Inexorable Death, Life Awaits

     Death is something I think we have all struggled with at some time or another. For many this struggle is a direct result of a loss of a loved one, or someone very close. I personally could not imagine the loss of a very close friend or family member. I have been sheltered from the immediacy of death, as I haven’t had a developed personal relationship with anyone at all who has died, count me lucky. Though luck is not the quite the word; because of the inevitability of human death, I will surely experience loss first hand. On this area of death I cannot give any real opinion. But the inevitability of death is something everyone can relate to. Knowing that we are going to die, that every second that goes by is one closer to our death; how can we find meaning in the lives we live? And is there any meaning in the dead that had once lived?

     Death is a shadow looming over many people, it blots out hope and conceals all purpose. On the other hand, people that get used to a certain light, do adjust. They say if you eat a lot of carrots your eyes will adjust to the darkness quicker. How quick do our lives adjust to the shadows, where death rules and the belief in eternal life is a sinking sunset? Most people would rather ignore the inevitability of death, and focus on the reasons, and circumstances of the way people die. This ignorance, leads to the actions of nihilism without the personal declaration. C.S. Lewis in, The Screwtape Letters, speaks to this when he wrote, Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

     As a Christian there is light that completely eliminates the shadow of death. When Jesus was killed, that shadow of death loomed (Luke 23:44). With his resurrection, and ascension, he showed the proof of eternal life, and how we are to participate as well. While that shadow loomed Jesus said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46 ESV)

     The answer of Jesus has brought me incredible comfort, when there were no answers from the world, but yet more questions of death and afterlife.

The Good That Goes Unseen

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)

     You do not need to look farther than your news feed to see acts of evil, and I am not talking about the “duck face” selfies, although scary, maybe not evil. I am talking about war torn countries, world hunger, IS etc. Is the existence of evil something to be feared or is it something we need to understand? The Apostle Paul implies, in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, directly to the inevitability of pain and suffering. He writes that on one hand we are wasting away on the outside, but through Christ we can be renewing our heart, soul, and mind day by day. Evil and the things that come with it, like pain and suffering, are merely a preparation for what good is to come.
     I believe Paul is writing truth, in my own thoughts, I see evil as a contrast. When we want to explain and understand something in everyday life, we often apply a contrast in order to compare and fully understand a topic. Paul applies evil as the contrast to which we can fully understand more the glory and goodness there is to come. “Where good is to evil, eternity is to a fleeting moment.”
     Good is inherent in creation, Paul writes about that when he mentions the unseen, which is eternal. Simply put, the unseen is good, the seen which is transient, is evil. If you look at life the way Paul is writing here, it should bring you comfort. Comfort in knowing all the bad you may experience here on earth, is nothing by comparison to what good is waiting in eternity. Keep your focus centered on what is unseen, the good things that are eternal. I encourage you to take a few seconds and think about the good relationships in your life; notice the good that goes unseen.

224 Reasons

     Earlier this week the Islamic State (IS) claimed another attack. This attack was on a Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers. IS claims this plane also carried a bomb of their handiwork. This is only one of many stories of atrocities committed by this organization. The actions of the IS are what most people would say to be evil. But what exactly is evil and why does God allow it?
     Evil by definition is the corruption of good. It is the corruption of what is morally right and/or righteous. From a Biblical perspective evil began from the disobedience in Eden, the entrance of sin. Evil is one of those titles that everyone in the world can place it on an action, to some degree or another. This plays into our universal morality we all know and live by. By this morality, we observe immediately that bombing a plane is probably not a good thing to do.
     I think God can and does prevent evil. However, if God did remove all evil, completely shutting down the IS and removing any trace of evil works on earth, then, would this eliminate free will? I think not. Our free will is not reliant on there being an evil, but rather it is reliant on there being good. For there cannot be evil without good but there can be good without evil. It is our own free will that propagates evil in this world. The original creation had no evil, “and God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen 1:31).
     What can the IS stand to gain from doing such atrocities? It is an example of a prideful organization. They would have you think it is their way or the highway. They operate under a self understanding that they are not doing evil, but good according to their worldview. At the very least I can think of 224 reasons that evil exists, but the exact answer for why God allows such evil, is at its very root, a mystery to me.

“I am whatever you say I am, if I wasn’t then why would you say I am.” -Eminem

     As I was watching a video by Jefferson Bethke that I had previously posted in my blog, the auto-play on YouTube started the next video. Playing on my screen was a well produced and thought out response to Jefferson’s YouTube video. The response was from an Islamic point of view, with the main point of claiming that Jesus never wanted to be called God, and Christians are wasting their time in a made-up religion to which, Jesus would never have approved of. I disagree completely.
     There is irony between the two viewpoints in the video, as they both disagree with the “religious” ways of Christianity today. The hinge point between the views seem to come at the end of the response video, where he claims that Jesus never intended to be worshipped and did not claim to be God whatsoever. On that note, let me just give reference to the words of Jesus that shed light on who he claimed to be exactly…
     The verse that stands out immediately to me is the sequence of events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. After Jesus was arrested he was held upon a council. The council were intellectual Jews who knew the Hebrew Bible front and back, known as the Pharisees. In an effort to get Jesus to commit blaspheme they led with a series of testimony. Then finally the high priest asked a straightforward question, in Mark 14:61, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” In response, Jesus quoted from a book which the high priest would have known front and back. Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Daniel 7:13 ESV). Then immediately after Jesus said this, the priest tore his clothes and convicted Jesus of blaspheming, which was punishable by death. Jesus knew what the outcome of his response would be, so why on earth would he say it? Well, because he is the Son of God of course.
     The hinge to which the video response swings, pops when you look at what Jesus had actually said, not to mention the implications of many other references to Jesus describing himself as God. Both videos pose serious questions. One, I believe is trying to reiterate the world view and the kingdom culture Jesus intends. Where the other tries to skew the kingdom culture world view, by claiming Jesus intended something entirely different. It is true, Jesus was always pointing to God. Thereby pointing to himself, just as he described.

Couple Questions, Couple Answers, Cliché Nature Photo

     According to some estimates there are around 4,200 religions, with such a large number of religions, it comes as no surprise that there is an equally varying amount of opinions on God.
     I asked a friend of mine a few questions, knowing full well he did not associate with Christianity necessarily, or any other religion. But what I did know was that he has a good sense of logic and reason when given facts. So, what I got was a perspective likely shared by many today, a valid perspective and a glimpse into another person’s worldview.
     I posed the question, “do you believe in God or creator and could this God/creator be reached?” In return my friend gave me a response that I am not quite sure I saw coming, he said, “yes I do (believe in a creator). I am a strong believer in science. I have read a lot of scientific theories published by Hawking, Einstein, and others.” Immediately I notice that, though Christianity is not the basis of his decision, what he has read and seen has given him enough reason to come to the logical conclusion of a coexistence of religion and science. He goes on to say, “The old division of either believing in religion or science is a thing of the past. Currently, they support each other.” It seems there is a strong belief, which seems to be bred by science, that in order to reach God we will see enough scientific advancement to do so. My friend supports that by saying, “the idea of another existence, which we may choose to call Heaven is entirely possible and entirely reachable with the right science.” I would think a new age religious person might substitute ‘the right science’ and put ‘the right god’ in its place.
     This way of thinking seems to be how people can be religious, by having the same values, beliefs, and a sense of an intelligent creator, but yet remain religiously detached. This detachment is not all that surprising, even as my friend put,“I usually raise my eyebrows at people who use god to get out of a sticky situation, or use his name to justify questionable behavior. I don’t believe merely asking for forgiveness should be an effective get out of jail free card. That being said, those actions are not Gods fault, but rather the person.” It would seem that religions are not necessarily self defeating in themselves, though the people who practice them often make the decisions for people quite easy.
     Christianity itself has varying opinions on God. Many Christians have been taught one thing as children but then realize it is another when they get older. Based on their own experiences they develop their own worldview and perspectives. With one God, we don’t need simply one perspective, because some things are just simply left to be the mystery of God. As a Christian, commonality is found through Jesus. It is important that we look at how our lives are effecting the opinions of others in an anti-religious way, simply because of our own actions. If we are followers of Jesus then our actions ought to reflect positively towards the existence of God.

Check out this spoken word by Jefferson Bethke on Jesus and Religion. His book is also a good read.

News Feed War

     The belief of the majority is that science and religion are at war.  I would say this is partly correct, but in reality, incorrect. In your news feed today, more frequently than not, there is this science vs. Religion argument. This argument is typically conveyed by a funny picture with a tag line that would seem irrefutable. As Christians, are we to take sides in this “war” or rather discover for ourselves the truth.
     People are always searching for truths. Some people who do not believe in God use science as a means to refute the claims of the Bible. Science can be a tool people use in order to contradict and debate religion itself. It enraged religious radicals into taking an anti-science stance.
     I think the primary reason for this “war” has mostly been due to the small percentage of these religious radicals.  For example, those who teach on false or fabricated scientific evidence are mistranslating their own Bible thus creating their own theology based on winning an argument instead of finding the real God ordained truth. The religious radical defeats themselves, by not using common logic, where their scientific counterpart uses a system that easily discredits claims based on false teaching.
     This constant battle between the two parties creates a realm of ridiculousness and chaos.  The matter of fact is, ridiculousness gets published. It creates buzz and fodder for large people groups who are more than eager to jump all over blatant unscientific claims. These stories travel, just like a celebrity blunders. Waiting on the other end of the line are people that crave these confirmations of facts and truths to which science has supplied. It feels good to have your own beliefs confirmed.
     My thoughts are, science and Religion are in fact not at war. More often, as science progresses, it also progresses our understanding of a creator or the theory that a creator is a reasonable argument. The studies concerning the beginning of the universe point more and more to intelligent design. It is not just the questions of the universe, but even that which concerns our human make up, our DNA. Even Richard Dawkins, a renown atheist said that, “The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.” The case for intelligent design is building day by day, and I think with future findings due to science we will also find ourselves without a case at all.

     In a world where we are given the option of either science or God, we need not decide at all for we have both science, and God.

For a better glimpse into the support of science and religion, I recommend the book The Case For A Creator by Lee Strobel.

Universal Ambience

     The existence of God is a topic of mystery for many people today. For myself, I was brought up believing that this was not a mystery. However, as I got older, this mystery raised questions for me and I realized in order for my faith to be alive I must find it’s meaning through the questions I ask.
     We all need to solve this worldly mystery for ourselves, or at least attempt to ask ourselves the hard questions. So, to further understand my own belief in God, in relation to my upbringing, I interviewed my brothers, Arlin and Dave with the question of, “why do you believe in God”.
     The responses my brothers gave me were both similar. Arlin said, “ I believe in God because of my beautiful experience of how real he has been to me, through his creation, through my hardships and through other people’s hardships as well.” Dave in similar fashion responded by saying, “I have had too many experiences in my life to know that there is a higher power. I can feel the holy spirit move within myself, and others.”
     They both spoke with a common theme of revelation. Somehow they have realized God’s hand in their life, or the in the lives of others around them. This is a feeling I have as well. John Coe gives a definition of natural revelation in the YouTube video The Psychology of Unbelief. Natural revelation is, “a universal knowledge or awareness of Gods existence. That is a given to their consciousness.” He then describes natural revelation as God being like an ambient background music to life that you do not necessarily realize is there. However, when you take time to listen, you can clearly hear the music in the background, which is in fact God’s hand guiding you in your life. Then it is on you to choose whether to follow His guiding hand or not.
     This background music he talks about, I believe is the guiding of the Holy Spirit in my life. Where it gets most observed is when I tune into my questions about God’s existence. These times are usually not in my happiest of days. However, whatever gets you to think about God will become the beginning of realizing his existence. The war lies between the choice of listening to the music of His voice or the constant noises of this world. Happy or sad, feelings led to discovering God will always end with positive purpose. For this reason, it is no surprise that my passion lies within his creation; a love for the outdoors creates a peaceful atmosphere for me to hear God speak.
     There are endless amounts of questions to ask when referring to the mystery of the existence of God. My hope then, is to not answer this question for you, but to share one clue of how God can be currently, already present in your life. Just take a moment and tune in to the right sound…

Get to da meaning!!

      In North American society we hold the rich and famous above everyone as a model for success and goals in our lives. Do these rich and famous people really know the meaning of life, or are they searching from one personal success and blunder to the next?
      It only takes one Google search to discover a vast amount of confusion concerning the meaning of life. Many hold the more negative point of view, which is that life is a struggle, so live for the moment. Kanye West has said, “the point of life is getting shit done and being happy”. You will quickly see most all the quotes you find are vague roundabout ways to describe our inability to truly define the meaning of life. This should be concerning to everyone.
      It is no surprise then, that North American society sees the meaning of life as an internal meaning. That is to say that the only meaning you can gain is the meaning you make for yourself. This is to assume that meaning gained, hasn’t already been given to us since the beginning. This assumption is seemingly the prevailing thought.
      The quote in the featured image from Arnold Schwarzenegger seems accurate. Though you should probably ask yourself, achieve and conquer to what end? What is the meaning in that? Sure, it may be a process to go about life, but it still does not solve the problem of meaning whatsoever. It is scary to assume that people we deem successful know more about the meaning of life than us. However, the matter of fact is that we are still searching for the same thing everyone else is.
      We are born with a natural hunger to be like someone, something, or fit into a certain mold, because we think that meaning is found in what we do. However, for me, it seems logical to look at who made the mold in the first place, as I think the meaning is found in the why before the what was created.

Click here to view Arnold speak on the meaning of life in ten hours.