Category Archives: Misc

Know Thyself, Improve Thyself

uniqueness

Seven years ago in 2007, I was introduced to the life changing area of personality tests. I knew very little about how our personalities worked, let alone just how unique they are. My first test was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and all I can say is “wow.” After taking the test I read about every aspect it listed about me and I must say that it had me pegged perfectly. This test helped me understand just why I am so prone to always be in my head thinking as well as my love for structure. However, though my love for structure does help me be organized and get things done there is a flipside. The flipside is that I struggle in environments that are more “free flowy” and have little to no structure. So not only do we learn more about ourselves and how we operate, we also begin to learn more about our weaknesses in addition to our strengths.

Nevertheless in my opinion one of the major benefits to tests like Myers-Briggs is that not only do we gain a better understanding of ourselves, but it makes us more aware of others. For those like myself who are more of an analytical thinker, then our biggest weakness is that we are going to be more prone to neglecting our emotions and even worse the emotions of others. For me I am the thinker and my girlfriend is the feeler, so for us knowing this it allows us to better interact with each other. I know she processes with her feelings and she knows that I process through my thoughts. Therefore, us having a basic understanding of who we are and how each person’s personality differs helps us in our day to day interactions with each other.

A year after I took it the first time I had my mother take the test and I still remember her response. After taking the test and reading about my type she came up to me and said “I now better understand my son after 23 years.” Turns out she thought I was depressed because I spent so much time alone. Nope, now she understands that I was just introverted. So when we understand ourselves, it becomes easier to understand those around us, thus improving our relationships.

As Socrates famously said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  (Socrates). So in understanding ourselves we can better understand how we can make the most out of our lives. In addition, this has far reaching implications into our day to day interactions with friends, in school, and at work. When we understand ourselves we are more capable of interacting with others because we know our strengths and weaknesses.

We live in a time with nearly half of all first time marriages end in divorce, miscommunication runs rampant, and many people seem dissatisfied in at least one area of their life. So I ask you, “What if we took the time to learn more about who we are?” If more people understood how personalities differ and what theirs and their spouse’s was: “Would divorce rates lower?” What about those unsatisfied in their jobs, “Would they know more of what work environment would be best for them?” If they better understood themselves, then would their state of well being increase? So I challenge you to learn about personality types, especially yours and those closest to you.

“People are inherently and genetically different. When we truly understand the people around us, we will become successful entrepreneurs, dedicated employees & friendlier colleagues. It’s when we try to make people think like we think and act like we act, that we end up firing employees, quitting jobs (and probably getting divorced).” –Forbes Magazine

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Sex Sells: The Cost of Freedom

human_trafficking_modern_Day_slavery_global_Fund_international_aid_opt (1) “Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me.” For those of you who are old enough to remember, this 1991 single by Salt-N-Pepa is about the positives and negatives of sex. Seriously though, let’s talk about it.  Did you know that each day women all around the world are exploited for sex and that many are taken from their homes and forced to sell themselves for sex? Women are not the only ones but even children, both girls and boys, are daily sold into slavery. Today this exploitation and form of slavery is called Human Trafficking, which is one of the greatest injustices in our world today. What is Human Trafficking? Human Trafficking is defined as organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor). Today nearly “21 million people are victims of forced labor: 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.” (International Labour Organization). The number of slaves today is nearly double the 12 million Africans that were taken by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History). Today, Human Trafficking is the new Slave Trade of the modern age. According the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the city of Atlanta, GA ranks at one of the top 14 cities in the U.S. for children in prostitution. (Swecker, Chris. Federal Bureau of Investigation). In one article for the Dacula Patch by Deb Belt, Deb purposes that the city of Atlanta is the number one city for human trafficking, specifically for that of child trafficking. (Belt, Deb. Dacula Patch). Why? For starters Atlanta is home to the busiest airport in the world.  Additionally, interstate I85 connects Miami to New York.  Furthermore, the city is home to three professional athletic teams all of which causes tons of traffic in the city from all over the world. With all of the comings and goings within Atlanta how can human-trafficking be thwarted? In an interview with an Urban Plan and Design student from UMKC, he proposed from his studies that it is possible that city urban planners have the ability to be aware of every building within the city limits and knowledge of if it is used or not and what it is used for. Simply because trafficked slaves have to be held somewhere. On top of this he proposed that city urban planners are capable of finding out how many hotels have high reports of complaint; thus, allowing them to help law enforcement know what hotels need higher investigation. (Scoggan, Micah. Personal Interview) With this being said, why not push for a higher level of cooperation between city planning officials and law enforcement? Sure dealing with the building investigation is helpful, but that still does not deal with all of the traffic in Atlanta. Well ultimately security with airports, convention centers and athletic stadiums need to be enhanced. For example, more security cameras, security guards, and even more security check points can help flag suspicious suspects. Just like in the movie Taken where we see the trafficker targeting American girls outside of an airport regularly, with heightened security they should be able to flag him as a suspicious suspect who regularly is at airports yet never flies and is not a cab driver. Much like the hiring-on of more security, we should consider roach checks on major interstates like I85 in Atlanta. With more control on the comings and goings on the interstates through state patrol pulling suspicious vehicles over and potentially toll booths as well, the likely hood of trafficking women and children is dramatically decreased. However, the down side to this idea is the increase of traffic on the interstate which after the 2014 Snowpocalypse we might not want.  Thus, the city would have to create more public transportation to compensate the traffic jams, all of which creates a need for more money. This means more taxes. Plus who gets to determine which cars are suspicious and which are not? Just like how movie theaters have the video asking you to turn off all cell phones and business’ have their signs, why not include signs, posters, or videos warning you about human trafficking?  For example, since major sporting events are major hubs for human trafficking, such as the World Cup, Olympics, and Super Bowl which are the top three, why not before a game begins play a quick video saying something like the signs of trafficking awareness or something of that nature?  Additionally, right beside the “No Weapons Inside” sign why not include a number to call for trafficking awareness or a warning sign?  I guarantee if they see the video the traffickers’ targets will be more alert. On top of that, this is one of the cheapest methods one can use. Lastly, much like how we have Sex-Ed class in schools, now we should incorporate classes to warn kids about human trafficking and in parent teacher’s meetings talk to the parents about it. The more awareness we have in our city the more we can combat this injustice. This is yet another affordable method to deal with human trafficking. Most of these ideas may be costly; however, is the price for freedom ever not? Nevertheless, “the cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission” (Kennedy, John F. Cuban Soviet Missiles in Cuba Address). Therefore, let us remind ourselves that the fight for the freedom is costly. Thus, we must take on the attitude of the abolitionists of old- that even if the cost is high and even if the government asks for higher taxes, our efforts will be worth it in order to bring an end to human trafficking. “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” (Kennedy, John F. Inaugural Address).  Together we can see the end of Human Trafficking in the city of Atlanta, the U.S., and the world.     Works Cited

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

wolf-in-sheeps-clothingHypocrite! Bigot! Zealot! Today in the States, such words are used to describe those of the three major monotheistic religions of the world with a major emphasis being on those who claim themselves as Christian/Catholic. But are these terms valid? Do they hold any weight? Today, most Americans claim Christianity as their religion, but are they even Christian? For many it is merely the religion they were born into and yet walked away from since adolescence. For others, it is merely a thing you check off on a personal Facebook profile after race and political view. However, there are those who more than claim it but also practice it, yet even then they differ in their actions. So who are the real Christians and who are the fake ones? Who are the hypocrites, bigots, zealots and so on?

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans establishes first and foremost that those who seek to be followers of Christ are those who confess openly and believe within that He is Lord (i.e. Yahwheh), acknowledge that they are sinners in dependence upon His merciful salvation,and seek to follow Christ in thought, word, and deed. So this is the first distinguisher between a real versus a fake Christian. Though it is easy to run one’s mouth confessing things, it is another thing to believe what you are saying and live it out.  It is the one who actually believes and lives it that makes them a Christian. Many today say they want to “thank their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in their speeches yet do not follow Christ and continue in their sinful lifestyle. These people deceive not only Christians but also non Christians by their words and consequently their actions bring a taint on the name Christ and Christian. Sure, they talk the talk but do not walk the walk. For example look at those who used the name of Christ to promote violence, death, self gain, and manipulation and judge their fruit according to the scriptures. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

In one of His most popular messages, Christ calls His followers to beware the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” These are people who claim to be His followers, yet are really not and are ultimately out to destroy the Church. In another teaching He warned His followers that many would seek to deceive them using His name. Christ continues in His message to offer the solution to this dilemma of struggling with discerning the character and realness of one’s faith by “watching their fruit and judging accordingly.” In addition to establishing and defining what makes someone a Christian according to the New Testament, scripture also provides further guidance on discerning the realness and quality of one’s faith.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” These words of Christ resound such simple truth that what we focus on reveals what is in our heart. Even the great philosopher and thinker Solomon once said, “For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.” For the one who confesses Christ their fruit begins with what they treasure. Do they focus on the external treasures of money, title, and popularity? Or do they focus on the internal treasures of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness? For the true follower the internal is greater than the external, but by no means does that mean if you can make money do not. It simply means it is not your master.

Alas, if this was the only separation between Christianity and fake, or rather Facebook Christianity, then the former could easily be misconstrued for various other religious beliefs; thus, the differences go further. The main issue comes down to holiness and love, which are both two major themes throughout the Bible and the Christian life.  To the Christian, holiness is pursuing the ways of Christ. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” These words from the Scripture ultimately mean to pursue a higher standard of living, a life free from sin. This does not mean Christians are perfect or claim to be perfect! It merely means they are called to pursue holiness, pursue being the key word. The calling to love is more than being kind; it is preferring others over oneself, helping, fighting for another, guiding others, etc. The one who loves God, others and themself overflows with the fruit of Christ. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

For most Christians the line between walking in love and holiness is hard to reach, and many tend to lean one way or the other. This leads to what many see as “Bible Thumpers” or “Zealots” because they focus so much on holiness that they forget about the calling of love and step into religious legalism. This group focuses strictly, for the most part, on performance void of love and their hearts are not connected with the love and mercy of Christ. This is very easy to do. For others they begin to steer so much on love that their lifestyle is void of holiness. In otherwords, they may in “love” not address their friend’s sin with an anger issue; but in reality theuy are doing them a disservice by not calling them higher. In reality this tends to breed people who allow others to sin because they are afraid to offend them because they want to show love. Both sides can look and perhaps even become hypocritical when not balanced, but alas only God can read the heart. This is the fine line all Christians must find.

Finally when it comes to real Christians versus fake ones we must see both as a whole. It is very easy for one to claim being a Christian and yet live a lifestyle of sexual immorality or other “sins.” The difference between the real and the fake is that for the latter they tend to not really care about stopping. However, for the former they do care and they are seeking ways to stop through programs, accountability, or other means. Yet even with some Christians they may not be aware of their shortcomings.  For others, it may not be the right timing to address their pornography addiction, for instance, because perhaps they might be focusing on their alcohol addiction or something like that.

With today’s media putting a major focus on fake Christians and the shortcomings of the real ones, it is very easy for one to see them as one in the same. However, there is still a major difference which comes down to knowing what the Bible defines as a real Christian and if the person produces the fruit of a real Christian. This is why it is not the role of those outside of the Church to judge whether they are or not, but the Church’s, which sadly does not always happen. In the end it is those who claim to be Christians but do not acknowledge their dependence upon Christ and follow Him by pursuing a lifestyle of love and holiness are your wolves and those who do are your real Christians. Nevertheless, not only is there a difference between real and fake Christians, there is also a difference between those Christians who have “good fruit” and those whom are misguided and have “tainted fruit” **He may wonder what you mean by “tainted fruit “for all are not Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.

The Looming Baby Booming

baby-boom-blocks

Boom! Boom! Boom! Let the babies come on in! Some have suggested lately that the U.S. should limit or at least highly encourage citizens to only have two children per family unit.  What is this? Communist China? The idea that a nation would limit two children per family is completely absurd. A nation cannot grow in this manner. Literally it cannot grow! For any nation to grow in population even but a little there must be three or more children per family, anything less will stagnate the population or even decrease it. But more citizens would not be the only reason in and of itself, for with the increase of children would come many benefits to any nation.

For instance, when the birth rate rises, jobs will rise-specifically in the fields of medical, agricultural farming, and education. When the birth rate increases, the needs for medicine and food will always increase with the new populace. On top of that, more children means more teachers, which will create more jobs.  It also puts a higher demand on education reform. Sure, this is not a lot of jobs, but those who have the children will also become better workers. Why? Because with bigger families comes a greater need for parents to be more involved with their children on a day to day basis. And when parents have a greater connection with their families they tend to always have a stronger sense of incentive to provide for them, which will lead to harder workers. Though this is not always the case, it is still truth. Those who have a stronger relationship with their families almost always work harder because they are working for someone, especially when for multiple children.

In addition with the increase in jobs and better workers comes a much larger population, which ultimately means a bigger military when they come of age. Nations like China can merely use their population size as a simple military deterrent because who wants to mess with a nation whose population exceeds a billion? Along with population growth comes a larger active military which is always a great military deterrent, just look at North Korea’s million man army. Thus with the increase in population comes an increase in military strength, if needed.

However, military is not everything, for with the increased population comes an increased number of tax payers which is always quite beneficial to any nation suffering from severe debt. As the rise of these new taxpayers comes, so does the next wave of inventors, pioneers, artists, and thinkers to help strengthen society, especially if properly raised and educated.

Lastly, children from bigger families tend to more easily learn very helpful life skills and character traits like competition, sharing, serving and other characteristics that an only child may not get as easily. These life skills and character traits has the potential to go on to better improve the state of society as a whole, given that the children learn these traits.

So should the U.S. discourage families from having more than two children per unit? May it never be! It would be complete folly as downsizing will not work, for if society as a whole is greatly strengthened with more children then we should encourage it. If anything should be discouraged it should be children outside of marriage and abortion if and when possible. For how can a nation or a society truly benefit long term from killing off its citizens because they do not want them? How can we fully raise good citizens in broken homes when the statistics show that the children will have a much harder time succeeding?

Justice, justice, all cry for justice!

crying-eye

Justice, justice, all cry for justice,
One child takes another child’s toy,
Not fair, not fair all cry not fair!
 
Father beats his child,
Child hides in closet,
Why me, why me, all cry why me!
 
She does all the work,
He gets all the credit,
Not right, not right, all cry not right!
 
The rich get richer,
The poor get poorer,
Corrupt, corrupt, all cry corrupt!
 
Politicians steal and take bribes,
The citizens suffer,
Foul play, foul play, all cry foul play!
 
Nation rages against nation,
Gang clashes with gang,
Violence, violence, all cry violence
 
Mom lies in bed, gasping and shivering,
Tears streaming down he watches her die,
Why God, why God, all cry why God!
 
Creation groans, creation waits,
As injustice increases, all cry to Him,
Return, Return, ALL CRY RETURN!

Finding God in Suffering II: Jesus With The Sufferer

Flagellation-of-christ-_Rubens

             Jesus is not just some philanthropist seeking to bail humanity out of their suffering but He is a lover seeking to draw near to His beloved in their suffering. These words ring throughout the depths of my soul; God desires to be with us in our pain and brokenness.

             “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion this is such a powerful statement Aslan tells Jill in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: ‘the Silver Chair’” In the midst of our own brokenness we are blinded to our own need, though we may be aware to a degree of our need we truly have no clue just how broken we are. Just as the man blinded by complete darkness cannot see the dirt and filth that covers, we cannot see just how dirty we are. It is this reason why in John 1:5, 9 it says The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” As the world lay in deep darkness unaware of its need suddenly a great light pierced through the veil to enlighten the souls of man.

God looking upon humanity’s inability to draw near to Him out of their own blindness took it upon Himself to solve the problem of alienation between God and man Himself. The answer was Jesus, the very Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; God in flesh. The One who spent eternity past arrayed in light took off His garbs of glory and took on the garments of dust. The one who knew equality with God laid it all aside to draw near to the broken, consequently now knowing equality with broken humanity. Until we understand the depths of what He gave up for us, we will never truly know the greatness of His love towards us, but this will be touched upon in a future blog. As stated prior, if you are a lover then you want to be with your beloved in all things, even in their pain. This is what it means to be a lover, to be with them in the rejoicing and in the weeping.

So God looking down upon us in our anguish took it upon Himself be with us. Like Aslan calling to Jill before she even knew there was an Aslan, Jesus was coming to us before we ever knew there was a Jesus. The lover was coming to His beloved before she ever knew they were ever loved.

 Christ Suffers With Us

            Let us begin with the most iconic moment where Jesus suffers with humanity. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.7Then after this He *said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’” John 11:5-7 The Bible tells us that Jesus had love and affection for His friend Lazarus; thus, hearing that His friend is sick decides to stay two more days and then go see His friend. Having kept a low profile with the Jewish religious leaders seeking to kill Him, takes two more days and then comes out of hiding to go see His friend whom He knows is now dead. Does Jesus know that Lazarus is going to die prior to the time He leaves? Who knows but what we do know is that He decides to wait in order to bring glory to the Godhead.

As Jesus shows up on the scene Martha comes running up to Him to say in summary “If you were here my brother would still be alive, but I trust that You could do something” in which Jesus responds “You have no clue what I am up to but I do love you which is why I am here.” Martha leaves and sends Mary to Jesus. As Mary comes running up to Jesus she falls at His feet in tears saying in summary “I know You could have done something if You had simply been here.” Jesus looking at His friend weeping at His feet and those that came with her weeping was both deeply moved and troubled. Why troubled? Well we will save that for another time. What we do know is that Jesus experiences sorrow and begins to weep within; this is what it means in the Greek by wept. It is not a loud sobbing but rather a silent weeping that is primarily an experience of internal sorrow. So Jesus in other words is not performing some outward weeping like the professional mourners who accompanied Mary, but as one whose heart was broken in deep pain. As a side note at the time there were those who people would hire to come and mourn at a funeral, these being called mourners. This is why the silent and more internal weeping that Jesus experienced was a true experience of sorrow, thus in the moment Jesus is entering Mary’s own suffering as well as Lazarus’ suffering.

Turning to the John 8 we read the story of the woman caught in adultery being brought before Jesus for judgment. As all gathered to mock and condemn her as she wallowed in her shame before all to see; Christ knelt down beside her. As the upper echelon of religious elite sought to condemn her to death after she had experienced the fullness of shame possible, Christ did the unthinkable. The Great Rabbi adorned in fine garments got on his knees and played in the dirt. Though many have speculated what He was drawing whether He was writing their own sins or just doodling either way, whatever it was all their attention left the woman and moved to Christ. The religious elite no long looking and mocking the woman now with turned gazes stood bewildered at this Great Rabbi as His next words would leave them reeling to the point they would leave; yet, it was His drawing that moved her shame unto Him as the laughed at the “Great Rabbi” becoming the “Crazy Rabbi”.

Christ Enters into Suffering: Part I

            Jesus seeing that humanity was lost and broken and completely alienated from God became a man, lived thirty-three years and suffered death. However, though the cross was a painful experience it was His being cut off or separated from the Father that was the true pain. Jesus’ alienation from the Father began in Gethsemane and continued to build until it climaxed into total abandonment at the cross.

As Jesus entered into the Garden “He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34And He *said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’ 35And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.” Mark 14:33-35 For as the hour approached for Jesus to head to the cross His soul was already deeply pained to the point of death, so much that He couldn’t bare for eight of his disciples to even see Him in His sorrowful state of weakness. Jesus though not wavering in His identity or in any way committing a sin was now facing His greatest temptation and greatest fear; fear of being separated from His Father, separation from an eternal relationship.

His heart rent with deep agony fell to the ground and began to groan in intercession. For it was that   Jesus is now being tempted in a way that He never truly experience, that was far greater than what He had ever experienced, even in the wilderness. Jesus is in such agony and pain as to what is to come that He is yelling, groaning and even sweating drops of blood. Why, because He is afraid. Sure He is about to experience the greatest beating and one of the most painful deaths imaginable that is not simply enough to cause Him to enter into this state. Many men have gone to the cross and died that were of less character than He and never once suffered the agony we see Jesus entering into. So what is He afraid of? Well for one reason though not nearly as dramatic as the primary but big enough is the fact of betrayal. Jesus after many hours of pursuing His best friend Judas’ heart at the last supper, in hopes to save him, knows that he is coming to betray him, which will ultimately lead to his own damnation. (For more on this see Love’s Final Attempts) This is more than enough to break Jesus’ heart but still not enough to the point of His agony in Gethsemane even when paired to the sufferings on the cross.

Jesus in His agony yelled in deep sorrowful groaning “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36 Jesus is ultimately saying “Dad! I do not want to do this!!! Is there any other way? You are the most powerful and wisest person I know, PLEASE!!!! Have You found a new way? But if this is it…I will do it.” These prayers in the garden were not pretty eloquent prayers but groans of a man in complete terror, because of what is to come. Jesus is about to experience the wrath of God, Satan and Man that will ultimately lead to him being separated from God and Man.

Satan Wrath: This can be summed up in two ways. Satan is doing everything to keep Him from going to the cross, but also wants Him dead. Though the Bible does not openly acknowledge this, we can be sure that Satan is tempting Jesus in the Garden and all the way to the point off death to not go through with the cross. “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 With Jesus undergoing His greatest fear we can be safe to say there was no greater fear to tempt Him. Along with this when Jesus says to Peter to “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 He was not simply telling them for themselves alone but also for Himself. His Spirit was in Full Obedience to the will of His Father, but His flesh was terrified and thus tempted. With this in mind the other aspect of Satan’s wrath is in the fact that he hates God so much that he wants to see Him suffer to the point of death. So both sides are crashing upon Christ’s frame. However the next two are even harder on Him.

Humanity’s Wrath: The ones Jesus loves and came to save are now betraying Him, mocking Him, beating Him, rejecting Him and are soon going to kill him.

God Wrath Fall Upon Him: As the sin of humanity descends upon Jesus His Father would release the full judgment upon His Son that would cancel the judgment destined for humanity, thus also leading the Father turning His back on the son and cutting off from fellowship with Him; this leaving the Son completely abandoned and ultimately an orphan. This being the greatest suffering He will ever experience, the suffering of abandonment from the One Who loved Him for eternity past.

            The writer of Hebrews states that because of Jesus’ piety the Father heard His cries and does respond in two ways the first being He sends angels to strengthen His Son in the Garden and the ultimate is that He truly did save Him from death, but not the way Jesus had hoped. The Father saved Him by death through the resurrection. But in between the two the Father does not say or do anything. Why do I say this? Well for one Jesus is praying three times in the Garden and the Father does not answer but only by sending angels, thus showing the estrangement from each other has begun. The ultimately display is when Jesus for the first time ever address God not as Father but as God when He cries out “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?” Jesus no longer using the familial address of Father but is now taking on the cries of an orphaned heart saying ultimately “God where are You? Why have you have abandoned me and casted me out into darkness and silence?” Yet in His time of pain and abandonment He never gave up.

In His abandonment Jesus becomes cut off from an eternal relationship from His own Father; thus, bringing alienation to fullness. The Son becoming cut off went from an eternal relationship of always experiencing and feeling His Father’s love to being alienated and separated. It is for this reason why He was sweating blood in Gethsemane, because He knows what is to come and is terrified and does not want this. Thus Jesus experienced loneliness and can actually say “I know how the widow feels when they are lonely.” Think of you marrying the love of your life at 18 years old and you remain in married bliss for the next seventy years and now at 88 years old your spouse tragically leaves you because they no longer love you. Think of how traumatizing and painful that would be, then times that by ten billion and you still cannot touch the depths of the pain of the Father’s abandonment of the Son. This sorrow was experienced equally on both sides in different ways, but that is a point for a different time. It is this sorrow of abandonment and separation from His Father that stands alone and equal to all the suffering humanity has ever experienced combined.

Christ Enters Into Suffering: Part II

            As the story of the Gospels go on, Jesus is betrayed by His best friend whose breast He once leaned upon in fellowship just a few hours earlier. (For more on this see Love’s Final Attempts) Jesus even at the last supper expressed the pain of what Judas’ betrayal through one of David’s Psalms as one of the greatest pains a person can experience. Side note the Gospels recognize Judas as a thief and Jesus was aware, thus Jesus suffered being robbed on multiple occasions even by His close friend. However; not only does Judas betray Him, but all of His friends abandon Him, Peter denies Him three times and Judas kills himself. This is alone is enough to break the strongest of hearts, yet Christ endures. While Christ is on trial He is beaten, mocked and spit upon constantly that leads to His crucifixion. The ones He loves and came to save would soon send Him to the cross to hang naked humiliation for all to see and mock. The betrayal of His own people was such a huge pain of suffering that one cannot fully grasp without a deeper understanding of His relationship with them throughout the Old Testament.

As already stated but while hanging on the cross Christ would soon experience the greatest suffering ever in all of history, the suffering of His abandonment from the Father. Yet even in the face of His abandonment Christ pressed on to endure one final suffering; He died. Jesus Himself declared about His own life in John 10:18 that “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” In other words if Jesus had never willingly went to the cross, because He makes it clear to Pilate that He could have delivered Himself if He had wished, but if He did not willingly die He would never die. Jesus could not die unless He allowed. But He is a man right? Yes, but even in His humanity because He had never sinned He was not subject to the curse of death. This meaning Jesus would still be alive preaching and doing miracles today if He had never died. Even more because He had never died, Jesus could not get sick, or grow to be an “old man” full of wrinkles, lose His eyesight, go bald or even go grey as all of those are consequences of sin. If you were to have never sinned, then you would not be bound by death and decay and all that accompanies, thus all the more important for Jesus to willingly lay down His life. With this in perspective Jesus suffering of death is far greater than even the average.

Jesus with the Present Day Sufferer

            When finding Christ with the present day sufferer few have said it better and clearer than C.S. Lewis in “The Horse and His Boy”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman.  And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert.  And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis.  And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean?  I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and -”

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.”  And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued.  “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis.  I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.  I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.  I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time.  And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to the shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” 

            So where was Jesus? Where was God in the Holocaust? Where was He when the child was being abused? Where was God during injustice? Where was He as present day humanity suffers?

Well He was with the prisoner in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. God was with the slaves being lynched during slavery. He was on His knees with the woman caught in adultery. He was with Mary and Martha in her sorrow at Lazarus’ grave. He was hanging on a cross with both thieves on Calvary. He was with the child hiding in their closet from their abusive father. He was weeping with the child whose parent(s) tragically died. He was with the single mother struggling to take care of her children. He was with young man filled with shame cause he was bound in sexual immorality. He was with the man who just couldn’t seem to get it right. He was with the one who could see everyone around them prospering with relative ease and they fought to keep going. He was with the one stuck in addiction. He was with the one who felt worthless. He was never distant and never will be distant from the sufferer but will always be right there with them.

            In summary I will leave you with C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Finding God in Suffering

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After listening to Dr. Peter Kreeft’s lecture on Suffering I decided to write my own blog on the issue of suffering having had this on my mind for a while as well as having been inspired from his brilliant lecture. So let us begin.

Throughout the ages humanity has perpetually known a state of suffering that leaves the constant question “Why?” and “Where is God?” To find the answer to “Where is God in suffering?” first we must ask the questions: “What is suffering?” and “Why do we suffer?” before we can answer the question “Where is God?” So let’s use logic and start off with the first question.

What is suffering? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines suffering as: The state where one must endure death, pain, or distress. It is the state in which one must sustain loss or damage or be subject to disability or handicap.

Aristotle wrote that “we do not have knowledge of a thing until we have grasped its why, that is to say, its cause.”[1] He went on to establish what is known as the “Four Causes” which are four possible answers to the question “Why?” something happens. These four causes are: Formal, Material, Efficient and Final.

  • Formal: What is it? Define it. What’s its form, nature species?
  • Material: What is it made of? What is the content?
  • Efficient: Where did it come from? Who made it?
  • Final: What is it for? What is its purpose?

With the issue of suffering thanks to Merriam-Webster we have already given a broad definition to the form of suffering, but for the sake of an example we will use the suffering of physical abuse. The first two questions are easy to answer. What is the Formal Cause of our chosen suffering? It is physical abuse. What is the Material Cause? It is a father beating is son. What is the Efficient Cause? This could be from drinking/drugs, depression, mental illness, anger or any other place of brokenness that can be found in the father that would cause him to lash out. Last but not least the hardest question: What is the Final Cause to the suffering of physical abuse? This last one is the hardest.

In our search for understanding we will look at some Philosophers who sought to make sense to suffering. The first is Buddha who once said “To live is to suffer” in which Nietzsche added “To live is to suffer; to survive is to find meaning in the suffering.” Yet it was Viktor E. Frankl in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” Frankl adds on to Buddha and Nietzsche “If there is a purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering and in dying. But no man can tell another what this purpose is. Each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes.” So with that in mind, what is the meaning to life? Jesus laid this out for us in the Gospels when asked what the greatest commandment is. It is Love. It is to be loved by God, to love Him in return and consequently love yourself and then others. So if there is meaning to life (i.e. Love) what is the meaning of a child’s suffering physical abuse from his father? For if life has meaning then suffering must logically have some meaning or purpose to it.

Was there even a meaning for Jesus in what He suffered? Yes! A constant theme in the Psalms and the Proverbs is that God exalts the lowly and in Philippians 2 Paul states that in Christ’s lowliness displayed in His incarnation, suffering and death He was exalted. The in Revelation 5 we see glimpse of what He gets in His exaltation. So in that there was some meaning to Christ’s life on the earth it was simply a reward. In Isaiah 53 it states that there will be a reward to be given to the “Suffering Servant” which that being in part the offering of the nations as seen in Psalms 2. So Jesus in His life and suffering has meaning. It is glory, honor, riches, a kingdom, a bride and so much more. But the question still stands “What is our meaning to suffering?”

Buddha who founded his religion/philosophy on four noble truths the first of which says “To live is to suffer” from the suffering of birth to death and all of that lies within. Though there is some truth to this, Buddha based his whole religion on escaping suffering. Jesus on the other hand came and contrary to Buddha came to lead humanity not out of suffering but to lead us into suffering, for Him sin was the key issue to all suffering. This we know as Christians is the ultimate Efficient Cause to suffering. So if for the Christian all suffering came from the root of our sin what is the purpose?

In Hebrew 5 it says that Jesus had to learn obedience through His suffering. Along with that the Greek Poet Aeschylus said “Wisdom comes alone though suffering.” So is the purpose of suffering to gain wisdom or obedience? Paul states in Romans 8:28 that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” So though that doesn’t answer the question entirely it does mean God can create a meaning for it, the meaning being good. In the case of the abused child the good can be they grow up to poor into those that come from broke homes. Which is simply Nietzsche Frankl’s point; the child survived the abuse grew up and found meaning in it by using their understanding of the issue to help others. But is there more purpose to it?

If God brings good out of suffering, then is their more? For the woman caught in adultery in John 8 it was Jesus. In her suffering she found God. For David in the midst of his suffering we see in the Psalms it was an opportunity for him to cry out to God. So in the midst of our suffering we can find some meaning in that it is an opportunity to encounter God. For the abused child it is an opportunity to cry out to God, though that does not mean the suffering will stop, for as we know as Christians that suffering will never end until sin is gone. For sin is the Efficient Cause.

As Dr. Peter Kreeeft says “However these Four Causes are not meant to be a solution to the problem of suffering but to hone in on its centrality. There are two parts to the problem of suffering: Practical and Theoretical.” The practical being simply what do we do with it?

The theoretical which is the logic of it, why must we suffer? Through a secular lens we can try and keep growing in society and in our understanding and eventually we will evolve into a more enlightened being that has become above suffering and injustice. But to quote Sigmund Freud in “Civilization and Its Discontents” puts it “Why, now that we have become gods aren’t we happy?” Now that we are so enlightened why does life stink? Why do we suffer? Was Buddha right? Are we just destined to keep suffering? Is there a purpose? Is there an end? Well practically through the secular lens we must simply live through it and endure…that is a very depressing answer. However; if you are a Christian there is a hope and His name is Jesus. Jesus is the answer to the problem of suffering, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Theoretically if you live in a corrupt system, then you can always revolt and build a utopia on earth free of all corruption and be done away with the issue of why you are suffering, but then again you are still going to suffer death so issue is still unresolved.

But if you are a Christian and believe that God is the author of a story and is writing both the beginning and the end and all that lies within then the question is “Why does He write such a dreadful story?” This seems to be part of where Job the “archetypical sufferer” who in the midst of his suffering asks God “Why me?” in which God instead of answering his questions responds with His own questions. To ultimately sum up God’s response “Who do you think you are, you can’t possibly understand, I’m the author, you’re the character but that is ok I still love you.” David seems to a have a similar response as Job in the midst of his suffering when he asks “Why me?” except David always seems to add something Job doesn’t seem to remember “Why me? Either way I still trust You and know that You are good.” Coincidentally both seem to encounter God in the midst of their suffering. Concerning suffering Dr. Kreeft states “Perhaps one of the things God wants us to do is to get angry with Him, because that makes us similar to Socrates. It makes us ask questions.” I myself have found this to be true in my own life because of the anger I experience from my suffering I have found myself turning to God to ask Him the hard questions. Much like Job and David in the Psalms I turned to the One who could see the end from the beginning.

Dr. Kreet makes the point that, if in fact we are characters in a story written by God then that means we cannot truly understand all that is going on, even suffering because if we did that means God would no longer be God and instead simply He would be us. But since the character cannot see all that the author is writing, then we cannot fully comprehend all that is going on all we can do is simply trust in the leadership of the transcendent author. If this is true then this is one answer to the problem of suffering, simply to Trust or Faith in God’s leadership.

Another answer to the problem is Hope, which is simply Faith in the future. So it is possible that we will not fully understand suffering in this age but in the age to come when God has done away with suffering. Or in other words it is like the character trying to figure out where the author is taking him in his story but ultimately can’t fully understand until it is all over and book two starts and he can look back. So consequently all he can do is trust in the leadership of the author by putting his hope that the author will right the wrongs.

Lastly the deepest answer to the issue of suffering is love or rather solidarity with sufferers and if you truly do love someone then you want to be with them wherever they are, you want to be close to them, you want intimacy. It is one thing if to show love by bailing someone out of their suffering but it is another to experience their suffering with them. It is the shortest verse of the Bible; “Jesus wept.” In which when Jesus wept over the loss of his friend with Mary the people said “See how He loved him.” Jesus experienced both the pain of Lazarus’ death and the pain that Mary was experiencing. Sure Jesus could have stopped Lazarus from dying, but He didn’t because He is the author and brought good out of it. But in Lazarus and Mary’s suffering Jesus was their relating with them.

Thus if you are a Christian the greatest answer to the problem of suffering is as stated earlier is Jesus. Who took off His garments of light and clothed Himself in dust to walk among the broken to identify with their suffering, thus showing the greatness of His love. In being with us in our suffering we experience a greater level of intimacy is birthed, this is for everyone because everyone suffers.

Dr. Kreeft paints the picture: If your car breaks down in a horrible snow storm and all you can do is contact your brother. When he shows up he doesn’t know how to fix your car, but all he knows to do is sit with you in the midst of your trial until the morning when you can get a tow truck to come to your rescue. So looking back is guy more thankful for the brother or the tow truck guy? Is he more thankful for the one was with him in his suffering or rescued him? Well it would be the one who was with him. I can attest to this in my experience more times than naught, in my times of suffering all I really wanted was someone to just come sit with me as I experienced the inevitable pain. Now praise be to God that Jesus is both the brother in the story who sits with us in our suffering and the transcendent author who at the end of the story will right every wrong on our behalf. Jesus was with the child being abused, He was the One who rescued the child from being abused and the One who healed and matured the abused child into a grown man capable of ministering to the broken. Jesus is the answer to suffering. Thus knowing I can meet Jesus in my suffering well to quote Nietzsche: “He who has a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how’.” Those that have a ‘why’ or a meaning to be found in suffering can endure it because Jesus is there.


[1] “Four Causes”. Falcon, Andrea. Aristotle on Causality. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2008

 

The Need for Students of the Word

The world waits in anticipation for the students of the Word of God to arise again. There are many in the world today with the questions and many of them are seeking the answers. If the church cannot adequately meet the questions with clears answers from the Word of God they will look elsewhere. Whether it is science, Islam, Buddhism or whatever the people are longing for “truth” even if it is tainted or false. For the one seeking intellectual/scientific proof of the existence of God the church must be ready to meet them with answers to their question. If the one is looking to find peace in a chaotic world the church must be there to meet them lest Buddhism or something else tries to. For some it could simply be why believe in Christianity when we have so many contradicting doctrines like Calvinism vs. Arminianism. This is why we must become students of the Word.

In an age where information is at the tip of your fingers, the need for students of the Word is grave. We can no longer live by quoting another’s point, but must search out the truths of God’s Word and know it for ourselves. I find that one of the reasons why atheism and religions like Islam are growing so fast is because believers are not grounded in the Word. Many in the western church have sought the excuse of “not being called” to not be ready or for others they just quote the pastor or another without knowing it for themselves. For the latter this is quite dangerous because when confronted with the questions and not being grounded in the Word, one not only will lose a chance to be a witness of the Truth, but can be susceptible to stumbling or even losing faith. For the former, though I do not believe all are called to be preachers or evangelists; I do believe that all are called to know God and when asked about Him all should able to respond. “…be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”  2 Timothy 4:2 Loving God is inseparable with knowing Him and talking to Him.

Loving God, being a man/woman of prayer, and being a student of the Word are one in the same. One cannot say that they love God but aren’t called to be a student of the Word nor pray. The idea is simply absurd. How can one say they love someone and not want to get to know them or spend time with them? We get to know Him by reading His Word for it is out path into knowing Him. The blessed scriptures are letters from God to us that we would know about Him and prayer is simply talking to Him about the letters and so much more. Well for the one who thinks that they just need to pray and love Jesus you still can’t do it without His word to spring-board you into deeper prayer. I have found for myself personally the more I read and study the word as well as the context of the scriptures my heart just explodes with love and affection for Him. Many times I have sat studying the context of a passage and before I even got into the words of the scriptures my heart was already overflowing just by understanding the context of the audience and the issues of the setting.

It would seem that two of the biggest struggles for many believers are that they don’t have the Word of God and many others they either take it for granted or twist its original meaning. What I mean by this is that they might either twist things to fit their own ideas, spiritualize the meaning, or seek to personalize it by saying “it is all about them.” The first gives us doctrines that promote universalism, the second gives us ideas saying the book of Revelations is not literal and the latter takes away the context of the passages, which for many they either begin proof-texting or not seeing that the Word had a specific audience. One example is obvious is if we don’t know why Paul says women should be silent in church then we will miss the point and hold women back from entering into their calling in God. The book of Song of Solomon was written as a love story between one man and one woman, then it became canonized by the Jews and was seen as a depiction between God and Israel and finally it became seen as a depiction between Christ and His Church. Now we have taken the book of Song of Solomon and say it is just about Christ and us. Though we can apply the truths of the book to our individual selves we must acknowledge that the context is Christ and His Church as a whole as well as it is Solomon and the Shulamite, without that view we miss much.

My desire is to see people giving themselves fully the knowledge of God, that men and women would become students of the Word. O’ that believers would begin to dig deep into the treasure of God’s Word. What would it look like if the Church knew the Word of God and even some of the context behind it more than the Muslims do the Koran? What would it look like if believers knew the Word of God clearly and contextually more than scientists their books of science? For this I am sure the witness of the Church would be powerful. We would no longer have contradicting doctrines concerning God. The message of the church would no longer differ from denomination to denomination, allowing the World to clearly understand the message. It is always really hard to receive directions to a couple’s house when the husband says one way and the wife says another. Or rather when you ask someone what an elephant looks like and one says it has big ears and the other says it has a long nose, both are true but are lacking and not clear. But if you go to one who has studied elephants and they describe them as large grey mammals, with long noses, tucks, big ears, small skinny tails and weigh over a ton; then your audience will actually know, understand and believe. We must become students of the Word that we may be a clear witness, ready to confidently meet the questions of the world and even more that we would know this One whom we love.

O’ Little Town of Bethlehem We Do Not Know Thee (The Great Paradox)

O’ Little Town of Bethlehem We Do Not Know Thee
The Great Paradox
While kings boasted of their greatness,
The Word of God declared of His lowliness through each whimper and cry.
As rulers jockeyed for position in Rome,
The King came in obscurity.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee.
 
While rulers sought their palaces,
One whose goings forth was from everlasting to everlasting dwelt in a manger.
As Caesar lay on his bed,
YHWH lay in a feeding trough.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee. 
 
While the watchmen made their rounds,
The shepherds were found ready.
As the priests sought the Word of the Lord,
The shepherds could hear it in the whimpering of a babe.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee. 
 
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee.
As the religious leaders looked to Jerusalem,
Heaven look to you.
 
For He who sets the seraphim ablaze,
Now shivers underneath the cool breeze of night.
He who wrapped Himself in unapproachable light,
Is now wrapped in swaddling clothes.
He who sits enthroned on high and laughs,
Has become a babe lying in a feeding trough crying.
He whom all of heaven gazes upon crying “Holy”,
Is now the object of the animal’s gaze.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee.
 
For on this day, the Potter has become dependent upon the clay
The One who was there at creation as a master craftsman,
Has become a child now dependent upon His own creation.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee.