Friday, December 30, 2016

Youth in the Suburbs: Children of the Shadows

We were night urchins in those days.  Pariahs of the night.  It was the suburban kid culture.  We weren't kids anymore though.  And we didn't know how to be adults, nor did we care to. The night was our love affair. We invested our time and efforts in the exploration of darkness.  

We messed with our minds because it felt good not to care.  It was surely a mysterious affair.  The sense of something being essentially wrong seemed to fill every moment.  Everyday it seemed as if an air of foreboding filled our lives.  It wasn't simply an internal sense of darkness, but it was also external. 

There were the nights we stared up into the skies, searching the stars, wondering at these mysteries.  There were nights we'd walk between the street lights, on endless wooded roads.  And we searched for something we could never find.  

We didn't care about anything.  We just wanted to be left alone to wander the streets at night and sleep through the days.  We wanted to feel the vibrations of the Earth and explore the shadows within ourselves.  

There is an aching of the soul, as it searches for meaning in a confusing world.  There is a glory in the windswept trees and hedge bushes, as we walk along the eau claire river.  

There is a disquieting incertitude about the air, in the failing light, as we lift back bottles of strong drink and inhale smoke.  Something sinister seems to be afoot, yet it can't be tracked. It's shadow and terrible work seems obvious.  And it's as if we had missed something critical about the world around us.  We wonder, vaguely, as if we are missing something.  And we ponder at the glorious beauty and the covariant darkness that meshes with the beauty of nature, considering that it seems to indicate something terrible has happened.  

It is a disconnected prescient horror, mixed with joy, that makes us think that something has gone terribly wrong in paradise.  And we are the children of that affair.  The picture is broken.  We can only see it dimly.  Yet it seems clear something has gone wrong.  And we can't summon enough will to care, only to notice and continue at our rapturous self destructive luxuries.  

I listened to eerie techno music, Boards of Canada, Do Make Say Think, Explosions in the Sky, and Sleep Party People.  I walked the streets every night, for several hours.  Sometimes my friend Kyle would join me.  Other times we'd have a gaggle of folks jaunting with us through the night, climbing rocks up on granite peak, or I'd pick up Laura and we'd walk about the hills beyond the tech.  Then we'd find that corner halfway up mosinee hill, and sit in the middle of the road around 1 am and stare up at the moon.  

We were so curious.  And quite drugged up.  We sensed our desire for something greater.  Yet the shadows within seemed to crowd it out.  

I imagine the suburbs across the entire country are quite the same.  House parties, midnight jaunts, jam sessions, night walks, deep conversations, drugged up talks, chattering teeth, jaws clenched tight, good times, salt beers, thc resin hits, and all the rest.  The children of modernity.  The children of the suburbs.  The children of materialism.  The children of confusion.  The children of darkness, and shadow.  

Suppose a divine being of infinite power developed, and painted, and meticulously planned a great enterprise of adventure.  This divine being would apply two insanely dangerous variables to the equation.  He would add a part of himself, a divine spark to each of the beings he created.  Second, and necessarily flowing from the first, he would plot the mind of the being and the environment of the architecture with the incredible gift of choice.  This would be a seemingly scandalous and highly dangerous situation.  Yet it would allow for all sorts of wonderful possibilities.  

This experiment begins with the creation of a perfect state of reality.  A perfect planet is crafted, with nature, animals, and humans.  Yet something terrible happens.  The divine beings, carrying the divine spark decide to make a choice that leads them away from the divine being, and into a state of darkness.  

They walk away from perfection and the good.  They take up residence in a place of darkness within.  So the divine being is faced with a dilemma.  Does he allow his creation to descend into total darkness?  Or is there another option?

Essentially God divides the creation, he allows it to collapse, not 100% but about 50%.  The nature is still beautiful, yet it is unstable.  There is still warmth, yet seasons of cold and winter come.  There is still food to eat, but it becomes more sparse.  There are still beautiful animals, but many become dangerous and hostile to humans.  The Earth and reality itself takes on a form of fallenness.  Humans now sleep at night, a night that never had existed before.  Humans now find themselves inverted in their desires.  Instead of loving God first, they loves themselves first.  Instead of caring for others first, selfishness becomes prominent.  Instead of contentment, fear and foreboding take priority.  

Thousands of years pass in this state.  Humanity grows and progresses in technology.  Wars rage, and genocides occur. The human race eliminates as many records as they can of this fall their ancestors went through.  Self-based religions take over.  Materialism takes over.  Technologies grow and flourish.  And pretty soon the modern generation takes hold.  Increasingly faith is driven from society.  And a generation of young people grow up in the suburban sprawls, wondering after wonder, what their lives really mean, and who they really are.  Filled with drugs and drink, they seek after and struggle with the pains of life, wandering into the darkness of the nights, staring up at the stars, trying desperately to understand what has happened on Earth, and what is happening within themselves! 

Little do they know, they are seeking after the God who made them, yet their own worst enemy is themselves, they've been cut off from the source, left fallen and selfish, and nothing seems to make sense. A yearning of the soul, desperate and terrible, makes life seem unbearable.  So they wander off, into dark places, into the night, desperate to seek after something only found in the solitude of darkness and aloneness. 

I did the same.  The endless walks and night ventures seemed to put me into a hypnotized state of clarity.  Away from all the noise, it was just the deep woods, the night sky, music in my ears, and a gentle shimmering presence.  I'm convinced that such a clear, gentle, persistent activity, walking alone in the dark made all the difference.  Many factors played into the journey of my life, but I can say this much: In all those dark walks in the depths of night, as a child of the shadows, I encountered a living God. 

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas is a Blessed Time of Rejoicing & Celebration

Christmas is a wonderful time of year.  It's a time when we reflect upon the birth of our savior.  It's a time when we rejoice, feast, give gifts, and fellowship with family.  

I think I've got all my Christmas presents wrapped.  I've got all my plans set to see family and friends. Though I don't have a tree up in my apartment, I'm sure my mom does.  Or maybe my dad does.  Who knows!

Gift giving is a wonderful tradition.  I think it makes sense too. It's a spirit of giving and receiving expressions of affection from one another.  

We have the privilege to give gifts to each other because we've received the greatest gift imaginable from Jesus Christ. That's how I understand gift giving on Christmas.

Christmas is a time of celebration.  It's a mindset too I think.  It's how we see the world.  We celebrate at this time of year, we rejoice and feast and spend time with family because we have the privilege of doing so.  We do this because of Jesus Christ, and the glory of God coming into the world.  Scripture tells us Jesus Christ hold reality itself together, so in a very real sense we celebrate the one who makes all things possible.

If Jesus has fallen to the way side in your mindset of Christmas, I suggest that you try to change that.  I think prayer can do that.  Prayer before the meal, prayer before gift opening.  Scripture could also be incorporated into your traditions.  Jesus Christ is already at the center of all things, we can't change that, but we can keep him in focus as we celebrate.  And we should celebrate.  We need to celebrate.

Year by year life is a struggle. We fight all year round. We work and work. We constantly struggle against unforeseen circumstances and endless difficulties.  We fight and push to somehow redeem a dying, decadent, depraved culture that has little interest in Christ.  

We struggle day and night to somehow prevent the total collapse of western civilization at the hands of the marxist rebel revolutionaries who chant "love wins" as they burn the cities and politically destroy anyone who stands in their way.  

We are of a most dire need for rest.  But much more than rest.  When we fight these battles, we can easily begin to lose sight of the reason we fight.  The reason is Jesus Christ.  Without Jesus Christ there would be no battle to fight.  We'd begin by losing, and end by dying.  We'd have no place but in darkness if it weren't for Christ's atoning sacrifice.  Yet we fight so hard, for so long, maybe we start to lose sight of Jesus.

Let us now,  during this Christmas season, pull back from the front lines.  I know many of you out there are on the very front lines of this spiritual war, fighting hand to hand combat with the worst of the spiritual darkness, and the worst of the culturally depraved. It's a tireless, thankless battle.  So we must pull back from the front lines, and take time to rest.

We have great reason to rejoice at Christmas time this year.  For our savior Jesus Christ was born into the world.  God almighty humbled himself to come into the world to deal once and for all with sin.  He came, in a most particular and peculiar manner, through a human mother, born of a woman, to grow up like any human would, and to live a human life.  H came ultimately to live a perfect, holy life, and then become our worst sins for us.  Once and for all, Christ became the sin of the world, so it could be defeated in his death.  And he resurrected from death, to provide eternal life, escape from this fallen world to a new, perfected Earth where God and man will live in perfect harmony.  

This is a gift beyond imagining.  It's so good it can't truly be comprehended.  Jesus Christ was born into the world, lived perfectly, gave his life in the brutal murder of the cross, and on the cross he was forsaken and abandoned by God the Father, left to receive the penalty of sin, for all of us, for anyone who would believe.

Believe in Jesus Christ.  He is our Lord and our savior.  He was so humble, as to be born into the world, in the most unlikely manner, he was born, coming into the world on a rescue mission to save humanity from sin and death.  Rejoice in Christ.  He is our risen, commanding, powerful King and Savior.  

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Twelve Points that Prove Christianity is True

stock photo, cc 2.0 vi Pixabay
Can Christianity be proven? Contrary to popular belief that the Christian faith is based on unproven assumptions, there is actually a great deal of evidence for the Christian worldview.  This is a twelve point reasoning process, in extremely short form, indicating a reasoning route beginning at "Can truth be known?" Links are included to relevant articles and short videos to expand upon the point in question. Enjoy.

1. Truth about reality is knowable.

2. The law of non-contradiction indicates that what is opposite of true must be false.

3. It is true that a theistic God exists.

4. If God exists then miracles are possible

5. Miracles are useful as evidence and confirmation of a message from God.

6. The Bible is historically reliable.

7. The New Testament says that Jesus claimed to be God.
8. Jesus’ claim to be God was miraculously confirmed by:
9. Therefore, Jesus is God.

10. Whatever Jesus (Who is God) teaches must be true.

  • a. If Jesus Christ is God, then anything Jesus teaches must be absolutely true, given the requirements for God include infinite knowledge, infinite ability, moral purity, and a living embodiment of the truth. 

11. Jesus taught that the Bible is the word of God.

  • a. "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished," Matt. 5:18 NASB
  • b. "The Scripture cannot be broken” –John 10:35b NASB
  • c. “"Your word is truth” –John 17:17b NASB
12. Therefore it is true that the Bible is the word of God.

If Jesus Christ is really God, then the Bible must be the word of God, because Jesus considered the Bible the word of God.  Given these twelve points, Christianity is true beyond a reasonable doubt.  
How should you respond? First step, do more research.  Second step, think about it. Third step, actually pray about it and ask God to reveal himself to you.  

From a basis of imperative (necessity) the greatest question of life itself must be: How can we overcome death? The clock is after all ticking for all of us. Well, there is only one who has successfully overcome death.  

Did Jesus Christ really rise from the dead?  If Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead, then he can do the same for us, as God, and for that reason, eternal life, the holy grail itself becomes available to us!

If the reasoning is sound, and you've come to believe that these facts are true, then commit your life to Jesus Christ, commit to serve Him and live by his standards put forth in the New Testament. And you will live forever.  It's as simple as that.  Believe on Jesus Christ, believe God raised him from the dead, and commit your way to his teachings.  If the goal is to believe what is actually true, then you ought to believe Christianity. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

You Have the Honor of Communing with the Architect of Reality

Via Wikimedia, Ontario Snowfall
It's quite astonishing to me that I have the ability to commune regularly with the architect of time, space, matter, energy, and consciousness.  Dare I treat it as ordinary?  Dare I allow it to become mundane?  Though I am only human, I can perceive at least some of this wonder.  Can't I? Can you? 

God, this being of infinity, unborn, before the first moment, after the last moment, exists and desires to be in relationship with me.  And I have that privilege.  Given that, could anything be of greater importance than the one who made reality itself?  

How is it that my mind slides off into dullard thoughts of fleshly desires almost endlessly?  How can it be that I'm so distracted by the trinkets of this life?  How dare I consider such an abounding relationship as something trivial?  

I must confess that at times I do.  I'm so busy scrolling through my news feed, or reading articles, I brush aside prayer.  I brush aside the reading of the holy scriptures.  I get so caught up in political discussions and commentary, I fail to connect with God almighty.  

It is the human condition I suppose.  Is it any wonder that western civilization has largely turned away from God?  Though some are returning.  There is always hope.  But we live in the shadow, and we can't see clearly the true realities.  We have to fight for that comprehension.  We have to fight to see the truth.  We have to fight to apprehend the spiritual realms that exist all around us.  It is quite difficult.

Life is after all consistently in our face.  It's always in my face.  One can talk of God and eternity, but what about the utility bill?  What about the credit card debt?  What about the work schedule?  These things are visceral.  Especially when I haven't gotten a proper amount of sleep!  I'm quite vexed then and often quite ornery.  

I can hardly hold myself together at times, I'm so filled with anxiety, fear, uncertainty, discomfort, improper desires, and selfish ambitions.  I think I could rip apart from within!  I can barely hold my head up for all the thoughts pouring out.  And I work full time.  When does one find time to connect with the spiritual realities around us?  These are the tests we face.  

I don't think they are peculiar or unique.  That's key.  We assume we're going through something extraordinary.  And in a way we are.  But for any other believer in Christ, it is quite ordinary.  These are the struggles we were intended to face.  They are not strange or out of place.  They are just the struggles this life provides, and God almighty gives provision for us to persevere through them.  He really does.  

Yet many are under the mistaken consideration that once one has God within life will be fundamentally good.  That is false.  In fact it may become more difficult, in ways.  Yet fundamentally, joy is the state of things, joy in knowing that though the sky fold up and fire rain from the sky, all will be well.

This is not a pie in the sky concept, but a simple reality based on the infinite care of God.  Logically, if God has provided redemption through himself, by way of Jesus Christ, and the individual has received that, then literally nothing can threaten that connection.  Nothing can threaten that reality.  And joy of the knowledge of the meaning of life is abundantly given.

Suddenly massive fears and dogged anxieties of this life float away.  The what ifs no longer matter!  I might've fretted that someday a tornado or earthquake or hurricane would come along and destroy all I had.  Then it would be on my head to somehow scrap the pieces together.  But once carried by God, the fear of this is no longer sane, because I've come to understand that I'm not in charge!  And I won't be the one picking up the pieces, it will be God who will care for me, my family, and orchestrate events to provide for us in the future.  There really need be no fears anymore.  I don't have to try to control and manipulate and force events to go my way, I can trust that God is sovereignly guiding events to his greatest glory.  I no longer have to plan out my whole life, I trust in God, pray and ask Him to reveal His will, then do my best to take actions so His will is done in my life. This becomes the new formula of life.  So we have great reason for joy, for comfort, and also for perseverance in times of suffering.  

Yet there are times when my soul feels as dry and crushed as if I were upon the dunes of a desert, starving for thirst in the hot sun.  I honestly did not expect the crushing pain of these trials.  I did not expect that when I became a Christian.  I really didn't.  But I've come to accept those intense struggles as part of my mission and journey on Earth.  The struggles are fantastic actually, they are quite compelling at times.  Especially when I keep the proper perspective that God is using these brutal, visceral, in your face trials to build me into who He wants me to be.

In other words, he is disciplining us. Not disciplining as in slapping us with a ruler or spanking.  Disciplining as in producing trials and struggles, like a football coach at practice, 6 days a week, drilling the boys, and toughening them up.  And as Vince Lombardi said, “I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline."  Deep down, we need and appreciate the struggles God puts us through to transform us into His likeness. 

It's a transforming process.  It slowly transforms your worldview, your very comprehension of reality.  It's like putting on a pair of strong glasses after being blurred for so long.  You can finally see what life is really all about and you can finally comprehend mysteries like the complex unity of the natural world and the vastness of outer space.  All of these things come to make sense.  Though we do not have all the answers.  Many, many things remain fantastic mysteries.  But God delights in revealing His mysteries to those who delight in pursuing those mysteries.  That is particularly true. 

After writing to this point I stepped outside to carry a basket to a car for an old lady.  And I looked out across the area as we stepped out the gym door.  Snow was coming down everywhere, little puffs of white, as if in slow motion, flowing down from the skies.  My first reaction was to think of this as ordinary.  But being in the mindset of considering the deeper things of God, as I watched the flakes fall, I knew I was witnessing an existence designed and perpetuated by an infinite being of infinite power with personality, creativity and artistry baked into the whole project.  Quite astounding.  Nature, the heavens, the earth, the city around you, are all constructs in this dream of God.  When you look across the city, when you walk about your day joy, when you drive from here to there, do you keep that fact at the forefront of your mindset?  Definitely do so. 

God is of the ability to be in a particularly beautiful relationship with you.  You and He fit together like puzzle pieces.  After all he has designed your soul.  He decided that the world needed one of you.  Your particular quirks, your talents and skills, and your struggles and difficulties.  He designed you to fit with Him. He is after all the master designer, not only of human souls, but of time, the human senses, the world around us, nature, and how we perceive it.  Interact with God on a daily basis, open yourself up to that unimaginable relationship.  And don't allow it to become mundane, but ask God to renew it within you again and again. Amen. 

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Could we be on the verge of a New Temperance Movement?

Young Men these days.
Time and again in human history the excesses of society must be addressed.  As the tides of over-indulgence take hold and bubble into the grizzly morning afters of post-modernism, lifestyles of stupefied putrefaction must give way to temperance movements.  What is temperance?  It means "self-restraint in action."  Or put more simply; self control, living in a "moderate" manner.  

I would submit to you that we, young people today, are an unrestrained generation. Though far be it from me or us to take responsibility for the whole of the generation.  We can only determine our individual actions. Though often through doing so, and taking hopeful new actions, we inspire others to do the same.  And historic temperance movements are formed.  

The excesses of our generation are possibly the most severe of any generation in human history.  We have access to and are exposed to more temptations and indulgences than any other group of people in history.  We find ourselves addicted to pleasure, which might be the over-arching theme of all other excesses.  

To think of the excesses, they include so many things: drugs, alcohol, television, sweet foods, coffee, movies, internet, social media, prescription mental health supplements, performance enhancing drugs, pornography, wealth, power, influence, social media presence, popularity in the secular as well as the religious realms, sex addiction, relationship addiction, codependency, video games, adrenaline-rush activities, and so many other things. That's not to say all of these things are evil! They are not.  Some are.  Some are not.  Our excessive application of such things can cause them to become problematic.  So we have to be aware of how we're intaking the various partitions of life.

I'm not raising these concerns to shame you.  No, not at all.  But to raise your awareness of and consideration for these woes of excess.  Even if none of these plague you, they certainly could. The temptation to excess is often stronger than we might realize.  Which is why we see young people overdosing on drugs.  Which is why we see obesity at record highs.  Which is why preventable concerns like diabetes and heart disease are at the top of the preventable deaths list.  Not to mention suicide, which is rising in teens.   

We are weighted down by many pleasures.  Now we indulge in these pleasures with the assumption that they will bring satisfaction and happiness in life.  But that is not the case.  We wake often post-indulging from theses excesses to find ourselves in the grizzly morning after.  

You know the feeling I'm talking about, don't you?  That exhausted, indulged, dirty feeling.  As if you'd just defecated on yourself, after eating a large cheese pizza, playing video games all night, 8-10 beers, ten bowls of the pot, and you feel yucky.  You feel splayed out on the floor, as if you were a puddle of muchness.  

Too muchness.  Pleasure, as pleasurable as it can be, once pushed to it's limits tends to give way to general dissatisfaction and increasing melancholy.  At least that's been my experience.  You feel run thin.  Exhausted.  As a friend of mine once remarked, laying back in exhaustion and emptiness after eating a large pizza: "I'm all GMO'd out man."  

In my work with the Salvation Army I meet and have ample time to observe homeless.  As I observe, I sometimes think to myself that many of the people I encounter are products of this consumer-indulgent society; as if they were cast aside, those along the edges who get tossed outside the blender bowl and must be propped up and helped back in.  

Many are just down on their luck, many have issues that they haven't addressed and many get their lives straightened out.  But there is always a population that we affectionately refer to as "chronically homeless."  Which is actually a HUD definition, but I digress. The chronically homeless don't want to improve their situation and look to game the system.  Though many are quite capable of overcoming their obstacles.  They don't really want to.  In particular are the younger ones.  We have a rotating homeless shelter that switches week by week through the churches in the area to provide a safe place for the homeless during the brutal winters of upper-northern Michigan.  And I watch these young guys, usually between 19-26, and they are perpetually dissatisfied.  They are perpetually troubled.  They are perpetually huffing and puffing, they are exhausted, and splayed out on the floor, hung-over from the excesses of over-pleasurified stupefaction.  I don't seek to judge them.  I only know this because I was once just the same as they are.  I was exhausted and broken from consumerism and constant indulgence.  

For many young men these days, this is a way of life.  For me it was a way of life, before God changed my story.  I played computer games, I played video games, I drank beers when I could get them, and go to parties.  I tried to sleep with girls I thought were attractive.  My goal was pleasure.  Honestly, it really was.  I was a hedonist in practice.  Slam triple Cs, drink beers, get the scripts from the doctor, play videogames, go to a party, game after girls, and possibly, maybe, work a part time job, and live in moms basement.  That is the lifestyle.  And it's empty.  It's dead.  It's exhausting.  It's unfulfilling.  It's lazy.  It's pathetic.  

From my perspective it seems to be a growing trend.  More and more young men look this way.  Their girlfriends drive them around.  They're jobless, directionless and goalless. Our society is beginning to give way, to crumple at the edges, just slightly, here and there, because young men ought be temperate, disciplined, wise, and altruistic, but instead they are sex junkies, drug users, video-game-aholics, pleasure lovers and womanizers. And it's bad for society.  Yet it's even worse for them. 

In short, we are in need of a new temperance movement.  Any powerful movement that can help reshape the character of a nation always, always, always begins with one thing: small groups of young men.  It's true.  Every revival, great awakening, and enlightenment has started with groups of young men determined to live differently.  That's what we need.  We need a new temperance movement.  We need a new program of action for young men to champion, to set aside the carnival pleasures and become all God intends for them to be.  

That's all big talk, but it has to start with me.  It has to start with me and you battling our demons.  It has to start on an individual basis, with me and you declaring open war against the excesses in our lives.  Four years and one month ago I declared open war on the drug addiction and alcoholism in my life.  That was a hard battle to win, especially when all your troops are in concentration camps.  But somehow the impossible revolution took shape, and today I've been free of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes for four years.  The war continues, as I fight against lust, selfish desires, and the desire to be the center of attention.  The battle continues as I fight my desire to be important and to be "somebody."  It isn't easy.  But it can be done.  

Only in the power of God, in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, that's the only thing that worked for me.  That's the only way I found to escape.  Every other door was locked, every other option failed.  But once that happened, I got to work on myself.  I work hard today, as an intern in the Salvation Army.  I work some 12 hour days, especially during Christmas.  Yet you'd be amazed, just amazed how you feel after a day of hard work; you feel blessed.  Sometimes I even dread my days off, because of the way I feel sitting home in my apartment all day.  Or maybe it just reminds me how pathetic I used to be.  Eventually I think my generation, millennials will finally become sick and tired of being sick and tired.  The bankruptcy of these material pleasures, of videogames, pornography, drugs, and drink must fade to the desire for temperance.  These pleasures must fade as they are proven bankrupt to the desire to live a worthwhile and meaningful life of character and virtue.  I really do believe that.  Because it happened to me. 

Could we be on the verge of a new temperance movement?  I believe so. Young people are increasingly fed up with the modernist and post-modernist mindsets of materialism and "do whatever feels right" hippie BS. The hope for the future lies with millennials.  If millennials can wake up and realize that generation X has screwed us over and brainwashed us into thinking their socialist hippie druggy ideals are so great, then we can come to realize that the traditionalists had it right.  And we can restore western civilization to the place of values, character, and principles that it was always meant to be.  

With the modernist and post-modernist generations in power, we can see how corrupt they truly are.  But I don't think we necessarily need a "return" to the traditionalist mindset.  I think we need a skeptical, yet reasonably faithful generation, Christian, principled, set on rooting out corruption, conservative, temperate, yet willing to embrace new applications, new technologies, and new ways of applying timeless conservative and Christian values, while remaining entirely staunch and rock ribbed on those core principles.  A modulating, adjusting application of principle and embrace of new methods, while never swaying from or adjusting the timeless principles of freedom, liberty, constitutionalism, and biblical instructions on truth. 

Will it take a miracle?  Yes it will.  My generation is pilled and driven mad with the half-baked philosophies of pothead hipster university professors, consumerist society, Hollywood depravity, and prevailing naturalist ideologies.  But there is hope, because friends, God is active in human history.  God is swaying and molding time and history as we speak.  So there is always hope.  Time and again the secular world has been astonished how faith and Christianity has risen from what they thought were the ashes of it's defeat.  Yet faith, family, principles, and liberty always tend to rise up when just a small, tiny minority dares to believe that God will draw the hopes from their hearts and magnify them anew across the face of western civilization to build the dreams into a new hope for a generation.  

Build it today, believe in the impossible.  And tread softly, for you tread on our dreams. 

The Library of Congress, representative of wisdom of the ages.
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Monday, December 12, 2016

I don't have enough Faith to be an Atheist

creative commons 2.0 via flickr
I've been reading through "I don't have enough Faith to be an Atheist" by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek.  And by reading, I mean listening to the audiobook.  Christian Audio was kind enough to make it available free of charge a few months ago, so I took them up on it.  It is a fantastic read.  It's just fantastic.  Geisler lays out a rock solid argument, walking through twelve points on why Christianity is true.  I read this book and I just ache inside because I wish this sort of information would make it out to the general public.  But it really doesn't.  

There is an iron curtain out there, in the universities, in secular government, Hollywood, and especially the sciences that locks out anything that doesn't jive with darwinian naturalism.  This wall of resistance to facts really does an incredible disservice to the general public.  It indoctrinates out children en masse, and turns them into secular thinkers.  There's no other way around it, that's what is happening.  

But we feel locked in, because of the cries against theocracy.  But is teaching the Bible theocracy?  Not at all.  At least privatize education then, because the naturalist worldview is not based on facts and evidence, it's based on unproven philosophical presuppositions.  Allow families the choice, to choose what worldview their children will be taught.  

“One who claims to be a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs.”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist 

Reading "I don't have enough Faith to be an Atheist" is simply stunning, and eye opening.  These apologetics need to get out to people.  But the gates are locked.  Thankfully we can go around the mainstream media via the internet.

Probably one of the greatest goals of this blog is to communicate the evidence for God to those who simply don't know.  No one has told them.  So I try to tell them.  I don't reach many, 500 a day or so.  That's a drop in the bucket.  Something like 120,000 people die a day worldwide.  

Did you know if Jupiter wasn't positioned the way it is right now there would be no life on Earth?  It's true.  Jupiter protects Earth from being bombarded by asteroids.  Of course we all know that without the moon the Earth wouldn't support life.  If Earth was just a little closer to the sun, no life.  If the universe's gravitational constant was adjusted to the .0000000000001 there would be no stars or planets.  But get this: Did you know if there were no earthquakes, the Earth couldn't support life?  It's true.  Crazy stuff!

If you get the chance, definitely pick up a copy of "I don't have enough Faith to be an Atheist."  Or make it a Christmas gift for a skeptical friend!  There is another out too I think, "I Still Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist."  There are plenty of other good books on evidence for God though, one of my favorites is "The Language of God" by Francis Collins.  

Guys go crazy for apologetics.  Many girls do as well.  But I think we could even things out in the church of Christ if we talked more about apologetics.  Today the church in the United States is 60% female, 40% male.  Evidence for God could even that out, that's my take anyway.  Society needs men with good strong chests, don't you think?  Otherwise it tends to fall over.  If I were Satan, I would target young men, that's where the hope of the society lies.  With strong men, and of course strong women as well.  

Systematically the young seem to be perpetually under attack.  Their minds are under attack.  The assault is one of the flesh.  

I often think to myself, that we live in a mine field.  A mine field of the mind.  When I think about it, over the course of a single day, how many times I'm exposed to the female body, in skimpy outfits, whether it's television, social media, and out in the public, it's everywhere. That's no accident.  Our minds are under attack.  If the enemy can turn us into sex addicts, media junkies, drug addicts, alcoholics, self worshipers, smart phone addicts and so on, then he can make us utterly ineffective in our attempts to better the world through Christ.  

With this brutal attack on men, and on women, I find myself desperate for men to learn of all the evidence for the existence of God.  What's the first thing a man tends to think when you bring him a proposition?  He thinks: Show me the facts.  Prove it to me.  You say this is a great deal, prove it to me.  Otherwise I'm not interested.  

Those facts are fantastically abundant.  But if you watched television you'd assume it's just a bunch of silly myths that should be abandoned.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  

I turned on the dreaded television just a few days ago to watch the Packers devour a hawk of some sort, and after on Fox, came on The Simpsons.  A particularly nasty show, that I no doubt watched when I was about 10 years old.  Full of nasty stuff.  And sure enough, the episode was one trashing and mocking priests and pastors and such things.  I check my television again for a game tonight and noticed "Lucifer" was on next on Fox.  Very wholesome entertainment don't you think?  Lucifer is a hot young bachelor who womanizes, but he's actually going to "help people."  He's a friendly lucifer.  Gotcha.  Believe me, just the tip of the iceberg.

The fact is, atheism is unsustainable.  It's systemically contradictory.  The universe had a beginning, a big bang.  Science shows that.  The question is: Who caused the big bang?  Nothing can't create something.  The universe isn't eternal, so what created it?  Can't it be that an intelligent designer created a universe that looks designed?  Don't we realize that our bodies function like designed machinery?  It's true.  This kind of complexity could never come about by chance.  That's what scientists more and more start insisting on entirely unsubstantiated theories like panspermia and the multiverse.  They vainly try to wish away the fine tuning of the universe with science fiction.

That's one of the key points Dr. Geisler makes in his book.  Check it out.  I can only reach so many people with the facts about the Bible and God.  So if your out there reading these words, spread memes on social media, post quotes, start a podcast or video channel, or start a blog like this.  Get the facts out there.  They're teaching lies in the universities.  The truth is, if the truth is going to get out, if people are going to come to know God almighty, their creator, you have to carry the message.  As they say, you are the resistance.  

The naturalists and atheists are pretty much in charge now in the cultural institutions.  You have to be the grassroots army that gets the truth out there.  No one else will do it, you must do it.  Pray hard, work harder.  Good luck, and God bless. 

“God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling.”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

 “if someone ever asks you, “Do you believe in evolution?” you should ask that person, “What do you mean by evolution? Do you mean micro- or macroevolution?” Microevolution has been observed; but it cannot be used as evidence for macroevolution, which has never been observed.”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist 

“J. dBudziszewski points out, “The motto ‘Reason Alone!’ is nonsense anyway. Reason itself presupposes faith. Why? Because a defense of reason by reason is circular, therefore worthless. Our only guarantee that human reason works is God who made it.”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist 

“What amazes us is that parents all over the world are literally paying thousands of dollars in college tuition so that their sons and daughters can be taught the “truth” that there is no truth, not to mention other self-defeating postmodern assertions such as: 8220;All truth is relative” (Is that a relative truth?); “ There are no absolutes” (Are you absolutely sure?); and, “It’s true for you but not for me!” (Is that statement true just for you, or is it true for everyone?) “True for you but not for me” may be the mantra of our day, but it’s not how the world really works. Try saying that to your bank teller, the police, or the IRS and see how far you get! Of course these modern mantras are false because they are self-defeating. But for those who still blindly believe them, we have a few questions: If there really is no truth, then why try to learn anything? Why should any student listen to any professor? After all, the professor doesn’t have the truth. What’s the point of going to school, much less paying for it? And what’s the point of obeying the professor’s moral prohibitions against cheating on tests or plagiarizing term papers?”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist 

 “natural selection may be able to explain the survival of a species, but it cannot explain the arrival of a species.”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist 

 “skeptics are caught in a dilemma. If they say history cannot be known, then they lose the ability to say evolution is true and Christianity is false. If they admit history can be known, then they must deal with the multiple lines of historical evidence for creation and Christianity.”
Norman L. Geisler,
I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

“If we teach students that there is no right and wrong, why are we surprised when a couple of students gun down their classmates or a teenage mother leaves her baby in a trash can?”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist 

 “the Moral Law is not always the standard by which we treat others, but it is nearly always the standard by which we expect others to treat us.”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist 

“Contrary to what is being taught in many public schools, truth is not relative but absolute. If something is true, it’s true for all people, at all times, in all places.”
Norman L. Geisler, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist 

“Any denial of truth presupposes truth, so the existence of truth is inescapable.”
Norman L. Geisler,
I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Walking the Road to Bethlehem: Mary is encouraged by Elizabeth

"The Visitation"

We are now in the 3rd week of advent. Time flies doesn’t it? We’re walking our way from the first news of the coming messiah given to Mary. We discovered how Mary must’ve felt overwhelmed by this incredible revelation. Last week we learned about Joseph and how he must’ve felt and reacted to the news that his betrothed fiancé was pregnant. This week we’ll be looking at Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, who being 88 years old is told that she will be the mother of John the Baptist.

All of this took place at about 35 to 40 B.C. Augustus was Caesar of the ancient Roman empire at this time in history. Following Augustus, would be Tiberius. And we’ll see later that Augustus would order a census taken of the Roman empire, which would include Israel. Do you see how the biblical accounts read like history? Luke chapter 1 begins as if it were depicting historical events. Why? Because it is. Was there ever an Augustus Caesar of the Roman empire? Skeptics would probably throw up their hands and say “how can we know that there was ever an emperor Augustus?”

Well, here’s a picture of a large statue of Caesar Augustus, which was recovered by divers in the Aegean sea. This is called archaeological evidence for the biblical documents. In fact one study of busts and statues of Augustus in world museums lists over 120 examples.

One could say, fair enough, there was an Augustus who was emperor of Rome, but what about Jesus? How do we know he really existed?

Well, thankfully we have historians who throughout the ages have recorded world events. One of the most trusted historians of all ages of history is none other than Cornelius Tacitus. This is like the Albert Einstein of history. Anyone who knows history, knows Tacitus. And Tacitus, a trusted historian, recorded information about Jesus. In 112 AD Tacitus wrote regarding the reign of Nero, and Nero’s response to the great fire of Rome, these words, and I quote:

“…Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus...”

All of this to indicate to all of us, as the body of Christ, that despite all the hot air produced by skeptics and television personalities, we can trust the biblical documents and the accounts of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. All of this squares together our perception, when we open up our Bible to Luke Chapter 1. When we start reading down the page we must, must remember that we’re reading accurate history, not fables or myths. These things, really happened.

So Mary this 16 year old peasant girl has been given news of great tidings that will change her life forever. It’s interesting that shortly after Mary learns that she will give birth to Jesus, the son of God, she decides to make an eighty+ mile journey to Enin Karem to visit her 88 year old cousin Elizabeth.

It’s 80 miles as the crow flies. But to make the journey means crossing several mountain stretches. It’s a dangerous journey, but she decides that she must make it. She arrives to see Elizabeth and spends over 3 months with her. That is an exceedingly long sleep over. But most definitely a valuable get together.

Mary and Elizabeth don’t know it at that time, but God is literally going to change the world through the two children growing in their bellies. Isn’t that an amazing honor that women have, to raise up such great people of faith? I think of Susanna Welsey the mother of Methodism. She trained up John and Charles, just as a mother, but she was utterly dedicated to her calling to be a great mother. She meticulously raised John and Charles to be men of God. And through her ministry to them, and their ministry to the world, millions of souls came into contact with Jesus Christ.

In the same way Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist. Does anyone here think John the Baptist is awesome? Very early on in my Christian life I thought John the Baptist was really, really cool. He lives in the wilderness, he’s an outcast, eating wild honey, crazy hair, eating bugs, preaching the word, rallying the people, the grassroots, to be prepared to welcome and embrace the coming of Jesus. John the Baptist is like the rebel truth speaker. He’s the proclaimer of the coming of the messiah. He’s the prophet, proclaiming the coming Christ. And then we have Jesus, God come to Earth. He’s the savior, the king, our God, the maker of the universe, and the designer of the human soul. He’s goodness, love, holiness, purity, tenderness, friendship, and mystery before our very eyes. And it all started with Mary, and Elizabeth. Two mothers.

They both needed each other at this moment in their lives. They were about to literally give birth to two people who would transform the world for generations to come. Everything would change.

What do you do when something really crazy is happening in your life? I know that for me, I seek out a close friend and confidont to share with them what I’m going through. We all need encouragement in our lives. That’s why this message fits so well for this moment in time.

It’s Christmas time, we’re rushing here and there trying to get everything taken care of. Right? We do that a lot in society, run like mad trying to get everything done. Marking off the “to do list” check by check.

One of the best things I can do to try to slow down and regain some composure and sanity in my life, is to spend time with family. That’s why right after Christmas I go and spend a week with family. It’s very important. Something about family can really help straighten out the priorities in our lives.

Mary understood that when she made the 9 day journey to Elizabeth’s home. Luke chapter 1, verses 39-45 says: “Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Elizabeth was an instant encouragement to Mary. Mary didn’t understand what was happening in her life. She knew the Lord was with her, and she knew her son would be the savior of the world. But she was probably wondering, is anyone else going to believe this? It must’ve been a great relief when Elizabeth her dear friend believed her, encouraged her, and invoked the name of the Lord.

Let me encourage you today: God is at work in your life today. I hope you’ll stay positive today. I want to encourage you to stand firm in your faith. Jesus Christ is on the throne. He is the King of Kings, and everyday you live for him means eternal treasures waiting for you in heaven. Just like Mary, we intellectually understand the promises of God. But she may not be feeling it. She may be feeling uncertain. She may be feeling overwhelmed, like ‘Lord how am I ever going to handle what’s happening in my life?’ I feel that way about where I’m at sometimes, Lord I can’t handle this, it’s all too much.

But recently God has challenged me in my devotional life. And one night I felt like He was saying to me, Justin, if you remained always the way you are today it would be too much for you, but I want you to trust me, that I will craft and shape you into a man who is able to joyfully complete the calling I’ve placed on your heart. Essentially God was telling me to trust in his future grace. Mary received that kind of encouragement through Elizabeth, who affirmed to her that she had been correct to believe the Lord, that she would truly give birth to Jesus. She went to Elizabeth to receive not necessarily a gift from Elizabeth, though it was transmitted through Elizabeth, really what Mary found when she went to Elizabeth was another blessing from God. First she received the blessing of bearing the son of God, second, she received encouragement from God, through her friend along the way. God gives us a calling, each of us, yet he also gives us encouragement along the way.

Final point, I’d like to challenge you: How can you be an encouragement this Christmas season? You’ve just been encouraged, to trust in God’s future grace: How can you pass on that message this Christmas season? Maybe it’s reaching out to an old friend and reconnecting. Maybe it’s mentoring a younger individual who needs your support. Maybe it’s reaching out to a stranger who needs your help. And maybe, if your in a hard time in your life, maybe it’s reaching out to family or friends, making a pilgrimage to an old friend and asking them, “How can I understand what’s happening in my life? Help me process this and get through it.”

Then, when you and I have given encouragement and received encouragement, we can burst forth with the joy of the Spirit and proclaim as Mary did: “My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.”

Rembrandt, The Visitation

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Overcoming Drugs and Depression: Believe in Hope, Persevere through Obstacles

Keynote Address at Salvation Army/NTC Graduation Ceremony

Good evening graduates, distinguished leaders, and faculty of the college. It’s an honor to be here today. As many of you already know I am the son of the infamous Stan Steckbauer. I recall when I was a kid, and I’d be at my dads program, wandering around the building probably in some area I wasn’t suppose to be in, invariably someone would walk over and say, “hey what are you doing here young man?” And I would simply reply,”Hey, I’m Stan’s son Justin.” And then they would apologize.

Stan Steckbauer has served with distinction for the past 23 years at the NTC Learning Center, a program that he pioneered. The legacy of Stan Steckbauer, NTC staff, and Salvation Army personnel is right before us today, found in the faces of those lives they’ve touched.

I can certainly say that it’s of God what is happening here today. For a great deal of time I’ve been around the goal lab program, as a child, as a teen and young adult, and then later fate would have it that I began working at the Salvation Army transitional living center just down the road from here. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve been asked to shared my story, which is a story of struggle, depression, and addiction. But also one of hope and triumph.

I’ve learned something very simple in my struggles and trials, and it’s this: There are two ways to deal with a bad situation. One, I can allow it to define me. I can play the victim. I can use it as an excuse to drink and use drugs. Second, I can overcome that struggle. I can learn from that struggle. I can refuse to allow that struggle to define me. I can get to work on myself, my life and my future to build something better.

My story begins at age 16 when I was in a dark place in my life. I was bullied a great deal in school. I had few friends. And my parents were going through a difficult divorce. I felt the strain at school, at home, and in sports. I made the mistake of turning to prescription drugs to make the pain go away. I was expelled from high school after a string of events, involving police, mental hospitals, and fears of a school shooting. I woke up in the mental hospital with no memory of what I’d done, to find that I’d been expelled, all the students thought I wanted to shoot up the school, no one would even talk to me, and I was alone.

I fell in with the wrong crowd, a group of guys who got together and smoked marijuana and drank a great deal. I started smoking cigarettes. I gained a great deal of weight.

In 2005 I was arrested for drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and possession of thc. I went to jail for a month, and came out a real mess of a person.

Again I ended up in jail and revoked from probation in 2006, and I got more charges in 2007. My life was starting crash down around me. I was making all kinds of bad choices, and getting bitter, resentful, and entitled. I was playing the victim.

For many, including myself, this becomes a way of life. They feel sad inside, so they see sadness all around them. They feel bitterness within, so they project a bitter attitude onto the world. They feel hopeless, so when they look around them they see a dark, hopeless world. Hope for freedom finally disappears. And there is no other world, just the drug, the alcohol, and the fast paced lifestyle. The mind itself adapts over years and decades to know nothing other than the drug, to know nothing other than the addiction.

I was literally just doing my best to destroy myself. Maybe some of you here can relate to that. Just destroying. With a “who cares” attitude about everything. I didn’t have any goals. But it was around 2008 and 2009 that I started realizing that I had a serious drug problem. During that time I attended probably 6-10 different rehab, detox, and mental hospital programs designed to help people get clean and sober. None of it worked. And I really did try. But I would always go back to the old world.

That is one of the worst feelings, when you can’t seem to break out of that cycle. You know what I’m cycle I’m referring to, many of you: You use drugs for a period, the realize you want it to end, you go into treatment, you get clean, you start attending 12 step meetings, your enthusiasm fades, the fear and discontent starts growing, and bang, you relapse, use drugs for a period, realize you want it to end, go to treatment, over and over and over. For years I was in that repeating loop that I affectionately called “my repeating disaster.”

Several times I attempted suicide, laying down in a road at night hoping a car would hit me. But I couldn’t even get dying right.

To break free, for me, after 12 years of addiction, self destruction, hatred, bitterness, and suicidal desire was not only a long shot, but it had become impossible.

What I needed was a turning point, a vital awakening, but not only that, I needed a miracle, but I had stopped believing one was possible. Have you ever lost hope completely? And cast it aside?

So escape seemed hopeless. Yet there were people in my life, who were praying for me. There were people in my life encouraging me. And there was my grandfather, who handed me my first Bible. As I meandered the streets, a pariah and hated vagabond, I read from this Bible, this ancient text that some said was the very word of God. Did I believe that? No, not really. But I knew I needed something. And something was drawing me to that message. I read about Jesus Christ and how he said to his disciples, to those who doubted him, to those who needed help, he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No comes to the Father except through me.” And he said to the downtrodden, the broken, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.”

Having given up all hope, one night, sick and tired, of being sick and tired, of living the same awful life day in and day out, I fell down on the ground in front of the fireplace, and I cried out to one name: Jesus Christ the son of God, crying out Jesus help me, Jesus save me. And I believed that this epic, ancient living savior could do just that. I dared to believe. And the impossible, became possible.

When I decided that enough was enough, and realized my need for something greater, I set out on a new journey. Everything changed in my life.

So I mapped out a plan of action, for the future, finding myself with new strength to tackle the challenges ahead. I started attending recovery groups 8 to 10 times a week. I got a good sponsor to help me grow in recovery. I tackled my issues head on, with addiction, anxiety, self destruction and depression. I read dozens of books and did workbooks on healing from mental health issues. I was on a mission. I took the credits I’d scraped together at the UW and NTC and transferred to Liberty University, where in 2015 I graduated magna cum laude with an associates degree in interdisciplinary studies and a bachelors of religion with an emphasis in Christian Counseling. I knew I wanted to be a minister, to dedicate my life to serving those in need. And a door opened to the Salvation Army, and I started working at the TLC just down the road.

I worked there for over a year, and for that reason I know many of you who are here. I know Ed Wilson, I know Lts Jacob and Melinda Tripp, I know the staff at NTC, the Goal Lab, and I know many of you from the shelter. What you have here with my dad, with the Tripps, and the shelter staff is something very very special. This connection between the Salvation Army and NTC is a blessed one, a union between education and faith to help those with great struggles to rise above and achieve their dreams.

Outposts of hope like the NTC Learning Center are where people like you and me find hope. The hope we had left behind in our younger years bursts to life once again. In a little classroom, hopes and dreams are born anew in the fires of hard work, determination and perseverance.

We find those special people in our lives, people like my dad, who refuse to put us down, but take the radical action of believing in us. And when they believe in us, and encourage us, we find that we can come to believe in ourselves. We find turning points in our lives, thanks to North Central Technical College, and the Salvation Army. As we build our new lives, having escaped addiction, freed up from sorrow and self destruction, there will be many difficulties along the way, but if believe in a better tomorrow, if we allow hope to be birthed in our souls, then we can choose to persevere through every struggle, overcome every obstacle, and see ourselves become the hero of our own stories once again.

Graduates my message to you is this: Believe that there is hope, persevere through every obstacle, hit the ground running in your new lives, and never forget those that blessed you as the turning points in your life took shape.

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