Friday, May 29, 2015

So if we were Made to Enjoy Him...

I promise I will go back to expositional accounts of Scripture before too long, but right now, I will instead share something peripheral to the theme of a Biblical text. In this instance, it has to do with my in-depth study of Ecclesiastes that is coming by so much more slowly than I would like it to.

So, in Ecclesiastes, one statement and theme I keep coming back to is simply - God created us to enjoy Him forever. Of course, this is nothing new. We have all at some point been told that the reason we exist is to ultimately give God the glory, and we do that by serving Him and enjoying Him now and forever.

But it seems that that isn't where we focus in our daily walk with Him. Rightfully so, we are concerned with walking worthy of the calling which we have received when we received salvation. And I definitely don't want to take away from that.

Yet I think it is possible that in our desire to live a holy life, we have forgotten that the purpose God ultimately has for us is to enjoy Him. What that means is, when we read the Bible, we shouldn't only be concerned with guidance for our life.

Instead, our primary purpose should be on getting to know the incomprehensible God a little bit better, so we can appreciate and enjoy Him just a little bit better. After all, that is why we are made.

Within that theological purpose of the text, we will find pure motivation to serve God and to make our walk worthy of our calling, but that should never be the focus. Because to be blunt, that's not why we were made.

Moral living is merely a means to an end of growing closer to God. And seen within this light, is the only way that I can ever see a Christian change his life for God from the inside out. It is also the best way to know what a holy life looks like is to truly get to know the one who defines it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Decoration Day

Good morning on this memorial day, where we celebrate those who risked their lives (and some gave their lives) so that we could enjoy freedom, and thus I could do silly things like write a blog post twice a week.

But today I would like to show appreciation for the more long-term sacrifice that is involved through military efforts. Yes, there are many who struggle even today with issues like PTSD, but that's not all I refer to.

What about all of those Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and have been met with long-term health effects due to this chemical agent used as part of the United States chemical warfare in Vietnam?

According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange are eligible for benefits if they contract diseases such as AL Amyloidosis, Diabetes Mellitus Type 2, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Parkinson's Disease, Prostrate Cancer, Respiratory Cancers, and so on.

And of course, that is not the only chemical that can cause lasting effects. All this is to say our soldiers definitely deserve to be memorialized. Even those who survive may not be able to thrive in our world either psychologically or in terms of physical health. That is a huge sacrifice to make.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Priorities Revealed in Decision-Making

When we find ourselves in life, there are many given choices that we would have to make every day. And whether we are purposeful about those decisions or just kinda make them, we are ultimately revealing our true priorities in the way that we interact with this thing we call life.

So, what does that mean when we choose to sin in our lives. None of us would consciously create a plan that involved a terrible terrible sin once a week because (I hope) not one of us is that mixed up in their priorities for that to so openly and honestly reject God.

But since our subconscious decisions reveal a lot about our heart and our priorities, what does it mean when we rather make an effort to sin.

Simply, it reveals that we delight more in that sin at that moment than in  pleasing God. We have decided that our personal pleasure is more important than obedience to God.

Obviously, I don't want to depress you all too much here; there at least is the point where we are specifically trying our best to serve the Lord, but we all will still have moments of weakness, where we sin. We are after all, only human.

But we must realize what that sin actually shows about us within that point of time, and know that there is no such thing as an "accidental" sin. And since every sin reflects an attitude in our hearts of putting something other than God as more valuable in our lives. I think that there indeed can be nothing to be said about "little" sins either.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Marxist Political Thought

Karl Marx. He is certainly not the greatest political philosopher in the world. But I daresay he is not quite as bad as many would claim. His critiques of capitalism are worth noting and will probably be discussed in this blog within the near future. But today we're going to deal more with his view of history and his dialectic.

A dialectic is a form of revisionist history, where you believe that one system will come up against an antithesis, which then forms a synthesis, which of course starts the process all over again. Quite unrealistically, this dialectic is almost always supposed to be consistently moving upwards until it eventually results in a utopia. YAY!

Such is the case with Karl Marx who has a dialectic of economic systems. As history has advanced, we have been developing better and better economic systems via this dialectic. In Marx's mind, these systems from the past and future include: from family/tribal, we moved to primitive communism (which involves a bit of social organization with just a tad of division of labor, then to a feudal economy, which leads to capitalism. Inevitably, capitalism collapses, resulting in communism, which easily transitions into an anarchist communist utopia.

This dialectic is driven by a material element. Specifically, Marx believed that all of history was ultimately about class struggles, or a conflict over the means of production.

In the Capitalist phase, we find ourselves in today, Marx believes that the main problem is that the bourgeoisie (to Marx, this means the class that owns most of society's wealth and means of production) exploit the proletariat (working) class.

A primary reason for this concern had to do with the labor theory of value. The labor theory of value indicated that every object must be worth as much only as the amount of time and labor invested to make it. Thus, subjective value is lost for the sake of purely the amount of time it takes to make a product.

But since the only value is in the amount of time the proletariat puts into manufacture of the product, it is unfair for the bourgeoisie to even make any money off of the work of the proletariat, seeing as how the bourgeoisie put in no effort to make that product.

Further, Marx believes that the fact that the worker never truly gets to see the final outcome of his work, the worker becomes alienated from himself. He comes to work everyday as part of his everyday routine, but he doesn't see what impact that work is making on the world. It's simply a way he spends his time.

Inevitably, for Marx, this alienation will cause the proletariat to revolt. Without the proletariat to create the products necessary for capitalism to prosper, capitalism will collapse. A communist dictatorship will then take its place.

From here, Marx's view of human nature takes over. As he believes that man is influenced by society, and indeed is basically good, but corrupted by society. Marx believes that as we change the society,, we change the man. This then makes man perfectible and allows for the "inevitable" dissolution of government, and the anarchist communist utopia.

Of course, it doesn't take that close of a look at history to know that Marx's economic determinism hasn't exactly happened as he would have thought. The proletariat did revolt, but capitalism survived. And it isn't about to go away anytime soon. Sorry, Mr. Marx. Sorry.

Friday, May 15, 2015

It's Probably your Fault

Oh, right, I forgot, I shouldn't upset readers by saying that something in their life could have been avoided. People aren't fond of being told they did something wrong. Oh, well, I'm not writing this blog to please or entertain people, so...

In my relationship with the Lord, it would seem that there has been a rough patch once again. Times are tough and the relationship doesn't seem to be growing at all. And I at once just want to know why. Why? Why? Why?

But my first reaction wasn't to look to myself. Though I did not explicitly start blaming God, by refusing to look to myself for responsibility, I implicitly said that it was the fault of the Lord that all seemed to be dead. Perhaps my feeling was just that God is not obligated to give me anything, even a solid relationship with Him, and so maybe right now, He simply isn't.

Though technically true, that God is not obligated to give His children anything, my sentiment ignores the fact that God will always want to give us an opportunity to see Him greater. Indeed, He created us so that we could enjoy Him forever.

This is a similar situation to what the Israelites found themselves in prior to the captivity. They felt their relationship with the Lord become strained. They were sacrificing and fasting, and the Lord just didn't seem to be paying any attention. It is here that Isaiah reminds them (and me yesterday morning),
"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness."

Or put more bluntly, God's merciful and willing to save you or hear your cries at any time. His ears do not become heavy ever so that he cannot hear. Instead if you are separated from God, it is your fault because of your iniquities.

That is exactly what I needed to hear. We as Christians are perfectly equipped to grow in our knowledge and intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. So when we fail to grow in that relationship, it is not because of failing on God's part, but because of our own individual sinful failure. It will always be our fault.

(Note that suffering and trials are not what is being discussed here. Not all suffering and trials are the fault of man's individual sinfulness. Enjoying God does not equate with peaceful, non-hazardous conditions; instead it equates with peace and joy in Christ in the midst of dangerous and depressing circumstances.)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mothers! They do Things and it's Awesome!

So, yesterday was Mother's Day, which is kinda a big deal. Though we humans are still a little strange in creating celebrations for literally everything, I guess it makes sense to spend some time refocusing us to do what we should do all 365 days of the year. 

And such is Mother's Day as well, another holiday where we celebrate and honor our mothers - of course, an obligation that we as Christians should always hold. But maybe we forget sometimes, and maybe the day serves as a reminder of what all mothers do. 

I mean, they cook, clean, raise kids, take care of their sick household, decorate, and do anything else that their family requires in order to function as a cohesive unit. 

Wait, that's a little old-fashioned, isn't it? I guess in the somewhat feminist view, women do things like work a job, have a career, cook, clean, raise kids, take care of their sick household, decorate, and do anything else their family requires in order to function. Wait, that's still pretty impressive, isn't it? 

So, any way you really slice it, mothers are an integral part of the ideal family unit, and we should honor those people who fill that role 365 days a year. But if nothing else, I hope that you gave your mother due respect yesterday. That's what the day was meant for. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Psalm 23: Surely Goodness and Mercy will "Follow" You

So, with the first week of a long and busy summer done, I seem to have forgotten how to write. Seeing how I am taking an online composition class, I suppose I need to remember pretty soon.

Have you ever wondered about the blessings of God and just how much they tend to pursue those who do right? Probably not, but that does seem to be message of Psalm 23:6. Psalm 23 as a whole of course, reads, 
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

This is an interesting chapter to be sure, and I believe the meaning of one Hebrew word (with touches of meaning on other words as well) is instrumental to understanding the passage.

The word translated as "follow" here in this text is generally used for purposes that involve more energy and less passive than the meaning currently given by the word "follow." Thus, I would say that the definition of rādap in Psalm 23:6 is more along the lines of actively, persistently, and energetically pursuing an individual as if one was chasing or hunting an individual within a military situation.

It would seem that in general rādap means this more active pursuit with energy, rather than the more passive, “follow.” Thus, in order to justify a translation of the word which was that weaker form of the word, we would need to see clear textual and contextual reasons why that meaning was actually directed.

However, we see no such clues. Indeed, we see quite the opposite. The chapter’s emphasis upon trusting the Lord completely and wholly because of His providential care for His people is only strengthened by the thought that the Lord’s goodness and mercy will follow us persistently. This understanding is consistent with the way the Lord’s providence is displayed throughout the rest of the passage.

For example, in verse 2, it explains that “he maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” At first this doesn’t seem to highlight anything important, but if we remember the imagery of a shepherd that David is using here. The shepherd’s job was to find grass where the sheep could eat, and then direct them to another pasture where they could have their next meal.

This aspect of lying down in green pastures is an indication that the Lord provided a pasture that was so green that it would prepare them not just for this meal, but for the next. This providence then is not a weak just getting by care, but rather an exhaustive care for all issues in life. With that in mind, it makes little sense to assume that the use of rādap is weaker than the has been translated elsewhere in the Old Testament, when the Lord’s providential care is being emphasized as being way more than sufficient.

I believe it is important to emphasize the strength of the effort of the pursuit of God’s mercy and goodness in our lives. The military pursuit that this is often translated actually highlights the word rādap in the text. Within this text, that would mean that goodness and mercy pursue us with the same fervor and diligence as a man does who is seeking revenge or carrying out military orders.

As we continually will be in sin, we will continually need the Lord’s mercy and goodness to pursue us vigorously. Simply, pleasing the LORD would be nigh impossible if goodness and mercy only half-heartedly followed us.

More to the context of Psalm 23 as a whole, though, the Lord’s persistent pursuing of His people allows us to have no excuse for not fully trusting in His name. Not only does it provide an ample reason why we should trust Him in that the LORD is interested enough in lowly us, it also provides all that we need to be able to continue to grow in our relationship with Him.

Due to the covenantal nature of the word translated as mercy (hּׅesed), it is clear that one of the other reasons this chapter gives us to trust in the LORD is that he is able to keep His promises and allow His covenantal love to energetically pursue all His people. There is never a time when our sin begins to take us outside of God’s covenantal love. The Lord will always keep His promises, this is reified by the use of rādap to indicated that God’s covenantal love will energetically pursue in this case, David.

This understanding frames the entire chapter within the context of the Lord’s faithfulness in keeping His promises. This then highlights ample reasons why we should trust the LORD in all that we do. Allow Him to be our Shepherd and bless us as He has promised to do because ultimately we can’t fall outside of His promises. But just like any other element of God’s grace, we shouldn’t treat this as license to sin, but instead look for it as another reason why the LORD deserves our worship, service, and love.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Speculate! Speculate! Speculate!

So much rampant speculation. So any conclusions jumped to. So much talking, so little knowledge to back it up. But whoever notices.

Today, as I was having difficulty deciding on what to write about and thought about how easy it would be to choose a topic if I decided that it didn't matter if I knew anything about it. And I honestly wonder now if other writers on the internet even care, especially blogs.

So you know, I have a commitment to truth, and I would rather not lead people astray by not accurately checking information. Admittedly I am a busy college student, whose opinions are not entirely set in stone, so I can't guarantee everything.

But I do wonder (and given the nature of this post may I emphasize that word a little bit more) just what other sources do. It seems enough of a warrant (especially given the other possibilities of misinformation) to maybe not just trust all the information that you read all the time.

So some examples of speculation from the mundane to the serious that might just make you think.

Stana Katic hasn't signed a contract for the next season of Castle, so she and Nathan Fillion are obviously not getting along on set...

Jeb Bush was the frontrunner of the Republican candidacy, so he obviously was going to win the nomination. That certainly looks so certain now. right?

Or just think about any time that a crisis occurs, school shooting, terror attack, or anything else, there is so much talk about what we don't know, and before long, we're talking about the causes of an incident we don't even need.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Thank You Note

It's been an interesting and kinda difficult week. And it's not because it's Finals week either. Finals have been extremely stress-free, as I did my first one yesterday at 1. Yes, it's been a couple of good long days of studying for good old test-taking.

But there have been circumstances that are hardly ideal about my life here. And no this is not a still technically teenage boy being melodramatic about relationships with the ladies.

Sadly, it would be wrong for me to share these circumstances with you as they are not mine to tell, but what I do want to share is how well the Lord was able to equip me for them.

This blog post that I haven't exactly started (I should shave down my intros) will be simply a public expression of gratitude toward God. If that doesn't interest you, feel free to close your browser tab now.

The Lord put me in a place on Tuesday night where I was heavily realizing all the good that He had done for my life. It was a simple place to put me. I was doing mindless-dishwashing-I-get-paid-for-this-so-I-won't-complain-about-the-repetition work in the dining hall and so I had time to reflect on my life.

This reflection led to a great time to recharge with the Lord. Which was exceptional, since it would be shortly after getting back when I would begin to get hit head-first with the curse (as my beloved OT prof would say regarding trying times).

I don't know how different my perspective could have been or how much more devastated I would have been (not gonna lie, it was pretty devastating) had I not been able to reflect on God's actions to me over just the last semester. That framing was what I thought helped me cope.

But it wasn't like I was guaranteed to be working in the dining hall that day. It was only the second shift that I had elected to take this semester. Thus, it was possible that this entire area of perspective then wouldn't have happened.

Even further though, the timing is important. If I had worked the shift after I had received the news, I would have spent my time being able to reflect, reflecting solely on the negative things that were happening. I wouldn't have acknowledged the richness of God's blessings. In the end, I would likely have become bitter with God.

But God didn't allow that to happen because He knew what I needed to do. He knew where He needed me and at what time He needed me there. So He placed me there in the dining hall with time for Him.

So are the ways that the Lord is able to work in our lives. Why don't I make the time for Him more often? Why do I have to take a dining hall shift to realize the beauty of who He is and what He has done and probably still will do for Me?

And next time, I might reflect on what it means that this blog post talks almost exclusively about God doing things for me, rather than just how great He is, because of His nature. Isn't it amazing how God showed me that as I wrote this?