Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas

But when
the fullness of time had come,
God sent forth
his Son,
born of woman, born under the law,
to redeem those who were under the law,
so that we might receive
adoption
as sons.
And because you are sons,
God has sent the 
Spirit of his Son
into
your hearts,
crying "Abba! Father!"
So you are
no longer a slave,
but a son,
and if a son,
then an
heir
through God.
Galatians 4:4-7

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not Justice Alone (or Practice Love)


"The difficulty is that marriage, family life, friendship, neighborhood, and other personal connections do not depend exclusively or even primarily on justice - though, of course, they all must try for it.  They depend also on trust, patience, respect, mutual help, forgiveness - in other words, the practice of love, as opposed to the mere feeling of love."

-  Wendell Berry in Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Remember...

"Resurrection takes place in a graveyard."
- Peter Reid

And Christ, the Resurrected One, will finish what He has started.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friendship, pt. 2 (or I Do Not Think an Invisible Cat is Sitting in that Chair, or You've Got a Friend in Me)

{Friendship, pt. 1 here...}
 
Friendship is universally recognized as a good thing.  Have you ever noticed that? 

As best I can tell, you can find friendships in every culture.  There are even cross-cultural friendships.

You can find friendships throughout time. 

Scripture speaks about friendships, which is not surprising.  Scripture often speaks about the things that are common to human existence.

It is important to note that, even without Scripture, people instinctively know that friendships are important.  Consider a few examples:

  1. If you remember one thing about Homer’s The Iliad, you might think you remember the Trojan Horse.  But that’s probably because you’re actually remembering the movie Troy (the Trojan Horse doesn’t show up in The Iliad).  If you remember anything else, you might remember that a turning point in the story was when Patroclus, the beloved friend of Achilles, is killed in battle.  The grief of Achilles over the loss of his friend motivates him to return to battle where he takes down the champion of Troy: Hector.  Friendship (mixed with Fate) was at the root of the turn of events.
  2. In Book VIII of Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle speculates that “no one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods.”
  3. Cicero once said that “without friendship, life does not deserve the name.” (in Laelius: On Friendship)
  4. “Et tu, Brute?” Julius Caesar gave up his fight against his assassins when he saw his friend Brutus among them.  Caesar no longer saw rule over the Romans, nor life itself, to be worthwhile in light of the loss of so close a friend.  This betrayal of friendship earned Brutus a spot in the lowest level of Dante’s Inferno.

Those are a just a few examples found in the classics.  Many stories told through the ages, both fictional and historical, testify to the value of friendship.

Friendships of the same sort are a little harder to find in the modern era.  C.S. Lewis notes in The Four Loves: “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.”

Some in the modern world go so far as to argue that the great friendships of times past were secretly homosexual relationships.  It is claimed that the closeness and intimacy experienced by Achilles & Patroclus, Jonathan & David, and Abraham Lincoln & Joshua Speed (among others) is an indicator that they were all gay lovers.

I tend to agree with the sentiment of Lewis: “Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros [sexual love and/or attraction] betray the fact that they have never had a Friend.”  It is a sad commentary on the state of friendships today when a close friendship is dismissed as a closeted-gay relationship.

Friendships do, however, still show up in today’s world.  A few examples to consider:
  1.  In movies... Forrest Gump & Bubba, Frodo & Sam, Harry Potter and Ron and Hermione...
  2. Google+ has recently tried to exploit the fact that, despite what Facebook might indicate, not everyone you know is your friend.  You really do have friends that you want to share everything with, but they belong in a closer “circle” than your colleagues, companions, and acquaintances.
  3. “Words With Friends” (let me know if you want to play!)
  4. Terms like “BFF” and “frenemy” (and others that I’m not hip enough to know) all reveal an innate knowledge that there is a variety of depth in our relationships.
  5. And probably/hopefully you can think of some friends that you have.

What does this mean for us?  At least a couple of things:

 Friendship must be important. Since it is important to all people.

 The need for a friend is a universal need common to all people.  So be the sort of person that can be a good friend.  Recognize that the people that you meet and interact with each day are longing for meaningful friendships.

 Christian do not need to be friends with only Christians.  Christians can be friends with Christians, but they can also be genuine friends with those who are not followers of Christ.  Such a friendship can be missional for the believer, but it must maintain sincerity as a friendship if it is going to be sincerely and effectively missional.  It is certainly okay for the Christian to desire that the unbeliever understand his or her need for the Gospel.  But the desire to be missional and evangelical cannot come at the expense of being sincere in the friendship.  Don’t seek to make friends just so you can convert them.  Rather seek to be friends because you recognize that friendship is valuable to all.  As you recognize and honor the dignity of your friends you will inevitably desire to see them come to understand the power and love of Christ.  Sincere evangelism will come from a sincere love for others.  A powerful way to demonstrate that kind of sincere love to a person is to befriend them as they are. 

Friendship is a good in and of itself.  It is not a means to an end.  But is is a good that flows down from the Father who is the giver of all good things (James 1:17).  This means that even if a friend is reluctant to the Gospel, you can continue to be a source of God’s blessing by being a good friend.  This may in turn open up your friend to more goodness from the Lord... such as the Gospel.


Friendship is important.  If a world that lives apart from the redeeming and restoring work of Christ can recognize that, how much more so should His Church? 

Be a friend.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Definition of Discipleship

"Discipleship is the lifelong process of learning to remain rightly related to Christ no matter what happens."

Peter Reid

Friday, December 9, 2011

No Doubt that Douthat's Got that Right

"To many younger Americans, religious conservatism as they know it often seems to stand for a kind of institutionalized hypocrisy — a right-wing Tartufferie that’s incensed by the idea of gay wedlock but tolerant of straight divorce, forgiving of Republican sins but judgmental about Democratic indiscretions, and eager to apply moral litmus tests only on issues that benefit the political right."

- Ross Douthat

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Women, Stop Submitting to Men" (a link to share)

Check out this post from Russell Moore: http://www.russellmoore.com/2011/12/05/women-stop-submitting-to-men/

An excerpt:

Is this really a “pro-woman” culture when restaurant chains enable men to pay to ogle women in tight T-shirts while they gobble down chicken wings? How likely is it that a woman with the attractiveness of Henry Kissinger will obtain power or celebrity status in American culture? What about the girl in your community pressured to perform oral sex on a boyfriend, what is this but a patriarchy brutal enough for a Bronze Age warlord?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Remains of the Day (or Don't Waste Your Life)

"What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?"
Ecclesiastes 1:3

I just finished reading The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I'm not sure where I heard about the book or why it was on my amazon wishlist, but I'm glad I picked it up!

The story is narrated by a butler as he reflects on his life of service to his lord.  He is grappling with questions about whether or not the gentleman that he served was indeed great and honorable.  He is also reflecting on his professional relationship with a woman that also served in Darlington Hall.

On the back cover they have this assessment from Newsweek: "Brilliant and quietly devastating."

I think that is a perfect description. 

Even knowing a bit of the plot before reading, I was engrossed by the story.  I saw the telling of it as brilliant as I went along, but didn't see it as devastating until the end.  It is a story that will have me thinking about things for a little while. 

The book explores themes of dignity, duty, and opportunities missed.  As Augustine said in Confessions, "Time takes no holiday."  This story demonstrates that powerfully.  If you like novels, I would be inclined to think you would enjoy this book.

A quote to leave with you about reflecting on turning points in one's life: "Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had.  Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding.  There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable."


Monday, November 28, 2011

Friendship, pt. 1 (or 2x1=)

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two.  But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.”

Friendship. 

It’s hard to imagine a life without friends.  It’s also hard to think of friendship in the abstract.  I cannot separate the idea of friendship from real faces, experiences, adventures, and memories.  Life is enjoyed more when it is shared with others and the best of memories are rarely memories of being completely alone.

This post is the first in a series on friendship.  I wish my credentials for writing such a series could include that I am a fantastic friend.  However, I am not.  Yet, the Lord in His sweet kindness, has given me some of the greatest friends.  In preparation for this series I went back through some letters from friends over the years and it nearly brought tears to my eyes as I was overwhelmed once again by their kindness.  What a God-given grace friends are!

Over the past few years, as I have grown in my appreciation of the friends that I have been given, I have often thought more and more about what Scripture has to say about friendships.  I hope that, if nothing else, the following posts about friendship will be a reminder about how great a God we serve.  A God who has made good things good and  delightful things full of delight. 

God is good. Friendship is good.  A good friend points (even if not purposefully on the part of the friend) to a good God from whom good things come.

Monday, November 21, 2011

He is Everything

Cling to Christ.  To cling to anything else is to choose to cling to something other than life, love, truth, and unsurpassed joy.  Cling to Christ.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hacked!

I'm back on blogger!  My other site, takeandreadtakeandread.com, got hacked!  Kinda crazy and I don't know how to get it back.  So, back to blogger it is...

I suppose I kind of need to get back to writing as well!

Every Teardrop

I’m pretty sure that it is no secret that I’m a big fan of Coldplay.  I wanted to share the following video with everyone because it typifies, to me, what I like so much about them.

They are artists.  In their lyrics, they are artists.  In their music, they are artists.  And when their craft affords them the opportunity to engage the eyes, they are artists.  Their music seems to have universal appeal and I think this is because people universally appreciate that which is beautiful and true.

The creative impulse is a mark of the Creator.  We are made in His image and are made to desire beautiful things.  We also take a certain delight in creating.  There is a drive within us to do well and excel in our work.  Success is important.

I think Coldplay is a good example of this.

Hope you enjoy the video if you haven’t seen it already!


Responding to Ivan Karamazov (in 1 page)

Responding to Ivan, pt. 1

In the comments of the last post I attempted to rephrase Ivan’s argument to further clarify what he sees as the problem.

The idea of his argument focuses on this point: Christians say that God has a plan to work all of this out for a good that we cannot understand. But, if you had the power to create a universe and if you could make it under whatever conditions you wanted to, would you ever agree to make a world in which even one person (perhaps “that baby beating its breast”) would have to suffer in order for a greater good to come about? If I would never agree to create a world in which even just one child had to be abused and killed in order to bring about a greater good, why should I believe that there is a God that would do that? Yet, Ivan charges, Christians reprehensibly proclaim a God that created a world in which many people would suffer.

I think it would be appropriate to take the time to respond to this argument. I think it is a charge against our God that carries a lot of weight with a great many people. Most people in the world have been affected by pain or suffering and nearly everyone has seen or heard about instances of gratuitous evil. Dostoevsky, through Ivan, takes the classic “problem of evil” argument and puts it in a form that accents the magnitude of suffering an evil. It appeals to man’s compassion, sense of goodness, and understanding of justice.

Would you ever create a world in which even one baby would be raped and murdered? Would you ever allow for it? What sort of “greater good” could be accomplished through this world that could not be accomplished any other way? Or, in what way is this “greater good” so valuable that it is worth such atrocities against this infant? What sort of good is a good that can only be had through such a terrible evil?

If you find the idea of creating a world on these conditions so repulsive, how is it that you can accept that a God would create world in which this happens to many, many infants? And not only that, but there are countless other evils and atrocities that afflict the world of man.

Ivan asks a good question. A question that, once it is raised and heard, must be addressed in some way.

My answer, in the end, is simple. I think that to many it will seem insufficient. But over the next several posts I will attempt to show why there is no truer answer and why all other answers come up short unless they are connected to this one simple truth: we can believe this world to be what it is, and we can believe in the God of the Bible to be who He claims that He is, because Jesus was resurrected on the third day.

If the Ivans of this world accept this one statement all other things fall into place.

Responding to Ivan, pt. 2 (or Answering? the Logical Problem of Evil or I’m Not Plato, Anselm, or Stephen Colbert)

Ivan Karamazov has posed a difficult question to answer. It is a variation of the argument of the problem of evil (which is the one and only argument against theism, there are many arguments for theism).

This might be kind of cheesy, or it might be a throwback to the philosophers of old, or perhaps it is a cheap imitation of Colbert’s “Formidable Opponent,” but I want to explore this through the means of a made-up conversation. The first conversation, I hope, will reveal what I see as the issue with nearly all of the Christian answers I have heard in response to the problem of evil. The main issue being that they fail to get to the heart of Ivan’s question.

The second conversation will, I hope, reveal the approach that I believe to be best… so here it goes:

“Rebellion? I am sorry you call it that… one can hardly live in rebellion, and I want to live. Tell me yourself, I challenge you – answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature – that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance – and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.” (The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, trans. by Constance Garnett)

No, I wouldn’t consent. But you are distorting the story. God is bigger than we are, we simply cannot see the whole picture. The distance between my mind and His is greater than the distance between the mind of a flea and my mind. For He is infinite and I am finite. I am not sure why God would create a world in which even one baby must suffer and starve to death, but I am sure that He has a good reason. We don’t have to know the reason and we shouldn’t expect to be able to comprehend the reason.

How can you say that? Can you really believe that there is a good, all-powerful God who would cause even just one person to suffer for some sort of secret reason? What kind of “good” is that?

Well first-off I don’t think God “causes” evil.

Well is he not in control of all things?

He is, but He causes some things and allows others.

Call it what you like, but ultimately he must be responsible for everything whether you say “cause” or “allow.” He could choose to “not allow” but he does allow. If he is the only one that had a choice of whether or not to create a world in which evil would or could exist, then he is responsible. He could have made a world in which people only did good – a world in which there in no opportunity for evil.

But that would have eliminated free choice. He wants us to have free choice because He does not want a bunch of robots that do not have a choice to not love Him.

So, is the secret reason for why God allows suffering that he wants people to have free choice?

Yes, it could be. Don’t you see that the love of a robot is not as real as the love of a person? A person has the ability to love you or not love you, so that makes it all the more meaningful when a person chooses to love you. You cannot really love someone unless you have a choice. Freewill makes all the difference.

I have at least two problems with that. 1) It is inconsistent. Does God love himself? Does the Father love the Son? Does God love the world? Can He choose otherwise? Could God choose to hate Jesus and still be God? What sort of God could be both good and unloving? Can you really maintain that love is meaningful only if choice is present? If so, then human love is superior to divine love. Or else there is no God whose very nature is love. The argument that love must be freely chosen is not one that you should want to advocate. 2) Even if your position was not inconsistent with the rest of your Christian beliefs, I do not see how it is good or right for God to create a world in which a baby must suffer and die in order that he can feel more loved by people. Say I offer you a choice. You can choose to live your life in a house with robots that will have the semblance of loving you. Or, you could choose to live the rest of your life in a house with people that love you, but you must kill a little baby first. In what sense would it ever be right to choose the second option? To choose the second would be cruel, inhumane, unloving, and selfish. Yet, you tell me that God has done this on a much larger scale.

Well no, that is unfair. I am not sure that the reason God allowed evil and suffering is because of man’s freewill. Perhaps it was because He wanted to magnify His glory. Make His name great. If there was no rebellion there could be no Redeemer. If there was no suffering and pain there could be no Savior. We would never get to know God as such. And He is a beautiful Redeemer. Grace and mercy and love are the greatest of the divine attributes. We could not experience these things if there was not sin and suffering in the world.

But again, in what sense would it ever be right to choose these things at the expense of even one little baby?

Well, I don’t know. Maybe it is for none of those reasons that He created a world in which there would one day be evil. The real trouble here is that we are just so finite and cannot understand His ways. Really we don’t have to know. Consider your argument:

1) Any being who is good will prevent evil as best as possible

2) An omnipotent being can do anything

3) If God exists, he would be completely good and omnipotent

4) Evil exists

5) So, God does not exist

Sounds reasonable. But the problem disappears if you add just one phrase to the first premise so that it states that “any being who is good will prevent evil as best as possible unless there is a morally sufficient reason to do otherwise.”

We don’t have to know what the morally sufficient reason is. We just have to know that there is one. That one phrase, “morally sufficient reason,” takes care of the whole logical problem of evil. You can guess any number of things as to what the reason might be, but in the end you just have to know that there is, or at least could be, a morally sufficient reason. So there you have it.

I think that we are back to where we started. Tell me this: what reason could possibly be sufficient to make it alright to allow a little child to be starved and killed? Perhaps you are willing to say that it is alright because you have a distorted conscience. Perhaps you are mad. What sort of moral code allows for the death of an innocent so that some greater good might be accomplished? The idea that the end justifies the means has allowed for all sorts of atrocities throughout history and any decent man sees that such a stance is morally reprehensible. Your answer has done nothing to answer my question. It has simply shown that you hold your god to a low moral standard.

Responding to Ivan, pt. 3 (or the Moral Law or Though You Cannot Tell from This Post, Augustine & Anselm are Two of My Favorite Saints)

I think that we are back to where we started. Tell me this: what reason could possibly be sufficient to make it alright to allow a little child to be starved and killed? Perhaps you are willing to say that it is alright because you have a distorted conscience. Perhaps you are mad. What sort of moral code allows for the death of an innocent so that some greater good might be accomplished? The idea that the end justifies the means has allowed for all sorts of atrocities throughout history and any decent man sees that such a stance is morally reprehensible. Your answer has done nothing to answer my question. It has simply shown that you hold your god to a low moral standard.

Ahh, you mention a moral code, but there you have a problem with your question. You appeal to a moral code – to a sense of right and wrong. You expect me to agree with you that the harming of an infant is wrong. Well, I do agree with you, but on what grounds can you say that it is wrong? To declare it to be wrong is to make a judgment that requires a standard of justice. For you, as one who does not believe in my God, you are speaking on borrowed capital when you reference the moral code or make any sort of statements about right and wrong. You want to have a law without a Lawgiver, but you cannot. Your effort to declare something as wrong works against you. It reveals that you have a concept of what is right and good.

But I object. I can have a sense of right and wrong. And I refuse to believe that it came from this God that you claim as your own. I also refuse to believe that it came from any other god. I can accept the Law because it is good for us, but I reject the notion of a Lawgiver.

But you cannot have the Law without the Lawgiver. That does not make any sense. There must be a source.

And God must be that source?

Yes.

And who gave the laws to God?

Nobody. God is the supreme being.

So, you are saying that the laws, or moral code, that we abide by must come from a source outside of us, but the laws by which God abides do not have an outside source? That is inconsistent. Why does God get to be the exception?

But you are missing the point of what it means to be God. He is the supreme being. St. Anselm described it by saying that He is that being of which no greater being can be conceived. St. Augustine baptized that grand idea of the philosophers of old and explained that God is the good, the true, and the beautiful. To be God is to be at the top. To be at the top is to be God. As such, He is source of all that is good. As Aristotle, and then St. Aquinas, explained he is the unmoved mover and the first cause. If a being gave God the moral code, then that being would be God. But let me explain another aspect that you have misunderstood. The moral code is not an arbitrary set of rules that God created or chose to enforce. Rather, they are a reflection of His nature. Everything that is good is that which is a reflection of His nature. Everything that is wrong is that which is contrary to His nature.

But God is not necessary in the picture that you just painted. You admit that if there were a being that dictated right and wrong to God, then that being would be the ultimate deity known as God. But you reject the notion of any such deity. Well, I just take it one step further. There is no need for your God. You reference the argument of the unmoved mover. That which is in motion must be put into motion. Yet, if I say that your argument then means that someone must have put God into motion, you will interject that it stops with God because it cannot continue ad infinitum. Well why not? The only reason that I can see that you would insist that it cannot continue ad infinitum is because it would make God unnecessary and that is not the conclusion that you want to reach. As quickly as you can make God the first cause I can make this world the first cause. And how can you tell me any different? Any reason that you give for why this world cannot be the first cause I can likewise flip to be a reason as to why God cannot be the first cause. This world contains order, someone must have ordered it… well, then who ordered God? If you stumbled upon a watch on the shoreline of a beach, you would understand that there had to be a watchmaker… well, who is the Watchmaker behind the watch that is God? A garden in the jungle, a jumbo-jet… there are a thousand manifestations of this argument but they all have the same problem. You say that all things must have a cause except for God, but why is God the exception? Because that is what it means to be God? Well just because you define it to be that way does not make it true. If it is fair for you to say that God is the exception, then it is fair for me to cut God out and just say that this world is the exception.

There where does you moral code come from?

I don’t know, but I don’t see that I necessarily have to know, especially if you are going to continue to affirm that it is alright for you to not know where God came from. Perhaps it is the result of evolution. Most of the moral code is good for the continuation of our species. If not that, perhaps we all have a bit of a divine spark within us that gives us our moral compass. Or perhaps I can borrow from you and say that is it simply a reflection of our nature. It is a part of who we are. If you don’t have to explain how it got to be a part of who God is, then I don’t have to explain how it got to be a part of who we are. I don’t have to know where it came from, I just need to know that it is.

But back to my original point, I say that it is inconceivable to create a world in which some greater good is accomplished at the expense of even one little baby having to suffer and be killed. My moral code dictates that there is no end result that would be worth killing a baby. For what end result would you be willing to kill an infant? I hope that you wouldn’t do it for anything. You would declare the murder of a baby to be wrong. Is this not the point that so many pro-lifers appeal to? You claim that you know that this is wrong because you have a moral code, a law within, that came to you from God. You even go as far as to say that it reflects his very nature. Yet, in the very next breath you are willing to tell me that this same God that gave you your understanding that the murder of babies is wrong, is the same God who, at the beginning of time, determined to create a world in which babies would be murdered. Not only that, but a great many other horrors occur in this world which you say that he created. If there was a time when there was nothing in existence but God, and if he is then the one that brought everything into existence, then he is, in some way, responsible for that which was brought about. I do not believe your story because it does not make sense of the world.

My friend, you are still misunderstanding God’s relationship to evil. Let us look at it from another angle. St. Augustine once explained that evil…

Responding to Ivan, pt. 4 (or This House is Not Made of Glass)

My friend, you are still misunderstanding God’s relationship to evil. Let us look at it from another angle. St. Augustine once explained that evil is not a thing to be created. God is not the creator or author of evil because it is not a thing that could be made. You see, evil is the absence of good. What is darkness? How can you identify it? What does it taste like or feel like? These are silly questions because darkness is the absence of light.

Well, where there is light there is no darkness?

Right.

So, does that not then mean that God has abandoned us? I see a lot of darkness and I don’t see how your explanation has addressed it unless you are saying that God has fled the scene.

Certainly God has not abandoned us. He is at work among us even now. There is still evil present in the world. And evil is the absence of good, but you must think of it as a matter of degrees. Nearly everything has aspects about it that are good and things about it that are bad. However, there are varying degrees of goodness and varying degrees of evil in this world.

Allow me this loose analogy. Think of the world as a house facing east and think of God as the sun. In the dawn, those rooms in the front will be much brighter than the rooms in back of the house. The light could be so strong that one must look away. Other rooms will be more dimly lit. In these rooms there will still be some darkness. And still, other rooms, or maybe even closets, will be completely dark because the light does not reach them.

In some places it is very evident that God is good and this world He has created is good. Delicious food, companionship, well-composed music… these are just a few of the rooms in the front. Other things, say relationships, which can bring both pleasure and pain at differing times are the rooms in which there is a mixture of light. But there, in the dark corners of this world, you can see a pain and an evil that is so clearly a darkness that the light has no part of.

I do think that this is a rather clever explanation for the world we find ourselves in, but you have not explained why this is the world which God chose to make. If this world is a house and God is the sun, I can accept that. But there is still a problem. I can follow your idea that God did not create the darkness anymore than the sun creates the dark rooms of your house. But the trouble is that you also claim that God is the builder of the house. Do you not?

Yes, He is Creator, but that does not mean that He created the darkness!

Accepted. But why didn’t he make the house of glass? Why make a world in which the possibility of darkness might exist? This is the same question that I have been asking all along, yet you have offered no answer that satisfactorily addresses this fundamental question.

Responding to Ivan, pt. 5 (or X is the Answer)

It is now time to turn to the second conversation in my series about responding to Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov. Please note that the first italicized quotation is from The Brothers Karamazov. What follows is how I would like to respond.

“Rebellion? I am sorry you call it that… one can hardly live in rebellion, and I want to live. Tell me yourself, I challenge you – answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature – that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance – and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.”


Ivan, there are a lot of ways that people try to answer your question, but I have only ever found one answer that satisfies me. I do not know that you will believe me if I share the quick answer, but I will share it just the same and then, just perhaps, you will allow me to give a fuller version of the story.

In short, we can believe this world to be what it is, and we can believe in the God of the Bible to be who He claims that He is, because Jesus was resurrected on the third day after His death.

The resurrection of Jesus is your answer! That’s absurd and I can hardly imagine that your long answer could be worth my time.

I am not surprised that you feel that way. There are a lot of people that share your thoughts about it. But it is the truest answer that there is, and I have found none better. If you would allow me the time to explain, I would appreciate the opportunity. Imagine for a moment that I am right, then would not the time spent in hearing the answer be time well-spent?

I suppose.

Then I will continue. I ask that you hear out the story and tell me if there is really anything else, whether story, or syllogism, or argument, or experience, that can better explain the world in its entirety. But before I start, I have a question for you. Please, answer it honestly. Do you believe that there might be a good, loving, and all-powerful God who is capable of revealing himself to us?

No. I do not.

So, you do not even acknowledge the possibility?

No, based off of what I see in the world around me, I refuse to believe that such a being could exist.

Well, then I really have nothing else to say. If your heart keeps your mind from being open to the possibility, then how could your mind be possibly changed? There would be no point in continuing this conversation if you are unwilling to weigh it against that which you perceive to be true. Nothing that I could say would change your mind. I would be wasting our time.

I suppose I agree, but you have piqued my curiosity. Let me hear your answer anyways.


If I take the time to talk it out, then you are going to have to lay aside your presupposition that I am wrong. You will have to lay aside your preconceived notion that there is no good, loving, all-powerful God capable of revealing Himself. Because you see, there are some extraordinary things in the story. Extraordinary things that folks often disregard for the very reason that they are extraordinary. They are considered to be untrue, because if true, they would, as a result of their supernatural nature, point to the supernatural.

Such folks are the same ones that want you to prove the supernatural without using supernatural evidence. They immediately dismiss supernatural evidence as wrong. Thus, they never like the answer that I know this is true because Christ was resurrected from the dead. Their unstated reason for rejecting the Resurrection of Christ always comes back to the notion that since resurrections don’t naturally happen then Jesus must not have been resurrected, because if he was, that would mean something supernatural must have occurred. The trouble is that all evidence for the supernatural is always going to be supernatural and all natural evidence only ever evidences the natural. Pretty basic stuff, but it seems to be lost on a number of people. This isn’t really a surprise, my story actually explains why such things occur, but I’m getting off track. My point is, if we take the time to do this, you are going to have to suspend your disbelief for a bit. Parts of you will not like parts of the story, but the story is only sufficient if you accept it in its entirety. And I assure you that the story, when taken as a whole, satisfies.

So, here we go.

Responding to Ivan, pt. 6 (or Apology)

The story must start at the beginning, as all stories do. I suspect that stories start at beginnings on account of this story starting at the beginning. But that’s another matter.

In the beginning, God made everything in this universe and world in which we live. Some may ask where God came from. That question, and all of the many answers, have no place in this story. They can come after it, but not during it. Remember, the story has to be heard under the presupposition that it might be true.

This God, was and is, the being that is the most supreme being. He is the most beautiful being. He is the most true being. The most good being. Since He is the One who is the good, the beautiful and the true, His work is work that is born out of goodness, beauty, and truth.

This world, as He made it, was marvelous. Were it not for the diminished image of the world, which still remains with us today, we would be unable to grasp what untold wonders it held. We can only imagine based off of the glimpses of its glory that we can still see.

It was a world of perfect peace and harmony and delight. Everything was good. Everything was beautiful. The sights and sounds of that world were pure pleasure. It was a world of beautiful lands, and waters, and gardens, and trees, and vegetation, and animals. Each element of the world was, in its own way, a reflection of the creativity of the one who brought it into being.

In this world God made a man and a woman. He made them in His image and told them to be fruitful and multiply in all the earth.

In the image of God. God, as Trinity, is perfect community and fellowship. God experiences perfect companionship. God experiences a full range of emotions. God appreciates beauty and pleasure and that which is good. He loves and treasures and delights. In His image man and woman were made.

Even today, we, at least in some degree, still bear this image. This is why we like pleasure. This is why joy and delight are desired. This is why people want to be happy. The quest for truth and answers is rooted in the fact that we are made for an existence defined by truth. We desire beautiful things and to be beautiful things because God is beautiful and loves beautifully all that is beautiful. We seek friends and companions because we are in the image of one who is perfect fellowship and perfect friend. It is why we do not like to be lonely. Because God is not lonely and when we are lonely we are something that we were not intended to be. Everything that we see as good and everything that we do that is good is connected to the fact that we were made by a good God to be in His image and were then placed in a good world.

To the man and the woman God gave dominion over this world. They were to rule as His vice-regents over a vast and glorious creation. This is why there is an impulse within us for power and authority. This is why we are creative and constructive. This is why we pursue order over chaos. This is the reason why we desire peace and harmony.

All was good.

But something went wrong.

The man and the woman rebelled against God. The woman was deceived by a crafty serpent. And together the man and the woman rebelled. Some question where the deceiver came from. However, the origin of the serpent is not relevant at this point, it can be addressed after the story.

They rebelled against the One who is perfect Good, perfect Truth, and perfect Beauty. When they turned from Him, they turned to find an evil darkness, accompanied by lies, and all that is ugly. Feeling the shame of their rebellion, they ran from Him and hid.

When they were found out God cursed them. It would seem that God had every right to annihilate them on the spot. He had already warned them that death would be the consequence of rejecting life since one cannot say no to life without having anything other than death.

He could have done that, but He did not. Instead He cursed the serpent. And then He cursed His creation: both the world and the man and woman. I am not sure if the curse is simply the removal of some of His blessing, or something more than that. But what is certain is that everything that is off or wrong in this world is off or wrong on account of man’s rebellion.

With the rebellion came pain and suffering. It also brought a strain to our relationships and a disharmony in the created order. Work became toil. Beasts and vegetation, and the whole of the creation began what has been a long history of lashing out against the traitorous and treacherous steward-rebels. All of creation is said to groan on account of the way it has been subjected to bondage and decay. Death would come at the end of a man’s days. And he would return to the dust from which he was formed. Everything was changed.

Paradise was lost.

The world is not how it is supposed to be. Everything that you see that is not right is wrong, in some way or another, because of man’s rebellion.

But when God spoke after man’s rebellion it was not just a curse. There was more. There was the promise of redemption. God would send a son through the woman who would make things right.

Man, or as the Hebrews said, Adam, believed the promise and turned to the woman and called her “Life-giver.”

They looked for the promised son who would deliver. They had two sons. But one was murdered and the other was a murderer. Both sons were testimony to the terrible effects of the rebellion.

A third son came, but he was not the one either. The earth continued to fill with people, and while many forgot the promise of redemption, all longed for it.

The serpent, sought to thwart the coming of the promised one. He continued to deceive men. Making them believe that there was no more happiness to be found beyond that which was around them. Men continued to find ways to pervert the goodness that still remained. Even worshiping created things. Every man that participated in the rebellion demonstrated that the rebellion permeated all things. It seemed impossible that a man would ever be born that would be able to escape the power of rebellion and the effects of the curse. All men everywhere were rebelling. And all men everywhere were dying.

But God’s promise remained. Through the years He revealed more and more about what sort of man the promised one would be. He would be the son of Abraham. He would belong to the tribe of Judah. He would come from the line of David. He would demonstrate perfect obedience. He would redeem man and reign forever. His kingdom would be an everlasting Kingdom. He would be full of wisdom and understanding and counsel and might. His eternal reign would be marked by righteousness and equity.

He would be murdered.

He would come.

And for years, people continued to rebel, but many continued to persistently cry out for the Redeemer. They looked with longing for the One who would change things. The One who would make things new again.

Then, at just the right time, He came. It turns out that He was God Himself: the Son of God. The Christ, meaning the Annointed One, was both God and Man. This God-Man, Jesus, came to bring the long awaited redemption. He declared to the people of His day that “the Kingdom of God is coming and is now here.” And then He set about reversing the curse. He restored relationships. He healed those who were sick. Gave sight to the blind. Restored the hearing of the deaf and gave a voice to the mute. He fed those who were hungry and he fed them in abundance.

He freed those who were possessed by the powers of darkness.

He even raised the dead.

He demonstrated a dominion over creation. He could fill the fishermen’s nets. He calmed the angry sea. Walked on water. An untrained donkey carried Him into the city of Jerusalem.

All the while He maintained a perfect obedience to the Father, something that no man before or since has been able to do.

He was ushering in the long-awaited redemption of men. He was establishing a new reign. It was the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Just as He appeared to be entering the pinnacle of his influence and power He was betrayed, arrested, and unjustly sentenced to death.

The God-Man was murdered on a cross. The murder, shocking then and shocking now, had been foretold long ago and was all a part of the divine plan for bringing about redemption.

Christ, the Innocent One and the Righteous One, took the sins of the world upon Himself.

And in a great mystery, a person of the triune God, screamed out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

In taking on our sin He experienced that separation from God that we are due. And He took our death.

He was buried in a tomb in a garden.

Then, as He had promised beforehand, He was resurrected on the third day. Alive as the firstborn of a new, redeemed, and glorified race of men.

He appeared to many before ascending to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Before leaving, He charged His followers with the task of spreading the good news, or Gospel, of redemption to all the peoples of the world.

Through faith in the atoning work of Christ people of every nation, tribe, and tongue will be a part of the Kingdom. Redemption is for all people and the word about it must be spread to the ends of the earth.

You see, the Kingdom of God is coming. There is a day when Christ shall return to make all things right. Everything will be made new again. Heaven and earth shall be reborn and united together for a glorious eternity.

All pictures and visions of this eternal glory, of this new creation, indicate that it will far exceed the grandeur of this present world. The new creation will be even greater than it was in the days prior to man’s rebellion. This present world is to the new world what a seed is to the resulting plant. You would never guess that so grand an oak or so beautiful a lily could come from a seed. But the story of the miracle of the seed, is a story that all of creation will one day share.

Yes, the Kingdom is coming. There will be a day of no more pain and no more suffering. All darkness, all evil, all wickedness, all pain and hurt shall be no more. But that day is not yet.

The Kingdom is coming, and it is now already here. But for the time being, it only reigns in the hearts of men and women. At whatever time God makes things right, He will do away with everything that is in opposition to His goodness, beauty, and delight. In that day, all who live in rebellion against Him will be removed. How could it be any other way?

But He waits, that more may come in. That more may have faith in the sacrifice of the one who redeems. That more may be born again. That more may walk in the life of the Spirit and begin the transformation.

The age of the Kingdom has already been inaugurated in the lives of people and it will one day be consummated in the whole of the created order. But until that day, though we, and all of creation with us, may groan with longing for the glory that is to one day be revealed into us, we must carry forward the good news of the Savior who has come.

Redemption is here. So what will you do with it? Will you believe and be saved? Please, you must believe and be saved.

Listen to that voice within you that recognizes that this world is not the way that it is supposed to be. Listen to the part of you that cries out against a world in which a little baby could suffer. Listen to the part of you that refuses to accept a world in which evil thrives and pain and suffering seems to be inescapable.

You have a problem with such things because God has a problem with such things. There is still a diminished part of us that reflects His image. We do not want this world to be as it is, because God does not want this world to be as it is.

Turn to Christ. He will save you. He will save you from the coming judgment. But He will also begin the work of saving you from the wickedness and rebellion within you that causes you to contribute to the pain of this world each day.

Do not just look at the darkness around us, but also look at the darkness within. We hate the suffering that we see, but we cannot deny that we also choose dark things. We are impacted by evil, lies, and ugliness, but we also contribute to it when we choose to reject the ways of the One who is good, true, and beautiful.

Reject Him no more. He died that He may take the punishment we deserve. He was resurrected in vindication of His story and His claim that He is the Redeemer. He was resurrected as an indication of His power over death and His ability to establish a new created order.

Turn to Him and believe. You hope for a reason. We were not made for despair. We were made for glory. A glory that is only found in Him.

Believe this story and you will see in new ways each day how it explains the world better than anything else. You will see that all that is good finds its explanation in a Creator who is good.

You will see that all that is wicked and evil finds its explanation in a people who were charged to exercise a good dominion over a good world who instead rebelled against all life and happiness.

You will see more and more each day, how humanity longs for a redemption. Men seek to find a way to make things right. People want to place their hope in a savior. Some look to religion. Some look to politicians. Some look to science and technological advancements. But they all hope for things to be made right.

Things will be made right. Everything will not only be restored, but made new again. And in that day, all that stand opposed to the Righteous King will be removed. Do not be one of them.

Trust Him today. Believe the story of His Gospel. There is no other story that can better explain the world or the human experience. Every other story comes up short, because every other story lacks Christ. He is the key to it all.

I have no other explanation and no other answer. No argument that can be understood without first understanding the truth about the history of the world and its future. It is a history and a future centered around Christ.

Yes, there is no other answer to your question.

Christ is the answer.

Eye See



I am looking at a picture of a lion, and a picture of two elephants, and a wood carving of a zebra face.

Each creature has two eyes. I have two eyes.

Why do so many of God’s creatures have two eyes?

Why not one? Why not four?

If we, as people, are made in the image of God, then I can suppose that having two eyes reflects something about who God is.

And I suppose that the created order is a reflection of the Creator. So what is it about two-eye –edness that reflects something to us about who God is?

And why does the question of why a zebra has two eyes seem childish? Why do we hear these types of questions so rarely? Perhaps we have lost a sense of wonder. I don’t know, maybe there is something else to it, but it is startling to me.

“I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” – from one of the visions of the Apostle John in Revelation chapter 5.

See also:

2 Chronicles 16:9

Psalm 11:4

Jeremiah 16:17

Zechariah 4:10

A Question about Beauty

Here is a question (in blue text) I received about the subject of beauty…
In Short: What is the scriptural/ biblical stance on the role or value of material beauty (or things of beauty)?

More meat: I suppose beauty in general but more specifically creating things of beauty. Gen 35:30-35 Importance of ornament/artistic design/ craftsmanship for Tabernacle. Idea of God-giftedness in this.

Significance to me: I really like beautiful things and find myself drawn to and inspired by beauty. A job I’ve been semi-considering is Interior Design aka making a home more beautiful. Is this a worthwhile use of my gifts/talents/abilities for the Lord? Part of me feels like it is a frivolous pursuit yet beauty wouldn’t exist if God had not created it. So what is God’s intended design for beauty? How does God value beauty?

I’ve also been reading Os Guinness’ The Call. Side note: a really great book you should read if you haven’t already. There he talks about primary calling as followers of Christ (being by God, to God, for God) and secondary calling (“considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere and in everything should think, speak and act entirely for him”). These two taken equally (harder said than done) may make my above question somewhat unimportant. At the heart of the question I’m still trying to understand (though I believe it) that being a full-time, foreign missionary or a pastor are not the only two viable, nor even superior professions of a Christian.

What does it look like to daily live out the gospel as a_____ ? (decorator, marketing /HR professional, associate camp director- that one’s for you, etc) What a huge question with many varying pathologies. Made more complex when verbal gospel proclamation doesn’t fall under your written job description.

And my response:

In Short: All material beauty is a gift from God. All material things that are beautiful are beautiful because they reflect a beautiful Creator. (James 1:17 ; Psalm 27:4)

More meat: The Greek philosophers referred to three transcendentals: the good, the true, the beautiful. The idea is that these are the three things that are above all other things, and in a way they are one thing, yet distinct. If something is good, then it must also be true and beautiful. If something is true, then it must also be good and beautiful. If something is beautiful, then it must also be good and true. I think this is a rather fine way of looking at things. St. Augustine made the point that God is the good, the true, and the beautiful. St. Anselm argued that God is the greatest conceivable being. Combine the two ideas and we come to the idea that God is that being which is the most true, most good, and most beautiful.

It would take a whole slew of biblical texts to make this point, but I believe it is evident throughout Scripture. Perhaps, especially, in the Psalms. Read a couple of Psalms of praise and you certainly get the idea. Though, someone might also argue that it is most evident in redemption. For if redemption is true, then it is most certainly a good and beautiful thing.

So, God is beautiful. It is also evident that He delights making beautiful things. He has also made us in His image. This is why people are beautiful and also why we find delight in beautiful things. God did not make a world without beauty and He did not make us without the ability to appreciate it. The ability to appreciate beauty is a gift given to us. I have never once seen Abby pause during her rock-fetching escapades at canteen to take in and absorb the beauty of the setting sun. It is a gift given to man and a gift that ought to point us to God (Romans 1, Psalm 19).

We are meant to appreciate and make beautiful things. Yes, I agree that this is evident in the building of the Tabernacle. It is also evident in the building of the Temple. It is evident in the fact that David was a musician and a careful poet. Jeremiah’s Lamentations is 5 chapters of meticulous craftsmanship. Each line is carefully metered and the whole lamentation works through the Hebrew alphabet. It is beautiful. There are a number of beautiful things to which we could point.

Beauty is a gift. The ability to appreciate beauty is a gift. And the ability to craft beautiful things is a gift.

Significance for you:

I really like beautiful things and find myself drawn to and inspired by beauty.

I’m glad you recognize that. I think that everyone is drawn to beautiful things, but most people do not realize it and thus rarely take the time to appreciate beauty. Consequently, they can sometimes miss out on the inspiration of beauty. I say sometimes, because beauty often cuts through the intellect to the soul, so it does not always require contemplation.

A job I’ve been semi-considering is Interior Design aka making a home more beautiful. Is this a worthwhile use of my gifts/talents/abilities for the Lord?

I think it can be. As Christians, we ought to understand better than anyone else what beauty is. And we should also see the missiological significance of beauty. Beauty is a means of evangelism. And I don’t mean that we make beautiful tracts or ornate crosses. I mean that anything beautiful points to the fact that beauty is in the world and beauty in the world can only be explained by the presence of an active and good and true God.

Also, Colossians 3:17. Our lives are meant to be lives lived out as worship to God. All our actions ought to be done for God’s glory. I think that can be done in Interior Design by having an attitude of “Lord, thank you for beauty and the opportunity to bring beautiful things into this place and accent the beauty of this home/building. May it point those who see it to You.”

Part of me feels like it is a frivolous pursuit yet beauty wouldn’t exist if God had not created it. So what is God’s intended design for beauty? How does God value beauty?

I think the two questions here go away if you alter one thing in your view of beauty. God did not create beauty just like he did not create good. He is good. He is beauty. All things that are good are good because they come from Him, they flow from and reflect his goodness. Likewise, all beautiful things flow from Him. The question is like asking “What is God’s intended design for His nature? How does God value His nature?” His nature is what makes Him God. Being beautiful and the source of all beauty is an aspect of the essence of God.

I’ve also been reading Os Guinness’ The Call. Side note: a really great book you should read if you haven’t already.

I have not read it, but I’ll add it to the wishlist…

There he talks about primary calling as followers of Christ (being by God, to God, for God) and secondary calling (“considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere and in everything should think, speak and act entirely for him”). These two taken equally (harder said than done) may make my above question somewhat unimportant. At the heart of the question I’m still trying to understand (though I believe it) that being a full-time, foreign missionary or a pastor are not the only two viable, nor even superior professions of a Christian.

I do not think these things make the question less important. Instead, I think they emphasize why it is possible for Interior Design to be a calling that glorifies God. It is because anything that does not go against the nature of God can be done as an act of worship to God. In Luke 3, Jesus did not tell soldiers to quit being soldiers, he told them to be good soldiers. The high calling I see in Scripture is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. This means worship God with the whole of your life and love and care for others, which carries with it the implication of sharing the Gospel. But there is no statement that your life can only fulfill that if you are a missionary or pastor.

What does it look like to daily live out the gospel as a ? (decorator, marketing /HR professional, associate camp director- that one’s for you, etc) What a huge question with many varying pathologies. Made more complex when verbal gospel proclamation doesn’t fall under your written job description.

I think you daily live out the Gospel in whatever you do by:

- Thanking God for the opportunity to do it

- Thanking Him for the ability to do it

- Working hard to do it well

- Appreciating the good and beauty that is in it

- Using that good and beauty to point to the God who made a good and beautiful world

- Recognizing that the toil and frustrations that may occur in that work are a consequence of man’s rebellion causing turmoil in the created order and that things are not the way they are meant to be

- Thanking God that Christ came to bring redemption and “Make all things new again.”

- Looking for ways to carry forward that redemption in a world in which we are still waiting for Christ to make all things right

- Eagerly anticipating the day when there is a new creation in which we can work and play for eternity in perfect worship of the ever-present God without the effects of sin

- Looking for ways to share all of this with people that do not yet understand the Gospel

Significance for me: Summed up here – http://takeandreadtakeandread.blogspot.com/2010/03/beauty-or-bear-swamp-unique-pines.html

I hope this helps. Here are a few other things to consider and work through:

1) There has been the debate in the Church throughout the ages of whether or not it is right to spend money on making beautiful sanctuaries when that money could be given to the poor. One side says that beauty is a gift even to the poor and it points to the Gospel. The other side says that the money could be better spent on feeding the poor and funding ministry to the poor. To which can be countered that beauty feeds the soul and does minister to the poor. This debate has resulted in extravagant places of worship (consider the many beautiful cathedrals), but also in people instead choosing to send the money elsewhere. I think you could point to the rich, young ruler and make the case that we ought to sell all our possessions and give them to poor. But then again that command to sell everything was a specific command given to a specific person. One could also point to the extravagance of the Tabernacle and Temple. But again, the point could be made that those structures served a specific purpose. My thought on the debate is that if you feel the Lord has called you to use your money for beautiful things, then do that and do it with the intent of glorifying God and not man. If you feel God has called you to give your money away, then do that with the intent of glorifying God and not yourself for your sacrifice.

2) In a typical Interior Design role you would probably be working with a large number of people concerned only with the material. You would need to be prepared for that, but I think there is a real ministry opportunity there.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Augustine’s Confessions (one of my top three favorite books): “If the things of this world delight you, praise God for them but turn your love away from them and give it to their Maker, so that in the things that please you, you may not displease him… The good things which you love are all from God, but they are good and sweet only as long as they are used to do his will. They will rightly turn bitter if God is spurned and the things that come from him are wrongly loved.”

- Luke

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Moved to takeandreadtakeandread.com

takeandreadtakeandread.com

Please update your bookmarks and RSS readers!

As traffic to this site has increased, so have the number of inquiries that I have received. I have launched the new site to (hopefully) make it easier to navigate the various subjects already written about previously.

As traffic to this site has increased, so have inquiries. Many readers have sent in questions that are actually covered in earlier posts. Blogger has been good to me, but as the readership has grown I feel that it is important that all posts be easily accessible. Thus, takeandreadtakeandread.com!

I have moved all the comments and posts over from this site.

Thanks for reading and for your support. Trust Christ!

- Luke

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Lesson from Philemon (or φιλεω)

I read Philemon today. What a short and awesome little book on brotherhood. Christ, our brother, defines our relationships.

In the letter you see:

1. Paul’s brotherhood with Philemon.

2. Paul’s brotherhood with Philemon’s former slave Onesimus.

3. Paul’s expectation for Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother.

I knew that much about the letter to Philemon before reading it today, but I had always focused on Paul’s expectation that Philemon receive Onesimus back again. I had never really looked at what Paul said about his relationship to Philemon.

“I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philemon 1:7)

Joy and comfort from the love of a brother.

A little bit later he writes, “Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.”

As brothers and sisters (see verse 2) in Christ we can bring joy and comfort to one another.

Perhaps this aspect of the Paul’s letter sticks out to me because this past week I received some good encouragement from a brother in Christ. I had been down and struggling about a number of things, but we talked and my heart was refreshed.

I do not think that is finding joy and peace from someone other than Christ. No, the joy and comfort I experienced from that conversation could only happen as a result of what Christ has already done in our lives. His redemption in our hearts has made it possible for His Spirit to work within us. The Spirit is making us more like Christ. And Christ is the brother of all brothers.

Christ changes everything.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Responding to Ivan, pt. 6 (or Apology)

This post is a part of a series:

Rebellion

Responding to Ivan, pt. 1

Responding to Ivan, pt. 2

Responding to Ivan, pt. 3

Responding to Ivan, pt. 4

Responding to Ivan, pt. 5

**Please feel free to join the discussion. Your comments will help me as I continue the series**


The story must start at the beginning, as all stories do. I suspect that stories start at beginnings on account of this story starting at the beginning. But that’s another matter.


In the beginning, God made everything in this universe and world in which we live. Some may ask where God came from. That question, and all of the many answers, have no place in this story. They can come after it, but not during it. Remember, the story has to be heard under the presupposition that it might be true.


This God, was and is, the being that is the most supreme being. He is the most beautiful being. He is the most true being. The most good being. Since He is the One who is the good, the beautiful and the true, His work is work that is born out of goodness, beauty, and truth.


This world, as He made it, was marvelous. Were it not for the diminished image of the world, which still remains with us today, we would be unable to grasp what untold wonders it held. We can only imagine based off of the glimpses of its glory that we can still see.


It was a world of perfect peace and harmony and delight. Everything was good. Everything was beautiful. The sights and sounds of that world were pure pleasure. It was a world of beautiful lands, and waters, and gardens, and trees, and vegetation, and animals. Each element of the world was, in its own way, a reflection of the creativity of the one who brought it into being.


In this world God made a man and a woman. He made them in His image and told them to be fruitful and multiply in all the earth.


In the image of God. God, as Trinity, is perfect community and fellowship. God experiences perfect companionship. God experiences a full range of emotions. God appreciates beauty and pleasure and that which is good. He loves and treasures and delights. In His image man and woman were made.


Even today, we, at least in some degree, still bear this image. This is why we like pleasure. This is why joy and delight are desired. This is why people want to be happy. The quest for truth and answers is rooted in the fact that we are made for an existence defined by truth. We desire beautiful things and to be beautiful things because God is beautiful and loves beautifully all that is beautiful. We seek friends and companions because we are in the image of one who is perfect fellowship and perfect friend. It is why we do not like to be lonely. Because God is not lonely and when we are lonely we are something that we were not intended to be. Everything that we see as good and everything that we do that is good is connected to the fact that we were made by a good God to be in His image and were then placed in a good world.


To the man and the woman God gave dominion over this world. They were to rule as His vice-regents over a vast and glorious creation. This is why there is an impulse within us for power and authority. This is why we are creative and constructive. This is why we pursue order over chaos. This is the reason why we desire peace and harmony.


All was good.


But something went wrong.


The man and the woman rebelled against God. The woman was deceived by a crafty serpent. And together the man and the woman rebelled. Some question where the deceiver came from. However, the origin of the serpent is not relevant at this point, it can be addressed after the story.


They rebelled against the One who is perfect Good, perfect Truth, and perfect Beauty. When they turned from Him, they turned to find an evil darkness, accompanied by lies, and all that is ugly. Feeling the shame of their rebellion, they ran from Him and hid.


When they were found out God cursed them. It would seem that God had every right to annihilate them on the spot. He had already warned them that death would be the consequence of rejecting life since one cannot say no to life without having anything other than death.


He could have done that, but He did not. Instead He cursed the serpent. And then He cursed His creation: both the world and the man and woman. I am not sure if the curse is simply the removal of some of His blessing, or something more than that. But what is certain is that everything that is off or wrong in this world is off or wrong on account of man’s rebellion.


With the rebellion came pain and suffering. It also brought a strain to our relationships and a disharmony in the created order. Work became toil. Beasts and vegetation, and the whole of the creation began what has been a long history of lashing out against the traitorous and treacherous steward-rebels. All of creation is said to groan on account of the way it has been subjected to bondage and decay. Death would come at the end of a man’s days. And he would return to the dust from which he was formed. Everything was changed.


Paradise was lost.


The world is not how it is supposed to be. Everything that you see that is not right is wrong, in some way or another, because of man’s rebellion.


But when God spoke after man’s rebellion it was not just a curse. There was more. There was the promise of redemption. God would send a son through the woman who would make things right.


Man, or as the Hebrews said, Adam, believed the promise and turned to the woman and called her “Life-giver.”


They looked for the promised son who would deliver. They had two sons. But one was murdered and the other was a murderer. Both sons were testimony to the terrible effects of the rebellion.


A third son came, but he was not the one either. The earth continued to fill with people, and while many forgot the promise of redemption, all longed for it.


The serpent, sought to thwart the coming of the promised one. He continued to deceive men. Making them believe that there was no more happiness to be found beyond that which was around them. Men continued to find ways to pervert the goodness that still remained. Even worshiping created things. Every man that participated in the rebellion demonstrated that the rebellion permeated all things. It seemed impossible that a man would ever be born that would be able to escape the power of rebellion and the effects of the curse. All men everywhere were rebelling. And all men everywhere were dying.


But God’s promise remained. Through the years He revealed more and more about what sort of man the promised one would be. He would be the son of Abraham. He would belong to the tribe of Judah. He would come from the line of David. He would demonstrate perfect obedience. He would redeem man and reign forever. His kingdom would be an everlasting Kingdom. He would be full of wisdom and understanding and counsel and might. His eternal reign would be marked by righteousness and equity.


He would be murdered.


He would come.


And for years, people continued to rebel, but many continued to persistently cry out for the Redeemer. They looked with longing for the One who would change things. The One who would make things new again.


Then, at just the right time, He came. It turns out that He was God Himself: the Son of God. The Christ, meaning the Annointed One, was both God and Man. This God-Man, Jesus, came to bring the long awaited redemption. He declared to the people of His day that “the Kingdom of God is coming and is now here.” And then He set about reversing the curse. He restored relationships. He healed those who were sick. Gave sight to the blind. Restored the hearing of the deaf and gave a voice to the mute. He fed those who were hungry and he fed them in abundance.


He freed those who were possessed by the powers of darkness.


He even raised the dead.


He demonstrated a dominion over creation. He could fill the fishermen’s nets. He calmed the angry sea. Walked on water. An untrained donkey carried Him into the city of Jerusalem.


All the while He maintained a perfect obedience to the Father, something that no man before or since has been able to do.


He was ushering in the long-awaited redemption of men. He was establishing a new reign. It was the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth.


Just as He appeared to be entering the pinnacle of his influence and power He was betrayed, arrested, and unjustly sentenced to death.


The God-Man was murdered on a cross. The murder, shocking then and shocking now, had been foretold long ago and was all a part of the divine plan for bringing about redemption.


Christ, the Innocent One and the Righteous One, took the sins of the world upon Himself.


And in a great mystery, a person of the triune God, screamed out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”


In taking on our sin He experienced that separation from God that we are due. And He took our death.

He was buried in a tomb in a garden.


Then, as He had promised beforehand, He was resurrected on the third day. Alive as the firstborn of a new, redeemed, and glorified race of men.


He appeared to many before ascending to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Before leaving, He charged His followers with the task of spreading the good news, or Gospel, of redemption to all the peoples of the world.


Through faith in the atoning work of Christ people of every nation, tribe, and tongue will be a part of the Kingdom. Redemption is for all people and the word about it must be spread to the ends of the earth.


You see, the Kingdom of God is coming. There is a day when Christ shall return to make all things right. Everything will be made new again. Heaven and earth shall be reborn and united together for a glorious eternity.


All pictures and visions of this eternal glory, of this new creation, indicate that it will far exceed the grandeur of this present world. The new creation will be even greater than it was in the days prior to man’s rebellion. This present world is to the new world what a seed is to the resulting plant. You would never guess that so grand an oak or so beautiful a lily could come from a seed. But the story of the miracle of the seed, is a story that all of creation will one day share.


Yes, the Kingdom is coming. There will be a day of no more pain and no more suffering. All darkness, all evil, all wickedness, all pain and hurt shall be no more. But that day is not yet.


The Kingdom is coming, and it is now already here. But for the time being, it only reigns in the hearts of men and women. At whatever time God makes things right, He will do away with everything that is in opposition to His goodness, beauty, and delight. In that day, all who live in rebellion against Him will be removed. How could it be any other way?


But He waits, that more may come in. That more may have faith in the sacrifice of the one who redeems. That more may be born again. That more may walk in the life of the Spirit and begin the transformation.

The age of the Kingdom has already been inaugurated in the lives of people and it will one day be consummated in the whole of the created order. But until that day, though we, and all of creation with us, may groan with longing for the glory that is to one day be revealed into us, we must carry forward the good news of the Savior who has come.


Redemption is here. So what will you do with it? Will you believe and be saved? Please, you must believe and be saved.


Listen to that voice within you that recognizes that this world is not the way that it is supposed to be. Listen to the part of you that cries out against a world in which a little baby could suffer. Listen to the part of you that refuses to accept a world in which evil thrives and pain and suffering seems to be inescapable.


You have a problem with such things because God has a problem with such things. There is still a diminished part of us that reflects His image. We do not want this world to be as it is, because God does not want this world to be as it is.


Turn to Christ. He will save you. He will save you from the coming judgment. But He will also begin the work of saving you from the wickedness and rebellion within you that causes you to contribute to the pain of this world each day.


Do not just look at the darkness around us, but also look at the darkness within. We hate the suffering that we see, but we cannot deny that we also choose dark things. We are impacted by evil, lies, and ugliness, but we also contribute to it when we choose to reject the ways of the One who is good, true, and beautiful.


Reject Him no more. He died that He may take the punishment we deserve. He was resurrected in vindication of His story and His claim that He is the Redeemer. He was resurrected as an indication of His power over death and His ability to establish a new created order.


Turn to Him and believe. You hope for a reason. We were not made for despair. We were made for glory. A glory that is only found in Him.


Believe this story and you will see in new ways each day how it explains the world better than anything else. You will see that all that is good finds its explanation in a Creator who is good.


You will see that all that is wicked and evil finds its explanation in a people who were charged to exercise a good dominion over a good world who instead rebelled against all life and happiness.


You will see more and more each day, how humanity longs for a redemption. Men seek to find a way to make things right. People want to place their hope in a savior. Some look to religion. Some look to politicians. Some look to science and technological advancements. But they all hope for things to be made right.


Things will be made right. Everything will not only be restored, but made new again. And in that day, all that stand opposed to the Righteous King will be removed. Do not be one of them.


Trust Him today. Believe the story of His Gospel. There is no other story that can better explain the world or the human experience. Every other story comes up short, because every other story lacks Christ. He is the key to it all.


I have no other explanation and no other answer. No argument that can be understood without first understanding the truth about the history of the world and its future. It is a history and a future centered around Christ.


Yes, there is no other answer to your question.


Christ is the answer.