The Secret Sin That’s Destroying Our World. . . *HINT* It’s Not What You Think It Is!

There are more teachers in this world than I can count, all of whom know more than me.

There are countless men and women in this world, all of whom are stronger than me.

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in this world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27.

I write this letter openly admitting that I’ve spent the majority of my short life committing the secret sin that’s destroying our world.

The trouble is, I’m no different from you.

Because you’ve done the same. Only you don’t know it.

Neither of us ever really think much of it. And that’s exactly what makes it so insidious, so deadly.

You may not remember what I’m about to share with you, but you were there, 2,000 years ago. And I was there with you. I sat on his left. You on his right. A hammer in each of our hands. A nail in both of his. Continue Reading

God Made Dirt

I had an epiphany the other day that I believe has the power to change America. In fact, I think it’s such a powerful truth that if we truly understood its implications, the ripple effects would blast out over the entire planet, rocking the nations and impacting future generations for an indefinite sum of years.

So. . . you ready for it?

God made dirt.

Can you believe it? I almost couldn’t.

Because when we look at Christian subculture in America, it seems we hold the belief that God only made the Bible. Likewise, we seem to believe that Christians should not create or do anything that doesn’t have some direct correlation to the Bible, or going to church, or “accepting Jesus.” Continue Reading

READ IF U LUV JESUS—IGNORE IF YOU SERV SATAN

The first thing modern Christians need to realize is that we no longer live in the world the apostles lived in, where living out your Christianity meant discipling other people, living in community, loving others, and making sure to serve the needs of the poor and afflicted.

You might ask, “Why? Why are these things now irrelevant?”

Because social media has changed EVERYTHING. Now, our primary goal is to show people how spiritual we are on social media. Because how else will people know about Christianity? And how could they ever convert unless they know exactly what we Christians believe about all their sin? Continue Reading

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!