Monday, September 28, 2015

Your Spiritual Before & After Picture


We often see pictures of "before" and "after" for weight loss programs.  Yet we Christians are privy to the most powerful and comprehensive transformation known: spiritual rebirth.  I encourage you, sift through your photos.  Find pictures of yourself before and after you encountered Christ.  Upload them to social media, and show your fellows that being a Christian isn't about being a self-righteous snob.  

It's about Jesus Christ changing a real life from something pointless to something special.  People talk so much about how the followers of Christ fail to live up to the standard of Christ.  Let's show people that the transformation is real.  I don't suddenly become perfect, but I do begin down a long, lifelong journey of growth and change as a follower of Christ.  

My first thought is of self-conscious recoil.  But how I looked before is so sad!  People will judge me!  My reputation may be adversely affected.  Aren't Christians suppose to put out a front of being really religious and good?  Well, not really.  If you act all perfect all the time, then people outside the church think maybe they aren't good enough or it's just not for them.  But if you show them that you used to be just as lost and troubled, then they know it's for them too.  

Let me suggest that when I recoil, it's out of pride.  I enjoy a good reputation.  I'm an employee and intern candidate of the Salvation Army.  I'm a college graduate.  I'm known around the area as a decent friendly person.  What if they all knew that only three years ago I had jet black long hair, and I spent my days and nights drinking cough medicine, beer, smoking dope, and causing trouble?  Wouldn't they think less of me?  Some might, don't get me wrong.  But our testimony is vital.

I have not been saved by Justin's ingenuity or Justin's ability to cobble together a systemic transformation.  I've been saved because I was the most despicable worthless man boy doped punk on the face of the Earth, and God saw fit to deliver me from that.  It's all due to his Spirit and his leading.  I did the foot work of course, I didn't just sit there.  I embraced the recovery process, church, bible studies, step groups, and all of that.  I prayed vigorously.  I still do.  But it was the power of God working a mighty orchestra of hope and change in my life.  That's what did it. 

Our mere physical appearance still is only a poor shadow of the change Christ has done.  But most definitely in my case, it is extremely noticeable by appearance alone.  And it probably should be.  But imagine if they could see the spiritual side of it!  The bumps, the bruises, the blood stains, and the scars.  I was talking with a young man at Celebrate Recovery the other day, and we were talking about the transition from being a member of the church to really engaging in intentional ministry.  It's quite a whirlwind of difference.  It's like stepping from sunny suburbia into a brutal, muddy, storming trench of spiritual warfare.  It's like stepping from an airy path to trudging through shin high sludge.  The enemy is fine with spiritual infants who never do more than sit in a pue.  They are fine right where they are.  But the enemy has to stop the maturing warrior Christians who are taking a stand for the truth. And the more intentional and provocative you are in sharing your faith regularly, and really engaging in ministry to the lost, the more intense come the spiritual assaults.  If only we could see the spiritual muscles, the spiritual scars, and the spiritual lightsaber duels, sword fights, struggles, defeats, and triumphs.  In spite of all of it though, we fight on.

Yet even despite the invisible nature of our spiritual war, our physical appearance is a parallel, a mirror of who we are in Christ.  Think about it, can't you see it in the eyes of a godly man?  Can't you feel it in her presence?  Can't you sense it in their being?  It can be seen.  The question is: Are willing to share who we used to be, along side who we are now?  Because then it becomes much more clear, that it wasn't me, it was Christ.  He delivered me from foolishness.

Therefore the question is much more basic than we might think.  It comes down to this: Are you willing to be a fool for Christ?  Are you willing to look stupid for the sake of his mission?  Are you willing to be embarrassed and awkward for his sake?  

Think of what Paul said,"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.11 I have made a fool of myself." 2 Cor 12:7b-11a NIV

Listen to the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest authors in history.  God spoke through him in the books of the New Testament.  He didn't say "hide your shameful past."  He said "boast of your infinite weakness!"  He even said, "I take delight in them."  And he finally says,"I have made a fool of myself."  Have you made a fool of yourself for Christ yet?  Well, you better get on that.  God bless you. 

 

Friday, September 18, 2015

What does it mean to be a Man: Man-boy Syndrome & a life of Greatness


Creative commons image via Google Images
Creative commons image via Google Images
What is manhood?  What does it mean to be a man?  Is it power?  Is it strength?  Is it having the biggest truck?  Or the biggest house?  Or the best kept lawn?  

Is it the family and white picket fence?  Is it finding true love in a wife?  Is it raising children, and caring for grandchildren, and growing old together?  Is it leaving a legacy of family?

Is it sexual prowess?  Is it the "bro lifestyle" at the bars?  Is it going from woman to woman, conquest to conquest?  Is it found in experimenting with smoke and pipe?  Or perhaps in a hedonistic search for pleasure?

Is it gathering wealth and possessions?  Could it be attaining to total power?  Is it creating brilliant works of art?  Or might it be immortalizing oneself in writing books and poetry? 

Is it in finding oneself?  Or perhaps might it be discovering the truth that works for you?  Or as some have said, to find your own meaning in the world?

Manhood is a very misunderstood topic today.  One could say that western man has in many ways lost touch with what it means to be a man.  But there are always the hold outs, the exceptions to the rule.  They are around, holding their heads high, living lives of meaning and dignity.  They are out there.  I aspire to be one of them.  I aspire to be a man of strength, courage, and conscience.  

What kind of man are you?  And if you're a woman, what kind of man would you want to lead your home?  What kind of man would you want as your partner in the business of life?  

Manhood can be very confusing.  If one watches television and culture, one might have some very confusing ideas about what being a man is.  If you watch commercials and sitcoms, you might think that men are supposed to be dumb, somewhat out of control, and in need of guidance from his wife who seems to commonly take the superior role in the relationship.  That isn't manhood though.  That's a fantasy world and it isn't real. 

Some say there is a war on men.  I don't know, maybe there is.  Maybe media means to disarm men, to push a lot of guilt their way for their oppressiveness in the past.  But I suppose I don't adhere to that.  I won't be suppressed for the crimes of others.  I just won't.  Society, culture, people groups, and families in general need strong men, strong leadership in men, and overall just good men are needed.  

Young men are not especially any of these categories.  A lot of them are being told they're suppose to be more feminine.  They are being told nothing is ever their fault.  They are being told they are victims.  They are being told they need to explore homosexual relationships.  They are told they are suppose to try to screw everything that moves.  What?  It's true.  If you haven't noticed this then you've been living in a box.  Young men are for the most part, predators.  It's creepy.  Young men are being told they are the product of time + matter + chance.  They are being told that they are just pond scum, and do whatever feels right.  As they say "follow your heart."  My heart got me into a lot of trouble, so today I follow the leading of my God.  But men are hungry for something else.  They are hungry for honor, dignity, truth, and a great cause to stand for. 

But today?  My goodness.  Young guys today make me want to puke actually.  Many of them do, truly.  Especially the guys who dress up like gangsters.  Or even worse, the bar hopping bro guys.  They are just insufferable.  These are the guys who have read "The Dao of the Badass" five hundred times, and make a practice of manipulating and seducing bar girls.  They usually end up paying a lot of child support and drinking heavily.  There's no meaning or happiness in that pursuit, believe me, it's empty.  And child support is expensive.  Welfare queens.  It's ridiculous. 

Do you know what they call that?  In Psychology it's considering something called "King Baby Syndrome."  King baby syndrome is characterized by selfishness, rejection of criticism, complaining, refusal to accept circumstances, refusal to mature, and believing that rules of life don't apply to them.  The king baby is always looking for the next chance to laugh about something, or have fun no matter what.  When people get in the way, they call them a drag and move on to the next.  The king baby says things like "I shouldn't have to work, because then I'm just enslaved to my corporate masters."  They refuse to face the difficulties of life, and refuse to accept difficult situations.  Instead they tend to run from such issues, and often have chemical dependency issues and/or alcoholism problems.  So let me ask you: Are you a king baby?  If so, maybe it's time to grow up?  You can be king of the pen at your mommy's house, or you could allow yourself to mature into a man?  Your choice.

Let me ask you, have you noticed a certain trend?  I've noticed this quite regularly.  It seems to be the new rule, not the exception.  Guys in their twenties, jobless pot heads playing videogames all the time, sitting in the passenger side while their girlfriend drives them around.  Have you noticed this?  I've noticed it.  I think they call that man boy syndrome.  Girls don't like that.  They just have nowhere else to turn.  Public schools and fatherless homes turn out these dope smoking man-boys by the millions.  

Now that we understand the problem in somewhat blunt terms (your welcome) we can look at a hope for the future.  Let's look at recovering and redeeming manhood.  Five areas.

1. Men need to understand who they and why they are. What is my roll as a man?  In other words, what does it look like to be a man?  

The young man rolls off the assembly line, gets plugged into the matrix, and eventually asks himself: What am I suppose to do?  Usually there should be a strong man in the household to sit down and explain it to this young man.  Unfortunately that's not always the case.  

Let's settle it right now.  Your primary purpose in life is not to be entertained, it's to be a man of honor and dignity, upholding a righteous cause.  You sir are not a product of the slime, and you don't get to choose buffet style what life does and doesn't mean.  You are a man, created in the image of almighty God himself, endowed with a conscience that you should use.  You are afforded days and nights on this Earth, bright stars above, and dirt below to do your best to be a mighty man of God.  

If you want to believe whatever you want to believe, then life has no meaning.  And you can go back to being a loser man boy destined for welfare.  Maybe you can apply for disability so you can sit in your mom's bedroom for the rest of your life and play WoW and COD.  But if you want to be a real man of greatness, you must understand that what you do matters, how you live matters, there is a God, he made you, he's in charge, and your life will echo throughout eternity.  There are fundamental truths of life that do not change.  And your purpose is to stand for what's right, care for your family, raise your children, bring in the bread and meat, and sacrifice for your wife and your family when need be.  

If you can stop running from your God and turn and embrace him, he can make you a man of greatness.  He can make you the man you were always suppose to be.  But you've gotta rise above the man boy syndrome. It can be done.  God is real, and he's got the power.  Let's move on.

2.  Men want boundaries and discipline.  Men want a code.  What is my code?  How should I live?

What code do I live by?  What are the rules and disciplines surrounding my life?  As much as it seems so great to just indulge in everything, we've seen how destructive that is.  It's spawned a lot of men addicted to pornography, men addicted to drugs, men addicted to sex, and men addicted to the party life.  Every young man quietly craves for guidelines.  Dad, show me where the boundaries are!

The boundaries are outlined in this book, and if you can handle not running to your mommy and crying about it, I'll tell you the title: It's called the Bible.  The Bible is your basic instruction manual.  Stop whining.  Stop dishing out your panzy liberal "objections" to the Bible.  Your objections stink.  The Bible is real.  Your code is in there.  Your chivalrous code of honor and truth is right in there.  It's all there.  

Do good, champion the causes of the oppressed.  Stand for truth.  Stand up against those who threaten freedom and liberty.  Honor your wife.  Care for your family.  Don't lie, don't steal, and don't cheat.  It's all in there.  And it makes sense.  It really makes sense.  And if you can't handle that, there's the door.  Go apply for disability because you are terminally man-boy.  But if you can handle it, then you've found a manual, a guide, a power, a greatness, and a tool to handle every situation life can throw at you.  You've started the journey of becoming a real man.  

3. Men need an allegiance.  What is my cause to champion?

Causes have been stripped from men.  I'm not sure how or why, but it has happened.  I need a mission in life.  And we can see that can't we?  Look at the movies we men love.  We love Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, the great battle against the evil empire.  We love war movies, because of the great and glorious battles.  We love super heroes, because we want to be the heroes of our story.  Think of the videogames we play.  We play Diablo, Starcraft, Call of Duty, Half-Life, World of Warcraft, come to think of it every single computer or videogame I ever played was about a hero fighting in a desperate cause against the forces of evil.  Think of Master Chief and his battles against the covenant.  Or Metal Gear Solid.  Or Fallout 3.  Or Morrowind.  Oblivion.  Rise of Nations. The list could go on and on.  We all have that urge within us, to fight on the side of the righteous, in the hopeless cause, in defense of the weak and trodden on.

What is your cause?  My cause you might say is that of the paladin.  I'm a righteous warrior of light.  I'm the white knight of God, washed and renewed in the victory of Jesus Christ.  My God is real, powerful, and mighty.  He is real.  He is all knowing.  He is the architect of all life.  And he means for me to fight in his army on light on Earth, the body of Christ.  

I have an incredible cause to champion, in a dark world, I am honored with the gift of carrying the light.  I wake up every morning and put on my spiritual armor, and make war on the darkness.  I share the truth boldly.  This is the ultimate cause.  And every man needs a cause to champion.  Otherwise he's just a selfish, snotty little brat who wants everything his way.  We can all think of that guy, can't we?  Don't be that guy!  

Submit yourself before the real God of the universe, join his army of light and truth, and begin the exhausting, arduous journey to fulfill your destiny.  The journey is long and hard, taking us through the darkest valleys, and highest mountains, but if we are brave and tap into the power God gives us in his Spirit, we will make it to the promised land.  Let's continue.

4. Men need an outlet for exploration and adventure.  What is my adventure?

In connection to a righteous cause, is a need for exploration and adventure.  Men suffer greatly in the cubicle.  I know I do.  I'd almost rather be dead then have to come back to a cubicle every day.  It's insufferable.  Men need adventure.  We need outdoors.  We excursions.  We need men's outings.  What is your adventure?  Maybe it's something as simple as camping, hiking, or rock climbing.  Maybe it's going on mission trips.  Maybe it's joining a gun club or a state militia.  I don't know, get creative.  It could be joining a service organization like Lion's Club.  It could be protesting, it could be skydiving, it could be fishing, it could be many things.  But we need our adventures.  It's kind of like Fight Club, we need our adrenaline.  

Men are born trail blazers and heroes.  Men are born for action and excitement.  That isn't a bad thing.  Sometimes it's just channeled wrong.  But if we search, there are outlets for adventure, usually along the same lines as our cause/calling.  

5. Men need a sense of glory and a striving toward greatness.  What is my glory and what is my greatness?

This desire for honor, glory, and greatness is at the core of the male heart.  It is God given and good.  It's the part of me that wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with patriots to retake America.  It's the part of me that craves a great awakening.  It's the part of me that despairs at the state of men today.  It's the part of me that is caught fire with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is the instinct within me that is the most righteous and true.  It's that part of me that hungers and thirst for righteousness, truth, and the victory of good over evil.  This is the very core of a man.  

No matter how much sex, drugs, selfishness, materialism, and gluttony is dumped into the masculine heart it cannot extinguish this God given splinter of eternity that cries out for justice, truth, and the righteous perfection of God himself.  We can't escape it.  There is always the part of us that calls out in the deep for truth, for glory, for greatness, and for something greater than ourselves.  We need that greater cause that we can lay down our lives in the service of.  

That cause is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is the truth of life itself.  The male character finds it's perfection of greatness and glory in the tireless service to the noble cause of the Christian faith.  We are called to radical action to see the world saved from the very greatest threat of all: death itself.  We are called to a noble cause indeed.  We are called to gather the lost into the army of God, to stand on the battle lines in the army of God fighting the forces of hell.  We are called to make spiritual war on the forces of darkness.  We are called to stand for the truth in a world full of lies.  

Are you willing to become a man of greatness?  Are you willing to step up, and become a real man, the man you're suppose to be?  This is it.  This is our cause.  This is our victory over consumerism and meaninglessness.  

The Christian faith is the truth about all of life.  God is a real God.  We are called to defend the truth, and stand against the darkness.  But the walls are vacant.  The men are too busy trapped in addictions and obsession with self satisfaction.  Men are too busy stalking women, collecting trinkets, and aspiring to management positions.  Come out of the bars, come out of your mother's basement, and become the man you were born to be!  Become a man of greatness.  

God turned me from the most pathetic, addicted man-boy, into a man serving in his army, standing for truth, fighting pitch, desperate spiritual battles; God made me the warrior of truth I had always hoped to be, yet couldn't quite grasp.  God made a real man out of me.  And I want you to be a real man too.  Turn from man-boy syndrome, and begin your journey to masculinity.  Begin your journey at the cross, receive Jesus Christ and his Spirit, don your spiritual armor, and get ready for a war.  Men of honor are needed on the battlelines.  It's time to take your place on the frontlines.  The greatest cause in the history of man awaits you, sign on now, before the time is too late.  

Creative commons image via Google.com


Related Posts:
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  2. Am I called to Ministry? How can I know?
  3. Mighty Men, Men of Valor, Men of Honor, Men of Renown
  4. What is the Gospel?
  5. Does man need God in Western Civilization: Young People are Hungry for the Truth
  6. Real Christianity: Clothing, Buildings, Money, & Extravagance
  7. The Stairway to Heaven
  8. The Modern Man
  9. Imagine a Perfect Universe: Genesis, Revelation
  10. Life Formula for the Growing Christian

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Evangelicals, You need to Vote: Here's Why

Creative commons via Google Images

Creative commons via Google Images

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  -1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV

Are you the "evangelical vote"?  I've heard about that on the news.  They're always talking about evangelicals, and voting and who evangelicals like and all that.  I guess we are kind of in that lump of "evangelicals."  Within that fold tends to be people who actually believe God is real, and that Jesus Christ is really God who came to save us.  And we actually tend to believe that the Bible is the real word of God, and doesn't change with ever shifting views of cultural and political activists.  We don't turn the Bible into an exercise in "well it just means whatever we want it to mean."  We actually trust it as a source of universal truth.  And for that, my goodness, do they say ugly things about us.  

Here is a trustworthy saying, and it came from a man named Chuck Colson who passed away several years ago.  A friend in 2000 indicated his disappointment to Chuck Colson that the Republicans had lost a lot of seats in the House and Senate.  Chuck Colson simply replied, "Well it doesn't really matter anyway, the Republicans will turn on us someday anyway.  They aren't really on our side."  I'm paraphrasing, but do you see his drift?  Be cautious about putting all your eggs in one basket.  Be cautious about trusting a party that simply does not have your best interests at heart, except when they're asking for a vote of course. 

Never-the-less we must doggedly step out, boldly into the muck of the political arena because the truth is these issues do affect us.  They affect me.  I know this is a tough topic.  Most people have a very hard time with politics, because it can be so disheartening.  We get confused, we don't know who to vote for, and it seems like everything just gets worse. Most of us have too much on our plate as it is.  How can we carry the woes of the world?

We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29 ESV

We don't have to carry all of it.  God carries it.  We need to turn it over to him.  But we also need to be active in the political realm.  Otherwise in fifty years Christianity will be illegal.  Already we are seeing a growing persecution of Christians over the gay rights issue.  The Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage, forcing the decision, with no backing in law on fifty states all with their own sovereign laws in regard to marriage.  Can Christians allow this overstepping of authority to continue?  Look at all the results that have come of that.  Think of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who had been jailed for refusing to issue gay marriages.  Even more importantly, look at how the church of Jesus Christ has fractured and divided over the issue of gay marriage and homosexuality.  It's done incredible damage.  

Consider also the growing controversy over Planned Parenthood's sale of aborted babies.  Can we really sit and do nothing when children are offered up as sacrifices to convenience and sexual freedom?

These legal and political issues affect us Christian evangelicals.  They affect us even more so than more fundamentalist Christians, because we are missional, in that we seek to share and spread the Christian faith.  We definitely want to maintain the right to do so.  We want the freedom to practice our Christian faith in the public square for the public good.  Why?  Because Christianity is the truth about everything.  Christianity is the truth of life itself.  We need to spread that message, because it's the truth.  

Whether Christians want to accept it or not, there is a massive movement to quietly eject God, the mention of God, and the freedom to practice religious faith from all aspects of public life.  It will not be allowed in social working, you do not have the freedom to tell your client about Jesus Christ if your a counselor or psychiatrist.  It's generally considered wrong to even mention your religious beliefs in public in casual conversation!  People are discouraged from talking about it at work.  If you hold to a biblical view of marriage you may be in danger of losing your job or position due to "discrimination" allegations.  If there is any mention of God, the ten commandments or Jesus on a public building, watch out, because you're gonna get sued by the ACLU or the FFRF.  There are huge secular movements in social work, philosophy, psychology, history, education, government, medicine, and almost every area of study and inquiry.  We need to fight for the freedom to engage in religious discussion, religious worship, and religious evangelism in all areas of life.  Not just in the church on Sunday.  If that's the only freedom we have left in 20 years, Christianity will drift into nothingness.  My Christian faith doesn't just happen in the church on Sunday!  It happens out there, in the real world!  It happens when I'm at work, when I'm feeling depressed, when I'm helping someone in need, when I'm talking politics, when I'm sharing on social media, and so many other areas of life!  

Politics directly affect our Christian faith.  And the secular world has a mission to root out Christianity from all public venues.  We need to be active, or we will be relegated to the corner.  Or worse.

We need to be voting on voting days.  We need to be interacting in the elections.  We need to be supporting candidates who will change things.  

The very first lesson that every evangelical Christian needs to realize is that the mainline Republican party is not your friend.  They are the establishment.  They are about money, banking, business, and stepping on anyone who gets in the way.  They are called neo-cons.  They are "pseudo-conservatives" like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and many others who claim to be conservative, but when they enter office they tend to spend too much, inflate big government, curtail freedoms, walk all over the Constitution, and bail out their buddies on Wallstreet.  The establishment is an enemy to Christianity and to all Evangelicals.  It's just a fact, accept it.  These war hawks are dangerous, and they will destroy our country if given the chance. 

So who should evangelicals support?  Who should Christians vote for?  The 2016 presidential election is approaching.  Who is the candidate to support?  Let's look at the field. (The order of the candidates is from a recent poll based on their standing.)

Donald Trump - [non-Christian warning] I've added warnings on certain candidates.  Donald Trump is the front-runner.  Now Trump is not necessarily an establishment candidate, but he might as well be.  I think the establishment could live with a Trump.  If they lined his pockets enough he would do whatever they asked.  Trump is a corrupt and immoral individual.  It's pretty obvious.  I'm sorry if you thought he was the savior, he's not.  He wouldn't change anything.  Don't vote for Trump.  He couldn't even name a Bible verse when asked, which spawned the #TrumpBible hashtag on Twitter.  He insults other candidates like a toddler, and he's good at maintaining media coverage because he's used to working in that industry.  I wish the media would cover other candidates.  Trump needs to go.  Trump actually identified more as a Democrat in the past, his own words.  But of course when a politician wants to grab support what do they say?  "My views are evolving."  Trump is pro-planned parenthood, trump is against religious liberty, and Trump is a big spender.  He will not be getting my vote. 

Ben Carson - Running second in the polls and charging up on Trump is Dr. Ben Carson.  Dr. Carson is an intelligent thoughtful Christian, with a firm belief in American values and Constitutional government.  Dr. Carson is not a politician per say, which is a good thing.  I'm seriously considering voting for Ben Carson.  One concern is that he could show more passion in his speaking.  He needs to work harder to energize the evangelical Christian vote.  He's gotta show some youthful passion.  He also has views on immunizations that I don't agree with.  Dr. Carson being a doctor has believed a lot of the propaganda about immunizations.  He says no exceptions for religious objections.  That is just plain wrong, and forcing immunizations on free citizens and children is also simply wrong.  That is a concern.  But Dr. Carson is against abortion, pro-religious liberty, and he is strong on foreign policy but not too strong like the neo-cons who seem to look to start wars whenever they can.  Ben Carson has an inspiring story and he talks common sense.  He wants to restore America.  I'm seriously considering voting for Carson, but I need to see more, and I will in the Republican debates.

John Kasich - I really don't know a lot about John Kasich.  He seems to have a conservative voting record.  As far as a real Christian faith, it's hard to say. We'll have to keep watching, and see if we can learn more.  I'm surprised he's polling as well as he is, he seemed to me a candidate that would fade off into the background pretty quick. 

Ted Cruz - This Senator from the great state of Texas is saying all the right things when it comes to appealing to people like myself.  He's big on the Constitution.  He wants to secure the borders.  He's the son of a southern baptist preacher.  He talks about dealing with the "Washington cartel."  He has the fire and energy to really energize the Republican base.  He can gather evangelical Christians and he appeals to Tea Party patriots as well as Libertarians based on his views on liberty, limited government, and cutting spending.  Ted Cruz is most certainly a dedicated Christian.  But I'm concerned that he might just be telling us what we want to hear.  We'll have to see.  I'm divided between Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, as far as who I want to vote for.  Both of them are impressive non-establishment candidates.  I would give Ted Cruz a higher rating in his understanding of the problem, and the solution.  Ted Cruz is challenging the establishment, and I like that.  Can he win?  We'll see.

Carly Fiorina - I don't know a lot about Carly Fiorina.  She seems to be quite knowledgeable, and conservative.  We'll have to keep watching.

Jeb Bush - [establishment warning] During my graduation at Liberty University this summer the speaker at the Saturday morning even was Jeb Bush.  I decided to stay in at the hotel.  We don't need another Bush in the white house.  Americans are tired of the ol' Bush bait and switch.  They talk all pretty then jump in the white house and go crazy spending, bailing out banks, and starting wars.  It's not really fair to judge Jeb Bush from his family, but it's going to happen.  Jeb Bush is a straight up establishment candidate with big money.  He's raised a lot of money from big donors, but it doesn't show in the polls.  The American public is wise to his act.  Which is why all of the candidates in the last debate tried so hard to paint themselves as anti-establishment candidates.  The American people are tired of neo-conservatives and their reckless spending, authoritarian governance, and uber-aggressive foreign policy. 

Rand Paul - The son of the great Ron Paul is a bit of a wild card.  I would say that Rand Paul is the dark horse candidate.  I wish Rand Paul was his dad Ron Paul, but he's not.  Rand Paul doesn't come off as sincere and principled as his dad Ron Paul did.  It's hard to say, but it's true.  But you never know.  Maybe Rand Paul will surprise all of us.  There is always a dark horse in every primary run, one candidate that could sweep through and change the whole game.  I'll be watching Rand Paul.  He's libertarian, limited government, and I like his foreign policy approach of strength, but non-interventionism. If Rand Paul can express support for religious liberty, stand against abortion, and stand up in support of Israel then he might have my vote in the primaries.

Marco Rubio - [establishment warning] Marco Rubio is a smooth talker.  He's a neo-conservative, he wants more spying, more wiretapping, and apparently the Constitution and Bill of Rights don't factor into that equation for neo-cons like Marco Rubio.  His views tend to be almost centrist.  People don't seem to be clamoring for this guy though.  But that could change.  He's a smooth talker and he can raise money.  Don't doubt that he's establishment though. 

Scott Walker - [establishment warning] Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin.  I'm born and raised Wisconsinite, and I'm telling you, he is corrupt.  Although many consider him to be a Tea Party candidate, he isn't.  He's establishment, real buddy buddy with the Koch brothers.  Don't believe it when he says he can stand up to the establishment.  He is the establishment. 

Chris Christie - [establishment warning] Chris Christie's views tend to be more centrist.  In fact he's just a straight up liberal in most areas.  He loves spying, and wiretapping too.  Just like Obama, just like Bush, and just like the rest of the neo-cons and neo-liberals.  Scary bunch they are, big on big government.  We don't need a Chris Christie.  

Mike Huckabee - Since I've been involved in politics, which isn't that long, it's always been ol' Huck.  The evangelicals always vote for ol' Huck the evangelical candidate.  And he would always get about 11% and then lose.  I was surprised to see him running.  And I know, he's an ordained southern baptist minister and all that.  He's smart, he knows politics.  But he just isn't a viable candidate.  Given the numbers, it seems like evangelicals agree with me.  They're leaning more toward constitutional candidates and libertarian candidates.  Ol' Huck as good a guy as he is, ought to probably just fade off into the background.  Sorry, I said it.  But there it is. 

Donald Trump is the front runner at this point.  Is he a Christian?  Most certainly not.  If you'd like more years of corruption like we saw under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, then vote for Trump.  Marco Rubio knows how to say the right things, stuff people want to hear, but I don't trust him at all.  Rubio is establishment.  We Christians want to avoid establishment candidates, they change nothing and keep things rolling right toward fiscal collapse and moral decay.  Jeb Bush may not be his brother George, but in my view a Clinton-Bush dynasty is not right for the United States.  Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin, running for president.  As a lifetime resident of Wisconsin, I'm telling you, don't vote for Scott Walker.  No, for me, as a politically informed Christian I've narrowed it down to three candidates: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul.  These candidates are firm on the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and conservative on key issues such as abortion, marriage, economics, personal liberty, and foreign policy.  But when I narrow it down to the best of these three, we come down to Ben Carson.  He's clearly a real Christian.  He's dedicated.  He inspires people.  He's big on the Constitution.  He's economically conservative. That's how I'm leaning so far.

But we've just begun on the campaign trail. (View the last debate 9/17/2015 click here.)  Much more will be revealed.  At this point I'm watching, listening, and learning more.  I suggest you pray on it carefully, and do the same.  In the meantime, keep raising your voice for religious liberty, and focus your activism on defunding planned parenthood and abolishing abortion.  Those are hot issues now, people are talking and weighing the options.  And they aren't getting the truth from the liberal mainstream media.  It's up to you to share the truth in love.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

Related Posts:
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  4. Real Christianity: Clothing, Buildings, Money, & Extravagance
  5. The Entrenched vs. the Minimized: Five Paradigms of Western Civilization
  6.  Christians in Politics: A Brief Analysis of Issues in America
  7. Christian Activism: Can Christianity survive the new cultural attitudes?
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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Thoughts on Public Schooling: Should Christians homeschool their children?


“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”
Martin Luther King Jr.


Many an average American boy or girl will be raised up in the school rooms of public education.  I would like to share some thoughts from great minds on education itself, public education, and wisdom.  I'd also like to share my personal experiences in the public education system.  Then I'll transition into possible solutions to these issues, cross referenced with personal need and the good of society at large.

I was brought up in a fairly average American home.  My mother was a nurse, and my dad was a teacher for a local technical college.  I was raised just beyond the suburbs, but close enough to the suburbs to bike around with my friends on sunny summer days.  Never the less, autumn would always come and eventually we would hear the familiar squealing of the breaks of the public school bus coming to pick us up for a fresh round of indoctrination sessions.  

It should be noted that the school district which I attended K-12 is considered one of the best in the United States.  No joke.  I recall knowing kids who had wealthy parents that rented a house for their kids in the area, just so they could go to the D.C.E. school district.  I recall the drunken house parties at the rental house too.  At the same time the Wausau, Wisconsin area is a reasonably conservative Christian area.  That was generally reflected in the teachers.  I wouldn't say I received an overly liberal blast of public education.  But there are many who do.  

Elementary school was in general quite a wonderful experience.  There were some issues, but overall it was quite excellent.  I was lucky though.  The Riverside elementary school was a wonderful place to be at K-6th.  Apparently other elementary schools in the area were much different.  

The real nightmare I think comes for most kids in the 7th grade through 12th grade experience.  I recall how the religious students were persecuted.  There was a dual sort of persecution for those types.  First they were targeted by teachers and the governing body of the institution.  I don't think they did that out of cruelty.  They do it because they are afraid of being sued by the Freedom from Religion Foundation or the ACLU.  These organizations lose almost all of their court battles, but by always being there to sue, sue, sue, it forces public teachers and officials into a state of fear.

They don't want a controversy, they don't want a legal battle, they don't their school on the news.  So the easiest way to keep the status quo is to quietly persecute the Christian students who want to practice their beliefs within the walls of the school.  Christian students shouldn't submit to such persecutions, but should instead contact organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Institute for free legal support.  

Possibly worse is the culture of bullying and social climbing within the school population.  I wasn't even religious really during those years, but I always made sure I never mentioned Jesus or Christian faith.  The students who did were brutally mocked, often physically bullied, and forced to the "loser table" at lunch.  I'm sure cultures at school can vary from public school district to public school district, but in my experience it was quite brutal.  There were the popular kids with the nice clothes, and then there were the rest.

"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate  plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty." -Albert Einstein

Dr. Einstein was right when he considered how public schools dispel education.  As many of you know, I'm a writer.  I even dare to say a good, and creative writer of fair skill.  I hated English in high school.  I hated it in junior high.  I hated it in elementary school.  In fact I hated history too, which I love now.  I hated civics, which I enjoy studying now too.  I hated all the subjects.  Why?  Because the majority of the time, I was being taught by an old, gruff tenured teacher, burnt out, who insighted me toward hatred of the topic.  Or in English class I was being forced to read the most boring, uninspiring gluck I could imagine, like "Of Mice and Men" and "Romeo and Juliet."  Now these are certainly good works, but of absolutely no interest to a teenager.  

I realized in later reflection that public school had systematically triggered intense malaise and hatred in me toward every single topic imaginable.  Thank God I fought through those feelings and began to induce myself toward private study which, at my own pace, and studying areas of my own interest, I found new love for subjects that had been crucified before my eyes by aged tenured professors teaching out of boring text books.  I'm sorry, but that was my experience.  I can't put it any more lightly than that.  One of the best public schools in the country did that for me.  It destroyed a sacred interest within me, going in I had, and by the end I had lost.  Einstein was right, the school destroys the most sacred and holy curiosity of inquiry. 

What about morality?  Public schools are not allowed to teach any morals, otherwise they'll be sued by FFRF or ACLU.  What comes about in that vacuum?  Moral anarchy.  I saw it in the public schools.  It is ugly.  The vacuum of moral values breeded a culture of depravity, sex, drugs, alcohol, bullying, and cruelty.  I can't imagine what it's like today.  But when you leave a child at the whim of the public education system, MTV, and Hollywood you've provided a perfect storm of moral disaster.  Moral disaster leading to social disaster.  Society can't function on a valueless orthodoxy.  It will destroy itself, trying to pass more and more laws to try and somehow cover all the new areas of crime, drug abuse, and sin.  Eventually the government devastates itself with endless regulations and laws to try to stem the tide of moral decay, toppling over having roped itself in so many laws, regulations, and authoritarian dictates that it can no longer sustain a free society.  

This is the point when people say, "It's the job of the parents to instill values in the children!  Public schools aren't suppose to do that!"  I tend to agree actually.  But for heavens sake, when are the parents suppose to do that?  Public school is five days a week.  Most parents work long hours making much less than they should.  They're exhausted, overworked, and trying to keep up with bills.  Meanwhile the kids are at school all the time, and when they're home they need to be working on homework.  Or they're participating in sports activities, clubs, or spending time with friends.  It's just not feasible for parents to keep up with all of that.  There is no time to spend, and instilling those values takes time, skill, and long hours.

My parents sent me to Catholic C.C.D.  I'm still not sure what that stands for.  But I do still recall the crawling dread in my spine at the thought of C.C.D. on Wednesday night.  If I was being taught by dead burnt out teachers on subjects they hated during public school hours, at Catholic C.C.D. at ol' St. Therese church I was being taught Catholic doctrine by dead burnt out nuns on Wednesday nights.  It made for a formidable duo of dead teachings described by dead people.  

But there was one year in C.C.D.  I can't recall what grade it was.  Every year we had a new dead nun to teach us emptiness.  But then there was one year of brightness.  This lady was young and alive.  She really believed what she was teaching us.  She was filled with this spirit.  And we kids loved her.  I remember being so eager to come to C.C.D. on Wednesday for that year.  Every word from her felt like it was channeled through God himself.  That year I really began to experience God.  Wow.  It was amazing.  She was amazing.  She was excited.  She really cared, and she really believed.  I remember at the end of that year going up to my mom and saying, "Mommy I'm afraid because I like this lady so much, but next year what if the teacher is another mean old nun?"  And my mother encouraged me.  But sure enough, as I walked in for the next school year, there was another fat, old, dead, heartless nun and whatever fire I had gained the previous year was quickly swept away.  

The more the years went on the more it was just a big joke to all of us in C.C.D.  I remember this one guy in the class, ol' Justin Stankowski.  He was brilliant.  He hid a CD player (this was before ipods kids) in his jacket pocket, and somehow ran the wire for the speaker up his jacket arm and placed the small ear bud in his hand, and he would rest his head against hand and cup the ear bud against his ear and listen to music during C.C.D.   

Even if we had had teachers like the passionate young believer I had one year in C.C.D. it was only one night a week for an hour.  Meanwhile public school was 8 hours a day, five days a week.  One hour of C.C.D. and one hour of church on Sunday can't compete with that.  There just isn't enough time to instill the correct values.  Meanwhile in the absence of moral values in the public school, in that vacuum comes a different set of values, the worldly set.  That set is taught by television, usually it consists of total selfishness, entertain myself at all costs, sex whenever with whoever, alcohol and drugs good, church bad, and science is the only means to truth. 

"How I hated schools, and what a life of anxiety I lived there. I counted the hours to the end of every term, when I should return home." -Winston Churchill

In addition, public schools seem to miss a lot of the most important topics of life.  Children are never taught how to balance a check book.  They are never taught how to manage their finances.  They are never taught how to use credit cards wisely.  They are never taught about interest rates, savings, checking, or how to start a business.  They aren't taught how to go about buying a house, or how to save money for retirement.  Many would retort, public schools are preparing children for college.  But many children won't be attending college, when are they suppose to learn the practical aspects of life!?  And must public school be only and ever only about preparation for college?  Shouldn't public education take into account the majority of students who won't go on to any further education?  

One could now explore the growing overreach of public schools into how children are raised and dealt with.  One could see how creative students are treated as mentally ill because they behave differently than analytically minded students. One could also look at how public schools are being forced to open female bathrooms to males who claim to be "transgendered female" and the boy's bathroom to girls who claim to be "transgendered male."  One could look at the sexual abuse cases by teachers against children.  One could also look at the new cultural values of LGBTQ and how such things are making their way into public education, teaching values in direct contradiction to Christian values.  We could look at how secular philosophy and evolutionary biology are pushed so thoroughly that they drive belief in God out of children all together.  But we don't have enough time or space to go into those issues.

So what is the solution?  Should Christians send their children to public schools?  Are there certain circumstances when children may go to public school even though they are Christians?  

My conclusion is simple.  Based on my personal experience with public school, understanding the curriculum, the culture that arises in the ranks of the young, and the persecution of young people who bring bibles to school or try to pray freely, I cannot in good conscience suggest that any Christian parent ever send their son or daughter to a public school under any circumstances.  The dangers are too great.  The lack of values is too powerful, and getting increasingly more prevalent.  It will only get worse.  Christian parents, if they chose to send their kids to public schools, are choosing to send their children into a dangerous environment.  They do so at their own peril, and they risk the salvation of their own children by doing so.

"I pay the schoolmaster, but it is the schoolboys who educate my son." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Instead Christian parents should either home school their children, or send their children to private Christian schools.  Before sending children to a private school the parent ought to thoroughly research the institution to ensure it will communicate the Christian message in a vibrant, relevant format.  

"It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its natural functions by artificial means. Thus we suppress the child's curiosity and then when he lacks a natural interest in learning he is offered special coaching for his scholastic difficulties." -Alice Duer Miller

Unfortunately for most Christians neither of these options will be possible.  Both can be quite expensive, and home schooling takes a great deal of time and attention.  

All Christians should look to support vouchers for private schools.  This is a political movement, quite active in Wisconsin and other areas, that promotes legislation to give parents the option of sending their kids to private schools.  Instead of being forced to send their kids to liberal public schools, they would have the option to receive a voucher to send their children to a private school of their choosing.  This initiative is intensely resisted by the ACLU and FFRF who claim that vouchers will "hurt public schools."  But it's all about control.  They know they can manufacture a secular future by forcing Christians to put their kids in the public indoctrination center.  Take a stand for vouchers.  Explore private Christian schools and options in that area.  

In the final conclusion, public schools aren't necessarily terrible places.  I'm sure some public schools are quality institutions.  But they don't communicate Christian values.  They are unable to communicate any values.  This leaves a vacuum of moral decay within the framework of the school system leading to gangs, bullying, teasing, and persecution against those who refuse to conform.  It tends to build to a perfect storm.  Christians should think twice before sending their children to a public school.  Instead Christian parents ought to explore homeschooling or private Christian schools.  Unfortunately these are not always viable options, so Christian parents may be forced to send their children to public schools.  In that case, parents in that situation will need to be extremely intentional about communicating Christian values.  In that circumstance, which will probably be quite common I would recommend the parents set aside time every night to share a message based on the Bible and the Christian worldview.  Perhaps that will be enough.  

I hope I haven't been too severe in this article.  But you've got to understand, I went to one of the best public school districts in the country.  D.C.E. district is renowned as one of the best.  And my experience was a total nightmare.  Sports and football players received special treatment from teachers and staff.  Social clicks made every day a brutal exercise in bullying, teasing, and even physical attacks.  There were some good teachers.  But many were quite cynical and jaded.  I was eventually expelled from D.C.E. because students made allegations against me that I had threatened to blow up the school.  Another interesting fact about my life!  It was at that time when during the school day I would endure mockery and ridicule, and feeling quite lonely I would dog through it all at the edge of emotional collapse.  Often on the bus I would become the target of a 45 minute mocking session, where the whole bus would join up in hurling insults at me.  Then when I walked in the door at home I would arrive to my parents screaming at each other in the hallway.  Then I would go into my room, turn up KoRn, and just lay on the floor and cry.  I started acting out, causing more trouble at school, rumors went around about this Justin Steckbauer kid who was going to shoot up the school.  This was right after Columbine too.  Of course I didn't even own any guns.  The same students who had bullied me, and made a fool out of me every chance they could get, heard these rumors.  They spoke to their parents, influential sports players and all, and I was quietly expelled.  I later graduated anyway, and went on to college, but the point here is my experience was an awful one.  And it's mirrored in millions of other children's lives across the country.  

In discussing our public school experience a friend and I recalled it very simply: It was like a dual attack.  First was the awful homework, classes, boring endless hours of learning to despise every core topic.  And secondly, perhaps even worse the cruel totalitarian nightmare of social clicks, bullying, hatred, teasing, and physical attacks in the hallways between classes.  No one need endure such things.  It's not a game.  It's not an initiation.  It's not right.  It shouldn't exist.  It shouldn't continue.  Parents, protect your children from that kind of environment.  Christians, stand up for vouchers, stand up for homeschooling and private Christian schools.  Public schools are not all bad, but for Christians, the values, teachings, and social environment are entirely incompatible with the Christian worldview.  

"Anyone who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education, and is not made a fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape." -William Hazlitt

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

All those who Wander are not Lost: A Study in Nothingness




"When Monday comes 
I want nothing 
Come Tuesday morning I want the same 
The days and nights fly by 
Looking to embrace the nothing of the everyday...."
-Yo La Tengo, "Everyday" from the album:  And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.

Much of my early life was lived by such reverberations.  I don't want to bash it.  It had it's appeals.  No burdens, no responsibilities.  Just drift about.  Ironically enough I live in a similar way today at times.  I'm in the arms of God.  I have no idea what will happen today.  I want nothing.  I want the same tomorrow.  And all is well.  God has me.  My destiny is secured.  All is well.

There have been many wants in my life.  I want this, I want that.  There have been many pleasures.  Where did the road lead?  Where did the trail move to?  A ghetto, a clearing in the woods, filled with the lost.  Where do we go from here, I would ask.  

How many games of COD are enough?  How many run throughs on easy, hard and hardest?  Is it fulfilling?  How many hours on World of Warcraft until it's enough?  When is it fulfilling?  What is the purpose of it?  What is the meaning?  How many hours stoned on pot watching movies of other people doing exciting things?  How many nights clinking beers with the local kids until it's finally perfect?  How many nights with women, with men, until we've found an ultimate relationship?  When oh when will that relationship transcend the shackles of everyday life and give birth to real meaning?  Where is true love?  When can I have it?  Will it be enough?  

How many hours of sleep?  How many days at the job?  How many promotions until godhood?  Which horoscopes?  How about a tarot reading?  How many walks in the middle of the night thinking about the meaning of life?  How many days on oxycontin?  How many hours awake on methamphetamine?  How many cheeky speeches?  When will it be enough?  What will fill that empty place of meaninglessness?  What will finally give an answer?  When will the pleasure transcend itself?  

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
 -Ecclesiastes 1:2-9 (NIV)

My soul, my being, everything I am is only engilded by one thing, by one force, by one person: Jesus Christ.  I am a turnsole to him alone.  But it wasn't always that way.  For many a year I traveled in darkness, figuratively, literally during my endless nightwalks.  Back in college at the University of Wisconsin I lived in the campus dorms for a spell.  At that time I had gone into abstinence from all drugs and alcohol, though I still smoked cigarettes at that time.  I remember I really felt alienated from the youngsters in the dorms around me.  I was 22, most of them were 19-20.  Instead of spending time partying with them, I would go out, literally every night.  Seven days a week.  I would leave the dorms between 10 and 11 PM and walk the streets.  Always at night, winter or summer, I would walk for at least 2 hours a night.  Usually around 3 hours a night.  I would bring an MP3 player and listen to Indie rock music.  And I would let my mind wander.  

Why am I here?  What is the meaning of life?  Where do I go from here?  

But do you know what was even more puzzling?  Why am I the only one who cares?  Why does everyone else not seem to think about such things?  I know some do.  But I am convinced the vast majority simply do not care.  They like the popsicles and pleasures of daily life, listen to Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, go get married, have kids, work a job, and never think about why.  Nothing could be odder to an INFP like myself.  

All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost. J. R. R. Tolkien

Meaninglessness and nothingness have often clawed at me.  I'm just not a person who can do something normal every day and feel satisfied.  I've always been curious.  I've always wanted to pull up the curtain behind the play put before us and find out what's really going on back there.  

It's so hard to tell what is true and what is false.  It's very muddy.  The truth is easily concealed.  False information is easily put out there by media and government.  Thankfully we have the Bible.  The Bible is one book that I've studied for authenticity a great deal.  And it's one book, one word that I fully trust.  I don't often trust institutions or ideas.  But the Bible is perfect.  It's the real, preserved word of God.  

There is a certain freedom in nothingness, in abandon.  But at the end of the day we still want substance.  We want reality.  At least I do.

Why does a man walk into empty places?  Why does a man walk into darkness?  He's looking for something.  Maybe he's looking for himself.  There is a lot of noise in the world.  In the night, all alone, it's just you, God, and the stars.  

Post-modernity is a move toward nothingness.  It's the mood of emptiness, the response to the final bankruptcy of modernity, materialism.  The philosophical heart of man must wander off into the dark to find himself once again.  Or maybe to find God.  

John Gray wrote in his landmark book "Straw Dogs" that there is no truth, no morality, no personhood, and no hope.  He said that humanists think there is something good about people.  He asks, "Why don't you pick up a newspaper?"  Imagine, any of the 365 days of the year over all the years since there has been a human written newspaper would one grabbing the paper for today ever struggle to find such evidence on the front page?  Never.  Not even once.  It is a fact.  Why can't it be seen?  Because we don't want to see it.  

Everything is getting better despite the evidence?  Apparently not.  Think of the terrible twentieth century.  How might our current century unfold?  World peace or World War III?  Who could say?  

Nothingness pervades the secular worldview.  The universe exploded from nothing.  Nothing became something.  Lifeless rocks became human beings given billions of billions of billions.  Nothing became solid matter.  Nothing became stars.  Nothing exploded.  The laws of nothingness became somethingness.  The laws of nothing created something.  How can laws create?  Has 50 + 50 ever put $100.00 in your pocket?  I wish it would.  

If in fact John Gray was right in Straw Dogs, there would be no way to know.  In fact John Gray says there is no such thing as truth.  Then  how could he say what he's writing is true or false?  If personhood is suspect, who wrote the book?  Why even have language?  Why write a book?  And if you do, isn't language just another construct that should be considered suspect?  

These are things I think about on my walks into the nothingness.  Of course it only seems like nothingness.  In fact my feet are hitting the black top.  My eyes are seeing the lack of sunlight, and the star light and the moonlight shining meekly through the woods about the area, giving a pleasant feeling of calm quietness.  

Generations come, and generations go, there is nothing new under the sun.  With more wisdom comes more grief.  

Often I'll collapse after a long day on my bed, and listen to the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.  It is so comforting to be reminded how meaningless everything in this life is, save one thing: the message of the Gospel.

But I've hated life, because the work done under the sun seemed quite grievous to me.  It seemed quite empty and meaningless.  Before I encountered Christ I lived the life of a dead man.  In many ways that seemed true.  I pursued anything that was foolish and destructive.  I didn't see it that way at the time.  I thought was "exploring" and "experimenting."  Little did I know was embroidering my own straight jacket.  We humans tend to be so good at self destruction.  Our hearts fall for the wrong gal, the wrong guy, and the ones who treat us so well we can't stand being around.  There are so many ironies that embattle the human experience.  There are so many ways that we simply trip ourselves up.  I know I did.  I was caught in every snare.  I jumped in every time.  And I went back to it many times, like a dog returns to his vomit (as the scriptures say).  

I'm convinced that every pursuit we as humans take outside of knowing and being known by God will end up in that awful sense of empty nothingness.  It is prescient.  I've felt it so many times.  I've felt it so many times when working toward an ultimate and finding it wanting.  I've felt it a million times.  I've always been so excited for the thing that would finally make things OK, and it never worked.  Emptiness always.  It is such an evil feeling, realizing my goal has been passed and I'm not cured, and I don't feel any better.  I could just scream, loudly at that moment for the sheer, stark injustice of it all.  All of that work for NOTHING!

What has it been for you?  Money?  Business success?  Maybe the perfect husband or wife?  Or some sort of love relationship that would finally transcend the barriers of reality and bring a perfect feeling?  That one is common for we millennials.  We grew up listening to too much Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service.  Great music though, I love it.  But humanist lyrics telling us that the perfection of reality is found in a penultimate romantic love?  Really?  Reminds me of a song called "Clark Gable" by the Postal Service which included the verse "I want so badly to believe that there is truth, that love is real. And I want life in every word to the extent that it's absurd."  I respect the honesty of that expression.  The heart calls for meaning, for substance, for the total overcoming of the senses.  Or the 2011 Death Cab for Cutie album called "Codes and Keys."  Who can recall that song off Codes and Keys that went "only our love will remain."  "All else will fade away, only our love."  But does our love alone carry the weight of eternity, history, human existence?  It doesn't.  Or who can forget Travis Morrison and Dismemberment Plan's album Change?  In "Sentimental Man" Morrison sings "There is no fate that divides our day, no spirits hard at work, no unseen hand at play
people talk like it's a given thing,I don't what they mean -- nor, I suspect, do they."  Yet he groped for the ultimate in his expressions, as so many of us millennials have.  We've groped for it without even realizing it, in our own existential explorations of how we feel.  And how it feels to feel the way we feel, and why we might feel that way.  In the first track on Change Morrison declares his position of no need for the supernatural, yet on track 3 aptly titled "Superpowers" he sings, "I have cried so hard for hours and not known why, I never do, I've been knocked down flat by joy that makes my face pulse like a sugar high, I've been cornered by the screams of a body as it freed itself of its mind, I guess you could call it superpowers, but no one is going to save the world with what I've got; an indigo light from silvery towers surrounded by rocks and stones as far as the eye can see."  We grope for meaning.  We grope for truth.  Part of ourselves is eternal and quite nearly successfully fights to transcend reality itself.  And we search down within.  We dig down toward the sense of emptiness common to all of those born on Earth.  I've expressed it myself in thousands of pages of writing before I became a follower of the way.  I've read it, written it, and listened to it sung by beautiful minds honestly groping for the missing something; the sense that something is wrong within them, and what the solution might be, while still having to contend with a tendency to evade a spiritual moral transcendent being.

 
A common theme is the ultimate romance.  As they say, the true love.  Or the soul mate, or what new agers might call soul twins.  It is a sort of worship of an ultimate romance, or relationship.  It hits closer to the solution than one might think though.  But it isn't the answer.  A romantic relationship, a good marriage is certainly a wonderful thing, but it never solves the underlying problem: disconnection from God.  Even if one resists that conclusion of a disconnection problem, one must certainly admit that no relationship ever transcended and solved the problem of emptiness and nothingness. It can effectively distract us, but only for so long.

Money, possessions, power, title, privilege, relationship, sex, it all falls short.  It all leaves us feeling empty.  We need God.  We can learn this the easy way, or like I did, the hard way. 

A study in nothingness shows us that the fact that we can ask the question must insist that we are more than we seem, don't you think?  We are able to ask the question.  Does God exist?  If we were beasts, evolved from rocks over billions of year, rocks that appeared out of the nothingness, for no apparent reason, would we even wonder about a God?  But the sheer ridiculousness of a something from nothing universe is idiotic to say the least.  Why do we consider these things possible?  Scientists make bad philosophers.  Sorry, but it's true.  I think we all know deep down there must be a god.  We've explored that question from science, astronomy, historiography, archaeology, and so many other areas on this blog.  We don't believe blindly here.  We believe based on evidence.  Like wind blowing through a tree, we can't see the wind, but we can see the evidence in the movement of the tree.  I can't ignore the tree waving, there has to be wind.  

God is there.  Our emptiness is there, our sense of nothingness is increasingly prescient because we are unable to find meaning outside of God.  Why?  Because there is no such thing.  We were designed for communion with God.  We were designed for a penultimate relationship in fact, it's just not romantic between me and another human.  It's between me and God.  You and God.  Between God and his people.  All made possible by Jesus Christ, the hero of this brilliant saga.  The tree of knowledge did not free us, it enslaved us.  But knowledge is God's alone.  In his book the Bible he reveals to us knowledge of saving faith in Christ.  And so we return to the tree of life, free to eat of it's infinite expressions.

I was driving along on a sunny day in Escanaba and as I stared out the window I realized that I was a being designed by God, thought up in the heart of God.  I was in fact, a creature designed by a timeless eternal being, a master architect of time and weather and space and nature who felt deeply driven to create a race of humans around himself with a piece of himself placed within each of them.  And I thought wow, that is a crazy thought. Because I was really finally letting that sink in as a reality.  I was finally letting that timeless truth become a part of how I see the world and myself.

You are the dream of God, thought up in his mind, and you have been crafted to multiply upon the Earth, a place in the throws of a tangent fall, a displacement of truth.  You are the dream of God.  You are the architecture through which a divine spark was placed to create a sentient, living being, also eternal, with a mind reaching for the eternal, a mind reaching for perfection always, because that mind cannot exist in the finites of this Earth.  It cannot find satisfaction in the finites of this Earth.  It can only find satisfaction in the eternal truths of God, truths that I can hardly fathom.  You are the dream of God.  

Yet my heart and my mind reach out into emptiness, into darkness, into the infinite desperately yearning for an infinity I cannot conceive of.  I can't taste it, I can't touch it, I can't even describe it, but I know that nothing in this life fulfills, there is something missing, and I need God, I need his eternal presence, I need him to make me right.  I need a doctor to do some surgery, I need Jesus Christ, the greater healer.  I need him to restore me, to build me, to change me and then to bring me into his eternal presence where I may enjoy the fruits of infinity and turn from the fleeting pleasures of this broken Earth.  

God wants to do the same thing he did for me, if you would but receive him.  Stop resisting.  Stop doubting.  The evidence is solid.  The arguments are reasonable.  What are you afraid of?  Finding the ultimate meaning of existence?  Are you afraid you might have to change your life?  Change how you live?  But won't it be worth it, to know the meaning of life, to discover the cure for the broken soul?  No more waiting, no more doubting, believe.  Call out to him, call upon one name: Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, who was nailed to the cross, died, and reclaimed his life through the miraculous power of God.  He is with God now, risen, resurrected and glorified.  Call on him, it is the equation we are offered.  Call upon Jesus Christ for safety, forgiveness, and new life.  Our hearts will wander in emptiness, meaningless, nothingness until we do so.  The fog is thick, the darkness deep, but deep calls out to deep, we can hear it, we can see it, we can perceive of it, and conceive of it, we are rendered aware through our own broken hearts of the power of infinity in the God of the universe, who made us, loves us, and can restore us to that state of perfection we were always meant to live as, through, and in.

Nothingness, emptiness, and meaninglessness are expressions of our own bankruptcy in the face of a broken world, a broken universe, and a brokenness that exists within all of us.  It is a hole, a gap, a void within all of us that screams silently for the eternal expressions of an infinite loving God, whom seeks to fill that unquenchable void in our hearts with the fullness of his presence, in the Spirit.  Believe him, trust in his word, trust his Son, even when the world spews all it's nonsense and skepticism at us, make the radical step to believe in the truth.  It is the only way we can find the infinity our hearts and minds call out for in the darkness of the nothingness of this fading world.  


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