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!

Who is Eve? A Biblical Character Profile

Eve was Adam’s counterpart, formed from Adam’s rib by the hands of God himself. In the original Hebrew, Adam named Eve “Chavah” because she was “the mother of all living.” In Hebrew tradition, names hold deep symbolic meaning. Chavah is a derivative of the Hebrew word Chayah, which means “Life.” But Chavah doesn’t simply mean, “Life.” It connotes many other meanings as well, such as the culmination of life, the creation of life, and humility in life.

Before God made Eve, he said, Continue Reading

Who is CAIN? A Biblical Character Profile

Cain is possibly one of the most well-known baddies of the Bible. Yet his entire life is summed up in only two and a half paragraphs of biblical text (Genesis 4:1-17). His legacy of jealousy, violence, and inappropriate worship sent shockwaves throughout all of history. Who was this man who had such a profound impact on the world?

CAIN: A Brief History

Cain was the first boy ever born to human parents. He was born just like every other person—as an innocent, impressionable infant. His parents, Adam and Eve, were the first man and woman to walk the earth, and were uniquely crafted by the hands and breath of God himself.

When Cain was born, Eve said, “With the Lord’s help, I have gotten a man.” Many commentators have pointed out the peculiar wording in the original Hebrew as being a reference to the prophecy that God gave in Eden after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15). That prophecy (the first prophecy in the Bible!) is nearly universally claimed as a direct promise of the Christ who would come to bear Adam’s sins, thereby removing the curse Adam placed on humanity (the fancy word for it is “proto-evangelium”—or “the first Gospel”). Continue Reading

The Forgotten Way

My journey has been a slow one, learning to walk the Christian walk. For most of my life I’ve been embedded within the church (by that I mean both the corporate institution and the relational network of self-identified Christians), yet struggled to take hold of the power of the Gospel that the apostles and early converts seemed to have.

One look at the way the church spread and influenced society and changed human lives and sent rippling shockwaves through all of history tells us that what the early Christians had was profound, real, and powerful. One look at the flaccid counterpart to that church now blowing in the winds of post-modernism tells us that none (or very little) of that profundity, reality, or power exists in their souls.

I don’t mean to say that real Christianity doesn’t exist today, nor that there aren’t considerable gatherings of the Church—the real Church—that are changing the lives of those near them. In fact, what I’m saying is, “Let’s take a look at the mindset of the real Church then and now, and compare it to that of the lifeless clones claiming to be the real Church yet lacking true power.”

By all signs, many of us in America have forgotten (or forsaken) the way of Christ for perceived personal gain. In the end, we have attempted to grasp the world and lost our souls in the process. Sound familiar?

All over America, and much of the Western world, we hear a gospel of personal gain claiming the authority of the gospel of martyrdom, but these two are opposites. Selfishness will never be selflessness, and the sooner we recognize this and renounce selfishness, the sooner we can move into living the true Christian life.

The problem with lies is that they have a way of multiplying and morphing like a virulent strain of influenza, making them difficult to pin down and suppress. We inoculate ourselves to one strain of nonsense only to be infected by another the next day. For the sake of brevity, we will only examine two of these lies, and use them to point out the profundity of the immovable truth.

Lie #1: Jesus died and rose again so you could be saved from hell.

Truth #1: Jesus died and rose again to make holy worshippers out of dirty rebels.

Of course, Jesus did die to save us from damnation, so calling it a lie may be misleading, but saving us from damnation is only the very beginning, not the end goal! He did not save us just to save us. He saved us TO something (himself!). This may seem an unimportant distinction, but in my experience, it’s all-important. Lie #1 either frightens or entices people to ask for forgiveness based on selfish motivations, whereas Truth #1 inspires us to ask for forgiveness for God’s sake. This marks a total departure of intentions from the very beginnings of our walk.

I was brought into the Christian fold under the fear of damnation, not the fear of God. These two things are completely different, the first being moored in selfishness, the latter being moored in self-forgetfulness. When we are awed by the mystery of God’s majesty, we forget ourselves, longing only to throw all we have at his feet. When we are blinded by the light of Hell’s flames, we see nothing of God, and think of only saving our own skin. If we offer ourselves to God for selfish motivation, we are doing nothing more than offering a sacrifice for our own worship instead of God’s, like Cain in Genesis 4.

Don’t get me wrong, we must all repent and mourn our mistakes. There are times when the fear of damnation can inspire in us the type of repentance God accepts. But most often, it has been abused, and has misled many (me included) into a false idea of what Christianity is about. It’s not about us going to heaven. It’s about us being purified so that we can worship God with everything.

Lie #2: Jesus died and rose again so you could be happy.

Truth #2: Jesus died and rose again so that we would know to expect suffering as we throw our lives at his feet.

This one’s tricky because Jesus did die to fulfill our purpose for existing, and in fulfilling our purpose he gives us immense joy. However, once again, if we come to Jesus purely for the hope of personal gain, we destroy the calling.

To embrace the Christian life is to embrace pain and purpose. We do it for God’s sake, not our own, because he is the one who gives us the ability to choose it. It should always be clear in our minds that we cannot choose the Christian life in our own power. This is because everything about the Christian way goes directly against our nature. We are told to die to ourselves when all our nature screams for self-preservation. We are told to hate sin when all our nature is burning with lust for sin. We cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, for any moment of time, choose Christ without Christ choosing us and giving us the strength to choose him.

It is by God’s grace we are forgiven and offered the power to live for him. Not our own abilities, so that no one can boast about how great they are, but so that through him we would boast in how great God is, thereby fulfilling our purpose to worship him in holiness. These truths are simple, yet profound, like everything we learned in kindergarten (“share,” “be nice to each other,” “if you have nothing kind to say—do not say it!”).

For most of us, our reasons for coming to Jesus will be inevitably mixed because we are fallen. But we must recognize this as an incongruity and proclaim, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Selfishness is the factual state of fallen man, but no state to remain in. How much worse to mistake the good news of the freedom Christ purchase for us with the fulfillment of our fallenness.

When I think about my own selfishness, I often think of myself as the thief on the cross. A thief is one who sins for personal gain. “I take this from you and better my position by doing so.” The soul of the thief is the soul of every person who comes to Christ for selfish purposes.

The men who crucified Jesus mocked him, calling him the king of the Jews, not realizing he was the King of the universe. Not realizing that the crown of thorns they smashed into his skull was the punishment that bought them forgiveness. Not realizing that the sign they hung above his head was a proclamation of the truth instead of a satire for a pathetic, failed political leader. But the thief saw it all and said, “This man is true!”

We come to Christ as the crucified thief—stripped of all physical possessions, able only to offer him our lives. How lucky we are that it is all he asks from us.

Like the thief, we must expect to die beside him, arms stretched wide to embrace the God-Man mirrored beside us, body wracked with pain, soul crying for relief.

This is the calling. This is the true power of the Christian life. That we must deny ourselves for his sake, to be filled with the real and profound power of a transformed life. Expecting pain, yet believing in his promises. Enduring suffering, yet looking forward to the hope we have in Jesus—the hope of fulfillment, joy, and immutable life here and into the halls of timelessness; the promise of redemption and holiness to replace our guilt and depravity; the promise of a real, practical reversal of our desires and actions.

The call is a daily pursuit of the person of Christ, a moment-by-moment renouncement of selfishness—and more than the renouncement of selfishness, it is self-forgetfulness in the awe of the presence of the living God, of true worship in a holiness bought with his blood and offered to us as a free, undeserved gift.

In return, we are asked to walk in his footsteps, mirroring his personhood, following him toward skull-hill to pour out our blood as a drink offering to the God of the universe, trusting that to die is to live. This call, this “good news,” bears no resemblance to the gospels of selfish gain. It is no path for the faint of heart, for those afraid of violence.

Jesus, let us never believe that we exist to please ourselves, but only to please you. Please, in your mercy, offer us the ultimate joy you promise in giving you honor and glory. Like little children, let us make you proud. Likewise, give us patience in suffering. Let us be like Abel who offered his work to glorify you, instead of like Cain who offered his work to glorify himself. Empower us to live for you. Direct our focus toward you. And may every action and thought and word we perform be like incense rising to your throne! We love you, Jesus. Help our un-love!

1 Peter 4:1-2 “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

If this encouraged you, please share it with someone!

What is the Imagination?

What is the imagination? What does it do? How does it work? Is it an organ? A particular part of the human soul?

We talk day in and day out about imagination—“Oh, Miss Writer has SUCH a huge imagination to write such amazing stories,” or, “Joe Bob Billy Bob has such a small imagination that he can’t even see animal shapes in clouds”—but what is the imagination?

A while back, a man posed that question to me, and I opened my mouth (ready to let fly some philosophical sounding answer) but couldn’t think of a single word to describe it. My mind was as blank as a wasteland, and I realized for the first time that I had never really understood what the imagination was.

So, after a whole heck of a lot of thinking, I came to the conclusion that, in short: The imagination is the portion of our minds that allows us to connect our intellect and emotions to the process of worship. It is the human capacity to wonder. Our built-in desire for something greater than ourselves that manifests in millions, maybe even billions or trillions of ways, though its end goal is always the same. Continue Reading

My Faith Journey: “WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS EARLIER?!”

I’ve gone to church my entire life.

Practically grew up in a church pew.

Went on Sunday mornings, sometimes Saturday evenings, and never missed Wednesday nights.

If you asked me, “What is Christianity?” I’d have said, “It’s about serving God and being saved (aka ‘go to heaven when I die’).”

However, a few years ago, as I sat on my couch mulling over a simple, thin book by a man I’d never heard of before, I came to the realization that I had never truly understood Christianity. In just a few pages, the text of that book illuminated the true meaning of Christianity, and the true reason for why human beings exist in the first place. Continue Reading