Thursday, October 30, 2014

Can you still wonder?

 Picture from the International Space Station over Great Britain, also catching a view of the Northern Lights on the horizon.

What about wonder?  We can talk truth and philosophy all we want, but wonder is the backdrop that draws us.  It binds us into the search.  Don't you think?  I am not primarily a logician, but I love logic.  I'm not primarily a rationalist, but I love rational.  

I'm primarily an intuitive.  I subconsciously reel in toward the conscious clues of time, space, reality, nature, society, people, all into a cohesive band of thoughts and perceptions, systematizing into my prefrontal cortex, as a worldview.  Is that you?  

Modern Christianity has been described as dogmatic.  Fair enough.  Perhaps it has become that.  R.C. Sproul wrote a book on the importance of the arts to Christianity, which suggests to me that perhaps we have abandoned the arts?  Listen to some Christian rock and you'll be in full agreement with me on that one.  Blah! 

In addition, Ravi Zacharias wrote a book titled "Recapture the Wonder."  To recapture something must mean, in the general sense of a movement, that it has somehow been lost. 

I can see why.  The theological bullies out there are pretty intense.  The orthodoxy.  The fear in my mind as I write sometimes, wondering if I might get pinned as a heretic if I don't phrase something in just the correct theological way.  It damages the ability of the believer to creatively and wondrously interpret the scriptures.  

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to put together a systematic theology that isn't at least somewhat contradictory or very often it doesn't seem quite, quite right?  Do you know why?  

I think I know why.  Point one, maybe it was never meant to be systematized.  Point two, the startling coalescence of contrarieties, the mystery of the wide, deep depths and finely tuned breadths of the message of the Bible, the cross, the gospels, is so powerful, so mysterious, so groundbreaking, so variable, so multifaceted, and multidimensional; and so truly the revelation of the divine architect of the universe that it cannot be understood fully on a purely rational systematic level.  It must be invibed on an intuitive level.  That takes wonder, and imagination.

So here are two videos that may just capture some of the wonder of the world we live in.  Enjoy.   

(Click play on the video, and then in the lower right corner you can make the video full screen if you'd like)

1. The North Lights

2. Fly on wings like Eagles

3. Time Lapses of Natural World

4. Formation of a Snowflake

5. Time Lapse of our Home from Orbit at International Space Station

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Ten Years in the Desert, Two Years in the Wilderness

In five days I'll be celebrating two years clean and sober, in the care of Jesus Christ.  It's been an amazing and challenging ride thus far.  I'm sure it'll be constantly changing, as it has been since day 1 of hope.

There are so many memories over my life.  Yet they fade, slowly, until I can hardly remember any of my life.  I live in the present.  Yet I tend to project myself into the future.  Is that you as well?  I tend to imagine and write about who I'd like to be, and without even realizing it, I tend to project my ideal self into the future and see it come to fruition.  I live by my core values, and try to see them translated into the physical world around me to my satisfaction.  That is the core of being a dreamer-idealist (INFP).

I remember a book my mother read me as a child.  It was called "Owl Moon."  It was the story of a father and son traveling out into a winter night, into the woods, to spot owls.  The Owl Moon story captured my curiosity in describing emotion through writing.  It captured my imagination.  Later I began writing, putting together novels and studying the classics. 

Fast forward fifteen years, and I was dreaming of chasing an owl into a dark forest.  I was searching for a meadow of golden sunlight.  The peace I felt there in the dream was the most real sensation of my life.  I've always had the clearest dreams.  Often I'd write about the dreams I had.  This time I wrote an entire book about that journey, into a beautiful, dangerous forest.  I called it Jacob and the Meadow.  Perhaps the forest in that dream was drug addiction.  Or simply a description of my own inward spiritual journey.  Or maybe something else.  It's hard to say.

Naturalists think all reality can be described in purely physical terms.  But that is not what I've seen.  That is not what corresponds with reality.  Instead I see a world rich with symbolism.  We live in a world filled with allegory, metaphor, and foreshadowing.   

So it's been nearly two years.  It's also been a constant struggle.  But no one said it would be easy, least of all, Jesus himself.  Jesus said count the cost.  Because it ain't easy.  But wow, is it worth it.

Transformation!  Power!  Intense, gritty, real struggle!  Moments sublime with intervals hilarious.  Can we make it?  I believe we can.  I can, with some divine charity.  Perhaps the first story has ended, of Jacob and his search for the Meadow.  If so, has the second story now begun?  I wrote three books in those delusion-filled, sleepy times of my life.  I was lost on the road, asking questions like "Where do I go from here?" and "What is the meaning of all this?"

The second story began in a floating city in the clouds.  Certainly indicative of the mind caught up in the altered states of dissociative hypnotics.  The first chapter climaxed with the main character leaping from the city in the clouds and breaking his shoulder landing on a broken wasteland below.  Below an angel appeared and healed his shoulder.  The barren wasteland below, was, as Morpheus from the Matrix movies might put it "the desert of the real."  Inevitably when the drug addict comes clean of the drugs, he must face the reality of what has happened to his own life and his own self.  Entire sections of the mind have been ignored.  Others have grown out of control.  Chemicals are off balance, and the outworking is a terrible sight to behold.

The second story really cataloged the story of an estranged man from a different place discovering a tattered, broken land full of chaos and trouble.  The land itself with a sickness upon it, the various settlements and cities broken and corrupted, divided and leaderless.  Add to that, also facing an inevitable onslaught from the powers behind the floating city, a kingdom called "Rem."  

It was really a double allegory similar to Tolkien's middle earth books.  The city in the clouds and the broken land below represented the shattered mind of a drug addict, my own, and the journey to escape that.  Yet it also represented an external situation I was beginning to perceive in the world around me, a powerful elite across the Earth keeping populations in a dumbed down state of servitude, whether directly or indirectly.  Yet in a third sort of "inverse allegory" the main character was in the city in the clouds dreaming about the real world below.  That is another reference to drug addiction, in that once a drug addict is securely placed within the world of delusion and lie (the tripping, high state), the previous life of sobriety and normalcy becomes the far away dream world that doesn't seem real any longer.  And once far enough within, hard to even remember.

The second story chronicles the journey of David aka Jacob (in each of the three stories the same character receives a new name) as he stumbles about from city to city, encountering people and places he half remembers from his dreams.  The main character works to improve the settlements, instill hope in them, and help them to unite together.  Ironically this is similar to the journey of one lost in drugs and delusion, to put together his life again.  

In the past two years I've slowly rediscovered who I am, traveling from area to area of my own interests and goals, beliefs and ideals, gathering them together to recreate who I am.  The toll of drug addiction and alcoholism is unspeakably terrible.  One might wish for pity sake that you just let the poor addict have a quick death from the start.  

Because the addict loses everything, slowly, painstakingly, himself divided, part of him wanting to stop and try to recover, but the greater majority insisting on more drug, more drug, more drug.  It's like slowly losing a war.  Piece by piece your outer life is destroyed.  Car gone, on probation, off probation, in jail, new charges, lost job, family starts slowly backing away, one by one friends disappear, 1, then another, two more, and soon all.  People start to hate you for your behavior.  Especially when they loved you deeply.  Piece by piece, life itself slips away.  

One by one, I saw myself violate my own deepest held convictions.  I saw my own strength fail time and again.  I would be able to quit for a month, relapse.  I would quit for another week, relapse.  I would get into recovery for 4 months, relapse.  Then even a full year, relapse.  Probably the worst part was wanting to quit, but at the same time not wanting to quit.  Or put another way, wanting to quit but not quite enough to convince myself to take an action or make a change.  And knowing, painstakingly knowing that there was no way out.  Expecting and even looking forward to death.  Then when death wouldn't come through the addiction, attempting suicide through more direct means.  And failing.  Ending up in a mental hospital.  Watching your own dad testify against your ability to take care of yourself in a court room.  Being raped by a drug addict.  The insults and injuries never ended.  The icing on the cake of course, is the look in the eyes of counselors, nurses, doctors, family, and friends.  The look that says "you're bad, you're evil.  just stop already."  I remember a nice Catholic lady once said "damn you" as I pleaded for mercy from a grocery store owner who had caught me shoplifting.  

But occasionally there were people like Father Marion, displaying the love of Christ.  You could search his eyes and there was not even a hint of judgment.  Just love.  And they reminded you, pointed you directly to Jesus Christ himself.  

I had tried so many times on my own power and my own strength.  I had failed.  I had wanted to show God I didn't need him.  But the truth is, I need God.  Just as much today two years later as the first day of my new life.  When I finally called out to Jesus Christ, in earnest, brutally crying out for help, at the bottom, he suddenly made the impossible possible.  

At the outset of the 3rd story, the main character was given a new name, Joshua, and the angel who was protecting him and guiding him through the wastelands gave him a suit of armor, shield, and sword.  Much like a Christian receives the imputed righteousness of Christ at his moment of believing.  So the third book began the story of a redeemed young man, with united armies to take on the evil he saw around him. (Side note: If you want to read any of those three stories click here, but I can't vouch for how coherent that reading experience will be.)

And so in my own life, in the past two years I've seen myself grow and change, from a broken, lost, hopeless young man, to a soldier of Christ, encouraging a world to love Christ with a radical love and defend the truth that we can so admire in the books of the Bible.  That is the literal, substantive transformational power of Jesus Christ, who is really, truly, God. 

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider

Apologetics are wonderful!  Here are some quick facts with intriguing quotes from great minds across the ages.  Feel free to share and use this "expert testimony" to any and all uses.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics

Have you ever been puzzled by the objections raised by skeptics in regard to Christianity?  Or maybe you are one of those skeptics?  If so, I'm glad you're here. 

As Dr. Ravi Zacharias would put it, "Apologetics is the seasoning, but the gospel is the main course."  I love apologetics, I find it absolutely fascinating.  I also secretly wish I had come into contact with apologetics sooner.  Because then maybe I wouldn't have had to go down so many dark holes looking for answers.  I dismissed the Bible and Christianity very quickly when I was young.  I didn't think there was a reason in the world to believe any of it.  I had a practical view similar to that of Richard Dawkins, that belief was considering things to be true that were in direct contradiction with reality.  

I've now found that the really gritty down and dirty truths of reality are indeed best explained in Christianity.  No other worldview can adequately explain why the world is such a messed up place.  No other worldview tells me so many things that I don't want to hear, yet I know deep down are true about me and those around me.  I respect Christianity immensely for that.  That's the intellectual level.  Yet I could not follow it simply on the basis of hard truth.  

I found myself in love with Christianity on an emotional level, a heart level, because of the incredible love and forgiveness in the message.  It all comes together beautifully in my view.

But there is no reason to be afraid of objections to Christianity.  I firmly believe that we ought to respectfully answer any objection or question raised.  Assuming it is raised politely!  I can't stress that enough, that it's important to be polite when both raising an objection, and answering an objection.  This is not about winning an argument.  It can't be.  Too much is at stake.  It's about speaking the truth in love.  Even a Christian apologist who wins a "battle argument" often ends up losing the person.  

We want to win the person to Christ! (That's the imperative to keep in mind).  So give ground at times, find ways to agree with points and parts of their position.  Identify with their position.  Grant fair points when they make them.  Be kind and compassionate, and very patient.  Develop a friendship, a relationship.  If losing the argument will mean bringing the person a step closer, so be it.  The person raising an objection may not be listening to the argument as much as he or she is listening to the attitudes and mannerisms of the speaker.

But very often people have legitimate concerns and reasonable questions to ask.  Many have had very negative experiences with Christianity.  They need to be reintroduced to the radical love in the Bible.  The job of the defender is very often simply clearing away all the barbed wire, bushes, garbage, and mud so that the cross of Jesus Christ can be seen unobstructed.    

So here are ten answers to common questions raised by both the honest skeptic, and the upset former believer.  Enjoy. 

1. All the ridiculous stuff in the Bible has been disproved, hasn't it?
Ravi Zacharias Answers:

2. What's so wrong with subjective moral reasoning?
Ravi Zacharias answers: 

3. Is Homosexuality wrong? 
Ravi Zacharias answers:

4. How can a good God allow evil?
William Lane Craig answers:

5. How can a good God send me to hell?
Frank Turek answers:

6. Why is Christianity the one true religion?
Ravi Zacharias answers:

7. Does God care about us?
Ravi Zacharias answers:

8. Who created God?
William Lane Craig answers:

9. Isn't all truth relative?  Is there such a thing as truth?
Frank Turek answers:

10. But Why Jesus?
Ravi Zacharias answers:

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