Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 19

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 19

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 //
PT 17 // PT 18 //

He crossed the yard and entered the house. He looked through the kitchen to the living room and saw his mother. The TV wasn’t on, and it didn’t look like she was reading. 

She locked eyes with him. “You left.” Her voice was soft, but it was clear she was upset.

“I told you I was going to hang out with Jordan,” Paul said confused.

“But I told you to do your homework first,” she said.

Paul laughed. Is that what this is about? “The homework isn’t hard. I’ll do it right now.”

“Yes, you will,” she said, “but that’s not the point. The point is you disobeyed me.”

“What?” Paul finally walked into the room with her. “I said it was easy. I’m a straight A student now.”

“You’re telling me why you disobeyed.” Her voice was shaking. “I’m trying to tell you that your reasons for disobeying me don’t change the fact that you did it.”

“What do you want from me?” Paul asked. 

“I want you to stop ignoring me.” Paul knew she wanted to shout, but she held it in.

“I’m not ignoring you!” Paul didn’t have any issues shouting. “I told you I was going to do it now!”

“I told you to do it before you left.” That time, her voice climbed a bit, and for some reason that made Paul angry.

“What does it matter when it’s done as long as I do it?” 

“It matters because I told you to do it before you left!” The words were no sooner out of her mouth than she jerked as if something bit her. She covered her mouth and took a trembling breath. “Go to you room. You’re grounded.”

She’d never grounded him before in his life. As he thought about it, she’d never punished him. And now she grounds him for his stupid homework? He picks fight after fight for years and she just lets him, but she grounds him because his homework is done at seven instead of five?” 

“Go. To. Your. Room.” She was shaking, but she kept her body straight like some soldier in a movie. 

“This is stupid!” Paul stomped around her, pounding his feet up the stairs. He marched down the upper hall and slammed his door shut for good measure, but he did what she said. He spun around and froze. 

He always kept his room clean even after the years his father had been in prison. But someone had pulled the Bible Nobody gave him out from the drawer by his bed. It lay open next to what was probably a hand-written letter, and there was a dark patch on his brown carpet as if someone had dropped a glass of water on the floor. 

Nobody had been there. 

Paul started looking around. Nobody wasn’t in the closet or anywhere to be seen. Paul went to his desk drawer and pulled out a device. He’d been working on it for months. He watched hours of videos online to learn to make a Geiger counter. He flipped it on. Sure enough, the device gave a reading of 120 mSvs. That wasn’t anything dangerous according to his research, but it was definitely higher than normal. 

Even a few steps away from the damp part of his carpet caused the needle to fall back down to 25 mSvs. 

Whatever Nobody did to teleport, it emitted radiation. 

He walked over to the desk. It didn’t show any readings above normal, but the Bible was open, and Nobody had apparently highlighted a few verses, Ephesians 6:1-2.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise).”

Paul let out a breath and muttered, “You couldn’t even be bothered to wait and talk to me, but you made sure to give me crap for arguing with my mom.”

He picked up the note Nobody had left.

“Paul, 

Weren’t you the one who told you mother you wanted her to be your mom? How can she be your parent if you refuse to respect her?”

Paul let out a deep breath. “It’s so stupid!” 

There wasn’t anyone there to respond, and Paul couldn’t help but feel ashamed. He looked at the letter to read the rest.

“Men can say a lot. The worst sort of man twists the word of God to fit his own views. A wise man reads the Bible to learn what God wants. Dorny said a lot, but how much of it is true? Even if he accurately quoted the words, what do they refer to? What is the chapter or segment about? All men talk, but it’s Christ I want you to follow. When you do that, I’m proud of you.

“I’m just a man. Dorny is just a man. Even Satan quotes the Bible, Matthew 4:6. But a wise man seeks understanding instead of trying to make himself sound wise. If I were to visit and tell you what I think, I’m just another Dorny. Instead, I invite you to look to scripture and see what is true.”

Paul set the letter down. It was an effort not to crumble it in frustration. The only thing more frustrating than trying to figure out how Nobody teleported was trying to puzzle out how Nobody seemed to know practically everything about Paul. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody Pt. 4

Visits From A Man Named Nobody Pt. 4

Paul stood up, shivering as his foot hit that strange wet spot in the floor where Nobody had appeared. He walked over to investigate the window. Sure enough, there were two levers on the top of the cracked pane of glass. 

Paul quickly unhooked the broken window and replaced it with the one Nobody had left. He thought about how Nobody had brought it. It definitely couldn’t have fit in the backpack he had. Maybe he just brought it with him and set it down before Paul had rolled over to see him. That still didn’t really explain how Nobody got in Paul’s bedroom and out of his closet with nothing but a strange shift in temperature and a flash of light. 

Paul kept trying to figure it out even as he crept down the hall. His father lay passed out on the couch like always. Sure, the window wouldn’t be noticed, but if Paul woke his father up trying to sneak the broken part out of the house, nothing else would matter. His father had an odd habit of never being as drunk as Paul wished. The man would be dead to the world when Paul wasn’t even making the slightest noise, but then he’d jerk awake and angry after Paul used the bathroom. 

It had something to do with how drunk his father was when he’d passed out, but Paul never really could figure out the pattern. 

There was nothing to do but go for it. Paul rose to the tips of his toes and crept through the living room. The brown carpet made it easier to muffle his footsteps. Paul held the window close to his chest to keep it from hitting the coffee table or the wall. Then he reached the living room door. 

It was big and heavy. It almost always could be heard opening and closing through the house. Paul considered trying to go back through the living room for the sliding glass door. It was quieter, but it was also less than two feet from his father’s head. Paul looked from one door to the other. The choice could mean his life. Waking his dad up was life-threatening enough. Waking his dad up while holding a broken window, no matter that the replacement was already up, would mean the end. 

Paul took a deep breath. He’d already walked through the living room. He turned the doorknob as slowly as he could and opened the door. As always, there was a soft crack as the seal of the door separated from the frame. The strange bristly bottom of the door, maybe there to keep dust from forming along the door’s path, whisked as Paul opened it just enough to fit through.

“Shut that door!” Paul’s head jerked to see his father shift his body on the large leather recliner he’d passed out in. He was just getting more comfortable. Paul let out a breath of relief. An empty bottle of booze fell over as his father repositioned himself. Maybe he would trip on it when he got up to pee. 

A tear rolled down Paul’s cheek. Am I the only kid who dreams of his father tripping and dying? I don’t really want him to die; I just don’t want him to hurt us anymore!

Paul shook his head and used a shoulder to wipe away the tear. The screen door was much easier to keep quiet than the main door was. Paul dipped out, rushed to the trash can at the top of the driveway and gently pressed the window into the bin. There was no need to worry his father would see it there. Paul was always responsible for the trash. Paul once considered running away. He could easily tie a bag of clothes and supplies and hide it there and sneak out, but he couldn’t leave his mother. Someone had to protect her. 

Paul made his way back inside and held his breath as he shut the door as quietly as the darn thing could shut. His father muttered and shifted around again. Paul watched, terrified of what it would mean if his father woke. Thankfully, he didn’t.

Paul started to cross the living room again when he saw the bottle that had fallen over. His father really could trip. It was just close enough to the recliner to be unseen and far enough away to maybe roll. The coffee table was right there. 

It could happen.

Paul slowly got down on his hands and knees. He reached over and lifted the bottle up the correct way. He didn’t know why he did it. Sure, maybe his father would trip, and maybe he wouldn’t, but it’s not like it would have really been Paul’s fault. Nevertheless, Paul made sure to creep on all fours past the recliner and to the steps before getting up to make the climb. 

Even as he crept back to his room, Paul couldn’t understand what caused him to take the precaution. It just felt right. But what was right? Was it right to protect his father from something as stupid as a fall when his father wouldn’t hesitate to beat him to within an inch of his life. 

What is right?

Paul crept into his room and looked at the Bible that was still on his bed where Nobody had dropped it. What could it hurt?

Paul grabbed up his little light again and gently got into bed, still trying to avoid the welts and cuts on his back. He opened the Bible and flipped through the first few pages. Genesis. The first chapter was only about five pages. He could read that in no time. 

He’d take Nobody’s challenge. It’s not like anyone’s life could really change just by reading a book.

The end of Chapter 1. 

… to be continued … 

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 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 21

Musings on Christianity 21

Do We Have To Forgive Everyone?

There have been times in my life where I felt truly, and honestly offended. I’m not talking about the offense I feel when a guy cuts me off, or a person says something rude to me. Those things bother me, but I can probably get over it with a bit of time. However, I’m talking about the person I trusted with my darkest fears using them against me. I’m talking about a biological father who should have raised me to love and honor God molesting a sibling. I’m talking about a church surrounding my mother and ordering her to forgive that same biological father to keep the marriage united.

When I look at Christ and all he’s done for me, it can be convicting to see how He acted and realize I chose vindication over a forgiving heart. Have you ever wanted someone to be punished? I have. I’ve wanted people to pay for what they’ve done.

But how willing was I to pay for any of my wrong? Not at all. I want all the forgiveness. If that’s so, shouldn’t I then be willing to offer it? 

But do we have to?

Jesus commanded us very clearly to forgive those who ask of it.

“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying , ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17: 3-4)

This is easy Christian math. If someone asks your forgiveness, you must give it. We’ve talked for two chapters about why this is important and why we have no right to withhold our forgiveness. This chapter is more about a few areas people may not understand so well. I know I didn’t.

First, let’s look at the mechanics of forgiveness. When we’re offended, Christ orders us to rebuke him. He doesn’t instruct us to yell at him. He doesn’t tell us to punish him. The greek word for rebuke in this verse is epitimeson. It means to censure. You might use it to chide or admonish or warn. That word is used two more times in the Bible (according to my research), Luke 19:39 and 2 Timothy 4:2. In all three there’s an tone of scolding.

We have to approach those who wrong us and address our grievance. We do this for a few reasons: First, we have to let out those feelings. How often have you tried to hold in your anger only for it to explode as something much larger than the initial offense warranted? Rebuking those who sin against us allows us to express our hurt in a healthy manner instead of going nuclear the thousandth time your husband leaves the toilet seat up. Second, it allows the person who wronged you the opportunity to repent.

Now, here someone might tangentially say to himself, “Oh he knows what he did!” or “She should know that bothers me!” Maybe, but this is still Biblically important. We sometimes don’t ask for forgiveness out of shame. We sometimes don’t ask because we think we got away with it. Maybe the person we wronged doesn’t realize we’ve done something to them, but God does, so the need to repent is still there. So even if you know, and you know they know, we still need to allow them the opportunity to repent. Doing so gains us a brother. (Matthew 18:15-17. Cross reference Luke 17:3-4)

In the previous paragraph, I said there is some Biblical importance. There’s also precedent. Let’s look at the first sin:

“He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11)

Here God, who absolutely knew what Adam had done, shows us exactly what Christ instructs us to do later (it helps when they’re one and the same). He had every right to punish Adam and say, “You know what you did!” But He didn’t. Yes, He did punish Adam, but not before allowing Adam the chance to repent and ask forgiveness. Adam didn’t. He went straight to blaming his wife, who then blamed the serpent. None of them even asked for forgiveness or confessed of their sin. (Genesis 3:12-13).

So, it doesn’t matter if they know what they did or not, we’re commanded to rebuke them. So how did God rebuke them? See the passage above. Even in that situation, God didn’t shout or scream. He asked a question. That’s not the only way to rebuke someone, and we’ll talk more about how to rebuke in the next chapter. For now, please know that rebuke doesn’t in any way mean, punish. Remember, the goal is repentance. That’s God’s goal for us, and so it should be our goal for those who wrong us.

Therefore, we must rebuke those who sin against us. Then comes the essential clause “if he repents.”

No, you don’t have to forgive someone who doesn’t ask for it. God certainly doesn’t. Remember, only those who repent of their sins and accept Christ as their Savior receive their gift.

But, that doesn’t mean we can’t forgive them. It doesn’t mean that our forgiveness doesn’t matter in those cases. Let’s look at what our Savior chose do to even as he Hung on the cross:

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34b)

As He hung there, they ridiculed Him and mocked Him. Not a one of them asked forgiveness during the crucifixion. In Acts, Peter rebukes them and offers them the chance to repent (some of them did). (Acts 2:36)

For those of you who might want to find the plot hole and say Christ didn’t rebuke them, yes, he did. In Luke 23:28-31, Christ very clearly warns the mourners to mourn for themselves, “ … weep for yourselves and for your children …  For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Now that we’ve tied those ends, we can return our focus to what matters. The simple answer is this: If someone sins against you, and you rebuke them, but they don’t repent and seek forgiveness, you don’t have to forgive them, but you can. And that graciousness will still be applied to you because as you were forgiven, you have forgiven others (Ephesians 4:32).   

Don’t, however, fall for the trap of thinking those who ask “deserve” forgiveness and those who don’t “don’t deserve” forgiveness. Remember, no one deserves to be forgiven. It is a gift, and to be a loving, giving person is wonderful fruit to bear as a Christian. It’s hard to do, but there are so many benefits to a heart God strengthens enough to do so.

Who in this world would blame a person for wanting vengeance of wrong? But if it is grace we want from God, shouldn’t we then offer it to others?

Evil men hold grudges. Evil men plot revenge and mete out punishment. Is that who you want to be?

Be forgiving, so that you are a forgiving person. Be loving, so that you are a loving person. I tell my sons (one of whom is bullied), that if you give in to your hate and mete out vengeance, you only make yourself one of them. This isn’t the same as defending yourself or rebuking those who sin against you. However, when push comes to shove, you can do as others do, or you can do as Christ did. Who is it you want to be like?

A significant portion of this information was at the very least derived from an article by Tabletalk Magazine, by R.C. Sproul.

For our panel: How is forgiveness given? What should one do if the one we’ve rebuked doesn’t repent? What if that person isn’t a brother? If we don’t have to forgive people who don’t ask for it, why should we? Why is it some people seek forgiveness so desperately, but they don’t offer it to others? How does someone help that person see what he’s doing?

Testimony: A Trial of Faith is Available For Preorder!

Testimony: A Trial of Faith is Available For Preorder!

Greetings all,

200113-Testimony-Cover2It’s my great joy to announce Testimony: A Trial of Faith is available for preorder for just 99 cents!

If you’ve read the blog series, you already know the story. This project is here for two primary reasons:

  1. I wanted to testify what God has done in my life in as broad a way as I could think. Having this as a title makes it possible to spread this testimony.
  2. I had always intended for this to raise money for cancer research.  As promised, all royalties from this title don’t go to me; they go to the American Brain Tumor Association.  To be clear, I will use some of the money to pay for printing and marketing (AMS campaigns and the like), but any actual profit goes to ABTA.

There are a few things I want to make clear.

  1.  This is a Christian book. I’ve never made a secret about my religion. I love entertainment and fantasy as much as the next person, but God is the most important being in life. This story is mostly about my growth in Christianity as my mom battled with cancer.
  2. This is personal. There are truths here that aren’t flattering toward me. This project isn’t designed to make me look good; it’s designed to show how God could take someone as sinful as me and open his heart. Reading this might very well change what you think of me. My hope is you see how I have changed. I still have so very far to go, but by the grace of God I am who I am.
  3. This has some edits. Rather than focus on my family (who I didn’t get to do much with), I focused on my own reflections through the process. There are interactions and discussions, but the story is far more about my reflections on what I learned about Christianity than it is my mom and her struggle with cancer.

I love God, and I pray every day that He wipes cancer from the face of the Earth. It is my great prayer that this testimony is pleasing to Him as an offering. It’s my great prayer that he work through this to provide a lot of funding for brain cancer research and maybe even (if it is His will) a cure.

If this can help lead to more effective treatments, perhaps some other son won’t have to mourn his mother as a result of this disease. I’d be honored if you’d help in this manner.

You can preorder the story here or in the link above.

Thank you for reading,

Matt

The 2020 State of the Weech

The 2020 State of the Weech

Greetings all,

Three years ago, I made a commitment to give this my best effort for eight years. I’ve tracked that (in a way) by doing my annual State of the Weech. It’s my chance to let you know what I’m up to and what my plans are.

me2019 was a pretty good year in my opinion. I managed to release yet another four titles: Repressed, Sojourn in Captivity, The Repressed and Sojourn paperback flip book, and Stealing Freedom.

I can only say with confidence that I’m going to release two titles this year, and even that is going to be challenging, but I will do my best.

So without further ado, here are my plans for what I hope is a fantastic 2020.

March 1 (or sooner): Testimony: A Trial of Faith. This is the book adaptation of the blog series I wrote while my mom battled cancer. I put a lot of thought into whether or not to release it, but it feels like the right thing to do. All the royalties from the sales of that book will be donated to the American Brain Tumor Association. This project has way more to do with my love of God and my love of my mother than any artistic pursuit, but I have the proofreading edits back from Sarah, and I’m making my way through that final draft now. March 1 is probably the realistic date for that given how a book rollout (or as best as I know how a rollout) goes. My goal is just to have this project create a way to send the ABTA some donations.

caught-front-cover

Even more on this! Once Sojourn comes out, I’ll release a single flip book which will contain both Repressed and Sojourn. I love flip books, and this gets me another physical book I can sell at conventions. Also, both these stories feature compelling young female characters, and I think they’ll fit well together.

Feb. 26: OffWorld, featuring Hazel Deep Block Terror Squad. This has been a dream project for a long time (since I was in junior high school). The comic by me and Collin Fogel, my best friend from junior high, came about organically, but I couldn’t be happier. I’m hoping to have copies of issue 1 available when I go to Four State Comic Con if not sooner, but you’ll be able to get it at your local comic book stores by Feb. 26. Please contact your local comic shop and ask them to order copies.

Fall of 2020: Betrayed: Book Two of the Oneiros Log. I know you’ve waited for this book, and I have the Alpha Draft going. I think it looks good, and the Alpha Readers thought well of it too. The goal is for that book to be my main priority (after Testimony). I’ll get that title out as soon as I can.

Now I’ll just run down the list of projects I have in various stages of development. I’ll try to order them by how I think they’ll get released, but it’s just too hard to tell.

new-lion-iconDiscovered: I changed the name from Hunted, but it’s the same project. If I release another book in 2020, it’ll be this book. I’ve finished the plotting to this story and started the overall outline. I’ll jump straight to this when I’m done with Betrayed.

Sonnets for my Savior: I’ve completed this “draft,” or blog series. I’ve given it to my pastors for review. If they decide it’s scripturally sound and we have enough sonnets left after editing, I’ll publish a physical edition of that series of poems.

Musings on Christianity: If you follow my blog, you’ve already seen I’ve started that as my Christian work. The blog is happening now, and once I’m able to get it reviewed, it may be formatted into a paperback, but that will also depend on pastoral review. I’m sincerely hoping to get what I hoped would be a panel to actually be a panel. As it stands, it’s really more just me contemplating questions I’ve asked myself as I grew in the faith.

reapedThe 1,200: This was actually something I intended to release a while back, but it just felt like getting The Oneiros Log done was the right call. If you liked The Journals of Bob Drifter, you might get a kick out of some of what happens. And if you look very closely, you might see some familiar faces. I might actually weave this in while editing Betrayed and/or Hunted. The question is when it will come out. I’m going to take a hard look at this story and make sure it works. I’ve developed quite a bit as an author, and so this story deserves an edit with my now more-critical eye. I plan for this to be released sooner rather than later.  That’s exactly what was on my last blog. I’m still mulling over some pretty big decisions on this story, but it will be what I intend to work on and publish as my next full length release.

New Utopia: I finished a draft of this story and realized it was two books. I intend to go back into this and expand each half into a duo-logy.  It’s a fun story. I call it Mistborn meets Avatar. Again, this only needs revisions and edits, but everything is pretty much waiting until The Oneiros Log gets finished.

Mercer: This is a series I plan to write like episodes of a tv show. Each season will have a specific plot, and each season will consist of a run of novellas.  I call it Dresden Files meets Bones. I thought I’d start working on it last year, but life had other plans. I will absolutely start working on it when Oneiros is done. Episodes from this series will be released while I work on the larger projects.

shepherdPerception of War: Images of Truth: So I was pretty deep into the discovery draft of that story when I started dancing around other projects. Sojourn became a priority, and now I’m gearing up to start this epic series. Images is the first book of at least twelve. It’s my special forces in space saga. However, that draft isn’t done, so what will happen is I’ll chip away at this while I’m editing 1,200.

Leah Saldawn and The Nick of Time:  I wrote the discover draft to this ages ago (Saleah wasn’t in high school yet, and now she’s all grown up!) I let it sit because it’s unrelated to other books and for a much younger audience (10-16). I don’t like leaving things on the shelf, so I’m not sure when I’ll fit it in, but I will eventually. There’s a thought about seven books here, but we’ll see how things go. This one’s written, so it will get published.

Before I hit my eight-year mark, I hope to have ten full-length novels published. That was always the benchmark three years ago. The idea is if I have ten novels, and I’ve been working for eight years, I should see some sort of profit in this business adventure. Thus far, I’ve been encouraged that I’m losing less money each year, but the goal is for this to be a source of provision, maybe even (the dream of dreams) a full time occupation.

You can help with that. If you’d like to, please, purchase one of my books. Give it a read. Offer a rating and review. Recommend it to a friend. The only way this is going to truly take off is with your help.

Whatever happens, I’m still humbled at how much has already happened. I currently have ten titles available, and I’m 30% toward my goal of ten full-length books.

I’m also humbled by each of you, readers. I’ve had the honor of speaking with a number of you about my books and hearing how excited you are about the next one. That sort of encouragement makes it so it’s hard to wait to publish the next story.

This is still wonderful evidence of God’s role in my life and his generosity. He also gave me people like you to talk to and hear from. I truly appreciate all that you’ve done, and I hope you’ll continue this journey with me.

Thanks for Reading,
Matt

 

 

Sonnets For My Savior 47

Sonnets For My Savior 47

Clean

To touch the dead makes a man unclean.
But Christ’s touch brings life from death.
There is not part of him dirty or obscene.
Any could be cleansed by his Holy breath.

The Lepers’ were given clean skin.
The blind were given sight.
His death freed man from sin.
His resurrection made the wrong things right.

The animals served to demonstrate the price,
but His gift was so much more.
His blood is more than enough to suffice.
And we are the ones he did it for.

Blood was always the price for our iniquity,
and His blood is all we need to set us free.

 


 

Grow In Grace

If the seed is in you, let it grow.
The Word is your soil, and Christ is your living water.
Study, so that when you are asked, you may know.
Don’t place yourself in position to falter.

Little sapling, stretch up to the sky.
The LORD is the light your flowers need to live.
Keep his righteousness fixed in your eye.
Seek to know Him better, and knowledge of Himself, He will give.

Little children, learn diligently.
Talk of His word when you sit in your home.
Wait, and watch for Christ’s return vigilantly.
Open your heart, so that He may be with you wherever you may roam.

Your heart has the seed, but who you are is not who you shall be.
Study, learn, and grow, for this is how any seed becomes a tree.

 


 

The Scales

Blinded by misguided zeal,
The scales covered his eyes.
Only the grace of Christ could heal,
the damage done by pride’s lies.

Prayer and contemplation brought perspective.
With his baptism, the scales fell away.
Only Christ’s truth proved effective,
in showing the chief of sinners the way.

Like Paul, any unredeemed person has scales.
They prevent a person from truly seeing.
But the grace of God never fails,
to redeem a heart that seeks believing.

The truth of Christ gives sight.
It washes away the scales, so one can see the light.

 


 

Is It Really Love

Should a child measure his father’s love
by what a parent lets him have or do?
Should a child measure his father’s love
by how the father tolerates whatever evil thing the child may do?

Is forgiveness the result of ignoring transgressions?
Is love nothing more than giving gifts?
If a child disobeys, does he not need to offer a confession?
Is it really love if a lack of gifts causes love to shift?

Do you deny God because you lack a single desire?
Do you deny God because he executes punishment?
Isn’t one who only gives love for gifts a liar?
Is it really love if it changes from moment to moment?

If an earthly parent expects trust and obedience,
why then would you demand of God, but only offer grievance?

 


 

Help that is real

If you saw a man who was hungry,
would you not give him some bread?
If you saw a man exhausted and sleepy,
would you not give him a place to rest his head?

We toil and plead for earthly things,
but why don’t we work for one’s spirit?
We petition for the attention of presidents and kings,
but we hold back the truth and fail to share it.

Why do we seek to save a body, which is temporary,
but make no effort for the soul, which is forever?
Why do we keep back words that can make one free,
but we strive to help in any earthly endeavor?

Aide a body to serve and be kind,
but seek more the chance to aid every soul you can find.

 


 

Know The Body

How would the foot walk
If it didn’t know to ask the knees to bend?
How would a mouth talk
without the voice box on which it did depend?

If we only were an eye, we could not hear.
If we only an ear, we could not smell.
We are all parts of the body, be we far or near.
We are the body of Christ, and in each of us, he does dwell.

Each part must know the other,
or we won’t work together very well.
Thus we must know one another,
so that together, for Christ, we might excel.

Just as no one part of the body can live without the whole,
it is as one body do our God we do extol. 

 


 

Proclaim Christ

Tragedy strikes
The deceiver leans in to whisper.
These are the moments in which the evil one delights.
He seeks to use this moment to create a fissure.

Don’t let sorrow blind you.
Don’t let the tempter fool you.
Let the Spirit of God comfort you.
Let the love of Christ fill you.

Faith isn’t displayed in times of happiness.
Any can be glad when their cups overflow.
But blessed are those who proclaim Christ in times of sadness,
for their great blessings will be reaped from the faith they show.

Tragedy comes to both the saints and lawless,
but those who seek God’s love will always find solace.

Sonnets For My Savior 29

Sonnets For My Savior 29

Happy Easter all. Glory be to the Lord, who was raised from the dead this day for our justification.

Loving Mary

Loving Mary pouring perfume on the his Head.

Thus He was anointed at Bethany.

In just a few days, the Savior would be dead,

Watch the beautiful act of love by Mary.

She didn’t care for the cost,

Three hundred denarii was nothing next to Christ the King.

She knew that soon Christ would be lost,

and she was willing to give everything.

The disciples were indignant;

They thought her act was a waste.

It was Jesus who showed them they were ignorant,

so their mocking was their disgrace.

When people heard the Gospel, wherever they were,

What she had done was also told in memory of her.


 

His Destination

He knew what was to come;

It was the reason that He came.

When His task was done,

All who saw praised His name.

Some tried to rebuke Him,

trying to deny God’s will,

yet even though the task was grim,

he moved toward it even still.

Some thought His death would end His teaching,

but that was only the beginning.

Behold! For more than 2,000 years we have been preaching,

His death and resurrection; the redemption for our sinning.

He was not fooled or led to this fate;

He chose this path with love for our sake.


 

He Is

He is the Bread of life.

Go to him, and you will not hunger.

He is the light.

Walk with him, and shadows, you will not fall under.

He is the Sheep’s door.

The only way in is through Him.

He is the good shepherd now and forever more.

He lays his life down, and the sheep are saved because of Him.

He is the resurrection.

Believe in him, and you will live.

He is the way to Salvation,

for he gave all he had to give.

He is the true vine,

and His blood is forever a gift most divine. 


 

His Protection

Through the rivers, they will not overflow.

Though we walk through fire, we shall not be burned.

Those who trust and call on him know,

He has redeemed us; this we have learned.

He’ll wipe every tear from our eyes;

there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.

He delights in every detail of our lives.

His love endures and is forever undying.

He holds the godly by the hand,

No one can snatch them away.

His love is far greater than any can truly understand,

but He remains faithful this and every day.

Whatever happens, the LORD is with you;

he will never leave you nor forsake you.


 

Almighty Healer

Lord, I ask to be healed, for you alone have the power.

For He is the LORD who heals.

In times of joy or in our darkest hour,

He is sovereign over all, and His love is real.

He strengthens and helps us.

With him, we will not fear.

He will never abandon us.

Though we can’t see Him, He is always near.

He can restore health to all,

He can heal our injuries.

He is attentive to our faithful call.

We know He can, for He has done it for centuries.

No matter what darkness in which we dwell,

Seek Him and His righteousness, and he will make us well.


 

The Death

They chose a killer over the Savior.

They cried out for his death.

Soldiers mocked him with great fervor,

and watchers ridiculed Him until his dying breath.

Yet he chose to lay down his life willingly.

Despite their plans, no one took His life from Him.

Our Good Shepherd gave Himself up lovingly,

so he could accept the price for our sin.

They wanted His life for evil.

He gave it up for our good.

He who resisted the temptation of the Devil,

did for us what we never could.

He loved us even as He was killed.

He died for us just as His Father in heaven willed.


 

Fools

They feared the idea of fraud;

They still didn’t believe what Jesus had said.

They murdered the Son of God,

and they sought to prevent Him rising from the dead.

Make your plans, foolish chief priests.

Set up your guard; make it as secure as you can.

Your efforts will only help to increase,

the glorification of the Son of Man.

Seal the the stone.

Set the guard.

You should have known,

Jesus would hold these works in disregard.

Sleep tonight, and see what tomorrow brings,

for tomorrow God raises the King of Kings.

Sonnets For My Savior 16

Sonnets For My Savior 16

Call Us

Call us first, LORD, to Your Holy Name,

for we are nothing if we are not Yours.

Work through us, LORD, to bring Your name more acclaim,

and let our hearts be vessels in which Your grace pours.

Call us, LORD, to be more like Your Son,

for our Salvation is demonstrated by the fruit we bear.

Let us be Your instruments, LORD, that your will be done,

and let Your will be our one and only care.

Call us, LORD, to toil and work for Your will,

for to please You brings our hearts great cheer.

Let us work, LORD, in service till

the day Your Son has at last returned here.

Call us, LORD, to serve You each and every day,

so that your glory might always be on display.


 

Change Our Hearts

Change Our Hearts, Lord, so we may be more like Him.

Let Your word be our sustenance.

Forgive us, Lord, for we turn away on a whim.

Call us back to You and close up the distance.

We call on You in need,

but, when sated, we fall away.

Instead let us think of You with every thought and deed.

Let us place You first in our hearts each and every day.

Let us feel convicted

when we strive for our own desires,

and then we feel conflicted

when a chance to praise You transpires.

Help us choose You, Lord, each and every time

and consider every moment with You sublime.


 

Immediately

Jesus called on Peter and Andrew,

At once, they left their nets and followed Him.

He called on James and John, too.

Again they left, and followed Him.

They did not balk or delay.

They answered as soon as they were told.

Immediately, they obeyed.

When we are called, will we be as bold?

What would you have Him wait for?

What would you ask Him to let you do?

With Him as master, do you need anything more?

Think instead of what you would give to be made new.

Do not delay when he calls on you.

Let Him be the greatest passion that you pursue.


 

Accepted

I’ve done nothing,

but Christ died for me.

Yet still I’m seeking

the approval of men in any degree.

Yet man did not die on the Cross.

Man did not give up his body.

So why is it I feel such loss,

when I think I’m rejected by anybody?

Foolishly, I try to earn,

what Christ has already given.

The very acceptance for which my heart burns,

was granted the moment he was risen.

Help me stop the works I do so that I receive;

rather bless my work because you’ve chosen me, and I believe.


 

To Glorify You

When I open my eyes,

I glorify you for sustaining me.

Even when pains or sufferings arise,

I glorify You, for you can set me free.

When I work with my hands,

I glorify You for using me to do Your bidding.

Indeed blessed is the man who understands,

That life for You is a life most rewarding.

When I lay down at night,

I glorify you for providing me rest.

To obey You is my heart’s delight,

and knowing you’ve chosen me makes me feel blessed.

Every moment is a chance to glorify You;

Every action, a potential payment of what you are due.


 

United

Jesus is not divided.

No one else was crucified for our sins.

So let His church be united.

For our Savior sacrificed, is where our wisdom ends and begins.

He died once for all,

and thus we are His.

He died, but He did not fall,

for He was risen, and He lives.

Let us serve Him as one.

Our church is His beloved bride.

By defeating death, our spirits He has won,

so we turn to him, and away from our own foolish pride.

Each of His servants should be the other’s brother,

so let us show our love by serving one another.


 

In All Circumstances

If I am brought low,

let me be content.

If I face blow after painful blow,

let me be content.

If I have abundance,

let me be content.

If my heart is filled with exuberance,

let me be content.

For You are God in the winter,

and You are God in the fall.

Yet You are always a faithful provider

to those who worship you, one and all.

So let me face plenty, hunger, abundance and need

because I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.