Love is Greater than Truth

Western thought is pervaded by the idea that truth is the greatest of virtues. As if God were a cosmic computer testing our exam sheets and counting up the checks and crosses. As if we could look at the next person’s score sheet and tell whether or not they’ll receive a passing grade.

There’s an inherent arrogance in the belief that we can totally understand God. Because the truth is that God is an eternal mystery. Immutable. Knowable, yet transcendent.

He’s much too large to fit in our skulls. Much too powerful to be impacted by what we believe him to be.

It’s ultimately the sin of pride to think we can attain perfect knowledge of God. That we can take hold of absolute truth.

We cannot live our lives based on truth alone. We cannot move through this life without faith, which is trust in the absence of understanding. And an obsession with truth to the exclusion of (or selective amnesia) of faith and love is the very heart of the Pharisee.

Is it better for a child to trust his father implicitly, or for that child to only trust his father as far as he understands him?

Obviously, if the father is good, as ours is, it is much better to have faith than to have knowledge.

When we have faith in God, we draw near to him and allow him to modify our desires.

His greatest desire is to make himself our greatest desire. Our ultimate goal is not to have infinite head knowledge of who God is, but to have experiential, heart-level knowledge of God. To know him as a lover knows his spouse.

The Holy Spirit is the most intimate connection we have with God because he literally lives inside us and lets us hear the heartbeat of God.

And his heartbeat is love.

If we don’t take the time to daily listen to God’s heartbeat, we run the risk of preferring the sounds of our own voices.

If we don’t love first and strive to understand second, we run the risk of worshipping Knowledge instead of God.

But we can love people without forsaking truth and conviction.

I can give a gay man a hug and tell him I love him without endorsing his lifestyle. And I don’t need to tell him that I think he’s sinning, either.

I can give a Syrian refugee food and patch his wounds without promoting the Islamic religion. And I don’t need to tell him he needs to convert to Christianity either.

I can lobby for the rights of illegal refugees without promoting illegal immigration. And I don’t need to deport them either.

In fact, Jesus would tell us the same, and likely much more.

Truth and love are embodied in Christ. They are not mutually exclusive.

But we must never forget that love is the greatest of these (1 Corinthians 13:13). Treating people with compassion is more important than judging people based on the law. Because the law only brings death, where grace brings life and deliverance (Romans 7:8-11; Romans 3:21-31).

Life cannot be neatly packaged. Life is difficult, complex, and messy. Life is broken and filled with unspeakable darkness. And much of our understanding comes not through knowledge but through experience.

We don’t really feel compassion for a child slave unless we can somehow taste the horror of abuse that victims of human trafficking are subjected to.

We don’t really feel empathy for homeless men suffering from PTSD unless we can sample the soul-crushing psychological oppression they endure on a daily basis.

The reason why I write dark stories is because I need dark stories to help me feel just a portion of the tears God weeps over the brokenness of our world.

I do not write about violent events to endorse violence, but to empathize with the abused and the hollow.

I do not write about people doing terrible things to endorse them, but to try to understand and improve my own attempts to love people who do terrible things.

Because to think we’re different, that we’re better, is a lie.

We’re all broken. We’re all in need of love and compassion. We’re all in need of a Savior.

“Yeah, but I don’t murder people.”

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). You may be different in seeming, but your worth is the same.

Every person is valuable. Every person is loved by God and meant to love God in return. If life were about doing good, we’d all be damned to hell. But thank God that life is about loving God and receiving his mercy and forgiveness, and about being empowered by his Holy Spirit to turn away from sin (not in our own power, but in his–and for his glory!).

Don’t let your mouth become a hand-grenade. Let your heart be a magnet.

Every person falls short of perfect holiness. Our primary calling toward other people is not to tell them when they’re wrong, but to love them even when they are.

If this spoke to you, please, let me know. Comment or share.

Is A Happy Ending Always the Best Option?

I’m always disappointed when writers manipulate stories to serve their agendas rather than give their audience the most authentic entertainment. Stories are powerful because they contain all the ingredients necessary for emotional manipulation. However, the core purpose of story is not to manipulate, but to communicate truth.

Sometimes this can be an emotional truth—such as letting you feel the depth of sorrow a particular character feels when they lose a loved one. Other times an intellectual or spiritual truth—such as how little we understand of the universe, or how sometimes God allows pain to draw us closer to him.

But stories are the most powerful, the most profound, when they are internally consistent. When authors manipulate a story to serve an agenda, they are damaging the story’s internal consistency in favor of manipulating the audience to see something from a perspective that the story itself wouldn’t normally show.

Example: In the children’s animated series, The Legend of Korra, the very last scene of the series was wasted on Continue Reading

Hey Christians–Stop Practicing White Magic!

I can see the 60-year old church-goers already lighting their torches and brandishing their pitchforks. Good. They should be upset. But not at me. And not at Harry Potter, either.

“Magic is the use of rituals, symbols, actions, gestures, and language with the aim of exploiting supernatural forces.” Furthermore, White Magic is defined as “magic used for good or selfless purposes.”

“How could Christians be accused of practicing White Magic?”

I’m glad you asked. Or maybe I did. Doesn’t matter.

The key here is the phrase, “with the aim of exploiting supernatural forces.” Because the usage of “rituals, symbols, actions, gestures, and language” can mean prayer, the point here is that Continue Reading

A Different Kind of Broken

There was a progressive metal band in what used to be my local area that signed a fairly large record deal with a major label and experienced significant financial and critical success. It was a pretty big deal for me back when it first happened because it gave me a bit more faith for personal hopes and dreams that sometimes appeared a bit too idealistic.

What I didn’t know was that the founding band member was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and would soon be found dead at the bottom of a bridge due to the toll the disease took on his psyche.

Back in college, I lived across the hall from a Pastoral Studies major from Nigeria who we called Uche (pronounced OOH-chay) because we couldn’t pronounce his weird Nigerian name. He weighed in at about 320 pounds (99 percent of which was muscle), and was known for being extremely kind.

But he was in denial about a condition that caused him to periodically have grand mal seizures. When I found him on the floor of his bedroom, Continue Reading

I know I’m too comfortable when . . .

I know I’m too comfortable when . . .

The greatest emotional pain I experience is caused by the failure of a package to arrive on my doorstep the day the tracking info says it’s “being delivered.”

I know I’m too comfortable when . . .

I complain about the hot water lasting only 20 minutes instead of 30.

I know I’m too comfortable when . . .

I’d rather stay home and play video games than attend a prayer meeting.

I know I’m too comfortable when . . .

My biggest problem is choosing between watching Netflix, reading a book, going to a movie, or complaining about how there’s absolutely nothing to do in the entire universe. (and I choose to do the latter)

I know I’m too comfortable when . . .

I have the urge to not spend time with someone who just experienced a loss because I won’t know how to comfort them.

 

I know I’m broken when . . .

I wake up two hours before I need to just to kneel at my bedside and pray for the protection of the hundreds of millions of neglected children in the world.

I know I’m broken when . . .

I labor to provide people I’ve never met access to clean water so that they don’t die from disease.

I know I’m broken when . . .

I desire to spend my free time worshipping God and thanking him for his mercy instead of pacifying my attention span with cheap entertainment.

I know I’m broken when . . .

My greatest problem is discerning how God wants me to best serve his people and his purposes.

I know I’m broken when . . .

I have enough momentary clarity to see that the struggles of others are more important than my own.

 

And the verdict is . . . I’m still way too comfortable.

Is Violence Biblical?

Violence is sensationalized in the media day after day. Saw, Final Destination, and Silent Hill movies have made a killing at the box office (pun intended). The Walking Dead, one of the most terrifically gruesome TV shows ever made, is also one of the most viewed. And M-rated video games like COD: Modern Warfare set worldwide sales records that rival many small nations’ GDP.

The point many make in response to this wave of violent entertainment is that Philippians 4:8 instructs us as follows: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

How could gruesome violence ever fit into that framework? Continue Reading

What To Do When Life Happens

It seems like every time I set a goal and dedicate myself to sticking to it, Life stomps in and chucks my plans out the window. Every time it happens, I find myself thinking, “Come on, now, how could you expect Life to be any other way? You always knew he was a jerk.” We all know the world is complicated and messy. Our clichés illustrate this point quite poignantly.

“When it rains, it pours.”

“I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“When life gives you lemons. . .”

The question, I suppose, isn’t whether or not we’ll hit roadblocks. It’s how we overcome them. Apparently I’m not very good at that last part.

Example: I’m woefully behind on writing. I should be way further along in my next book, and every time I think about it, I start experiencing this strange pain in the back of my left eye socket, and an urge to climb into bed and sleep for the next week or so.

But if I don’t do the work, nothing will get done, so before the sun comes up, I chain myself to my desk and stare at the blank page willing words to flow. After I get a few words in, I say, “Hah! This isn’t so bad,” and set my goal at 1,500 words. 500 words in, I get a call from a family member who needs to move out of their current house. Immediately. And they need help or else it won’t happen in time.

I then spend the rest of the day, until 9pm, helping them move, and come home so exhausted all I can do is climb into bed. Then the next day comes and I’m so depressed I didn’t write the day before that I don’t write that day either. Ugh.

It’s silly. Actually, it’s ridiculous. I know that. But how do you change it?

As with most things in life, I think the key is grace. Everyone messes up. Life throws you curveballs you sometimes have to catch with your face instead of your glove. Doesn’t mean you’re a worthless player, or that you should walk off the field and give up. Just means you’ll probably have a welt the size of Nebraska, and yep, people are probably going to laugh at you. That’s fine. People laughed at Jesus, too. There’s successful humility in graceful failure.

Taking hits, falling down, struggling and not quite getting to the base on time, it’s all a part of the game. It means you’re IN IT. You’re playing. You’re alive. And that’s all that’s asked of us. We can’t win the game. Only God can do that. He’s the star batter, and we’re just there to run the bases as best as we can (and only after he’s hit it out of the park).

Yeah, I’m writing to myself today. But I don’t write because I’m so confident I have this nugget of wisdom to offer to any soul lucky enough to grace my side of cyberspace. I write to understand the world and myself. If it helps other people, great, but if I really understood much of anything, I don’t think I’d write anywhere near as much. It’s my stupid that keeps me trying to get smart. And honestly, I think that’s how life works.

I pray because I need guidance. Because I need God to live through me before I can do anything worthwhile. Because if God doesn’t work through me, I’m just laboring in vain.

This kind of thinking is different from fatalism. It’s not that we should expect ourselves to fail. It’s that we shouldn’t be surprised or let it drag us down. That instead, we should let it urge us to lean more on God, to rely on him for everything.

So what should we do when “life happens”?

Steady ourselves on God’s shoulder, and move on.

So, now that I’ve written 686 words, excuse me while I find new ways to avoid working on my book. Wish me luck!

Who is ADAM? A Biblical Character Profile

Adam’s name means “man.” From the beginning, Adam is an archetype, a representation of the human race. God formed him from the dust of the ground, and breathed life into him. Adam’s failed responsibility is our own not just because he passed the sin nature to us, but because the stuff of our makeup, the earth and breath that animates our bodies, is the same. And we are every bit as broken.

One unique aspect about Adam is that he, unlike us, was born innocent. He could have chosen Good indefinitely because God had blinded him to Evil. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is proof, because when Adam ate the fruit, his eyes were opened to Good and Evil. He suddenly became aware of what sin was, and that he had just consummated it. So he tried to cover up his “nakedness.” (Genesis 3:7)

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.” Hebrews 5:12-14

What Hebrews is saying there is that there was no law before Adam sinned, so there was no death, and that the Law brings death through our sinful nature. The Law is good, but because we are not, it brings only death through our brokenness. That’s pretty hopeless. But thank God we had someone to come and fulfill the Law, to do away with sin forever. Continue Reading

A Christmas Letter To You

Entropy is nature’s tendency toward disintegration. It’s considered a law. What it means is that no present will wrap and slide itself under the Christmas tree for you. No relationships will grow without you tending them. No love will remain unless you stoke its flames. And no pendulum will swing forever.

Greater order will not, and cannot, arise out of chaos. Goodness does not come out of brokenness. Brokenness may be redeemed through sorrow and repentance into something more beautiful (sounds a lot like the Christmas story), but wholeness never comes through separation, and all the world is bent toward separation. I need look no further than my own heart to stimmy the denial of this truth.

The trouble with reality is that it has so many hard edges. It’s rough to hold onto, and if we cling too closely, it draws blood. Makes it easy to set it down and walk away. But what do we have to replace it? Illusions. And while we study illusions, what happens to the rest of us? We fall apart.

Some days I wake up feeling tired and drained, as if all the world is colored grey and all the flavors have blended to bland. No excitement remains, just a hollow buzz, a droning flat-line devoid of peaks and valleys.

Every great saint who wrote candidly of their life admitted significant time periods where they were stuck in a malaise. Mother Theresa battled severe depression. Martin Luther submitted himself to self-flagellation (whippings) in hopes he could atone for his inner darkness and rid himself of deep guilt. Augustine and many others experienced prolonged periods of doubt and emotional pain.

Why? Because we are all human beings subject to the law of entropy. Our bodies and souls, because of the curse, are all set down a course toward disintegration, breakdown. Some days our bodies betray us. Some days, when the sun is shining and all is well, our souls don’t agree with the weather or our pocketbook.

But the Christmas season is a time for re-centering perspective. It’s the end of a year and the beginning of another. In all the busy-ness, all the work we put ourselves to (shoveling endless snow, enduring frostbite on our fingertips while trying to hang thousands of decorations no one really looks at anyways, not to mention buying gifts for second-cousins twice removed), in the end it’s a chance to remember the reason we exist.

Christmas is Christmas because roughly two thousand years ago a man was born from a virgin, lived a perfect life, gave himself to a brutal death as a ransom for the world, then rose from the dead after three days of rotting in a tomb. He did that to redeem me and you, to reverse the curse that destroyed our purpose for existing—which is to worship God and enjoy him forever. Nothing else matters if we lose sight of this truth.

Christmas has nothing to do with giving gifts or being happy, so we have no reason to beat ourselves up if we’re feeling depressed or don’t receive any mail this season. What Christmas does have everything to do with is God breathing life into dead (and dying) bones. That’s the most amazing story, ever. Period. And the more we focus on Christ’s sacrifice, his love for us, his gift to us, the more the color seeps back into our vision.

God is the only cure for spiritual entropy.

Wherever you’re at this season, whether you’re ecstatic to be with family, or grieving the loss of a loved one, this is a time to re-center our perspective on Jesus. To rededicate our lives to our Savior. To give up our fears and anxieties, our hopes and dreams, and bowing our will to his.

I do hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. But mostly I hope you rest joyfully in Jesus.

Peace and blessings,

-Brennan

Who is THE MAN? A Biblical Character Profile

All throughout the Old Testament, we see Man figures appearing at odd times and claiming odd things. Genesis 3:8 describes Adam and Eve hearing God’s actual footsteps in the garden of Eden. In Genesis 3:24-30, Jacob wrestled a mysterious Man who dislocated his hip. Jacob wouldn’t give up, so the Man blessed him and renamed him Israel. Afterward, Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” There are myriad other examples of this (not counting Jesus’ appearances post-crucifixion), but theologians call each instance a “prefiguration of the Christ.”

The central theme of the book of Genesis is man’s unfaithfulness contrasted with God’s faithfulness. The first and most central promise God makes in all of the scriptures is that a Savior would come through a woman’s womb to reverse the curse. Jesus, therefore, is the centerpiece of Genesis, with the Bible even claiming that his death and resurrection was planned before the foundations of the world were formed.

But why as a Man? Scripture calls Jesus the last Adam. What does this mean? God saw fit to descend to become one of us, to suffer as we suffer, and to choose purity while we chose impurity. He’s the last Adam because Adam was formed by God himself and had no father other than God, and the same with Jesus. Both were born sinless, because we inherit our sin nature from our father. Adam voluntarily chose sin, cursing all humanity, while Jesus chose holiness yet became sin on the cross to set humanity free.

The reason why Christ is foreshadowed in many physical forms, people, and symbols throughout all of history is that the entire purpose of our existence is to worship God. After Adam’s sin in the garden, evil separated us from God, making it impossible for us to worship him. But before God even made us, he knew we would sin, and he planned to take our punishment on himself, thereby freeing us to worship him as we were meant to.

So, what that means is that when God called Abraham righteous in the Old Testament, he could only do so because of Jesus. When God forgave Job his questioning, he did so because of Jesus. When God forgave David for sinning with Bathsheba and then murdering her husband, he did so because of Jesus. Though the Bible is divided by myriad covenantal changes (the first being the covenant between Adam and God that Adam broke), God’s personhood is the same from beginning to end.

Going back to the story of Cain in Genesis 4, we see God speaking with Cain after he kills his brother. God asks him where his brother is, and Cain says, “I do not know, am I my brother’s keeper?” Get that—Cain lied to God’s face! And what does God do? God shows mercy toward Cain!

This is what makes Cain’s story profound: that we see the shadow of Jesus’ planned life, sacrifice, and ascension in the world’s first murder. It’s also the reason why Cain’s story is included in the Bible—to show God’s faithfulness amidst man’s unfaithfulness.

Want to explore these themes and theological ideas in a much deeper way? Not afraid of diving into the realm of speculative fiction? Then click or tap here to explore the full-length, visionary novelization of the story of Cain and Abel!