This Momentary Beast

Occasionally we think of our lives and how they are affected by our sin.  (Usually we are more consumed with how the sin of others affects our lives, but we’ll set that aside for the moment.) At a certain point also some of us consider how our sin, stretching back to Adam, has affected Creation, corrupting literally the entire world.  There is nothing our sin has not tainted.

And so – I thought, which is always a dangerous thing – what about time itself?  How has our sin, collectively and individually, affected time?  We unconsciously think in terms of aging and decay: everything fades with time.  Even when we talk about enjoying the moment, we lie to ourselves.  Every moment we find ourselves enjoying is in the past by the time we realize it has brought us happiness.  We are grasping at our histories even as we seize the day.

The greatest joys of our life become wearisome to us, given enough time.  And what is this, but the greatest of sin’s corruptions? Given an eternity to worship our Creator, we chose to steal a moment of sinful pleasure, and we’ve been doing it ever since.

We took the beauty and wonder of eternal discovery, eternal growth, eternal intimacy, and we corrupted it through our sin into nothing more than a relentless destroyer, a slavering beast.  And beast it remains, devouring each second of our lives.  It knows neither joy nor remorse: and beauty having become beast, it slips its fangs between the seconds, rending our futures instantaneously into our pasts.  Fears and hopes, joys and sorrows, they become, as the great Preacher said, vanity.  The beast we call the present devours all.

Or perhaps this explains it better: there are whiny children at Disneyland.

Through the wide, ever-hungering jaws of the present every moment of the future in this world must pass.  Until…

Until our mockery of God’s creative power – our sin, our efforts to remake everything in our own image, our twisting of dominion into rebellion – ceases.  For while the beast is sovereign over every single moment of human history since Genesis 3, it reigns at the sufferance of a Sovereign greater still.  And that Sovereign is set not simply on redeeming men, but every aspect of His glorious Creation.

Consider this.  There will be a moment when weariness ceases.  When hope beyond anything we’ve ever dared to hope is realized, and does not become part of the past, but an eternal victorious moment in which we dwell forever.

“Further up,” C. S. Lewis cried out in The Last Battle, “and further in!”  I hope he gets to lead us up the mountain one day, for I will gladly (truly, unabashedly glad for perhaps the very first time in my immortal existence) follow.

And the Present will sleep contently at the foot of its King, hunger sated.

Law: A More Excellent Way

If civil law is simply a social contract, then it rests on a foundation no firmer than desire. If ethics spring forth from the human heart, what then of the higher things – or indeed, how do we recognize the higher as distinct from the base? For my desire to steal I merely enshrine in law, and it becomes ethical: a virtue. I posit that some people are not really people; killing them is no different than butchering a hog. Again, I look in the mirror and see an ethical man, for my desire – become law – tells me what it means to be good. But what, then, of honor? What of duty? What of self-sacrificing love? What place have these things?

No, my friends. We must categorically reject the thinking of this age. There is transcendent truth, and it is real. We recognize love, and honor, and duty. When their stories are told, our spirits soar. We rejoice. And we cannot resist them, for indeed, desire does not define virtue. Virtue is written on the human heart, by One far greater than us. We can seek to understand this. We can embark on the greatest journey of our lives. The alternative is to be caught up by our own desires, slaves to their fickle whims, never satisfied, endlessly manipulating each other. There is no heavier burden for men to bear than that of their own desire.

Yet take heart, for all is not lost. There is a glorious, transcendent, and firm foundation upon which to build. And it is never too late to place upon it the first stone of a more excellent way.

Of Wonder and Deep Magic

Consider this: the soul-soaring delight of a child receiving a gift upon which his heart was set. This is a wonder.

Consider this also: how the child’s delight pales in comparison to the joy of the parent, the gift-giver. This, too, is a wonder, and brushes the edge of a deep magic.

To understand this is to understand the heart of the True King.

18.5% of Us are Dead*

The American Empire, when the sun of history sets on it, will go down as one of the most monstrous and deadly of all time. And it wasn’t even a different people group we slaughtered… we devoured our own children, for no better reason than the fact that they were inconvenient to us, interfering with our pleasure and indulgence. God have mercy. Since 1973, we have killed over 54 million [edit: actually 57 million] of our children. OUR OWN CHILDREN. The numbers are so large they almost cease to mean anything to us. Yet we consider the Nazis the face of evil, who murdered approximately 6 million Jews. And they were evil, terribly evil, and we are out-killing them 9-to-1 and counting, while considering ourselves good and right. And please keep in mind, as you move to vote in November, the Democrats think murder on this scale is a fundamental “right”, and the Republicans have repeatedly chosen to continue funding this “right”. Neither should receive the votes of God-fearing men. Make no mistake, there will be a reckoning for this. Evil does not go unpunished. True patriotism is this: we must repent, and we must remove the evil men and women who would do this from positions of power.

*The 2010 Census reported there are 308.7 million Americans; using the number of total abortions at 57 million, that is 18.46% of the current US population.

Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (10)

Q. 10. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

God created man and woman on the sixth day (Genesis 1-2).

So let me make several dramatic statements which were not really dramatic for about 6000+ years of human history, up until this modern, enlightened age.  Warm up that sense of outrage, because I would hate to see someone strain themselves in the coming paragraphs.  Take it slow, with lots of time for interjections like “how dare he!”  and “that misogynist!”  Remember, there are only so many hard-core expletives in the English language… use them wisely.

People have dominion over animals, and animals are not people.  In both Genesis 9 and Acts 10, men are permitted to eat of anything that moves upon the earth.  Not only is vegetarianism uncalled for, it could be a sign of weakness in your faith.  The life of the noblest beast is not morally equivalent to even the most depraved person.  True, that an animal has never rebelled against God.  And yet dominion over the beasts of the world was given to man.  Or, to refute several bumper stickers I have seen, your dog/cat/pet is not your kid.  Not even close.  We live in a society that slaughters it’s human children wholesale, and elevates members of the animal kingdom to human status.  If you were to kick a stray dog on your way to get an abortion that kills your unborn child, you could go to prison.  For kicking the dog.

Men and women are both created by God for different purposes.  Coming together in marriage, they form a covenant picture of the New Covenant, of Christ and the bride He gave His life for, the Church.  Men are not women.  Women are not men.  The roles of men and women are not interchangeable based upon our desires.  Men and women are equal before God, absolutely.  They are equal in value, in the same way that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are equal.  They are not equal in every way, particularly in their roles, which were designed to be different, even as Jesus Christ submits to the will of the Father who sent Him.

Your gender is part of God’s design, and not simply an accident of biology.  It was not a mistake, and God was not confused in your Creation.  It is not your possession, to do with as you will.  It is an intrinsic part of who you are.  God created mankind male and female for His pleasure and His glory, not yours. And it is He who brings them together (Genesis 1-2).

And now that these radical statements have angered those indoctrinated in an American culture of choice, which is probably a significant percentage of those who will ever read this, I’ll sign off… only 97 questions to go!

In Speech, Grace

The Word is pretty clear: your tongue is a raging forest fire… to which the anonymity of the interwebs is gasoline.

Let me ask you to consider three things as you discourse to the glory of God online, or even in person.  By which I don’t mean texting each other in the same room.  “In person” is that quaint old-fashioned notion of looking another human being in the eye and fully communicating, with all its verbal and non-verbal components.  Give it a try sometime!

Gracious in our speech often comes down to our consideration of the person with whom we are speaking…

 

Do we consider them as a human being, with feelings, thoughts, ideas, and desires, none of which completely line up with our own?

This is not to say that every idea holds equal merit, but to recognize that we start at different places, travel along different trains of thought, and arrive at different places.  Things connect for one person very logically or very emotionally, and the next person might not follow their reasoning or the chain of feeling.  Take the time to think it through.  Ask clarifying questions before you decide you know exactly what someone means, how they got there, and where they’re going.  Think especially hard before you tell them where to go and how to get there.

 

Do we consider that a person’s goal should be differentiated from their methods?

Take the oft-very-calmly-discussed (/end sarcasm) issue of gun control.  Vehement disagreement surrounds this issue, but let me point something out.  Many of the people on both sides of the issue have the same goal in mind.  We read a story about a child accidentally getting shot, or a man killing his co-workers, or a government oppressing its citizens, and what do we want?  We want fewer dead children.  We want those co-workers to still be alive.  We want citizens to thrive under good government.

In other words, the goal is the same, for both sides.  An enormous difference lies in the various methods we advocate to get there.   But if you want to keep the conversation civil, simply continue to call to mind (even when insulted) the heart of the other person, this living person made in the image of God with whom you are disagreeing.  Generally, they want what you want.  They want a better world.  They disagree about how to get there.  As an aside to Christians reading this, it is often a better witness to interact with a person like Christ would than to cram the Gospel down their throat as quickly as possible.  The time may come for an explicit conversation about Jesus: in the meantime, trying speaking like Him as often as you may be tempted to speak about Him.

 

Do we consider why a person holds the positions they do?  Often the issue is not the issue.

It is so very easy to classify and label people, then dismissively file them away in our brains as if we completely understand them.  This really ties into my first point above, but why someone believes what they believe is critical to truly understanding them.  That gun control nut you can’t stand might have had a curious nephew who found a loaded gun.  If you’ve ever attended the funeral of a child, the reaction is visceral.  You passionately never want anyone to go through that experience.  That gun wacko with 15 assault rifles that you know is just waiting to shoot an innocent person could have a family that was home and unprotected at the wrong time and place.  What would your opinion be about a gun in the home if you were robbed, your kids beaten and your wife raped?  Would you want others to experience that helpless agony?

When someone believes you care about them enough to understand the deep motivations behind their beliefs, trust is built, the type of trust that can survive even the most profound disagreement.  Seek to know a person’s heart, follow their path to understand their goals and their methods for achieving them, and you’ll have a solid foundation for real discourse.  As another aside for Christians, you’ll begin to show a person the love of Christ.  When the Word speaks of not judging others, its not that we don’t call sin, sin, and everyone just does what they feel is right.  It means at the deepest level, we freaking care.  And very few do.  This level of caring would set the Church far apart.  This level of caring could – and will – make the hard ethical truths we espouse much more intelligible to those we are called to love.

Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (7)

Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

There is probably no more contentious a subject within the church today than the sovereignty of God.  Over what is He sovereign?  We must answer, “everything.”  Some try to nuance their arguments against this total sovereignty by talking about what God could do versus what He does do, as in: the sovereign God of the universe could make His grace irresistible, but chooses not to do so, so that man can choose.

The problem with this idea is that it runs counter to Scripture (Ephesians 1-2, Romans 1-3).  We are all of us dead men, who will never reach out for a Savior absent His grabbing hold of us.  As at our natural births, a metaphor both Jesus and Paul use: we are intimately involved, yes, but not the catalyst in any way.  We are brought to life from death, we are born again, we are chosen from before the foundation of the world.

Does this mean God decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

Yes.

In whose hands would you rather this decision was?  Your own?  Read once more Psalm 14, 53 and Romans 2 (which quotes them both).  Left to your own devices, you would choose Hell.  Everybody, every time.  Have you read the story of God’s covenant people from the beginning?  The tragedy is heart-breaking and breath-taking.  Five weeks after crossing the Red Sea God’s people are accusing Him of sin.  That’s the people we are without the Holy Spirit.  No, you don’t want salvation in the hands of any man.  I sure don’t.  I know where my hands have been.

He also, incidentally, decided when and where in the vastness of time and space you would be born, what your interests would be, what your inclinations would be, what your taste buds would find yummy.  He determined your parents, when and if you hear the Gospel, if you are living now and if you’ll be alive in five minutes.  The moment of your birth and the moment of your death are HIs to decree.  And yet we tend to get caught up on the salvation thing.

When we say God is sovereign, we do take special joy in His sovereignty over salvation, yes.

But we mean much, much more: it (Creation) is all His, to do with as He pleases.  He created it, and He sustains it, and not one atom (or whatever we’ve discovered that’s smaller, nowadays) has ever done anything other than at His sufferance.  He wills and it happens.  Period.

You haven’t rolled the dice in a game of Monopoly, but that the sovereignty of God is on display.

Why then, sin and rebellion?  I can reply only that His glory is on full display in His grace and His mercy, alongside His judgment.  The question is not, why are some damned?  Paul tells us in Romans 9 what to do with such a question.  The question is, why are any spared?  His love should humble and amaze us, the church, His Son’s bride, His chosen people.

God’s sovereignty should bring you to your knees is terrified thankfulness, for He is truly awesome.