my sons to a Christian school. I want to pay cash for college for my sons. I never want to be in debt again. The trick is focusing on God rather than money.

There is a trick to being content in all situations (Philippians 4:11-13). It’s being focused on God.

We get held back because we blind ourselves with the things of this world. If our hard times become an opportunity to glorify God and seek Him and be grateful to Him for all He does, all will be well. If in our abundance we praise God and use what he entrusted to us to do His will, all will be well.

Maybe we think Heaven isn’t so great because some people we love won’t be there. Have you ever heard the phrase, “All my friends are in Hell”?

This one baffles me as a person. I’ve been through some hard times. And while the people we love can help us through these times, that doesn’t make them any less hard does it? Think about the Holocaust. Let’s imagine Hell as an eternal Holocaust (it isn’t; it’s so much worse, but it’s the closest analogy I know on this earth). If I promised you that every person you ever even liked a little bit would be there, would you really want to go there? Is there any amount of friends and family being beside you that would make such a horrid existence something you’d willingly go to?

Wouldn’t you instead do everything in your power to avoid such a fate and help those you love to do the same? Welcome to evangelism!

There isn’t a single person on this earth, no matter what he or she may have done to me, who I’d wish to experience that sort of thing. Sure, I’ve been angry and wanted justice or even vengeance, but even just based on the two or so books I’ve read about the Holocaust, I wouldn’t put anyone through that.

Instead, I want to go to Heaven. I want to go there so much I’m willing to give whatever I have to. But what we must give isn’t a sacrifice or offering. Instead, we must accept Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). We must believe He lived a perfect life. We must believe He died for our sins. We must believe He was resurrected on the third day, and we must pick up our cross and follow Him.

That means letting go of the things that turn us from him, and we all have work to do that. I know I do, but it’s worth it. We talk sometimes about Heaven and Hell. There are people who believe in Heaven, but they don’t believe in Hell. I’d argue that even if Hell weren’t a real place (it is), that any place not Heaven is Hell. That’s how great Heaven is. There are people who believe in Hell and not Heaven. Neither of these groups of people make a ton of sense to me, but they’re out there. I’d do anything to avoid Hell and keep those I love from going there.

Please look closely at your life and the things you fixate on. Believers, fixate on Christ. I know you have children to care for and a wife to love (and God commands us to do so). I know you have to provide for your live,s and I promise I understand the need for rest and the desire to pursue goals. I simply beg you, make getting closer to God your primary goal. Consider anything that takes you from Him antithetical to your overall mission.

For our panel: Are you willing to discuss an idol in your life that you struggled to turn away from? What are some other things that hold us back from the kingdom? What do we do when we recognize an idol, but still covet it even though we know it’s wrong? What is Heaven really like? What is Hell really like?

Musings on Christianity 34

Musings on Christianity 34

What Does The World Need Now?

In the very first chapter of this book, I addressed the fact that mankind as a whole isn’t good. I feel what’s going on in society today is a fair example.

I’m heartbroken that there are policemen in the country who feel they have the power, authority, and right to kill an innocent man. I’m heartbroken that there are people in the world who reserve hatred for people of a certain race, religion, ethnic group, or profession, or gender, or … anything.

I’m seeing a lot of debate online about protests and black lives and presidents and policemen. I’m seeing a lot of debate over who is “doing” anything and who isn’t “doing” anything. I’m seeing a lot of debate over who is “talking” about a thing and who isn’t “talking” about a thing. 

People who’ve known each other for years are suddenly at each others throats.

All I can think is, “Jesus, please come now.”

I’m powerless to change the hearts of evil men. I have to acknowledge this powerlessness because if I say I have the power to change the hearts of men, I then must change the hearts of all people. I’m terrified of that side of the coin. If an individual man truly had the power to change the hearts of others, couldn’t someone smarter or more charismatic than I simply change hearts to an even more evil state?

Therefore, I hold fast to the truth that God is the only one who can change hearts. Perhaps you’re asking, “Why would God allow these things to happen?”

I don’t truly know the answer; I’m not Him, but I feel as though these events could show us how much we need Him. We need Him to change our hearts. We need Him to sanctify us and make us holy. We need His Spirit to lead us and guide our actions just as we need to accept His Son, who came down to earth to pay the price for our sins.

These terrible days of murder, theft, destruction, and pain make me cry out for Him more than I’ve ever done so in my life.

Of course I want an end to racism! So I need for those who are blind to see the light of Christ, whether by evangelism and salvation or by Christ’s return and sovereign judgment. Of course I want an end to strife and conflict. That again requires a turning to Christ.

However, it’s not for us to know the time and the season (Acts 1:7), so what does a Christian do other than pray for the salvation of the lost and the return of Christ? To me, the answer to that question will solve a lot of the demand I’m hearing for action. And to me, the answer is salvation and sanctification.

We’d all like if others did this or stopped doing that. But again, we lack the power to change the hearts of others. We frankly lack the power to change ourselves. The change comes when the Holy Spirit enters us. Then we submit to Christ’s authority and do as he did. If we have the Holy Spirit, we have citizenship in Heaven (Philippians 3:20-21) and redemption through Christ.

I ask all those out there as outraged as I am by these dark, current events to think carefully on what they want.

And end to racism: Those who follow Christ’s teaching will remember what he said about the most important law: “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 (Luke 10:27).’”

Imagine a world where people only treated others as they wanted to be treated? Oh to see that day! Imagine a day where people love God so much they couldn’t fathom breaking his commands, and therefore his heart. Imagine a world where people not only refused to kill one another (Exodus 20:13) but loved their fellow man so much that they wouldn’t even feel anger at a brother, for this is also worthy of judgement. They wouldn’t insult one another or call one another fools (Matthew 5:21-22).

I beg you please to read those words and think about what the world would be like if they simply followed that simple teaching.

This wouldn’t just stop racism; it would stop brutality and violence all together. But where does anger come from? Where do evil thoughts and acts of hatred originate from? It comes from our hearts (Matthew 15:19), which were born in sin and iniquity (Psalm 51:5).

Therefore our hearts need to change, and the only one who can change the hearts of man is God, through Christ’s death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit, who dwells in those who accept Christ and submit to His authority.

I don’t speak of the God, Christ, and Spirit some use to justify the violation of the commands written above. Please go back and look at the commands. None who say, “I follow Christ” and bears anger in his heart are speaking true. None who say, “I honor God,” and continue in sin speak true (1 John).

Those who follow Christ and honor God bear righteous fruit: love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

If you’re not reflecting these qualities, then I urge you please consider the nature of your soul and salvation. I’m horrified when I turn this list upon myself and see my impatience and frustration, my lack of control and anger. I don’t use these words as a sword to swing at others. I instead use them as a measurement to see myself, and God forgive me for how lacking I am.

So again, I need to change! I don’t do the things I want to do! I do the things I hate (Romans 7:19). So I pray, asking God to work in me. These thorns in my side cause me such agony I can’t stand it! So I ask God to give me eyes to see that I might take the exit He provides for all those who face temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

I’ve heard so many people talk about how they should take action to change others, and I do pray that others change, but if I call for others to change, and I remain the same, I am a hypocrite and a liar. So I can’t. I can’t get on social media and tell this world it needs to change because I’m a part of the problem. I can’t get on social media and tell people they should support this group and not that group or respect that man or that man. I can’t because any time we judge one man by a group, be it a group of people based on color or based on occupation, we are guilty.

So instead, let me judge myself (Matthew 7:1-5). Let me see the sin in my life, for I do, and I’m filled with mourning.  Let me not look on others with a haughty eye, but instead humble myself and pray that I change.

I’m convinced that if all man were to do this, all the things we’re crying out for at this time would either be granted or no longer necessary.

For that to happen, we need to all cry out for God, the only one who can change hearts. We need to turn to Christ, the only one who can was us clean, and confess our sins. We need to let the Spirit, the only one who can lead us in a righteous life, dwell in us.

For our panel: How do we do this? How do we spread the message of Christ in a world that only wants to hear its own beliefs echoed back to it? How do we find comfort when it feels as though we’ve been seeking a change in our lives but don’t feel as though we’ve changed at all? How do we spread the love of God when people use His name as a weapon of hate or a tool of propaganda? Why does the world continue to look for man to change when we’re so clearly incapable of changing ourselves?

Musings on Christianity 33

Musings on Christianity 33

Why Must We Deny Ourselves?

I confess I like my stuff. If I’m covetous of anything, it’s my time. I have always believed that time is one of only two true valuable things (love being the other). I am most unloving when I see “my” time being taken from me.

But this just isn’t how I’m supposed to be.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,’” Matthew 16:24.

As I ponder this verse, I consider that one can’t possibly follow Jesus if one insists on going his own way. The only way to follow Jesus is to go where he goes and walk as he walks. That means the things that would cause one to step aside would have to deny that desire to stay with Him.

The most wonderful benefit to self-denial would be that you will arrive where Jesus is. Whatever this life has to offer, the Kingdom of Heaven is far greater (Romans 8:18). Matthew 16:24 is an eloquent summary of so many lessons that add up to the same concept.

When one denies himself, he shows his love for Christ by following him, and he shows his love to others in the sacrifice of those desires. I spoke about this at length in the previous chapter.

When one denies himself, he humbles himself for Christ. Those who humble themselves are lifted up by God (1 Peter 5:6-7). They receive God’s favor (James 4:6). Humility breeds wisdom (Proverbs 11:2). The humble one receives God’s guidance and instruction (Psalm 25:9).

When one denies temptation, they glorify God. We show that while temptation strikes, we rely not on our strength, but on God’s. When we are weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

The book of Job in itself is a story of a test. Job is made an example for those who would deny temptation and continue to seek God even during the worst sorts of suffering of heart and body.

These are verses and thoughts I need. Time is indeed precious. It is indeed fleeting, but that makes it that much more important to use that time to glorify God. I promise, I’m not saying a man can’t take a few minutes to read or relax. God gave us the sabbath specifically so that we could rest (Mark 2:27).

I read The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo to better help one of my sons through junior high, and I learned so much about myself. The relevant portion is that you can identify the idols in your life by what you’re willing to sin to have or what you’re willing to sin because you didn’t receive it.

As adults, we look at children throwing a tantrum and think about how spoiled they are. Why don’t we use that same judgement on adults or, more importantly, ourselves? This is a great failing in my life. Where I should have trained my heart and body to seek Christ, I trained myself to use every moment I possibly can to advance my goals. Yes, one should strive to accomplish the tasks set before them, but the main goal should always be to follow Christ. Every tertiary goal we have should still be directed toward honoring God.

  At this point in my journey I’m so trained in one manner I often find myself reacting to my sinful training before I even realize I’m seeking after what I want and not thinking about God at all.

We can even be sinful in our seemingly religious actions. This was the rebuke Christ offered the Pharisees in Matthew 23. All they did, they did for the appearance of piety, not to honor God. It was a pretense offered to only receive the acknowledgement of man rather than to glorify God. I’m ashamed to say I think I would have made a fine Pharisee. I love lists. I love standards. If one were to tell me, “Do X, Y, Z, and all will be well,” I’d blow that list out of the water.

But we should already know that there isn’t anything we can do to earn our way into Heaven. Our forgiveness is a gift of grace (Romans). When we deny ourselves, we accept God. When we seek His kingdom and His righteousness,  He provides for us (Matthew 6:33).

The more we make life about us, the less our lives are about God. No one can deny this truth. If our mind is on ourselves in what we do, it can’t possibly be on God. No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

I don’t pretend to be the most selfish man on earth. But I’m aware enough of my own heart to know how covetous I am of “my” time. But if I think of it as mine, it can’t be God’s can it? I’m battling this so often and so often finding that I’ve lost before I realized the opportunity I had to glorify God.

I’d challenge anyone to look at the things in life they value. If there is a thing so important, you’d harm, ignore, or resent others to obtain it or because you didn’t get it, you should probably think long and hard about what that thing is truly costing you.

I guess the thing I should do is try and challenge myself. If I’m angry that I’m being “interrupted,” I should ask myself, “Is what I’m doing worth the Kingdom of Heaven? Would I give up my salvation for this?”

To be clear, salvation can’t be lost! The challenge question is a check on my heart to glorify God in denying this part of myself rather than needing to ask forgiveness for once more sinning in whatever way I might be sinning.

It’s better to think on the Kingdom of Heaven and realize nothing here can compare than to realize and lament the fact that I’ve sinned to do or have something that just doesn’t matter.

For our panel: What are some other things people can do to take stock of the idols in their life? What other verses can one turn to when they find themselves as I sometimes find myself? For those who struggle so much to let go, are people such as I not saved simply because we’re struggling to let go? Are addicts condemned simply because of the difficulty of turing away from their addictions? If the answers to the last two questions are “no,” what verses can we turn to for comfort and strength as people struggle with and remorse their sin?

Musings on Christianity 32

Musings on Christianity 32

How Can We Control Our Emotions?

I’ve always been a man who wears his emotions on his sleeve. I feel things intensely, and I’m a passionate man. This has done a lot for me. My passion drives me. My ambition and focus enables me to move forward even when I thought I’d quit.

But is that the right thing?

For some time, I’ve been working on being in control of my emotions rather than letting those emotions drive me. This is especially difficult considering I’ve spent the majority of my life being driven by my passion rather than using my passion to do as I should.

I think it happens to everyone. Maybe you had a date set up, and your partner or friend changed it or asked to include someone. Did that make you feel jealous, asking yourself, “So does this person not want to hang out with me?”

Maybe you had this terrific idea on how a day with your child would go on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and then your child asks if he could go to a friend’s house?  Is it possible you felt disappointed? Did you entertain the idea that your child is more invested in his and her friends than you?

I can’t really know you or your emotions, readers. What I know is there are some times when I feel disappointed, jealous, frustrated, or even betrayed or wronged. I might (and that’s a big might) be able to hide those feelings, but that’s not the same as dealing with them, and it’s not anything near to controlling them.

I hope I’m not alone in feeling like I’ve been in situations where I knew my emotions were in control.

How do I recognize this? For me, I know I’m struggling when I can’t let go of a thought or emotion. I know something’s off when I want to dwell in whatever emotion I’m feeling. Maybe you want to “vent” about that coworker who just gets on your nerves. Maybe you want to “vent” about how your spouse “always” or “never” does something. Maybe you want to complain in your car on the way home about how your boss “doesn’t” or “won’t” understand your point of view.

I’ve had to do every single one of those things, and none of them are righteous. None of them are healthy.

I think I do it because I want my feelings to be validated.

Maybe you just said, “Who doesn’t want their feelings to be validated?”

Are my feelings a person who should be included in my plans? Should others always make sure to set two places if they invite my feelings and me to dinner? Am I so important that before anyone does anything, they should consult me and my feelings on the matter?

Consideration is a wonderful thing. It really is. I’m grateful to anyone who asks me how I feel or what I want. Sure, if someone says something like, “I can really see how this might disappoint you, but this is my decision.”

However, to think that me and my feelings should always be considered are still self centered thoughts even if they’re true. A husband should always consult his wife and seek her wisdom. The authority may rest in him, but why not take advantage of a wife’s counsel before making a decision? If you do that, why not at least show your appreciation for her thoughts and opinions? Nevertheless, if my feelings and thoughts aren’t requested, I may feel sinned against. I may feel wronged. This particular chapter looks at how one handles those feelings before they fester into resentment or anger.

I think the first thing to do in a situation like that is to analyze myself. Philippians 4:8 has the guideline for where a person’s focus should be.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

“I feel like my husband cares more about his job than me.” That’s a very valid emotion. It may or may not be true. But to focus on the feeling then puts the emotions ahead of the truth. Why do you feel that way? What is happening that is fueling that emotion? Have you spoken to your husband about those things?

Let’s look at the other side of that coin.

“My wife never wants me to get any rest! I work all day, and then, when I come home, she just wants me to do more.” Those are also valid emotions.

You see, one person is seeking comfort in one way, presence and time spent together. Another is seeking comfort in another way, relaxation and quiet. One’s need is connection. The other’s is rest. We can choose to hypothesize about why a person is denying our need, but if we do that, we’re denying a person the right to speak about his or her reasons.

A person controlled by his or her emotions will do that. They’ll fix their thoughts on self-justification. “See!” a wife will say. “He’s gone all day and the first thing he wants is his television!”

“See!” a husband will say. “I just get in the door and all she wants to do is give me more to worry about!”

This is assuming the wife doesn’t work. Maybe she does, but I have to pick a scenario to work with, and this one works as well as any other. The point is the desire these people have is causing  them to perceive the other as an obstacle rather than another human being with needs that may not be getting met.

But what is true?

That’s such a valuable question. But we try to avoid the truth by either holding a trial in our own mind, seeking evidence to support our judgment without ever letting the other person testify, or we try and entrap the other person, asking pointed questions that don’t leave the other person anywhere else to go but where you wanted to shove him or her in the first place.

The search for truth can’t be conducted in a vacuum.

One thing I’ve come to do is ask what I really feel is the most important question anyone can ask another. Just come right out with it: What do you want? Now, you can use a tone that implies you could give a flying fart about what that answer is, and that’s wrong. You’re emotions are in control. But if you ask, genuinely seeking that, you might learn what the other person is after. Then, you can respond in truth and love with what you’re after.

If you find yourself mentally or even verbally articulating why another person is “trying to stop you from” or “refusing to,” you’re being resentful. It’s not loving, and it’s not helping anything.

What is true? I don’t know, let me start by asking. What do you want? Are you really out to stop me from sitting down and thinking for five minutes? Are you really out to avoid me more? Asking those questions in that manner is a sure way to start an argument. But asking, “Hey, babe, what is it you want?” and being honest about understanding the answer will probably allow communication to start. Yes, tired working person who just got home, that means you might need to delay what you want long enough to talk to your wife, but then you’re showing love. You’re being patient and kind, and that glorifies God. Yes, person who has been apart from someone you so desperately want to be close to, that means you might need to explain what you want so that it can be given, but people aren’t God to know and read your heart.

That leads me to another example of when your emotions are in control. Have you ever thought, “She or He knows I … “ or “He or She isn’t thinking about what I … “ You’re making a lot of assumptions with statements like that. 

But what is true? Is that person purposefully, intentionally trying to deny you something you want or need? More than likely that person is just trying to fill a need of his or her own. Is that selfish? Yeah, but aren’t you mad because you feel that other person is trying to deny you something you want or need? That is also thinking of yourself.

That doesn’t mean husbands shouldn’t love their wives or wives should’t respect their husbands or children shouldn’t honor their fathers and mothers (Ephesians 5). But those are commands from God, so they must be honorable and commendable things. However, forgiveness is also wonderful.

I get caught up in my emotions when I see my feelings as truth. We can’t know truth, let alone fix our thoughts on it, if we don’t even know what it is. This requires communication. If you’re not interested in hearing what that person has to say, aren’t you guilty of the same crime: Not being considerate?

We may find ourselves in a situation when our feelings are indeed true. I hate that there are husbands out there who really don’t love their wives. I hate that there are people out there who really do think less of any other people. It’s a sad truth in this broken, sin-cursed world, and that means sometimes our feelings are justified by truth.

Does that mean our feelings can now take control? No. Because there is still one truth that remains. God is judge. Vengeance is His (Romans 12:19). There isn’t enough time in this chapter to get into when it’s acceptable to divorce a person (there are times).

There are times when a person deserves justice, but it’s God’s right to determine when to deliver it. We have police and services we can report things to, and God provided those options. Through them, God can provide justice. In those extreme cases people should seek justice by reporting crimes and situations of abuse. We have to do this because if we don’t, we force ourselves to endure and feed our resentment and despair.

For those times that are less extreme, we have the options Jesus gave us, which we covered in previous chapters. We can forgive, which is always to the glory of God, or we can rebuke, wherein our goal is reconciliation.

What we should strive to do though is focus on the truth, which isn’t known in your mind and by your observation alone. If you do that, you’re making yourself God, proclaiming you know the hearts of man and his intentions.

For me, breaking that habit of venting or dwelling is easiest when I start thinking about that verse, and I share it with you for the same purpose.

For our panel: Why do people fall victim to their own emotions? What other verses can people turn to when they realize they’re struggling to look past their feelings? Is it a sin to succumb to emotions? Why would God give us emotions if they could cause us to sin? How do we live righteously even as we deal with such strong emotions?

Musings on Christianity 32

Musings on Christianity 32

Why Aren’t There Miracles?

That question has a connotation that might not be accurate. I, for one, don’t think we have a lack of miracles in the world; we have a lack of faith. If one were to credit every improbable act to luck, then there wouldn’t be any identification criteria for miracle. If one defined a miracle as something not possible, then one is expecting God to break the rules of the universe he created. He can, and He did, but with a purpose.

So first I’d like to talk about the epic, obvious miracles we discuss in the Bible: The plagues of Moses, the parting of the red sea, the sun staying in the sky, and the resurrection of Christ. Those mind-blowing, obvious-to-everyone miracles were signs, endorsements of sorts to those God was working through. The gospel has been given to us. The word is there for us to read and see. The time of prophets is at an end. With no prophets to endorse, there simply isn’t need for those sorts of miracles.

That answer seems simple and short because it is. Again, I point to all those who were around for those miracles. Every wondrous, nature-breaking miracle one might point to was directly attached to a chosen tool of God for His purpose in working His will.

What happens though is that people want to state that since an ocean hasn’t turned to blood or a sea hasn’t parted, we can conclude God has left us or that God doesn’t exist because we have no miracles (spoken of as evidence) to point to.

Readers, the lack of some unscheduled eclipse or galactic shift in the universe is only evidence of the lack of prophets, which we, of course, will have because once God’s own Son came down, anyone else would be ridiculous in comparison. Once God’s own Son returns, He will be with us to rule and guide us.

However, none of that really means God’s hand isn’t visible in these days. Indeed, everything that happens is by the permission or action of God. The evil things that man and the devil bring, God turns to His good. The wondrous things that bring us joy and gladness are by God’s sovereign hand. Even things that are worthy of sadness and trembling could be God working His justice on the wicked. Which is which? How should I know? What I do know is the the God who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) is in control.

But the absence of signs and wonders shouldn’t come as a surprise to the elect. Jesus Himself was challenged to perform a wonder of that sort, and He rebuked the people saying no sign would be given (Matthew 12:39). If Christ said no sign would be given, why would anyone keep looking for a sign? Think of the logic flow. If Christ is indeed the Son of God (as Christians like me believe), then there won’t be signs and wonders because He said there wouldn’t be. If Christ were not the Son of God, wouldn’t some wonder or sign have happened by now to discredit His words? This, in fact, is further evidence of Christ’s rightful place at God’s right hand because as He has said, it has been. 

That doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t do some amazing things. Again, Matthew 12:39 needs a bit of explanation. The Pharisees wanted an epic sign. They wanted a heavenly sign. They wanted the sun to go down at noon or the sky to turn red. They wanted a creation-event level sign. This is because they wanted to reject the many healings and even resurrections Christ performed.

Isn’t that a bit like what we’re doing now? If we deny the existence of wonders (even if lesser  than the creation week or the works of Moses), how are we any different than the same hard-hearted men who crucified Christ?

Earlier in this book, I talked about the miracle dog. Sure, some could say that those events were a simple pleasant alignment of a series of unlikely events. If you insist on not seeing providence, I’m not going to convince you of otherwise. However, I’d like to remind you just how amazing life seems to me. I pray, and God answers. I need, and God provides. I sin, and God disciplines. This pattern holds in so many aspect of my life.

I look at the answered prayers in my life, and I can’t help but see God’s grace and power at work. The only world-changing event I pray for is Christ’s return. It will happen, perhaps or perhaps not in my lifetime, but when it does, it will be the beginning of Christ’s rule, and the world will be as it should. However, those other prayers, small and maybe a bit short-sighted, are still lovingly, gracefully answered.

I have a wife, and my heart had just truly started to believe it wouldn’t be. I have children, too. I have a home. I truly have a blessed life, and every part of it is a gift from God. Could He take it away in an instant? Absolutely, and it would be His right. But an honest prayer life and love of God yields many blessings, the most important of which are yet to come, but some of which are here on this Earth.

Does that mean every unanswered prayer is a sign God doesn’t love you? No! I prayed for a wife and children for decades. Sometimes, the blessings are held back for the right time. Again, the sequence of events may seem pleasantly random, but I just don’t buy it. Even God’s elect suffer. God’s own Son suffered, so I would strongly speak against any who say, “Well if you’re suffering, God must not love you.”

But when those seasons end, there are so many beautiful, wondrous blessings.

So no, I don’t expect the moon to explode or the sky to turn green. I don’t expect the stars to reshape themselves into the face of the virgin Mary. I don’t expect any of those things, but I look at my pastor, five years diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, preaching the word of God boldly, and I see God’s grace and power. I look at my cousin, told she’d likely not survive bearing a child hold her beautiful newborn son, and I see God’s grace and power. I look at this virus and fear, and I see God’s sovereignty and power.

Those attributes of God are always there and working. The real question is when are you going to open your eyes and see?

For our panel: Is there a bigger distinction between miracles and blessings than I imply above? What are some blessings or moments in your life that gave you comfort and faith? Has something happened to you that you would call a miracle? What was it? What are some other reasons a person shouldn’t consider him-or-herself “forsaken” just because they may be suffering in the moment?

Musings on Christianity 31

Musings on Christianity 31

What is Love?

“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)

“If you love me … “ It’s a phrase many people hear and say. The question of “if” introduces a lack of faith to begin with. If one has to question love, then one already doesn’t feel love. Perhaps one doesn’t feel loved regardless of its presence. After all, God’s love is endless. He sent his son to die for us.

And that, readers, is the message of this chapter. Love, ultimately, is sacrifice. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

In the verse quoted at the top of this chapter, we see several examples that also prove the theory that love is sacrifice.

Love is patient. Love means denying what you want now (patience). Sacrifice your immediate desire for a greater treasure later. This is most holy when sacrificing your immediate desires to honor God, but it works great in Earthly relationships, too. Maybe I give up an hour of video games to watch an episode of TV my wife likes. It shows her love in that I’m willing to wait. She’s not even asking me not to play video games, she’s just asking me to wait.  The last chapter focused entirely on patience, so I won’t dwell on it here. I just wanted to draw the connection between patience as an act of sacrifice, which ultimately shows love.

Love is kind. Kindness is giving. A simple Google search defines kindness as being friendly, generous, and considerate. To be generous means to give. What would one possibly give but something one already has. The degree of sacrifice might be high or low, but any act of giving is at least to a small degree an act of sacrifice. I must note here though that the giving must be joyful (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

It’s not kind to give someone any gift and mutter about what it cost or complain about how you had to work to obtain it. You’ve sacrificed nothing and, therefore, gave nothing. That sort of act isn’t generosity, it’s self aggrandizing. What is consideration if not the act of letting one’s offenses pass over you (Proverbs 19:11)? And what is that if not the sacrifice of your pride?

Naturally that leads back to the idea that we should just live and let live. However, letting people jump off cliffs because it’s fun isn’t love. It might be fun, but when they die, the fun is over. Patience against a personal offense will indeed lead to glory. But those who sin against God are doomed. It can’t be loving to not even offer wisdom. I personally won’t cause an argument to try and “make” you see wisdom (fear of the Lord (Job 28:28.))  There’s a balance, but there is absolutely a difference between not becoming sinfully enraged at another’s sin and just letting folk do whatever they want. I might not be willing get into a fist fight over what is a sin and what isn’t (the Bible is clear on sin), but I also won’t pretend that sin isn’t wrong. Nor will I endorse it. 

Back to the subject at hand. We constantly want others to “get over” our mistakes, but if we want that sort of behavior (forgive and forget), we have to be willing to do the same. The instant you’re not willing to let go is the instant you can’t then get made at someone else who’s equally unable (or unwilling) to let go. However, each time you do this, you do this to your glory.

Love does not envy. You cant love someone if you covet what they have. If you look at a happily married man and then want his wife for yourself, you’re taking. More loving is to let go of your desire so that couple may live in peace. That would require the sacrifice of your love (or lust).  To hold onto that envy only leads to sin. This is because seeing leads to coveting, which leads to sin, which is demonstrated in hiding what you’ve taken because you’re aware it was wrong (Joshua 7:21).

Love does not boast. This is because boasting makes something about you. I touched on this when I talked about kindness. To give so you can show off how “generous” you are is only a way to boast and bring about attention to yourself. This is the opposite of love because any act of self is by definition selfish.

  I’ve spoken about these few things mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 because they prove that love is sacrifice. This is true because anything that leads to personal gain or attention is the opposite of what love does. Having offered a few examples, I want to skip over examples of what love does not do to return to the things that love does.

Love rejoices with the truth. So what does one give up with the truth? It depends. Truth reveals. Truth exposes. We use lies to hide (so we appear better). We use lies to fool (so we can dupe others to give us what we want). To have truth means to risk people truly knowing you. Is there anyone in your life (other than our all-seeing God) who knows everything about you? If not, why? If you’re like me, your answer is, “because I don’t want them to think less of me.”

Everybody has secrets. I do, at least from some people. But the secrets I keep (and I’d argue the secrets you keep) are because you refuse to give up the esteem you have in the other person’s eyes. While I can say I know that holding those secrets denies a person the chance to show their love for you, I won’t be hypocritical enough to say I haven’t done it. What I can do going forward though is to show more love. The easiest solution is to not do anything that would lead me to shame. If I think I’d have to hide an action from others because they’d think less of me, the best thing to do would be for me to not take that action. This shows love because I’m denying myself the sinful action I’m considering and because it shows that I love the person I’m thinking about more than the action I’m tempted to take.   

Love bears all things. The word “bear” is such a deceptively small verb. It implies to carry or support. Imagine that. Love means carrying others. Love means supporting others. How would one be able to do that unless they are willing to set down other things? Husbands, did you ever, just for a moment, resent your wife for that time you couldn’t go fishing, or play video games, or finish that book? We husbands carry the hearts of our wives wherever we go. If we remember that, then we should realize we set those hearts down to chase after whatever other pleasure we choose. Does this mean you can’t play golf on Tuesday? That’s not what I said. What it means is if you start to desire golf more than your wife, you should really take a look at your priorities. To bear anything, we must have hands free, and that is only possible if we let go of what we might otherwise hold on to.

Love believes all things.  Here again we must let go or sacrifice our own preconceptions. Is this saying we should believe whatever we hear? Not exactly. A loving heart is trusting. A loving heart believes that what is right will come. Most importantly, with God’s love, we can believe all His promises. Here on Earth, we can believe that those you love aren’t trying to hurt you. That belief could be false. Unfortunately, several people are abused by people who claim to love others. However, we can use this list as a way to verify love.

The short test, if the person you’re looking at is completely unwilling to sacrifice anything for your sake, he or she doesn’t love you.

However, one who consistently sacrifices to some degree or another is at least showing you some love; therefore, you can trust and believe in that love. Naturally each time that person is unloving, that trust is damaged. This is why we need forgiveness on Earth just as God offers it through Christ in Heaven. We need to be able to forgive so that love can overcome and take it’s place where hate and resentment would otherwise live.

So we can also have hope, the sacrifice of despair, because the love we have shows us that the things we want to happen will come to pass. Why would anyone want to hold onto despair? I don’t know, but we do. We don’t trust that the repentant person who’s sinned against us won’t do it again. We don’t trust that the goal we’re pursing will come true. This might be because the person who’s sinned against us had committed this sin seven times before. This might be because we’ve been chasing this goal for five years. We have the best hope when we have the most secure love. This is why God is our greatest hope because he’s never failed to show his love for us.

Again, this isn’t an endorsement for one to stay in an abusive relationship. First, one who’s willing to injure for any reason has already shows murder in his heart (Matthew 5:22). Second, I leave it to you to determine if a person is loving or not. I can’t know your circumstances. What I am saying is that if you hold fast your hope in love, you will have more peace than if you don’t. Our highest hope and faith should be in God, the ever-living, who always provides (Matthew 7:11), who is slow to anger (Nehemiah 9:17 among many others), and ultimately gave up His Son so that we might live (John 3:16).

Of course any other hope in any other person bears risks. They’re human! I would only ask that you weigh the sins of another against the sins you’ve committed to see if they are unworthy of love.

Love endures all things. What has God endured from us? How often do we stray? How many sins have I committed? Are there enough stars in the sky to compare? Are there enough sands on the beach? How much has he put up with me? How slow has his anger been for me? While we were enemies of God, sinners living in our own lusts, God sent his Son to die for us.

On Earth, how wonderful it is to endure our trials. Maybe you and the wife are in a rough patch, but you endure that trial in hope that things will be better. The reward is a marriage that’s stronger, tested by fire and proven true by patience and sacrifice. Anyone can quit if something isn’t fun, but to endure suffering or fear is to show how much you love the person for whom you suffer. Most people think that’s easy. We causally say, “I’d do anything for my son,” and then shout at him when he interrupts our TV show.

We say, “I love my wife more than anything,” and then grumble when we have to take out the trash in the middle of the game.

Those aren’t even comparatively real trials. How much more sacrifice comes from the wife who endures her husband’s cancer treatment? How much more sacrifice comes from the father who endures his son’s special needs? As we endure trials with those we love, our love becomes strengthened. Who wants to suffer alone? However, who wants to suffer at all? Therefore, if you find someone willing to suffer with you, hold fast to that person, for his love is readily apparent. 

All these words are descriptors of the ultimate form of love, which is sacrifice. Let go of yourself. Let go of your wants so others may have. Sure, you might have less on this world than you could have, but God promises that what treasure we deny ourselves here is piled up for us in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

For our panel: Why is it so hard for man to sacrifice for others? Is there a point where we would ever be justified to stop loving (and therefore sacrificing) for another? If that’s the case, doesn’t that mean that there is indeed a point in which God is also just to deny us his love? Is it only love if a person is always willing to sacrifice, any unwillingness or failure means an absence of love? What is the greatest form of sacrifice?

Musings on Christianity 30

Musings on Christianity 30

The Importance of Patience

The military trained me to be decisive. I learned problem solving. I learned how to take action. What I didn’t realize was how quickly my patience was eroding away. I think sometimes people equate waiting as not taking action. We don’t want to be lazy, but we can’t lose our perspective to such a degree that we become frustrated or angry that things don’t happen.

Maybe we have a co-worker who’s not as skilled as you, and so takes longer to complete a task. Maybe your children are being disobedient or acting out. All these test my patience. However, I can’t fail those tests. And that’s the topic of this chapter.

Patience is love (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).  Patience is wise (Proverbs 14:29).  Patience shows faith in God (Romans 8:25). Patience is better even than victory in war (Proverbs 16:32). Patience is a show of strength (Psalm 27:14). Patience is Godly, for he is slow to anger (Psalm 103:8).

As the world progresses to more and more immediate satisfaction, patience is eroding away from society.

Look at debt. I have $50 a month to spend. I could wait and buy that $400 TV eight months, but for those who want it at that moment, they go into debt, paying perhaps as much as $1,200 for a $400 TV because they wanted it that moment rather than waiting.

As parents, we tell our children constantly to wait. “Dad is working!” “Mom is making dinner!” “It’s not your turn!”

But how often are you willing to wait? Do you slow down and stop at the yellow light or do you step on it to be sure you don’t have to wait at the light? I’m guilty of all of these follies, but the important thing is to recognize them as folly.

This isn’t the same as not working diligently. In fact, I’d argue that working diligently for years is a demonstration of patience. After all, anyone can quit if they don’t get the raise they’re looking for or the weight-loss they’re trying to accomplish. 

As a Christian, my lack of patience is a serious issue in my life. I ask that people pray for the Lord to help me be more patient. At this point, I’m humbled to see how often I lose my patience. I’ll be the last to point and mock at anyone who loses their cool, but each time I loose my temper is a failing on my point.

There are some hints to how to improve your patience:

Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).

Overlook an offense, for it is to your glory (Proverbs 19:11).

Don’t resist discipline (Proverbs 3:11).

If I try to see why I struggle with patience, the answer is because I struggle to do all of the list above. I let offenses bring me to resentment. I don’t like being told I’m wrong. I usually want to be the first to talk.

This is tough. At least, I struggle with it every day. The first step is recognizing when you’re focusing on yourself (your pride, your offense, your desire to be heard) and when you are being more thoughtful of others.

We’ve already talked about rebuking those who sin against you, and that’s perfectly holy so long as your goal is reconciliation.

Another thing you can do is practice self denial. If you want to play one more video game, turn the system off. You have every right to play a game, but turning it off is a way to tell your brain that you are in charge. If you want seconds, even if you’re skinny, deny that temptation. These little self denials are ways to put your body and heart under control. Avoiding debt is another way to do this. You can have that $400 TV, just make yourself wait the eight months and pay for it in cash. Delay gratification to avoid becoming enraged when you are denied gratification.

Again, it’s hard. Especially when you have the means to obtain things quickly, but the more you work on this, the more patient you will find yourself becoming.

For our panel: Why is patience so hard to maintain? What are some other ways to practice patience? When we find ourselves losing our patience, how do we hold fast to it? What are some of your favorite verses about patience? Why is patience referenced so often in the Bible?