The Path of Destruction

Philosophically speaking, there are two ways in which we view the world or rather people that inhabit the world. The first way people believe is that we are inherently good and some of us become wayward either due to be misguided along the way or some sort of traumatic experience along the way. This particular world view is in some ways easy to live with, because it also becomes easy to dismiss the darkness caused by others is only due to deviating from a path of goodness.

This particular philosophical out look can be a real stumbling block for my mind to try and comprehend. Having once worked in a Child Advocacy center, knowing that the young children coming into the center everyday faced a real physical evil causes something to rage against the view of inherent goodness. Sure, one could submit that the abuser experienced their own pain and tragedy. Yet the very rebuttal is not enough to make up for the pain caused.

Some where along the way personal ownership of ones actions has to be set in motion. In the A.A. movement one of the most important steps is to take ownership of ones actions and try to make as much restitution for prior actions. More on this point in a bit.

The second outlook then, is the belief or understanding that we humans are not inherently good. Quite the opposite, that we are all for a lack of better words evil, with a dark dragon inside us as it were. And left to our own devices, we are bent toward a path of destruction. Admittedly, this view is much harder for people to swallow, usually people are deeply offended by this particular view at first and carry a look in their eyes as though to say:

“How dare you say I’m evil!”

Trust me, this view wasn’t something that was easily accepted for me either. The biggest problem that some people have in accepting this view, is that we humans don’t want to take on the challenging and uncomfortable task of taking a cold hard look at ourselves. Down to the core of who we are. Again, this is very uncomfortable to do, because you may discover things about yourself that you never even knew about. And then you have to work on those areas too.

This isn’t something that people want to do, but it must be done none the less. It’s how we start to combat the dark dragon inside of us all. Going back to the A.A. example, for that person to begin to make restitution for past transgression. He or she has to first see that they first have a problem. A problem that they are fundamentally powerless over, and that they need divine help from. They need Christ to come in a make them a new creation.

If Alcoholics do not take the steps needed to combat the dragon inside them, they will die in a state of destruction of the soul. Even if you do not believe in a literally hell as depicted in the Christian narrative, there still is in a sense- a hell that happens to the soul when it is swallowed by darkness.

You might submit that you don’t wrestle with addiction to substance, but if you look deeper at your self and life you lead. You certainly do wrestle and stumble in other ways. Perhaps you have made a lot of bad choices in your life and your past eats your soul alive all the time. Perhaps you’re filled with resentment and hatred for things done to you, that is something you should aggressively work on before you are on your death bed.

Whatever it may be, we all have things within the stories of our lives that we must deal with. You have to do the hard work of finding out what that is for you. Write it down, even if it’s multiple items and them aim at overcoming them to the best of your finite ability.

Christ said in Matthew 7:13: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”

The narrow gate is not a comfortable one, it was never intended to be. Yet it does lead to the most joy and freedom. The narrow gate requires to say no to things that will do us harm, and others harm. The narrow gate calls us to make war against the sin inside us the tangles us up. Finally, the narrow gate that Christ calls us to, demands that we are too weak to bare our burdens on our own accord and yet be filled with the courage to bare our crosses until our stories are over.

Do the hard work, it’s calling at you daily, screaming at you saying : “DEAL WITH ME DAMMIT!” Deal with it while you still can.

My New book is Out!

My new book “A Mad Love and A Shameless Audacity ” is out today! It’s a simple message of remembering how madly God has loved us through Christ. Even if you have been a Christian your whole life, are wrestling with doubt or you discover Gods mad love for you-for the first time- this book is for you!

My Thoughts on The Fallen Ravi Zacharias

If you’re a Christian, then you have probably heard about the horribly heat breaking news about the ever popular Ravi Zacharias. If you haven’t here is the skinny to read more about it:

https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/update-from-rzim-board-allegations-against-ravi-zacharias

Many Christians have posted their responses both in written and video form, a lot have already said similar things that I have wanted to write about. Which is why I haven’t written anything. This dark and twisted situation has really weighed heaven on my heart. Sin affects us all, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, black or white, republican or democrat. The scriptures say that sin is crouching at our door and we must master it. People die in their sins every day, and as such some are eternally separated from God. Many have even gone as far to defend Ravi… Which I don’t think is a wise option, to defend someone on this level, is to not take the victims of his sin seriously.

Many others in the Christian circles were extremely shocked and taken back by his actions, which is understandable. I didn’t think that-that was possible. Not for Ravi, I’ve watched countless hours of his lectures and even read many books. Thinking that he was one amazing human, but at the same time, maybe that’s the problem. We Christians can sometimes forget that humans are humans first, and as such are very capable of sin and in this case great evil. Which is also why, we should never put any human on any type of pedestal regardless of what vocation they’re in. Quite simply, when we do that we will be let down and horrified time and again when we hear of the sins of others. The one that deserves to be on a pedestal is the God man himself- Jesus Christ.

            The bible is full of people that are broken and sinful people that God loved, Noah was Gods chosen agent to build the ark, and after doing so the man gets drunk. David is another classic example, he was a man who struggled deeply with his own lust, Peter.. Well he never really got it right. Did God condone this? No, by no means. God calls us to holiness every single moment of each day. God also knows that we will sin and fall short of the mark, and yet this is also why we are also told to confess our sin to one another. I think the really problem with Ravi, is that he let his own sin become so comfortable. Not baring your cross and forsaking his own sin.

It might shock you to know, that when I was in bible college porn was a thorn in my side. You know how I combated it? By getting honest and telling a friend. To be honest, lust has always been a struggle for me. However, each day that God breathes life in me I choose to fight the good fight. In my estimation, in life it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, but how many times you keep getting back up and fighting with the armor and sword that God graciously provides us.

            This is what Ravi didn’t do… The enemy had his way with the mind and soul and lust with his weapon of choice. Throughout my journey of being a Christian, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around, why some experience total victory over sin, and temptation doesn’t nip at their heels and others seem to wrestle their whole life-myself included. The main point here is this, sad endings to stories like this can happen to anyone, please do not think you are above anyone else or sins power. Sin is serious and grievous to the heart of God. And yet, the father sent his son Jesus, to take the wrath of God upon himself, so that all who place their faith in him might graciously be called children of God.   

Do not let sin and darkness reign in your mind and body, if you wrestle with sin in any capacity. Do not let it sit in the quiet, it will only fester and become darker. As the enemy desires. Find people that are trustworthy, honest and safe to talk to, start fighting daily for the very life of our souls depend on it.         

Brief Thoughts on Romans 8:28

The other day I wrote that my hearts prayer was Romans 8:28, which says:

28 And we know that [a]God [b]causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Admittedly, in college I found this to be the most annoying passage because almost every one would quote it in times of hardship and suffering. When it comes to walking with others in human suffering, some times Christians can absolutely suck at comforting others. Rather than offering compassion and silence, we often rattle off a verse or two, in hopes that it brings hope in some ways.

Most times it doesn’t do anything. Often, when we suffer, our hearts and minds are too hard and guarded to hear anything. And it isn’t until we get further away from the suffering that we begin to see hope, truth and resolution to the problem.   

The thorn in my flesh has been depression mostly, and wondering what God is doing in the circumstances of my life. It becomes very easy to doubt his goodness and kindness toward me. It hit me the other day, that the good that the apostle Paul speaks of in this passage is in one sense- eternity.

What this means practically speaking, is that any thorn in my side, any sort of illness will all be no more when we are finally with Christ. Nothing happens in our lives without the Lords say so. This means that he can allow the greatest of suffering in our lives, if it means having a deeper relationship with him.

In another sense, the good that Paul speaks of is also character development. Are we becoming more like Christ on a daily basis? Are we walking in obedience with his word? Are you becoming more refined and stable in mind and will? The providence of God is so stunning and amazing- you can trust him. In any season of your life.     

Paul and 1 Corinthians 7

I’d like to share my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 7 (The famous Marriage chapter), everyone should read the chapter in its entirety. However for the purpose of space and time, I’m going to highlight certain parts of the passage and hopefully paint a broader picture. As a teenager, a bit after becoming a Christian by the grace of God, some guys I would sit at a coffee shop slaving over this passage. Really though, it was them slaving over what the implication of chapter 7 was and me just listening. The main argument was: “Does God want me to marry or stay single?” Some of the guys even seemed to be wrestling with whether Paul was implying that we should all be single, and whether marriage was a good idea.

            This is where context matters greatly, it can’t be that God or Paul think that marriage is the worst of all things, because the scripture begins and ends within the context of a marriage. The first was Adam and Eve, and the second is more a metaphor between the true children of God and Christ. In EHP Paul tells us men-husbands to love our wives as Christ loves the church. So, again, Paul cannot be speaking ill of the idea as a whole. At the core of chapter seven, I believe that Paul is truly speaking to a life devoted to a life of serving God and others. Which is probably why he says that sexual relations should be avoided, but because of immorality a man must have a wife of his own and vice versa. Not that thinks that sex is evil or anything of the sort.

Hopping down to verse eight, Paul says Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. Paul says that it is good to stay as he is (single) why? Because he thinks marriage is wrong? No, otherwise he would be going against scripture its self. Rather (I believe) that he is in one way saying that it’s difficult, and that a person will be torn between serving God and their spouse. I like many other scholars probably think he (Paul) was married before and experienced his own hardship within a marriage, and when he first tasted the goodness and grace of God. From that that point on he was one hundred percent sold for the cause of Christ. Which is great! Furthermore, there might be lessons in this too, perhaps Paul found a peace and contentment with God and self that he could never find in a woman, no, Paul isn’t some bitter woman hater, but he found a mission and calling much bigger than anything else in his life. I also believe that he might be implying that human marriage is temporary and Christ is forever. Even though in my heart I long to be married and a father, the end for me is eternity with Christ. My future wife and I will fight, I’ll fail as a husband and father and my kids will not listen to me.

            So is it still worth it? Or should I just become a monk? Yes its worth it! Become a monk? Maybe, if after a lot of prayer I realized that that’s where God had me headed. Looking back at the coffee shop scene from the beginning, people were really only making what the apostle Paul was saying more difficult than it had to be. Relationally speaking, we Christians can make the realm of relationships all the more difficult. In my junior year of college, I asked a young woman out for a simple cup of coffee, and her response was “I need to ask God about that first”. Now, there’s nothing wrong with seeking God on things in life, but at the same time, it wasn’t like I was going to ask the girl to marry me or anything, it was just a cup of coffee! Paul says in verse 8, that it is better to marry than to burn with passion. That’s one indication that you should thoughtfully and prayerfully peruse that avenue, if on the other hand you do not burn with passion. Then keeping being you, becoming more content, happier, healthier serving God and others.

Perhaps that burning passion will come later in life, none the less though, in verse seventeen Paul says: 17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. Live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them. In one sense, Paul might be making a subtle reference to the ever quoted Phil 4:13, which says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Paul wasn’t referring to be able to be Peter Pan and fly, but rather to be content and endure whatever context that he finds himself in. Secondly, Paul uses the word Assigned and my estimation this is a very big and crucial world, why? Because being the Calvinist that I am, I then believe that God has already laid everything out before us for our lives. I’m sure that some might argue with me on this point, and that’s fine. In that same vein of thought, The Lord knows whether one will stay single or Marry.

            The best thing that we can do is to not only trust him, but seek him daily. It’s also a sobering reality, that even those of us who burn with passage, don’t always get the desires of our hearts granted always. This can also spill over into other areas of our lives as well. This is a profound mystery, that I will more than likely not understand this side of life. Yet, I will holdfast to the reality that God has loved us madly through his son Jesus. And that is far better and sweeter than anything in life. Simply, because you’re single, does not mean you are missing or lacking anything in life. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. So smile, be vibrant and enjoy your life. Keep working on yourself, readying oneself for the reality of maybe one day being a husband or wife. To the married (I’m saying this as a single man, having never been married- go figure). Marriage in the Christian sense,  is a sanctifying experience, you will see each- others flaws in ways you never dreamt, and you will have to forgive each other the same way that Christ has forgiven us for our sins. But it is beautiful and worth it in the end.  

Reflections on psalm 1:1-3

Reflections on Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

The psalms have been an anchor for my soul in the last several months of my life. Many Christians turn to the psalms, and for good reason. Beyond the reality of beautiful poetry, one can find many emotions within each poem. Anger, sadness, rejection, loneliness, feeling forsaken, grief, despair and much more. It came to my attention, that my focus turns to the psalms around the fall season. Perhaps it’s the beauty of the season that make the words of the psalms truly capture my attention. I’d like to attempt to make a trek through the psalms, and share my reflections. I’m not going to make any promises, because I know that perfection will not be visible in this exercise.

That being said, lets start with the first three verses of Psalm 1:     Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,

Blessed. We are blessed if we don’t not follow the path of the wicked. Now, what does it mean to be a wicked person? In one sense, its living in direct opposition to God and the mandate the he has laid before us. Before I had a collision course with Christ, this was me. So, in no way am I implying that I’m better than anyone else, nor is that the actual intention of the scriptures. In my opinion, being wicked simply means to do things for purely selfish reasons and gain. Again, this was me before becoming a new creation, I did everything to make myself feel good and my gain. Not caring about the soul of another. The result for me was that my soul began to wither and I did not prosper, as it says in verse three. In simple terms, when a soul begins to wither, they have no color or fail to be vibrant. The same way the leaf looks stunning in the fall. The soul that withers is not living as they ought to be.

The tree planted:     

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

This section of the psalm stuck to my heart in a profound this, mainly because this tree is stable. Even in the changes of seasons, it does not fret because it knows that it will be taken care of. Now, I am not saying that a tree has emotion, but more metaphorically speaking. We humans have a very hard time being stable. We easily worry and give in to worry and every other desire and emotion when life becomes difficult.  Emotion is not wrong or bad, frankly emotions are a gift from God. However, when we constantly let our lives be led by them we fail to bare fruit in seasons. We don’t thrive. Rather than being dominated by emotion, we should learn to filter and delay our emotions. The opposite of that is constantly freaking out and always being in a state of panic. Is that how you truly want to live?

Furthermore , it is my belief that this part of psalm one is telling us to trust that the very God who planted us. Will not leave us to be destroyed by the various storms of life, but that he will not leave us and always-always provide for us. He feeds us, clothes us the same way he provides for the sparrows. The path of Christ is narrow, and sometimes in life our souls can wander, we get beat up spiritually, we doubt and yes sometimes we can find ourselves on the other side of the road where we are not meant to be. But, if your tree is rooted in Christ, he will never allow you go too far off the path. He’s amazing like that.   

What The Croods Can Teach US

The other night, my niece suggested that we all watch a movie called The Croods, not knowing much about it, we sat down on the couch, with pop corn all being snuggled up together. As we began to watch the movie, I began to jot down some notes on what the movie spoke not only to me, but maybe many of us as well.   

Going without food-fasting: Being that the croods family, was a caveman based life style, they had to physically hunt for their food. They couldn’t simply go to a store a buy countless options of food as we can, not saying that that is bad thing. But that they had to earn what they ate, and sometimes that didn’t get to eat at all. In one scene, after they gathered food, there wasn’t any left for the father, so he simply says I ate last week. This to me was crucial, because we Americans are used to eating three plus times a day or more. So the Idea that we might be able to eat once a week, is scary to us. But the reality is we’d be just fine, going without food sixteen, twenty four or even seventy or longer. Isn’t going to kill us, in fact there is a lot of health benefits from fasting.

Mental Toughness: a long with the father not eating for a prolonged period time, I also noticed how mentally tough he was. He had to be to protect, lead, love and protect his family. The mom was pretty bad ass in her own right and exhibited a lot of the same attributes as the father did. In being mentally tough, he also was very self-sacrificing and made sure that his wife and kids were provided for first.   In our own lives we all could be more mentally tough, we’re so used to comfort and having things as we want them. But even in letting in the slightest bit of discomfort in our lives, will only lead to  more personal growth. After all, growth is found in the abyss of discomfort.

Discipline: The father was a man of discipline, teaching his kids that if they lived by the rules they will live. It may seem as though the father was only being rigid, but sometimes in order to have the best life it involves the narrow and disciplined path. In the Christian tradition, God says that if you follow my rules you will live. When Gods people followed the Lords command their lives were prospered one hundred fold. And when they didn’t, their lives were disordered and full of chaos. Discipline and leading on the narrow path can lead to the ultimate freedom and inner happiness. But.. There was a downside to how disciplined the father was, in his discipline and wanting to protect, love and lead his family. He was quite smothering, and didn’t let his kids have fun in the process. To let them be, to grow and discover who they are.

I myself am not a father yet, but if I am one day, I’m sure that there will be a very similar predicament in my life. Where there will be a desire to protect my children from danger, to not let anything or anyone hurt them. But eventually, I know that my grip will not have to be as taught. Yet here is an interesting concept, God is kind of the same way. Think about, he lets us make mistakes and even do things that do not please him (sin). It may grieve him, he may then discipline us, but it is a discipline that is filled with love. And he will always take us back.        

Stop Saying Your Broken

Growing up in my faith, it was very common to hear fellow believers, exclaim that they were a broken person, after all it makes sense, within the the framing of the Christian faith. Is the idea the sin a broken and corrupted everything within the human existence.

A pastor I once listened said that Christians are image bearers of God, and are like a mirror image of Christ. But sin has broken the mirror inside us that reflects christ. Hence why Christ had to come and die, to repair what was broken in us.

Again, it all makes sense. At least to me, and if you’re a follower of Christ. But I don’t believe that it was it was the healthiest of narratives to believe after becoming a Christian via the power of the holy spirit. I believe that most of us that have the name of Christ on our hearts, have forgotten that we have the holy spirit inside us. (1 Corinthians 12:13- Eph 1:13-14)

God put the spirit inside of us. Shouldn’t that do something to the psyche of a Christian? Absolutely!

God also gave us spiritual armor and a sword to fight back with, Ehp 6. Again, that should tell you something.

Once again, I think there is nothing good that comes from a fellow Christian that simply believes that they are weak and broken person, waiting for Christ to come and put them back together. Negative. Absolutely not! Outside of Gods grace and love, yes we are weak and broken people left to our own stubborn and tired ways.

But when the holy spirit invades your whole being, you have the mind of Christ, you have been made a new creation and have been enlisted in the army of God. Because we have the spirit, because we have been made a new creation and because we have been enlisted in the army of God.

Guess what, God calls us to go set other hostages free, he calls us to go on the attack against sin. That doesn’t seem like a broken person to me. Some many of us walk around with our heads down and shoulders slouched, thinking and believing that we may never have victory in our lives. In no way shape or form is that how the father wants us to live our lives. If anything living like that is like living out a lie from the pit of hell.

Your past has been forgiven. Any sit that you will ever commit. Past, present or future has been forgiven. That is every reason to hold your head up, to stand up straight with your shoulders back. It is every reason to achieve a sense of mastery over the self, in the grace of God.

So, my fellow believer. Stop saying your broken, rip that narrative up. Yes you may struggle and stumble at times, but that isn’t who you are. Remember what God has done for you, remember who he has made you to be. Hold your head up and stand up straight.

Talking About Faith and Mental Health-again.

I’ve written on the subject on faith and anxiety before, but after my morning conversation with my girlfriend. It spurred me to want to write some more on the topic, as this is not a topic that can have a once and for all response. I’ll say it again, I have never appreciated how many Christians have handled the areas of mental health within the faith community.

Just pray more.

Have more faith.

Yes and yes..

But it’s not always that clean cut.

While it is true that people that live with anxiety or depression, should interact in their faith more with prayer and trust in God (if one is a Christian). That does not mean that all of our days with, anxiety, fear and worry are all over. They may get better, as we learn how to cast all our cares upon Christ- because he cares for us (1 peter 5:7), and learning different coping skills. Again, it simply does not mean that we will no longer have anxiety come up again in our lives.

When it does though, we will know how to defend against it, so it does not crush us. The biggest mystery through out my own faith journey, is while God chooses to heal some and not others. I am sure that there are some in which God has chosen to heal of anxiety, and others he has chosen not to.

And while this can be seen as a deterrent to faith, I choose to believe that there is sufficient reason for such thorns to remain. Simply because a fellow Christian still walks with anxiety and worry, does not always equate to a lack of faith or trust. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of our own mental health. But because our Lord is good, he always brings us back to the truth of himself.

And when we say to someone, “oh just pray and trust God more” we’re unknowingly making it about our strength and not God. As though we have to pray to drive our anxiety away, as though we have to muster up the strength to trust more. When it is God who spurs us to pray and gives us the ability to come our senses and trust him in the first place.

Sometimes what we say as Christians, in the context of mental health and faith is frankly unbiblical and even dangerous. If I went to a biblical counselor, I would hope and pray that they gave me a bit more than simply to learn to pray and trust more. I would hope that they would offer a listening ear, some compassion and empathy.

Christ told us that life would be full of hard times, but that he has overcome the world. -John 16:33, my faith tells me that Christ has already overcome all the darkness in the world, and with that, I know that all anxiety will be cast into the darkest parts of the earth. If you are one living with anxiety, big or small.

Jesus is not repelled by the anxiety that faces you, his arms are open to you. He loves you madly, his death, burial and resurrection say so. It is because of this, that we can cast all our cares upon him, along with our deepest trust.