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Societal Analysis

It’s very interesting and perplexing to me that as a society we want and we are begging for and demanding what is good. We are acknowledging that things are very wrong in society. That seems to be the case no matter where you are politically, whatever side you find yourself on.

We acknowledge there’s a problem, but as Plato pointed out a very long time ago, good people make for a good society. That seems to make clear sense. Yet, society seems soiled. Thus, we have found the problem, and it’s me.

When someone is sick there’s a medical analysis. This entails five different elements:

  1. The Ideal (of what’s healthy)
  2. Observation (of symptoms/signs)
  3. Diagnosis (or analysis of disease/disorder)
  4. Prognosis (or prediction of cure/remedy)
  5. Prescription (or instruction for treatment/action for a cure)

I believe that society is in need of an analysis. What are we observing? What’s the problem? Can it be fixed? If so, how?

We are observing a lot of problems or symptoms: violence, racism, inability to patiently discuss important issues, pride, etc. What is the disease? The disease seems to be a problem with people. Many people lack goodness. What’s the cure? We must be good. What then is the solution? We must learn to be good. That is the prescription. That is the treatment.

This seems very shallow and very simple. But it is not. Stick with me.

If we want a good society, we must have good people. Yet, I’m not sure we even have an understanding of what “good” or healthy even is. Do we even have a starting place for what constitutes good or healthy? If not, how could we possibly arrive at a prognosis or prescription let alone be in a place to give a diagnosis?!

The English writer and philosopher, G.K. Chesterton, once said, “What is wrong is that we don’t ask what is right.” We have no way by which to measure what is wrong and what is right. That is an obvious problem. You can’t build much with a standard that’s not standard.  

If good individuals make for a good society, as seems to make sense. Perhaps the first and foundational prescription is to return to the conviction that there is such a thing as “good.” And not merely what is good for the subjective individual, but a good beyond and above us that corrects us.

In any field of work you have to have a standard, a means to measure; a way to know what is healthy and what is not. We have an idea of when one is overweight because we understand that there is a range of healthy weight. How can we prescribe a cure when there is no standard for what is good or healthy? And how can there be hope when there is no standard of healthy?

We, as a society, for the most part, don’t have a clear way to say what is good. And we don’t have a pathway to make good people. If anything, we have many conflicting things shaping people. Porn is prevalent and it makes objects of people and materialism is too and it plays down the importance of people in place of the value of objects. Ours is a conflicted society. 

I believe the disorder in society comes from a plague more destructive than any pandemic, and that plague is sin. Its signs are everywhere. In my heart and actions, and yours too.

The diagnosis is deadly if not dealt with. The plague exponentially increases if not dealt with. It wreaks havoc on the scale of the Tsar Bomb. It leaves devastating effects on generations. It leaves gaping holes in individuals and is the downfall of society if not dealt with.

The prognosis, however, thankfully reveals that progress is possible. But it will be slow and painful. And it entails admitting there’s a problem; a problem, a plague, not just out there in the world, out there in others, but in me.

When someone observes a ghastly problem and knows the cure we inherently know the right thing to do in that case. It is to cure. Humans often fumble around talking about problems and we hustle around trying to cure. But all the while only grasping at what it meant to be truly healthy. We half see and so we get the diagnosis, prognosis, and prescription wrong. We always have.

I believe, however, that hope is not lost. I believe Messiah Jesus, the Healthy One, has brought the cure. He who did not have the plague took our problems, our sin, upon Himself on the cross. He showed us the cure, it is Himself. It is love. Death is the only answer. Death to self. We must die to self, we must love.

We must turn from our prideful and sinful ways and trust in Jesus our loving cure. Jesus gives us 1) the ideal of healthy, 2) the observation about what’s wrong, 3) the diagnosis, 4) the prognosis, and 5) the prescription. Without the provision of those five elements the only prognosis is death.

There was and never will be a meaningless moment.

Our lives and our decisions matter eternally. They ripple through the corridors of time. There was and never will be a meaningless moment.

I was reminded of this truth recently by two things. One was an email from a missionary that was questioning the good that they, limited and challenged that they are, could accomplish. The second reminder came from one of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis, Perelandra. 

In Perelandra Elwin Ransom is sent to the planet Perelandra (or in English, Venus) to stop the Fall of that planet (parallel in some ways to the temptation of Eve in Genesis). Weston, the great enemy, possessed by Satan has now become the un-man. The un-man is seeking to cause the destruction of the beautiful and enchanting Perelandra.

Ransom upon seeing that he is commissioned to stop the un-man and prevent the Fall is crushed by the weight of it all as well as confused over why God doesn’t send some miracle. “He tried to persuade himself that he, Ransom, could not possibly be [God’s] representative” (p. 141).

Ransom questioned. “What was the sense of so arranging things that anything really important should finally and absolutely depend on such a man of straw as himself?” (p. 142). Yet that is the way things are.

“At that moment, far away on Earth, as he now could not help remembering, men were at war,… and freckled corporals who had but lately begun to shave, stood in horrible gaps or crawled forward in deadly darkness, awaking, like him, to the preposterous truth that all really depended on their actions” (p. 142).

Or think of Eve herself. She “stood looking upon the forbidden fruit and the Heaven of Heavens waited for her decision” (p. 142).

So, Ransom came to see that it is true, that “a stone may determine the course of a river” (p. 142).

He felt it megalomania to think that he himself is the way that God will work—work a miracle. Yet, “he himself was the miracle” (p. 141). He was God’s provision. The way God was providing deliverance.

“Here in Perelandra the temptation would be stopped by Ransom, or it would not be stopped at all… This chapter, this page, this very sentence, in the cosmic story was utterly and eternally itself; no other passage that had occurred or ever would occur could be substituted for it (p. 146)… Great issues hung on his choice… It lay with him to save or to spill” (p. 148).

As he saw his call, he also felt an unbearable weight. Then he felt the weight left. “He was in God’s hands. As long as he did his best—and he had done his best—God would see to the final issue” (p. 141).

God uses mere humans as His mouthpiece. God uses humans to do His will. What we do matters. It matters eternally.

Let me ask you, friends, what are you doing?

In Mere Christianity, Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Friends, our lives matter, our actions matter, our voices matter.

If we knew a millionth of the magnitude of our lives we’d be moved to wonder and crippled by the significance of it all. Our lives and our every action have significance because this world and this life is not all there is.

And for Christians, this is multiplied ten-fold. We are mouthpieces, ambassadors, commissioned by the one true God.

Friends, let’s live fierce purposeful lives because we have purpose. Our lives matter more than we can know.  

Unrest and Our Rest

I have friends that are cops.  I have friends that are black.  I have friends that think COVID-19 is a hoax and friends that I couldn’t coax out of their house if I tried.

Friends, we are in a time of unrest; economic, social, political, and physical.  I’m not trying to be dour or dark.  I believe that is an accurate articulation of our current time.  And yet people are pining for peace and rest.

Where is this peace and rest to be found?

Jesus purchased peace with God for us and will soon bring an eternal peaceful reign to the world but Jesus didn’t purchase a sleeping pill for the masses.  And He doesn’t lull us to sleep. We are to neither be restless nor so settled that we don’t stir.  We are to be a blessing to the cities and towns and villages that we dwell in even while we are exiles and sojourners here (Jer. 29:7).  So, we are to care and be wise but thankfully our eggs are not placed in the basket of this world. 

Jesus said. “Come to Me all who are restless and tired and I will give you rest for your souls.”  Jesus doesn’t, however, call us to just rest and relax.  He doesn’t call us to be lethargic but to love. And thankfully Jesus empowers us to do this.  It is as we abide in Him that we bear much fruit.

The truth is, we are responsible to love and not just be lethargic to everything that’s going on.  The truth is, we’re powerless but Jesus empowers us by the Spirit.  The truth is, we live in a place that is very often godless and chaotic but Christ is the Lord.  The truth is, many are restless but in Christ, all can find rest.  The truth is, we need a savior, this world won’t change on its own. 

Brutality to blacks is an unacceptable evil that Messiah Jesus will judge.  Brutality to cops, looting of stores, disregard for people, and even property, is evil and will be judged.  There will come a day of rest because there will come a day when King Jesus soon returns and puts a stop to the restless tyranny of sin and Satan’s reign (2 Pet. 3).  Jesus will destroy the destroyers of the earth (Rev. 11:18).

Until then, the LORD patiently waits in love for people to repent (2 Pet. 3:9).  And so, until that Day, let’s love and share the LORD’s love and lovingly fight for the cause of all those that are oppressed and hurting.  And let’s show them that all hearts are restless until they rest in Him. 

Let’s pray for people to find peace in the One that was oppressed and afflicted for them. 

“O my God, incline Your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations … For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy.” (Dan. 9:18).

C. S. Lewis on Longing

Introduction

You can trace the theme of longing through most of Lewis’ writings. In some places, it is explicit in other places it is implicit. For example, Perelandra does not so much make an argument as much as make you desire and long to experience something of what Lewis wrote. When reading some of Lewis, we often find ourselves hoping what he writes about is true. Lewis’ argument is not really cognitive and logical as much as it is “kardialogical,” that is, reasoned from the heart. As Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.”[1]

It is also important here to look at what Lewis meant by longing or desire. Lewis himself said, “From the age of six, romantic longing—Sehnsucht—had played an unusually central part in my experience.”[2] Sehnsucht is a German term that communicates the longing that all of humanity has. It means “longing,” “yearning,” or “craving.” It is a way of saying, “something is intensely missing, there must be more.” Joe Puckett defines Sehnsucht this way:

The aching, and yet pleasurable, intense longing for a life that we cannot yet have but naturally and universally crave. It is the feeling of having lost something that we once had—giving us a sense of homesickness and discontentment with the less-than-ideal world we currently find ourselves in.[3]

Lewis was specially equipped to discuss longing since from a very young age he had experienced such longing and had the ability to write about it with apologetic force in both narrative and essay form. My thesis is that Lewis is correct, our longing does point us beyond this world. Our longing ultimately points us to the Lord and His coming Kingdom.

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Statistics and Comfort in Calamity

Photo by Ben White 

Does the 2% death rate statistic comfort you? What does the Bible say about comfort during calamity? 

Some sources are saying that the mortality rate of COVID-19 looks to be 2%. However, it is too early to say. The percentage will be bigger or smaller depending on various factors (such as the age of the people infected, access to the needed medical treatment, etc.). I think we should acknowledge a few things about the statistic. First, 2% looks like a small number. And it is. At least, relative to a larger number. 

Second, to put it into perspective, 2% of the population of the world is around 140 million people. That, as we can see, is a lot of people. COVID-19 could rival the AIDS epidemic. Of course, it seems highly unlikely that everyone in the world will get the virus. But even a fraction of that number is a lot of people. And it’s important for us to see the numbers from this vantage point so that we don’t play the numbers down.

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Ash Wednesday

It is when we weep and howl in the agonies of distress that our rescue is all the more rejoiced in. When we see the contrast of our mourning turned into dancing and our ashes replaced with a crown, it gives us a picture of where we came from and what we deserve and what we get through the free salvation of Christ Jesus. 

Ash Wednesday is a day of penitence but it leads to a party—new life in Jesus! We see our dire state and we see our sweet salvation! 

Ash Wednesday is a type of looking down. Looking at ourselves, the state that we’re in. But we look down so we can have the right perspective as we look up and out to Jesus. 

Ash Wednesday is a tangible and powerful symbol of our need. And when we know our need we rejoice in the One that comes for the poor and needy. 

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Falling like the Rain

I woke to the sound of rain drenching everything in its path and my daughters quiet voice asking if the dog can still go out to use the restroom. “Yes, please take the dog out!” was my urgent reply.

I have always loved the rain. The sound it creates as it slaps the ground, rushing along the path it created just moments ago. It is a gift from God. He uses the rain to feed and nourish all His creation. All of our senses are brushed by His creation. We shiver in the dampness, we smell & taste the sweet yet dank rain, we hear and see the chorus of individual drops dissolve.

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Set Us Free

Paradise,
polluted and poisoned.

Our resounding plea:
“Set us free.”

We are writhing and reeling from the Fall.

Our affections wander and wane,
our struggles remain.

O’ Lord set us free.

We fettered our shackles,
we tossed the key.

But O’ Messiah, set us free.

 

 

The Psalms and Our Songs

The Psalms are important for a number of reasons. For one, they take up a fairly large portion of Scripture and they have been a comfort for many. Spurgeon, known as the “prince of preachers,” struggled with depression and he found comfort and solace in the Psalms. He spent some twenty years writing his three-volume commentary on the Psalms.

The Psalms are also important because we are exhorted to sing Psalms. The Psalms are important because they give powerful truths poetic expression. This is helpful because it not only helps us remember the truths but helps us feel the truth. The Psalms are beautiful and will have a very practical impact on us when we soak in them.

Interestingly, Scripture has laments in it and so does our surrounding culture. Most Christian circles, however, do not have laments. Why is this? Is it because Christians are always happy? And always live victoriously? I don’t think so.

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Tools for Effectiveness

Below I list out resources that I have sought to leverage for optimal efficiency and effectiveness. We have amazing resources and also unprecedented distractions. Here are some things I have used to try to make the most of my time:

evernote Evernote

I have found Evernote very helpful. It allows you to create shelves, notebooks, and pages so that you can keep various lists and thoughts on any number of topics. It also allows you to tag everything. It has helped me be more organized and it has been very helpful because it is always with me and accessible. Actually, the first draft of this post was written on Evernote over the course of a few days. [free]

Advice: Use Evernote. And take the time to learn from the tutorials. It will be worth it to organize your notes and be able to find and track your thoughts. 

unnamed Pocket

I have found this app very helpful. You can save articles in Pocket, tag them for quick recall, and even share on social media. My favorite thing about this app is that it will read to me! I can now drive and “read” articles. [free]

Advice: Don’t spend all your time pocketing things, actually read stuff. Second, there’s no way to underline or make notes so screenshot the parts you want to capture and add them Evernote. 

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