Visits From A Man Named Nobody 80

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 80

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May 29, 2038, 10:34 p.m. 

13 Years, 189 Days Ago

Paul gently held his mother as she retched. Her heaving stomach had long since emptied itself of it contents. She wept. 

“It hurts!” The statement was barely a whisper, but it still carried with it the implication of immense pain. 

She heaved again. Despite doing so for at least five minutes, nothing came out. Each time she finished convulsing, she fought to take in a breath before another wave of nausea hit her. It was like she was being suffocated by the illness. 

“I’m here,” Paul said. “I’m sorry. I … I don’t know what to do.”

Each bout of nausea got worse after each treatment. This session, the fourth, there was no optimism as they sat the treatment room, and Derek administered the treatment. They waited for the inevitable aftermath, and it came just five hours after they got home.

This time, Paul’s mother didn’t even sleep. She didn’t eat. She just went into her bathroom and waited with Paul, and the nausea, as expected, hit harder than ever. 

Paul stared at his mother as she heaved again, but this time, something plopped into the bowl. 

Paul glanced inside and froze. Dark red blood swirled in the water, changing it’s color in a terrifying moment. 

“We’re taking you in,” Paul said. 

He tapped his PID, activating it so he could press the emergency button. After a few painful moments, during which his mother coughed more blood into the toilet, a man’s face appeared on the PID.

“Emergency services. An ambulance is already on the way. My name is Don. Please tell me the emergency.”

“My mom’s coughing up blood,” Paul said. “She’s been going through chemotherapy, and they told me to report any blood immediately.”

Don’s holographic head nodded. “Someone will be there soon. Are there any other symptoms.”

“It hurts,” Paul’s mother whined. “I feel like my head is going to explode. God, I don’t want to do this any more. I don’t want this pain. Lord, I’m ready. Call me home and end this suffering.”

Paul fell back against the bathtub as if he were shoved. Did she really just ask to die? Is the pain that bad?

A siren screamed in the distance, and Paul shook his head and sucked in a breath. “Let’s get you up.”

He reached over to help his mother up, but she tried to push him away. “I said I’m done!” Though the comment was barely audible, the anger in her tone was clear.

“OK,” Paul said. “I’ll just go let them in.”

He rushed to the door. Coincidentally, the ambulance came to a stop in front of the house right as Paul opened the door. The large white vehicle’s hybrid engine seemed to both rumble and whine at the same time. Red lights flashed on the top of the vehicle. 

Two people, both women, exited the front doors and quickly walked to the back. They opened the rear side of the ambulance and rolled out a gurney. 

“The door is open!” Paul shouted. “We’re in the bathroom in the master bedroom.”

Paul didn’t wait for any reply, rushing back to his mother. 

He got to the bathroom and found her sitting on the stool crying. She held herself, awkwardly crossing her arms in front of her chest and yet still twisting her hands around so they could clasp together. 

“I can’t do it anymore!” Her comments came in quiet whispers of agony. “Please take this pain. Please don’t make me go through any more.”

“The ambulance is here,” Paul said. “They’re going to get you to the hospital and make you feel better.”

She looked at him, her full lips trembling, holding in a scream. She took a deep breath. “I don’t want to feel better,” she said. “I want the pain to stop.”

“That’s …” Paul didn’t understand. 

“I don’t want comfort,” she said. “I want it to end.”

“I … “  Paul couldn’t think.

“I love you,” she said. “I’m sorry I can’t fight any more. I just can’t do this any more.”

… to be continued …

Visits From a Man Named Nobody 24

Visits From a Man Named Nobody 24

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“It would be pointless!” Paul felt as if he’d finally gained the advantage in a conversation with Nobody.

“Unless the point is to teach that even the most righteous will suffer.” Nobody spoke as if the answer had just occurred to him. “What if the point of Job isn’t so much why, people suffer, but that people will suffer? Then the story of Job teaches us how one can suffer righteously. It shows us God is in control, even when we think he’s not watching.”

“But he let him suffer just to prove a point!” Paul wasn’t letting that perspective go.

“When did he promise no one would suffer?” Nobody asked. 

“So he just lets people suffer?” Paul asked back.

“Suffering is a result of sin,” Nobody said. “Man chose to rebel, that’s what sin is. Man chose to pursue what he wants rather than obey God. The natural consequences of that choice are death and suffering. From that point of view, suffering is a result of sin, which was brought on by Adam’s disobedience. Then we see in Job that no one is promised of life without pain, but we also see that even our suffering is accounted for in a broader plan.”

Nobody leaned forward. “People suffer, and it’s always tragic, but there’s always a reason. We may not know it. That reason may even be, ‘It’s just something that has to happen.’ But our suffering shapes us. I’m here because my suffering shaped me, and it’s prepared me to help you.”

“You’re helping me because … because you suffered …”  Paul couldn’t say the words.

“I suffered like you suffered,” Nobody said. “I was beaten. I’m not happy about the pain I endured, but I’m happy I found purpose through that pain, and I’m very happy that I can help you because I understand what you’ve been through. So sometimes, people suffer to help ease the suffering of others.”

Paul considered what he was hearing. “But there are others. You said you only visit me.”

“Honestly,” Nobody shrugged. “I can’t help everyone. But if I help you, you’ll be able to help someone. Then, they’ll be able to help others. I had to start somewhere, so I started at the best place I could.”

“What made me the best place to start?” Paul asked.

Nobody’s mask shifted position, making it obvious that he had smiled. “That is the secret you’ll have to uncover on your own, and you will. For now though, we have to talk about relationships.”

“Why? What does that have to do with suffering or my life?” Paul asked.

“If you never let anyone in, you’ll never find those who can help you in your time of need.” Nobody leaned back on the couch. “Also, if you only try to hold on to the people you’ve chosen, you’ll become even more possessive of them, and you’ll resent them for having others in their lives.”

Paul groaned and rolled his head back. “You’re talking about Bill!”

“Whose name you can’t speak without making it sound like a curse,” Nobody said.

“You traveled through space to sit on a couch and tell me to be nice to a guy who’s just trying to hook up with my mom?” Paul asked.

“He’s not trying to take her from you,” Nobody said, “and if you give him a chance, you’ll see he’s actually trying to become a part of your life.”

“I don’t want him in my life!” Paul said.

Nobody sat there as still as a statue as Paul thought about the conversation. 

“My mom can date him if she wants!” Paul wasn’t sure why he felt the need to defend her relationship, but there it was.

Nobody just kept starting at him.

“I won’t get …  I’ll get over it if she wants to spend more time with …. ” He couldn’t speak the lie. 

“If you don’t give him a chance, you’re putting your mom in this position where she has to choose,” Nobody finally said.  

“She should choose me,” Paul said. 

“That may be the first truly selfish thing I’ve ever heard you say,” Nobody said. 

Paul leapt up from the recliner. “It’s not selfish to think a mother should prioritize her kids!”

“Are the words “prioritize” and “serve” synonyms?” Nobody asked.


“Your mom works to provide for you,” Nobody said, holding up fingers as he counted off each point. “She spends time with you both to help you as well as she can with school and to just spend time with you having fun. She’s there when you need her, so I’d say she’s prioritized you perfectly well. Does prioritizing you mean she can never date or have a relationship apart from you?”

Paul slumped back down in his chair, mumbling. “You always make me feel like a jerk.” 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 23

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 23

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His mother drove home, and they shared pleasantly meaningless conversation along the way. She pulled in front of the house to let him out. He scurried to the door, knowing she wouldn’t leave until she saw him enter the house and turn on the light. 

He did so, spinning around to wave at her as she drove away. He didn’t notice when he turned on the light, only flipping the switch to make sure he could say goodbye to his mother, but when he turned around, he realized Nobody was sitting on his living room couch.

It had been more than three years since Paul had even heard from Nobody, and it had been even longer since he’d last actually seen him. Regardless, Nobody looked absolutely no different from the last time they spoke. 

He rested an arm along the back of the leather couch and had one leg propped on the knee of the other. 

They stared at each other for an embarrassingly long time. 

“What?” Paul asked.

“Don’t you want to sit down?” Nobody asked.

Paul scanned the living room. He didn’t notice any signs of freezing or cracking. There wasn’t any wet spot on the brown carpet that he could spot. Wherever Nobody teleported to, it wasn’t the living room. 

“I didn’t do anything,” Paul said. 

“I know,” Nobody replied.

“Then why are you here?” Paul asked.

“The same reason I come every time,” Nobody answered. “I’m here to help.”

“You can’t do this!” Paul shouted.

“What is it you think I’m doing?” Nobody asked.

Paul stomped up to him, but Nobody didn’t so much as shift his position on the couch. “Every time you come here, there’s something going on. It’s either something I did wrong or something bad happened. You can’t be here!”

Paul still couldn’t see Nobody’s face through the opaque mask, but he’d have sworn Nobody smiled. “I am here to talk about important things, but it’s not something bad. Not this time.”

Those last words only made Paul more afraid. “But you show up, and I’m supposed to just act like it’s expected even though you might appear when something terrible happens?”

Paul was still looming over Nobody, waving his arms in frustration. 

“I come when I know you need me most,” Nobody said. “I’ll be there to comfort you when you’re sad, but I’m here now to talk to you about relationships.”

“Relationships?” Paul echoed the word as if he didn’t know what it meant.

“Yes, now would you, please, sit down?” 

Paul stepped back, only glancing behind himself for an instant to make sure he wouldn’t trip. When he was sure the recliner was there to catch him, he let himself fall backward into the chair. He didn’t want to take his eyes off Nobody.

“I’m listening,” Paul said.

“Why don’t you like Bill?” Nobody asked.

“No,” Paul said. “It’s not going to go down like this anymore. I’m old enough to ask the questions I’ve always wondered, and you already know what I’m going to say anyway.”

“This has nothing to do with what I know about you,” Nobody said. “It has everything to do with you coming to realize your own heart.” 

Paul threw his hands up in derision. “I’m not playing your game without any answers. You know what I’m thinking. You know what I’ve done. You even know what I’m going to do!” He couldn’t help it. His voice grew louder with each sentence. “You have the ability to teleport, and you’re using it to talk to me.”

Nobody set his raised leg down. He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees and weaving his hands together. “You haven’t asked a single question yet.”

“Why me!?” Paul asked. 

“You could have asked any question,” Nobody said. “Yet you didn’t ask how I teleport. You didn’t ask how I know what I know. Instead, you ask why I’m visiting you. Why?”

Paul opened his mouth, but no words came. He thought about it, but all he really knew was he wanted to know why. “Do you visit others? Do you know what they think? Do you have some sort of advanced ability to sense kids who are …”

“Why did you stop?” Nobody’s stare was all the more disquieting because Paul couldn’t see the man’s eyes through the mask. 

“Is it because of what my dad did? Do you visit kids who are abused?” Paul whispered the questions. 

“I only visit you, and I visit you because I know I can help you,” Nobody said. 

“How do you know?” Paul asked. 

“Why do people suffer?” 

There it was again. Every time Paul really thought he was getting the answers he wanted, Nobody always asked a question that completely changed the direction of what limited conversations he’s had the chance to share with Nobody. 

“Don’t ignore me!”

“I’m not ignoring you.” No matter how loudly Paul yelled, Nobody’s voice was always soft and gentle. Paul wasn’t sure he could make Nobody angry even if he honestly tried. “But in order for you to understand how I know I can help you, I have to help you understand the nature of trials.”

“People suffer because the world is full of humans, and most of them are terrible.” Paul was surprised to realize he meant it.

“Only most?” Nobody asked.

“All of us,” Paul groaned. “I remember;’ there is no one who is good.’” 

It was one of the first things Nobody had said, and it turned out to be a verse from the Bible. Then again, most of the words Nobody said were taken from the Bible. The man was like a living audio book. 

“But is that why people suffer? People suffer because they’re bad?” Nobody asked.

Paul shrugged. 

“So does that mean everything bad that happens is some sort of punishment?” Nobody asked. 

Paul shrugged again. “It’s what Mr. Dorny says.”

“You already know he’s not a reliable source of information.” That might have been the first time Paul ever heard Nobody speak with any sort of frustration or derision in his tone. 

“It’s not just him,” Paul replied. “Lot’s of people say bad thing happen to people who sin. Is that your point? I should behave or God will punish me?”

Nobody shook his head. “God does punish people in His time and in His way, but what about Job?”

“Come on, man! You’re acting like I’ve read that Bible a dozen times or something,” Paul said. “There’s like a million books in that Bible, and I’m pretty sure like three of them are just lists of names.”

“I guess you’ll just have to read one of those books again,” Nobody said. “Job is one of the earlier books. But to help the discussion along, he’s the one God let Satan attack.”

“The guy whose kids died?” Paul asked.

Nobody nodded. 

“You’re not helping your case,” Paul said. “The guy didn’t do anything wrong, so God lets the devil do all these bad things to him just to test him. That doesn’t sound very loving or kind to me. Are you saying even when we do right God might still let us suffer just to prove a point?”

Nobody tilted his head as if he were thinking about something. “What point would he be proving?” He didn’t ask the question like he normally did. This question sounded like he was really trying to puzzle something out. 

Ha! Paul thought. He doesn’t know how to answer. He doesn’t know how to make God look kind and loving after letting all that stuff happen to Job.

… To be continued …

Musings On Christianity 44

Musings On Christianity 44

But Christ Died For My Sins, So I Can Do Whatever Right?

Nobody’s perfect.

We’re only human.

Our God is a forgiving God.

It’s only natural.

I don’t know about those who may be reading this, but I’ve certainly said every one of those phrases at least once in my life. I wanted to live in a world where I could do what I wanted, even knowing it was wrong, and it would be fine because my sins were paid for.

Let’s look at this from a human level. Let’s say you had a loved one or friend who kept getting into financial trouble. You loan him a bit of money, but he falls right back into debt. You give him more, but he loses his house. You give him a place to stay, but he never makes much of an effort to find work or provide for himself. He seems perfectly content to do what he wants and let you pay for everything. He doesn’t even so much as help clean up around the house or even cook a meal.

Wouldn’t you, even the most patient and loving of you, eventually grow tired of it? Isn’t that person really just using you?

The above phrases are absolutely true, every single one of them. There are simply two ways (there are always only two ways when you boil them down) to look at it. One way is for a person to accept those truths and let them convict their hearts to strive to do what is right. The other way is to accept those truths and simply not bother to try at all. Even someone who fails time and again, but continues to work and pray and find ways to turn from their sins is still working under the first perspective.

It’s to those who try and shrug it off I offer this warning. You can’t live in sin and call yourself a follower of Christ (1 John).

“Whoever says, ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him (1 John 2:4-6).”

God is forgiving of those who strive to keep his word but slip (1 John 2:1). There is no such forgiveness to those who continue in sin (1 John 2:9-11).

“No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him (1 John 2:6).”

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother (1 John 2:8-10).

We’re still working our way toward recognizing sin. But before we look at sin for what it is, we have to abolish the myths people cling to so they can excuse their sins or avoid the need to even look at sin. I’ve demonstrated that one must either believe in Christianity, or not. I’ve demonstrated that it is impossible for one to believe in Christianity and any other path, since belief in Christ means accepting him as the way, the truth, and the life.

Now we must abolish the myth that accepting Him somehow allows us to continue sinning as if we didn’t believe in Him. This simply isn’t true.

Paul pondered this same subject in his letter to the church in Rome. He asked a direct question: Can we continue to sin so that God’s grace can continue to abound? He offered a very simple response:

“By no means (Romans 6:2)!”

A true Christian dies to sin, so they can no longer live in it (Romans 6:2).  Romans 6:2 is 14 words long, and it holds such deep, meaning. The question Paul asks points out the very same excuses some people claiming Christ make without realizing they haven’t turned to Christ.

Paul and John were not the only people to dispel this falsehood.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15).”

Those are the words of Christ Himself.

Once more we can reject Christ and do as we wish, or we can accept Him, but if we accept Him we must, therefore, keep His commandments, for that is what those who love Him (and therefore accept Him) do.

Jesus didn’t mention this once in passing. He emphasized this in His final words to His disciples as I mentioned above, but it was a part of His ministry throughout His life on Earth.

“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you should love Me, for I came from God, and I am here (John 8:42).”

There Christ openly states that love of Him demonstrates a relationship with God (since they are two parts of the one triune God).

Then Christ explains the actions of those who follow the devil.

“‘You are of your father, the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him (John 8:44).”

There is no position in which one can say he belongs to Christ and then continue to live for himself rather than for Christ.

This does not in any way indicate that one slip, one instance of failure means damnation. Again, the words I began this chapter with are all true. What this means is that those who follow Christ strive to live in accordance to His commandments.

For those who do this, Christ advocates on their behalf when they stumble (1 John 2:1).

God Himself declared David a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  Yet David committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:4, 2 Samuel 11 14-15).  How can such a sinner then be of God.

David absolutely sinned against God, but David repented each time. David accepted the severe consequences of those sins. He didn’t challenge God or question Him. He understood his sin for what it was. He asked for forgiveness. He accepted God’s sovereign punishment for those sins.

This is the difference between one who lives in sin, and one who lives in Christ. Never in scripture does David plot in this manner. He never (in scripture) says, “Well I know I shouldn’t murder Uriah, but I’ll do it, and God will forgive me.”

This isn’t to say he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong. He did, and he worked very hard to hide it. But when rebuked (through the prophet Nathan), he confessed and repented.

That brings another important concept to mind. Even those seeking earnestly to please God sin, and those sins have consequences.  David, God’s anointed, sinned, and he, the one whom God declared was after His own heart, was punished. If David was not free of consequences, who is?

This shows us that even though our sins are forgiven, they are not necessarily without punishment. If God still reserves Earthly punishment for His chosen, what hope do those who deny the Son He sent to rule us have?

The myth that, “I’m Christian, so nothing will happen to me” or “I’m Christian, so I can sin, and God won’t judge me” dies.

What about the myth that “I’m blameless, so I’m guaranteed a wonderful, prosperous, pain-free life”?

Job was that man. He indeed had a life full of prosperity and blessing, but his story in the Bible isn’t about how great his life was or how great it ended. Instead, it shows us Job’s great trail. Even Job had no right to demand a life free of pain from God. Even Job had no right to question God and his sovereignty. Job, a man who was blameless (Job 1:1) saw the worst sorts of emotional and physical pain. His fortune was taken. His family was taken. Everything he had was taken. Indeed, he was once more blessed beyond even what he once had (Job 42), but his life wasn’t free from pain or turmoil. How much more those of us who openly admit we have done wrong?

No Christian life is free of pain. No Christian life is absent of blessings. Indeed, on this Earth, God gives and takes away (Job 1:21). God does this to sinners and the righteous (Matthew 5:45). That’s because the real reward is in Heaven. The real reward and blessings exist in God’s kingdom, and those rewards are only reserved for those who serve Him.

Nobody’s perfect, but a Christian strives to be as much as he or she is able, trusting in God’s forgiveness and accepting His divine sovereignty.

We’re only human, but a Christian strives to live like Christ, God in the flesh.

Our God is a forgiving God, but no Christian tests God (Deuteronomy 6:16 and Matthew 4:7).

It’s only natural, but a Christian doesn’t live of this world, but of Christ (1 John 2:15-17).

We had to dispel the myths those outside the faith want cling to. We had to reveal those myths to those who are of the faith but don’t understand they’re misguided.

We had to do these things before we look at sin for what it is because only those who see sin for what it is can then truly choose to live in it or turn away from it.

Again, that choice belongs to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t now be Christ’s and live whatever life you feel “makes you happy.” You can’t be Christ’s and sin as you please. You can’t be Christ’s and follow after other religions.

These are the truths a Christian must accept. You can accept them or reject them, but you can’t reject them and accept them.

For our panel: What are some other excuses people cling to? How would you dispel those excuses? What are some other areas of the Bible we can study to better understand the myths we’ve covered?  How do we come to terms with the fact that even Christians receive trials and consequences for sins? How does a Christian stay focused on the real rewards even while losing some (or even, unfortunately all) of their Earthly blessings? How does can one know they’re lost in sin?

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 25

Musings on Christianity 25

How Do We Respond To Suffering

As I type this, it’s been about three months since COVID-19 began. People are afraid. People are sick. People are dying. People are practicing social distancing (I hope) and limiting their activities (I hope).

This is an unprecedented time in our nation’s history.

How then should Christians respond to trials? How should a Christian react to pain, loss, sickness, and sadness.

The short answer is to glorify God.

God shows us so much about suffering through the book of Job. Perhaps someone more unfortunate than myself can dispute this, but no one was ever made to suffer more than Job.

Job was blameless and upright (Job 1:1). He had sons and daughters and lots of animals on his farm. He was the greatest of all the people of the east (Job 1:2-3).

One day came when the angels presented themselves before God. Satan was among them (Job 6). God held Job up as an example of the human race. Oh! what a wonderful thought it would be to have God say to his angels, “Have you considered by servant Matthew?” I don’t expect that. What a wonderful thing it would be though. Still, Satan wanted to break that faith, so he established a challenge.

The argument was that Job had no reason to fear God. He had no reason to be angry with God. Satan challenged God to take what Job had, and that would cause Job to turn away.  Satan meant it to take a servant from the Lord. God used that evil plan for his purpose.

Satan took all of Job’s property and, more importantly, his children. I don’t want to imagine any scenario in which I lose anyone I love, let alone my children. This happened to Job (Job 1:13-19).

Job mourned. He was devastated. But rather than curse God, he worshiped. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).”

All that, and Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (Job 1:22).

The challenge became elevated. Job himself was stricken.

There came a point (and this is a large summary of some 40 chapters of Job) where he demanded a trial. During an argument with three friends, he spoke about what he didn’t understand. God challenged that understanding with his own voice from a whirlwind. The rebuke was a series of questions, asking Job how he expected to question God who created everything.

In those questions, Job understood and repented (Job 42:1-6).

There’s a lot to unpack there, certainly more than a single blog could do justice, but Job knew that to worship God in suffering is the best thing to do.

We look at these times, however, and we think inwardly. Job honestly hadn’t done anything wrong when this started. That suffering wasn’t to hurt Job. Yes, it did cause him pain. It absolutely brought tears. But after being exemplified in joy, God exemplified him in suffering for all time.

He was blessed again, more so than ever before. No, I don’t contend that he didn’t miss his sons and daughters he had lost, we all do. The point isn’t that suffering should be fun. The current point is that when we suffer, we tend to ask why.

When I started this book, I choose to start with why we suffer for this very reason. None of us is Job. I’ve sinned, and so have you. The things we have, every thing that we have, are a gift God has given us, and he has every right to take them away. We certainly didn’t receive it because we deserve it. I don’t deserve my wife and children. I don’t deserve my home. What did I really do to urn it in the eyes of God? When I see these things as a gift, I feel all the more wretched because I realize I could treat them better. I could certainly do a better job maintaining my home.

I think I sometimes pridefully covet my possessions because I truly think they were mine, earned by the sweat of my labor and the work of my hands. But who gave me that work ethic? Who blessed me with these hands? 

When I realize nothing is mine, I appreciate it more (if only slightly).

But does this mean we can’t be sad or pray?

No! In fact, offering our prayers and communing with God is always good and right. 

God even gave us a prayer to offer while suffering in Psalm 102.

Does this mean COVID-19 is a test? For some. Is it a punishment? For some. But I’ve said before, God lets the rain fall on both the wicked and the just (Matthew 5:45). Sometimes, rain is just rain. Job’s error was to question the wisdom and rule of God Himself. What I can promise is that it is for the good of those who love Him (even if they don’t yet or ever see it) and His glory.

Heaven is the ultimate reward. It is such a reward that no amount of earthly blessings in any extreme will will be worth anything against it. If we keep our faith in God and worship him, no matter the time, season, or circumstance, that reward is waiting for us. But even in this world, if we seek his kingdom and righteousness, our season of pain can be replaced with such wonderful abundance.

Joseph was second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. His people were prosperous and blessed until Joseph was forgotten. Then they fell to an age of slavery and pain. They cried out for God, who delivered them and then (in time) gave them the promised land and a king and kingdom that other nations looked to. This pattern holds today.

I’ve had days where I could go to restaurants and tip every employee $20 without so much as feeling the financial impact. I’ve had years where I lived in a small studio, afraid for my life and hungry for something other than a microwave stew and piece of bread. I’ve been alone and isolated. Now I’m almost always near someone who loves me and wants to be with me.

These seasons are seasons. They come, and they go. They bring sadness and joy. All of those things are temporary. God is forever. If He is the object of your focus in every season and at every time, it will be well. If he is the object of your worship, you will be blessed.

This isn’t to imply in any way that we can “earn” our blessings. This is hard for me to articulate. We are saved by grace and grace alone. If we say to ourselves, “Oh, well, I guess I ‘better pray’ so that this will all blow over and I’ll get my blessings when it’s done,” our hearts and minds were never on God. We worship the blessing rather than the one who blesses. It’s not, nor has it ever been, a trade system.

However if our love is for him and we find trouble, we can hold fast to that love. We can glorify Him knowing that He always keeps His promises and will deliver us from the troubled times in our life, either by ending that time and restoring us or by calling us to Heaven, where we can live in glory forever.

In my younger days I probably would have wanted some sort of meter or calendar. Suffer for  40 years for every hundred years of blessing. Suffer for one hour for 23 hours of joy. However, such a system would only guarantee things I don’t want any part of, even if it comes with a guarantee of other joys. Think about it. If I said, I’m going to punch you, but then I’ll give you a hug, does that make it worth it when you make it a trade?

But if love rules your heart, if you walk with someone you love, and you walk together, you do so because that love endures. In our earthly flesh we cling to that love through all our sorrows. I clung to my friends and family when my mother died. it helped.

If we multiply that by the infinite love of God, what trial could possibly overwhelm us?  What sadness could possibly cast us down? More amazingly, what joy could possibly cause us to set it aside? What gift could possibly cause you to forget the one who gave it? Let that love be the center of your thoughts.

For our panel: Do you have a Psalm or Lamentation that you consider in times of suffering? What are some ways to glorify God in the midst of suffering? How do we mourn without sinning? How do we balance the joy of a blessed Earthly life (wealth, health, prosperity) with a love for God? How can we pray when our sadness or remorse is greater than it’s ever been?

Musings on Christianity 5

Musings on Christianity 5

Where is the line between Grace and Law, and fellowship and judgement

Growing up, the biggest stumbling block I faced in my walk with Christ was composed of groups of people who attended a church but didn’t act very Christian. You may have seen people like them. They’re the ones outside events screaming into bull horns. They’re the ones outside a soldier’s funeral proclaiming that man went to Hell.

Their actions and hostility all led me to a place where I thought that’s what Christianity was. I thought Christians were a group of self-entitled jerks who used God to snub their noses at others and proclaim how holy they were by comparison to others. I wanted no part of that. It got to the point to where I honestly feared walking into a church. My mom was told God demanded she remain married to a man who molested her daughter (a direct contradiction to Matthew 5:32). I was told it was sinful for me to go and use the bathroom during a pastor’s sermon.  So the story of how I came to be a member of Hope Bible Church is one longer than I can tell.

If I were to try and summarize, it started with invitations. They didn’t demand or say anything. They just offered. Then, as I told them my story, they were kind enough to refer me to the online sermons. This let me hear the word and listen. I didn’t like everything I heard, but I understood it. Even what I didn’t like wasn’t a statement of persecution; it was a statement on how the Bible clearly says those things are sinful. HBC didn’t expand on the law. They simply shared the word and what it means. That’s not to say there isn’t accountability in the church.

There in lies the root of this chapter’s question. Whenever I talk about the faith with people, even other professed Christians, I hear an interesting range of ideas.

I don’t need a church that judges me: I do. And the members of the church are supposed to judge (1 Corinthians 6:3).

But that thought quickly swings high and right with. Our church must punish sin. No it doesn’t. In fact, the most extreme thing Christ taught us to do if a person sins against us and refuses to repent is to let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. John MacArthur’s notes on Matthew  18:17 state, “If he still refuses to repent, step three requires that the matter be reported to the whole assembly — so that all may lovingly pursue the sinning brother’s reconciliation. But failing that, step four means that the offender must be excommunicated, regarded by the church as “a Gentile and a tax collector.” The idea is not merely to punish the offender, or to shun him completely, but to remove him as a detrimental influence from the fellowship of the church, and henceforth to regard him as an evangelistic prospect rather than as a brother.”

But this balance is a tough one to have, especially when a body seeks to increase the law. After all, this was exactly what happened to the Pharisees. No church should seek to elevate itself above God. However, it should absolutely serve as a place of worship  and prayer (Mark 11:17), loving discipline (1 Corinthians 6: 1-8) and fellowship (1 Corinthians 14:26). I’m also a fan of the summary of Churchly discipline found in 2 Timothy 4:2.

Personally, I fear a church without discipline every bit as much as a church that seeks to condemn and persecute. No, churches actually can’t let anyone come in and do what they want (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), but neither should they seek vengeance because that belongs to God (Romans 12:19).  That doesn’t mean we don’t rebuke or discipline. (again see 2 Timothy 4:2)

Think of it like a true friend. Would you really let a drunk friend drive home? Is it loving to let a person put himself in danger? If you would do something to protect the life of one you love, how much more would you work to save his or her soul?

But I’m also confident we have those friends. Those friends who can’t wait to list out our faults and tell us how wrong we are. There have even been those friends who look at our misfortune and simply presume wrong (Job).

The same balance you’d have with a friendship should be the least you expect from a church in my opinion. From there, we need to seek churches that have a firm grasp on how to identify sin and lovingly correct it so we might grow together in sanctification.

For our panel: How does a church balance discipline? What should a church do (if anything) to help sinners repent? Should a church seek and speak against sin? If so, how? What does loving rebuke look like? How can one who’s experienced some of the misguided persecution of a church like I’ve mentioned above reconcile that against the loving grace of God and how a church should correct a brother? Is there ever a point at which a church should proclaim or deny a person’s salvation?

Book Review: The (NIV) Bible

Book Review: The (NIV) Bible

NIVGreetings all,

This review has been long in coming. It was easily my favorite book of 2018 (for a number of reasons)So a real in-depth review of this book is simply not possible. There are numerous versions with commentaries for each book. So I took some time to think about what I could offer that I haven’t already said.  So here’s what I came up with:

Why the Bible? As I’ve said, this book changed my life. I see and think differently.  My coworkers have noticed. People who hang out with my family notice. The more I try to read and understand how to live Biblically, the better I feel, and the more blessed I feel. Despite some low lows in 2018, I had a source of comfort, support, and wisdom.

Favorite Books:  My favorite book of the Bible is actually Job. Why? Because that guy suffered. That guy had everything, lost everything, and gained even more. His story gives me context to my life. His behavior during his trial gives me perspective on how I’m supposed to act during my trials. It’s not a “fun” book of the Bible or even very comforting. But it is edifying. It gives me perspective that I don’t think I would see the Bible, Christ, salvation, or suffering the same way without it. A close second is Romans.  I’m not sure which of my old blog posts I went into detail on that, but I did. I’m sure if you search Romans, M.L.S. Weech, you could see an in-depth perspective on why that book means so much to me. The short version is that I find that book to be the most comforting book in the Bible. That’s probably different for anyone (my wife seeks the Psalms for comfort for instance), but that’s my vote.

Image taken from the Covenant Community Church website. This image is not an endorsement or condemnation of CCC or its doctrine. I simply wanted an image for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Books I Struggled With the Most: I’m currently reading 1 Chronicles. I’m starting to put together what it’s doing. But I’m at a complete loss in this book. Yes, that makes it harder to enjoy. Also, it’s repetitive. Now, I’m certain there is a wisdom and there are many secrets to glean from this book and many others. One idea I’m playing with is a study of Christ through his genealogy. 1 Chronicles makes that sort of study possible. Some may argue Matthew or Luke, and they’re not wrong per say, but Matthew skipped a number of  generations to simplify memorization. 1 Chronicles lets me fill in the blanks. I also struggled with Leviticus. I understood what it was setting up a bit more, but it was a lot of direct information.

Bible StudySo I close this with another attempt to explain why I think reading the Bible is such a worthy endeavor. First it is my personal opinion (I’m unaware what my church thinks on the subject), that simply reading the Bible with an open mind is honestly one of the best things one can do if they are interested in salvation. Now, let’s assume you’re not saved and have no interest in being saved. Very well.

This book is still the richest single collection of narratives, poems, and historical information one can hope to find. Let’s get the tangental comment of historical out of the way. First, not even a scientific atheist would argue the existence of a historical Jesus. Debate the other aspects if you wish, but no one denies it. Even still, that’s not actually what I mean. I’m referring to the Epistles, which are actual letters written by actual, historical people to actual, historical readers in archeologically verified locations. Letters from Paul, James, Peter, and John are like finding an old World War I person’s journal or letters to home. This is my basis for the term historical information. Sure, one can read a thousand books on a thousand locations, but the Bible provides one book about dozens of locations.

So whether for spiritual purposes or educational, reading the Bible is a pursuit most worthy.

I hope you’ll choose to try it. If you have questions on where to read or why, I’d be happy to offer you my thoughts.

Thanks for reading,






Sonnets For My Savior 15

Sonnets For My Savior 15

He Is Both

He is faithful when His justice falls.

He is faithful when His grace abounds.

He is faithful to those who offer Him their call.

He is both justice and grace, and that truth astounds.

To us, His judgments are unsearchable;

His ways are inscrutable,

but through justice or grace, He is wonderful,

and His sovereignty is irrefutable.

We are all deserving of His wrath,

for us His grace is a gift.

Those who walk with Christ have found the right path,

for only He can, our burdens, lift.

For God provides justice and grace the same,

and He does so to glorify His own Holy Name.


Wisdom and Understanding

It was the command Joshua gave his people when they received their land.

Solomon left it as wisdom for his sons to follow.

Behold! The Lord’s wrath is something against no man can stand.

Better are those who stand in his light and wallow.

When one seeks wisdom,

there is one place to start.

Think what would please the ruler of the Heavenly kingdom,

what would one do if he would chase after God’s heart?

Moses said it was for our survival.

Those who do this receive great goodness.

Our sovereign God has no rival,

and those who see him correctly depart from foolishness.

Fear of the Lord is what wisdom is

For he who turns from evil, understanding is his.


Deliver Me Not Into Temptation

Save me, oh God and deliver me,

for my flesh is weak.

The standard Your Son sets is far from me,

and without Him all my hopes are bleak.

Temptation whispers in my ears.

I see them, though I gouge out my eyes.

Sin promises to remove my fears.

Evil promises to make me wise.

But I need fear nothing when You are with me.

Wisdom is simply a proper fear of You.

Be with me, God, and set me free.

Provide for me a way out, as Your word says You do.

Have mercy on Your creation,

Deliver me not into temptation.


Without Him

Without Him I would lay down, but never sleep.

Without Him fear ruled in my heart.

Behold the harvest I did reap

when my pride held You apart.

My enemies surrounded me;

each of them lived within my flesh.

My despair was as vast as the sea,

and I awoke every day with my suffering made fresh.

But my pain humbled me,

and I submitted to your Holy Will.

Now my heart is finally free,

for the giants in my heart, you did kill.

Now I sleep when I lie down and night,

and I wake up because of your sustaining light.


Trust In Your Grace

My spirit knows what it should do,

and it is willing.

Yet my flesh is weak, and I seek strength through You

to face the test that I am taking.

The memory of my former self calls

though that sinner was crucified with Your Son.

Let that that former me stay buried, oh Lord, lest temptation befall.

I take comfort, for Jesus faced sin and won.

I trust your grace is sufficient for my needs

and praise your Glorious faithfulness.

Though fleshly temptation still calls me to sinful deeds,

Your spirit calls me to righteousness.

My own evil desires seek to drag me away!
I seek the way out that I might stay faithful today.


How A Man Lives

Let us be filled by Your Spirit through Your scripture;

let this be our morning bread.

Your Word is our plentiful pasture;

your word is how we’re fed.

Our stomachs need protein and grain,

but our spirit’s need for You is greater still.

Those who seek to fill their flesh do so in vain,

but those who seek Your word shall always have their fill.

What good is it to sustain our flesh

if our spirits die of starvation?

Let the Word make our spirits fresh,

and help us grow in sanctification.

Since the time of the Exodus, it has been known

that man doesn’t live by bread alone.


Every Time

The people did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.

They forgot him and served others.

The Lord gave them to into brutal hands as was his right,

but then sent them a Judge from among their brothers.

The cycle repeated over and again,

Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, and more,

were sent as prophets, both women and men.

Serve the Lord, God, they did implore.

Each time peace returned for a while.

But then their hearts would return to wicked ways.

So God would place them in circumstances most vile,

and His people would beg for a return to better days.

True, God pushed his people for every crime,

but, after they repented and called on Him, he saved them every time.

Sonnets for My Savior 5

Sonnets for My Savior 5

A Family Under God

Let husbands love their wives with a sacrificial love;

let husbands love their wives as they love themselves.

Let wives respect their husbands as heads just as the Lord is head above;

let your scripture be the source for guidance into which the family delves.

Let children be obedient and honor their parents;

let them be raised in the Lord’s discipline and instruction.

Let Your word and Your teachings be parents’ primary arguments

to guide them to a life free from the evil one’s seduction.

Let family members bear with each other and forgive

just as the Lord has forgiven us.

Let their worship for You outlive

any personal distrusts.

Let families live only in accordance to Your will,

so that love and blessings from their hearts overfill.



Let us give thanks to the Lord with all of our hearts

and proclaim all of His wonderful deeds.

We owe all we have to Him who gives all one needs;

We know that once You have one’s soul, from You it never departs.

He is our rock and our salvation,

so let us always keep him near.

His presence means we need not fear

the curse of eternal damnation.

He grants us our strength and makes us strong,

and to His people He gives peace.

We give thanks to the God from whom all things flow.

He has passed over the sins we have committed, indeed every wrong.

Through him we receive a release

and await the new lives he will, eventually, bestow.


An End to Suffering

We pray for Your day to come fast,

for that day, You will wipe the tears from our eyes,

and death will no longer last.

Mourning, crying, and pain will cease on the day You arise.

Even if we suffer for a time,

we rejoice despite the pain

because the age to come will be sublime.

Therefore our endurance is not in vain.

From the character endurance breeds comes hope,

and hope does not put us to shame.

Even if we feel we can’t cope,

we will put our trust in Your holy name

We await Your return eagerly,

for on that day, from suffering we will be free.



Oh gracious God, You keep Your ears open for our supplications.

Your love is steadfast with those who love You and keep Your commandments.

You are faithful and provide ways to escape our temptations.

You provide for us and heal us from our ailments.

When we seek You with all our hearts, we find you.

When we come and pray to You, You hear.

Let us hold fast to our hope, for when You make a promise, You always come through.

We exalt You, Lord, for to us You are dear.

In times of temptation, we take heart in Your son.

Even if some are unfaithful, your faithfulness remains.

Even when we suffer, we trust in your will, which will always be done.

We were trapped in sin, and You have broken our chains.

Thank you for being merciful and true

and we give thanks for all the glorious things you do.


Trust in Your Wisdom

Your Wisdom is pure;

Your judgements are unsearchable.

Though we may doubt, you are always sure.

The depths of your knowledge are unmeasurable.

Fear of You is the beginning of knowledge;

to shun evil is understanding.

In times of sadness, let us pledge

to offer You praise that is abounding.

Should we encounter disappointment,

let us see it as an opportunity

to glorify your sovereign judgement

and conduct ourselves with dignity.

Any one can praise You in times of gladness,

but blessed are those who praise You even in times of sadness.



We know it isn’t enough to know.

Our fathers and ceremonies are not what count.

With all we do, we are held to account,

and we will reap what we sow.

You, Lord, measure our heart,

so the rule of law is not where our salvation lies.

Any person who relies on himself dies,

but those who put their faith in Christ are held apart.

Those who do the law are justified;

righteousness doesn’t come from listening.

Even those who haven’t heard it can be a law to themselves if they do what is required.

Those who know the law but break it show themselves falsified.

The disobedient will find the obedient condemning.

For those who receive grace through faith are the ones who are desired.


Call Me

Here I sit in my iniquity;

call me please, so with You I may sit.

To claim not to need You is fatuity.

I am a sinner, so to You I submit.

I am sick;

You are the only physician who can heal me.

Rebuild me, Lord, brick by brick,

and leave my transgressions in the debris.

I listen for Your call,

for I can not escape my sin.

Let me hear You before I fall,

for there is nothing good in my skin.

The table of tax collectors and sinners is where I should be,

so please sit with us and share the truth that sets us free.