Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Port Orange Is Just South Of Daytona

No one really knows where Port Orange is, unless of course you live in or around the area. This is one of those situations where you fudge the truth a little bit and give the name of a city nearby that you don't really live in, but it is a lot easier than saying where you live, then saying, "It is (insert direction here) of (insert known city here)."

"I live in Shampalankanatee."
"Where the heck is that?"
"It's just SW of New York City."

It is of course a lot easier to say, "I live in New York City." You would also seem a lot cooler too.

That's typically how it goes for me as people either think I am in Orange Park (Jacksonville area) or in New Port Richey (NW of Tampa). But no, none of these are true. Right now I am in Port Orange. Port Orange is just south of Daytona. Remember this.

By His Grace.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"The Lord Will Fulfill His Purpose For Me..."

I am down in Orlando for a couple days visiting some friends. I will then head on over to Port Orange (just south of Daytona) to stay with my mom and see some family. I enjoy times like this when I can drive around and visit with people who mean so much to me and have impacted my life. The problem I notice is that my opportunity to find Internet is sporadic, thus the note posting can be put on hold. There is always the reliable Panera where I have never been harassed for just using their Internet. Right now I am at a small restaurant in College Park that has some fame attached to it. It's name is Christo's Cafe and they surprisingly have free Wi-Fi. It reminds me of a cool northern diner and the food is delicious. I have a steaming hot cup of afternoon coffee and am now able to share a little bit about what God is revealing to me about Himself these days.

I was reading Psalm 138 this morning and God brought His Word in such a timely manner:
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love
and your faithfulness
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

-Psalm 138:2, 8

Now the first thing to notice of course is how God has exalted above all things His name and His word. This emphasizes again the importance of seeking to be in the presence of God where there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and to be spending time in His word, which he has graciously given us that we may know Him more. I am learning more and more each day how vital God's word is for every aspect of my life and how in turn this draws me closer and closer to God Himself.

But what struck me more today was Psalm 138:8, "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me..." It could not have come at a better time as I have a tendency to contemplate and wrestle through God's purpose for my life and why I am actually here. I know for sure this is something everyone does, asking often existential questions like, "Who am I?" or "Why am I here?" Juniors and seniors in college are more likely to ask "What's next?" to themselves and to others (those who aren't are busy partying at the #1 party school in the nation...oh UF...). Purpose is brought into question when people of all ages and walks of life get stuck in a routine and wonder, "Is this it?"

So I know I am not alone, but I know this is something I think about often, wondering if I am somehow squandering away the gifts God has given me or if I am somehow not doing what He wants. Even last night as I was getting ready for bed, I questioned how seminary fits into the grand scheme of all God wants me to do in the time I am here on earth, making the most of it because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16) and my life is like a breath (Psalm 144:4).

As I reflect, I must ask the question to myself, "Can I say with confidence like David that the Lord will fulfill his purpose for me?" Do I recognize that it is because of my Father's steadfast love that He will do what He wants with me life, regardless of how people in this world perceive it as "success" or "failure?" My Father's love endures forever and ultimately it is only His love that matters!

I also find it beautiful that this last verse is Psalm 138 leads right into Psalm 139, which reveals God's intimate knowledge of David--and me!--as David writes:
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.

-Psalm 139:15-16

Nothing about is is kept secret from God. Before I was ever a thought in my mom's mind, before she was ever a thought in her mom's mind, I was being made in secret by God. My Father knew me before I came into any kind of form and His purpose for me had been mapped out before I, or the world itself, was even conceived! Paul spells this out rather well in Ephesians, tying God's eternal purpose for me into the reality of Jesus Christ's coming:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
-Ephesians 1:3-6

And not only in fulfilling God's purpose of His adoption of me through Jesus Christ, but also in His purpose for the works I walk in by His grace:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
-Ephesians 2:8-10

We all must be assured and trust that God will fulfill his purpose for our lives. He is sovereign. He is in control. He does what he pleases (Psalm 115:3; 135:6). I must trust in Him and His plan, regardless of the plans that I may make for my life and the dreams that I may have. Some of them are good to be sure and as I delight myself in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4), but I also know that some of my dreams and plans have selfish, sinful motives.

The lesson I am learning along with the beautiful truth that God will fulfill His purpose for me is that I have to be patient with Him and His timing! I close with another Psalm that speaks volumes in and of itself on patience. See the connection between waiting, hope, God, and His word. Meditate on it and pray through how that can lead into trusting Him for the purpose of your life.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

-Psalm 130:5-6

By His Grace.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Is UPS Knocking On My Door?

I officially am no longer a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member as of August 1st. I will no longer be receiving the whopping paychecks that come with being on staff, nor will I be accustomed to the lavish lifestyle that is Crusade. Gone are the days of buying TVs at my every whim. Gone are the opportunities to eat at the finest dining establishments Gainesville has to offer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Gone is the designer clothing and shopping at the specialty clothing stores that seem to only sell 17 pieces of clothing, each for over $1,000. Gone is the ability to literally burn cash in my fireplace, which is a ritual I began in the early days of staff life.

All of these are being given up because I will be a student again.

Now the picture I painted of my financial situation on staff may not be completely accurate, but in comparison to a student's financial freedom it could come off as such.

So now I am in search of a job. I was reading one of my favorite blogs--one I also highly suggest you check out--Justin Taylor's Between Two World and in it was a reference to this website that drew my attention immediately as it somewhat applies to what I will begin next month. The website is aptly called, Going To Seminary. I thought to myself, "This sounds like something I might be interested in," so I clicked the link and checked it out for a bit. My first reaction was, "This guy stole my idea," because I had been thinking about doing something very similar throughout my seminary career. Then I saw a section called "Money" and my thought quickly turned into "I need that stuff." I scrolled around there for a little bit and stumbled upon a suggestion about working at UPS while in school. Apparently UPS has this program called the Earn and Learn Program where I could receive up to $3,000 in scholarship money, get paid fairly decently, and eventually get benefits!

I filled out an application today, so UPS may be knocking on my door in the near future...and hopefully the package is filled with dolla' dolla' bills, y'all.

By His Grace.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Psalm 119: Our Complete Delight in God's Glorious Word

In my last post I mentioned taking a closer look at all of Psalm 119. Well, by the providence of God, Psalm 119 was part of my daily reading today as I am going through the Old Testament. As I was reading I was deeply moved by the psalmist's repeated connection between God's Word (also written as His commandments, law, precepts, testimonies, and promise) and our delight in it (using terms such as love, joy, rejoice, and of course delight)! What I have decided to do is post every verse that somehow links the two just to show you the power of God's Word and the beautiful effect it has on individuals who commit themselves to it. This is good for my personal meditation as well as a challenge to us all to seek our delight in God's Word:
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes
I will not forget your word.
-vv. 14-16

Your testimonies are my delight;
they are my counselors.
-v. 24

Give me understanding, that I may keep
your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it

-vv. 34-35

I will also speak of your testimonies
before kings and shall not be put to shame,
for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
I will lift up my hands toward your
commandments, which I love

and I will meditate on your statutes.
-vv. 46-48

The previous verses are particularly challenging, connecting our love and delight in God's commandments with our speaking to people about them, not even being afraid to tell kings (i.e. powerful people) about God and His Word. This is proclamation. This is preaching. This is a labor of love. Thus in our delight in Him we should also delight in sharing God's Word with others.
The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

-vv. 69-70, 72

Let your mercy come to me, that I may
for your law is my delight
-v. 77

If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
-v. 92

Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
-v. 97

Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
for they are the joy of my heart.
-v. 111

Therefore I love your commandments
above gold, above fine gold.
-v. 127

Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it.

Trouble and anguish have found me out,
but your commandments are my delight.
-vv. 141 & 143

I found this verse to be insightful, especially for those of us who think that because we are spending time in the Word, in prayer, and feel "connected" with Christ, that somehow our lives are going to be easy on this earth. There is truth in the fact that we can be joyful in Christ, yet still be in anguish and troubled. Christ endured the Cross, despising the shame, for the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2). Paul also wrote that he and his fellow laborers for the gospel because of their circumstances were treated as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10). He also wrote that he had unceasing anguish in his heart because of his fellow Israelites who had yet to believe in Jesus (see Rom. 9:1-3). And here, in Psalm 119, the psalmist who had been writing about delighting in God's law also reveals some of his own sorrows as he writes, "My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law" (v. 136). On the outside, our circumstances may look troubling--tough family life, physical ailments, no financial stability--but nothing can rob us of God and His Word, for His Word is forever fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89), nor should anything be able to rob us of our joy in Him! This is in part why Paul wrote:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Don't let your circumstances steal away the delight you can find in God's Word.
Consider how I love your precepts!
Give me life according to your steadfast love.
-v. 159

Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.
I rejoice at your word

like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood,
but I love your law.
Great peace have those who love your law;

nothing can make them stumble.
-vv. 161-163, 165

And the final one, nearing the end of the Psalm:
I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
-v. 174

So many words can be, and probably have been, written as meditations on these words lifted up to the God of all creation, but I only wrote a few of my own. I hope that if you have gotten this far, you will take the time to read them here and also in your own Bible if you have one. If only this day, I pray that you will delight in God's Word and see how much His love for you and your love for Him are so magnificently tied to it. Then reflect on how this culminates in the person of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14), who made His dwelling among us so that through Him--His life, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension, and His eternal reign as King of kings and Lord of lords--we are made alive, raised up, and seated with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:4-6). How gracious He is to us to give us a glimpse of who He is and to allow us to live in Him.

By His Grace.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"I Don't Feel Like Reading The Bible..."

...But how do you really feel? The summer is an enormous challenge for so many college students who follow Jesus. All students I know are relieved when school is finished in May, looking forward to the good, quality time they will get to read and reflect throughout the summer. Regardless of how much is actually on one's plate during the summer, it is significantly slower paced than the fall or spring for most. But as the days and the weeks go by most find themselves not getting in the Word as much as they thought. The logic goes something like this:

I get up at 10:00 am with nothing to do, so that means I can spend time in the Bible later...I mean I've got nothing today except catching that TNT movie at noon and possibly the reruns of classic Real World episodes...I can read the Bible later...I don't feel like doing it right's 7:00 pm and my parents want to go to's 10:00 and my friends want to hang's 1:00 am and I'm tired...I'll read the Bible's too late to do it now and I don't feel like spending only 5 minutes...ummm...the summer's over...what the ????........

The same thing happens to countless students who return home from around the world after serving on a Campus Crusade Summer Project where they experienced ridiculous community, extreme highs in their walks with Jesus, and where they labored hard for His Kingdom, witnessing His Spirit move in the lives of people who never knew Him before. But when they get home they fall into some kind of dark abyss-time-warp-thingy where weeks go by and they can't remember a thing they did, though they know they spent very little alone time with Jesus.

And as the lens zooms out to cover the entire year we all know those times where it just seems like Jesus isn't there, the Bible is just another book, and we don't feel like reading it, period. It could be throughout the day; it could be for an extended period of time. But I say almost the same exact words each time: "I don't feel like doing that right now."

But I was challenged with a different perspective this morning while reading Desiring God. Piper's context is a little different as he is challenging the idea that "love is not what you feel, but what you do." Here is what he says:
One thing is for sure: Love cannot be equated with sacrificial action! It cannot be equated with any action! This is a powerful antidote to the common teaching that love is not what you feel, but what you do. The good in this popular teaching is the twofold intention to show (1) that mere warm feelings can never replace actual deeds of love (James 2:16; 1 John 3:18) and (2) that efforts of love must be made even in the absence of the joy that one might wish were present. but it is careless and inaccurate to support these two truths by saying that love is simply what you do, and not what you feel.

The very definition of love in 1 Corinthians refutes this narrow conception of love. For example, Paul says love is not jealous and not easily provoked and that it rejoices in the truth and hopes all things (13:4-7). All these are feelings!

The main point he is making is that every action has some kind of feeling that motivates it. We are not numb, unfeeling beings, like moving statues who are insusceptible to thought, physical sensations, and emotions. We are humans. We feel and oh how beautiful it is that we get to experience the enormous range of feelings God has given us!

Back to the matter at hand though. Often when we say to a friend or a mentor, "I don't feel like reading the Bible," that person usually responds with either, "That's okay. We are all like that sometimes" or " it anyway." I usually fall in the latter camp, recognizing that even if I don't feel like doing something sometimes doesn't mean it isn't good for me. Working out is an example of that. I hate it. Always have. But I do it anyway, even though I don't feel like it.

However, today I came to the realization--though it may not be startling to you, it was for me--that I am feeling something. Too often I focus on the negative, the not feeling and never think to ask, "What am I feeling?" I did that this morning, looking back on times when I didn't feel like reading the Bible, or praying, or going to church, or sharing the gospel, or whatever, and what it exposed was that I felt other things--I felt like checking my e-mail, I felt like seeing who was on Facebook, I felt like reading another book, I felt like watching TV, I felt like eating some food, I felt like sleeping, I felt like hanging out with friends. The feeling, which led to those actions, was actually--and this is tough to admit--delight. I originally thought it was laziness or complacency, but truth is in those moments when "I don't feel like reading the Bible" I actually think that whatever else I do instead I will be able to delight in more than the Scriptures themselves and that I will be more satisfied reading Drudge Report, watching Sportscenter, eating Frosted Mini Wheats, sleeping on my soft cotton sheets, or seeing the 470 friends who have recently changed their status updates, than I would actually reading the very Word of God! Now these things are not bad in and of themselves, but when they take away from our alone time with Jesus, it is time to really think about their place in our lives.

Two Questions from Psalm 19:10
Is God's Word really sweeter than the sweetest tastes in the world?

Is God's Word really more valuable than all the riches in all the earth?

If we answer with a resounding yes, then why do we often feel differently? Well because we are human. We feel. And in our feelings we often sin. And that's the point here as I wrap up.

In those times when you know you should be spending time in the Word, knowing that being in God's presence brings fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and that His Word is our delight (see all of Psalm 119), but just don't feel like it, ask yourself what you are really feeling. As you do so, call it for what it is--sin--and follow the example of David:
I acknowledged my sin to You,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,"
and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

-Psalm 32:5

In other words, don't run from God. Run to Him! Bring your sin before Him and delight in the fact that He is willing to forgive you now, forever, and always because of Jesus Christ's blood which was shed on the Cross (1 John 1:7-9). And since you are already there before Him, drenched in the light of Christ, exposed, naked, and in need of Him, you might as well stay there and continue to delight in His presence! Enjoy His Word! Enjoy Him!

By His Grace.

C.S. Lewis On Joy

While reading Desiring God I came across a quote by C.S. Lewis from a sermon he gave back in 1941 called "The Weight of Glory." This is the same title given to a collection of his essays. I read it a while back, including this quote, but since my brain only retains about .001% of what I read, coming across the quote is like reading it for the first time. Here is his amazing insight on our pursuits of joy:
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Along with Lewis, Piper, and the Scriptures themselves, I cannot stress enough how important our joy is and how it is found fully in God Himself. This requires your time and consideration if you think joy is important to you. God has given you His life--the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ--for you to know and experience true joy, which is only found in Him. It's time to stop making mud pies, being easily pleased, knowing that the "holiday at the sea" is being offered to us all. Let's be pleased in that which is most pleasing and most enjoyable--God!

By His Grace.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Discovering Joy Is A Daily Process

I damned the fact that joy is the core of existence...
-Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged

"If I were were to ask you why you have believe in Christ, why you have become Christians, every man will answer truly 'for the sake of happiness.'
-Saint Augustine

Joy. Happiness. Delight. Jesus endured the Cross because before Him, right in front of Him, in the midst of His pain, His suffering, His taking on the wrath of God the Father, was pure, complete, and perfect JOY (Hebrews 12:2)! I am reading Desiring God by John Piper because as Atlas Shrugged was Ayn Rand's masterwork, Desiring God is Piper's and I have yet to read it. For me, this is the summer of masterworks I guess. I resolved to read this book at the beginning of the summer as I continually fight for joy in my own life. Piper's premise in this book, and for that matter all his books, is that God's ultimate purpose and our ultimate purpose are the exact same thing--His glory. The vehicle through which this is accomplished is also the same for both God and man--by enjoying Him. To put it Piper's words,
The chief end of man God is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.


The chief end of God is to glorify Himself by enjoying Himself forever.
Now I know that for some who read this it may seem controversial. From whatever background you may come from--Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Hindu, spiritualist, agnostic, atheist--I suggest reading the book and allowing Piper to defend his premise from where he derives it, the Bible. Then make your conclusions. I am not writing to for the purpose of summarizing him.

However, I am writing about joy and my pursuit of it because I know that this is a pursuit for all of us. I think that most humanity discovers early on that the experience of joy--sheer, unadulterated joy--is something we desire at the very core of who we are. Some people suppress it, calling it sacrifice, kind of like Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged; some have it stripped away from them through abuse or addictions and they lose all sense of value of who they are as humans, performing basic instinctual functions, such as breathing, eating, etc., but aren't really alive anymore.

The phrase I mentioned in a previous post comes to mind here: Whatever makes you happy. That cop-out phrase not only exposes our lack of really wanting to dig deep into each others' lives, but it also reveals that we all desire joy and happiness. For most people my age, they think this will come through marriage. Once they find that right person, then...oh then...then they will be happy. But it comes in other forms: A nice house, the latest iPhone, a good movie, a successful job, a fun night out with friends, having a lot of sex. We all want to be happy in our own way.

But Augustine, who's Confessions shares that his own pursuit of joy looks very similar to that of a college-aged frat guy, realized that after looking around and living in this world, for this world, that joy can be found nowhere else in its most complete form than in that which is most enjoyable, namely God Himself.

How often do people hear that they will never find more joy in anything else--anything else--than they would in God? How often do Christians themselves know and live in this truth?
There are many who say, 'Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

-Psalm 4:6-7

You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy
at Your right hand there are pleasures evermore.
-Psalm 16:11
Fullness of joy is in God--Father, Son, and Spirit! This truth stands with a glaring, piercing eye toward a world that screams joy is found in everything else but God. I personally believe that the understanding and experience of joy in God Himself is missing immensely in the church today, both in practice and in teaching. I personally do not live in the joy of God much in my life, and confess how I am more often filled with anger, an anger that I am continually bringing before Him. But I fight and I press on, because I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. I know that deep down, because of Jesus Christ's beautiful work on the Cross, that I am filled with a joy that is glorious and inexpressible (1 Pet. 1:8). Knowing this, the daily process of discovering His joy and how He has moved me from death to life is what I go through.

So I must humbly ask some questions that are difficult because as Christians we like to come off as if we have it all together. I also fight (against myself and my pride) to be the first to say that I don't. The questions I am asking these days are,

Do I delight more in my anger than in God?

Do I actually enjoy being angry more than I enjoy Jesus?

On an intellectual level the answer is easily no, but I know my heart and I know seek to and delight in and enjoy my anger more than God Himself. These are difficult questions to ask because they expose what I want to hide and keep in the darkness. But as Christ is the "light of the world" (John 8:12) and by His light He exposes darkness, I trust these questions come by His grace and love. Though I am quick to anger, God is slow to it and abounding in love toward me (Psalm 103:8), because ultimately He doesn't want me to enjoy my anger; my Father wants me to enjoy that which is most enjoyable--Him. So He is patient, drawing me and countless others closer to Himself. I am immeasurably thankful for Him and how He deals with me.

But the questions can be asked for you as well. What do you seek to delight in more than God? What do you seek to enjoy more than Jesus? Do you even know or have you ever been taught that you were created to enjoy God, and by doing so, you actually experience the most fulfilling, most satisfying, most enjoyable joy you could ever know?

I pray that you will sincerely try to answer these questions as I have been doing. Your joy is at stake.

By His Grace.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Finished The "Masterwork"

I am in North Carolina right now. I road tripped up with my boys Russell and Allen as a last hurrah before Russell gets married next month. We came to hang out with another friend of ours, Ryan, who used to be on staff with us back in the day. They are playing a quality game of Settlers of Catan right now so I figured I would take the time to write.

On the drive up I finished the last 80 pages or so of Atlas Shrugged. The pace of the novel in the last 150 pages slowed down dramatically, although there was still a good amount of action. I know it is a fictional novel, but that did not prevent Rand from using an entire chapter and her ultimate hero, John Galt, to present her entire philosophy in one long monologue. I will not go into plot detail, but I believe it put the entire novel to a halt. I have read that a movie is in the making with Angelina Jolie set to play Dagny, the female lead, but I can't see how they would fit the diatribe given by Galt late in the story.

In finishing the novel--which I felt both relief and triumph because it is the longest book I have ever read outside of the Bible--I had two immediate thoughts.
  1. Rand mentions as part of her philosophy that
    "Objectivism rejects any form of determinism, the belief that man is a victim of forces beyond his control (such as God, fate, upbringing, genes, or economic conditions)."
    This means that she would feel no pity for the religious blind child who grew up in the ghetto with no parents and can't get out. But that's not what I notice in her novels. In both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged there are never any natural disasters; all the disasters are manmade, particularly in the form of fire. I just found that interesting and I wonder how she would respond to those and other things that surely are outside of man's control.
  2. The line that epitomizes the character of John Galt is the final one he makes during his ridiculously long speech where he spells out her philosophy. Galt closes with these words:
    "I swear--by my life and my love of it--that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine"
    Sacrfice was a disgusting concept to Rand, but again what I find interesting in the fictional worlds she created is that none of the heroes ever have children. They may start off as children of others (as in the case of Hank Rearden and his family), but there is no situation where the heros themselves have children with each other and start a family; this also in light of the fact that there is a good bit of sex that occurs throughout the novel. What does her philosophy look like then? My understanding goes that no one really knows the meaning of sacrifice until one has to raise a family. I personally cannot understand the anguish experienced in Abraham's life as he had Isaac on the altar or Jesus' life as He sacrificed Himself for His creation. As far as I know, Rand herself, who was married to Frank O'Connor for fifty years, never had children. Would things have looked different for her should she have had a family? Would she reconsider her this thought of not living for another person? Does the concept of a family go against her philosophical ideals?

I don't have the answers as I am still trying to process stuff and do not have a strong enough grasp on her philosophy, but after reading her two greatest works these two issues needed to at least be mentioned.

Now back to my peeps.

By His Grace.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Writing For The Sake Of It

Sometimes one has to do what one has to do. I consider myself a writer. I believe I best convey my thoughts, learned concepts, critiques, musings, etc. through the medium of writing. I believe it was also Sean Connery in Finding Forrester who said that Forrester should write and keep writing without stopping. He told him that typing and writing should be done without giving time to develop thoughts or ideas and simply let them flow out through his fingers onto the keys. Not much would make sense, the punctuation would be all wrong, but the thought would be continuous and genuine. Those are my two cents anyway.

I like this idea and seek to incorporate it into my life on a few levels. One is that I journal fairly consistently. I rarely miss a day to reflect on my life, on who God is, on what His Word has to say, and on what this world is like. I find it extremely important for myself and suggest it to others to journal on a regular basis. This particular discipline requires alone time. This particular discipline requires an individual to get past their concerns about being a good writer. This particular discipline requires discipline. I write that because too often--and I do this to myself in other areas of life--if we don't feel like doing something, we just don't do it. But often I find that even if I do not feel like writing--right now would be one of those instances--once I actually begin writing thoughts flow out pretty easily. The beauty of writing is that one can always look back. I now have seven years worth of journals to look back on and boy does that provide some flashbacks, some laughter, some praise, and yes, even re-learning. The re-learning is particularly helpful as life should be a continuous striving of learning and application. So if you have gotten this far, you can see that I recommend journaling to you, if you have not taken up the discipline already. Who knows, you may be able to look back on July 15th, 2008 with great fondness as the day you began to record your thoughts on paper.

*Sidenote: I am a fan of handwritten journaling when it comes to personal reflection; none of this computer crap. Also, as I am a snob in this area, a really good Moleskine journal is of utmost necessity.

As a second application, I am seeking to write on my blog more, entering into the public arena of thought and debate. I know I do write on occasion--some funny things, some serious things, some personal narrative things, some theological things--but I desire to write more consistently and hopefully as that happens I will develop the habit of searching for particular topics to write about on a regular basis. I would like to write a book some day, but I am not sure what about nor do I know if I have the discipline or the attention span to do so. I think writing both privately and publicly will help with this.

So here I am, presenting myself before you, the reader, as a means of accountability. You know my desire to write, to have others write, and also to be read by others. I ask you to hold me to writing at least four times a week in this blog along with my daily writing in my personal journal. Should I not live up to my end, I ask that you bombard me with messages and topics to write about so I can have fuel for thought. This would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you and goodnight.

By His Grace.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rest Is Key

I have been back in America for almost two weeks, Gainesville for over a week. I haven't had much going on, which is typically a challenge for me. I am a guy who usually needs to keep his schedule packed, probably to feel justified in some way shape or form. If I am not busy and think I have "idle" time, I quickly turn to guilt. Our culture feeds that as well, causing many of us to think that if we do not have the entire week scheduled with meetings or projects or papers or activities or whatever the case, we are wasting our lives away. So that's what we do.

Being busy for the sake of being busy is shallow. Very few people I know actually have meaningful schedules, where the people they meet and the time they spend working all seek to fulfill a unified purpose. College students in particular are poor at this; many spread themselves ridiculously thin being involved in five different clubs that are unrelated just to fill out a resume. I have heard as of late, "I have to go to college because that's the only way someone can get a job," but most have no idea what they want to do. Not even a hint of an idea.

Truth is I was very much the same way and probably to a degree still am, but I have grown to be a firm believer in time purposefully spent. My college experience would have been much different if I the time I spent was more purposeful.So how often do we think of rest as purposeful time? For myself it isn't too often, but this past week I have seen the necessity for it in my life--to chill, to hang out, to read, to write, to pray, to think, to do whatever but have a schedule. I have gotten more sleep than I thought I ever could and I am feeling refreshed. Refreshed!

I understand that rest should not be equated with laziness. There is an enormous I am still learning. I do know that rest is key and I am finding it here in Gainesville, with much delight and no guilt.

By His Grace.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Author Of Our Lives

As I was praying one morning a few days ago, I was praying through what I was learning in Ayn Rand's book, how I am applying those things to my life, and making sure that I wasn't applying things that were not of God. I have come to know the influence of words, both good and bad, so I was also praying against the dangers of being led astray by her philosophy.

I was praying this when I recalled one of my favorite verses in Scripture:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.(Heb. 12:2 NIV)
Ayn Rand would have said that she was a "mover," building the world up from the ashes, giving life, making it a place more suitable for our existence. She would have said that what made her great was that she owned every one of her words written, from the very first to the very last. But as I look at Jesus Christ, recognizing him as the author of my faith, I must also give acknowledgment to him being the author of all life.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.(Col 1:15-17)
Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end. Jesus Christ is The Word and He is the one who owns it all. This was Rand's fatal flaw. It is sadly the fatal flaw of so many beautiful people--they do not recognize who wrote them into existence; they do not give credit, acknowledgment, or praise to the author of their lives.

By His Grace.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Do You Remember The Time?

For those of you who are fans of Michael Jackson, this is not about the JAM that came out back in the early 90's, you know, the one with the video staring Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson. Egyptian setting. Classic. Simply classic.

But that JAM and the phrase bring up the point about memories. They serve such a vital role in recalling how our lives have been shaped, the relationships that have formed, and the stories we now have to tell. Some of the best times I have with friends are actually when we sit around and talk about past experiences together. It is always fun to recall, as Michael Jackson put it in his song, "When we first met..."

I was reading Psalm 77 this morning and was struck by the very same theme of remembrance. Asaph is wrestling through a long night of crying out to God, struggling to be comforted by Him. The picture is very vivid as he writes, "In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints." As Asaph continues to struggle in remembering God he begins to ask some very frightening questions regarding God and His character:

  • Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
  • Has His steadfast love forever ceased?
  • Are His promises at an end for all time?
  • Has God forgotten to be gracious?
  • Has He in anger shut up His compassion?
These are very similar questions to ones we ask on the whole, but probably more so as individuals who say they aren't experiencing God or connecting with Him like they want to be. Some of those are like:
  • Have You stopped caring about me?
  • Are You really there?
  • Have You forgotten about me?
  • If You are so loving, then...?
  • Are You out to get me?
  • Why are You so distant from me right now?
  • Are you ever going to hear my prayers?
So what did Asaph do during this time of asking many questions, questions that challenged the character of God? HE REMEMBERED!
"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your wonders of old. I will ponder all Your work, and meditate on Your mighty deeds." (vv. 11-12)
Asaph remembered. He pondered and meditated on the truth of God's work already accomplished; in this particular instance it was the parting of the Red Sea, which was the great miracle that ultimately helped the Israelites be free from slavery to Egypt.

This to Asaph was key and is an enormous lesson for me and all of us to learn. When it seems that God is distant, not listening, angry, actively fighting against us, whatever--when I bring into question God's character--I must remember God's mightiest deed! For Asaph it was the Exodus; that marked Jewish remembrance. For us now it is Jesus Christ--His life, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension! The Exodus gave the Israelites triumph over Egypt and assurance God was with them as they journeyed to the Holy Land. The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us triumph over death and assurance of everlasting life with God in His Kingdom forever!

This is what He has done.
This I must remember.
This I must meditate on with fullness of joy--
His love,
His kindness,
His mercy,
His compassion,
His grace--
Because this is who our God is.

By His Grace.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ayn Rand on Post-Modernism

Many of you have never heard of Ayn Rand. Some of you may have. I for one got introduced to her through my 11th grade AP English teacher, Ms. Zawacki. The summer entering into the school year we were required to read The Fountainhead, which for some reason or another I read more thoroughly than any other book I have read in my life save the Bible.

Well I entered a national essay contest for the book and was picked as a semi-finalist, with my prize being her landmark novel, Atlas Shrugged. I didn't actually receive the book until eight years later, so I began reading it last summer knowing how much I enjoyed The Fountainhead.

Without getting into too much detail, Rand's philosophy is called Objectivism. The ideal for her is the self-made man who uses the material world to pursue his most selfish interest. For Rand this is considered to be "every individual's highest moral obligation." She wholeheartedly believes in Capitalism, fighting tooth and nail against a society that is built on "meeting the needs of the helpless." Rand would say that the strength of the human being should never render anyone "helpless."

With the title for her philosophy being Objectivism one could easily conclude that she was a modern thinker, believing in the power of reason. She lived in a time when post-modernistic thinking began taking over in Europe, at least at the intellectual level, but had yet to really make it over to America. This novel is written in light of that and as a warning to what could happen to a society if post-modern philosophy governed it (through politics, education, art, architecture, science, etc.).

Here is one of the most pointed quotes against post-modernism in the entire novel given by a composer named Richard Halley who retreated from the world after giving his greatest performance with his greatest concerto to the main character, Dagny Taggart:
Have you heard the moralists and the art lovers of the centuries talk about the artist's intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth? Name me a greater example of such devotion than the act of a man who says that the earth does turn, or the act of a man who says that an alloy of steel and copper has certain properties which enable it to do certain things, and it is and does--and let the world rack him or ruin him, he will not bear false witness to the evidence of his mind! This, Miss Taggart, this sort of spirit, courage and love for truth--as against a sloppy bum who goes around proudly assuring you that he has almost reached the perfection of a lunatic, because he's an artist who hasn't the faintest idea what his art work is or means, he's not restrained by such crude concepts as 'being' or 'meaning,' he's the vehicle of higher mysteries, he doesn't know how he created his work or why, it just came out of him spontaneously, like vomit out of a drunkard, he did not think, he wouldn't stoop to thinking, he just felt it, all he has to do is feel--he feels, the flabby, loose-mouthed, shifty-eyed, drooling, shivering, uncongealed bastard!"
He goes on to basically conclude with these words:
"I'll take the operator of a coal mine over any walking vehicle of higher mysteries. The operator knows that it's not his feelings that keep the coal carts moving under the earth--and he knows what does keep them moving."
Now of course I do not agree with Ayn Rand in everything she wrote, and I find many flaws in her philosophy. We work from very different frameworks, mine of course being Christian with God as the foundation, His Spirit permeating through every fiber of life and understanding. But John Calvin wrote, "If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God," so I have sought to filter truth out of Rand's philosophy, and her analysis of post-modernism is dead on, particularly for a woman who wrote against it 30 years before it really began rearing its head in America.

Along with Rand I believe we must fight against this idea that "feeling guides truth" and truth is relative based on perspective and feeling. In reality it is cowardly, requiring very little real thought, although many spend their entire lives developing the philosophy and seeking to work it out "practically." The phrases "whatever is true for you is true for you" or "do whatever makes you happy" are blanket statements of laziness that require no conviction about anything nor care for any individual. Sadly I know so many people that use them regularly. Values, morals, and ethics are tossed out the window with careless, thoughtless, empty words such as these.

I am concerned for us all in how we have allowed this philosophy to creep into our lives. I have given much thought to it as I walk with Jesus--who is the truth--wondering and praying about how much I have sold out His truth for foundation of sand that is post-modernism. I pray that the light of His truth continues to penetrate every fiber of my being. I pray that for us all.

By His Grace...and Truth.

Simplifying Things.

In an attempt to recognize the transition that is inevitably occurring a little over a month from now I am returning to this blog. I have not written in here directly in almost two years, using the personal site that was developed for me for the use of ministry. However, I have very little need for many of the functions it provides now and quite frankly it was too time-consuming to use.

So now I return to the simplicity of Blogger with the hope that I will be writing more here as I move on to seminary. I will need an outlet for my thoughts and this will also be a good arena for discussion.Please take the time to subscribe to my blog so you can receive updates as I write them.

By His Grace.