Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sending out a Christmas Card

The snows falling peacefully outside, covering the muddy ground and hiding the mangy grass and dead leaves that fell too late this Fall. From the comfort of a warm house and shielded from the blustery wind, the frosted branches and the gentle blanket of white displays a majestic beauty.

It makes me think about how dark the days are, yet how bright the snow gleams under the winter moon and the brilliant pinpoints of stars. The trees and plants are sleeping underneath this nightly glory. It's as if God knows that everything needs a little rest some times. The globe settles into its rhythm of growth, fruitfulness and rest.

Here in the Northern hemisphere we enjoy this rest at the time of Christmas. Not long ago, pagans would use this time to revel in celebrations of life, with evergreen fronds and bawdy parties. To sanctify this celebration, the holiday was given the name Christmas and people were redirected to focus on the birth of Christ, the Savior.

I don't really care about the debate. It doesn't matter, really. Everyone agrees that we need light in this dark world, particularly when the days get short and cold. Everyone agrees that peace is better than war.

With LED lights decorating the houses and the words PEACE and JOY adorning various displays, we should keep in mind what Jesus really meant. Babies are cute. They represent innocence to us. We remember fondly holding little, helpless babies and giving gifts to children at Christmas. But Jesus was far different. He was born in a time when Israel was occupied by a hostile force: Rome. People were oppressed. There was no peace. Jesus' parents had to register for Rome, who was taking a census. Power was a big deal back then, as it is now. Rome didn't tolerate insurrection. And Herod was fearful of anything that would threaten his sweet deal with Rome.

Into this hostile world, torn up with politics and power came a defenseless baby. He was also the creator of the cosmos! He humbled himself to be dependent on two of his own creations. Mary and Joseph changed the Creator's diapers.

But he didn't come just to show us an example of loving humility. He came to die.

There's an expression in the legal world: Buy peace. Two parties are litigating over something. One has wronged the other and owes a debt. The one can "buy peace" with the other by settling outside of court.

This is what God has done for us. We owe God an eternal debt that we can't pay. If we "went to trial" we'd lose and need to pay off our debt in eternal torment. But God arranged a way to buy our peace. He humbled himself as His son, Jesus, became a human and then lived perfectly. He never sinned. But then he took on the penalty as if he had sinned, letting us kill him on the cross.

Love brought Jesus to earth. Love kept him obedient to God in sinless perfection. Love carried him through the agony of false accusation, whipping and beatings. Love held him to the cross for us.

If God did this for us, to bring peace between us and Himself, we should try to love each other, too.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Quick Little Word on Hate

A quick little word about "hate." Seems that our culture goes from one "viral" story about "hate" to the next, vilifying anyone who says the slightest thing that runs against the current of popular "morality." Part of this is the quick access we have to anything someone says. People tweet out something or an interview segment gets tweeted and FB'd and soon everyone has an opinion about how so-and-so is a "hate-filled bigot."

Until the next "hate-filled bigot" shows up, that will dominate the news. Ironically, it's almost like we're looking for someone to hate. We relish the drunken ramblings of some formerly wonderful movie star. We devour stories about some phrase someone gives to a magazine interviewer. We rail over a comment off-camera from some celebrity of whatever.

Maybe it's time to stop passing harsh judgment on others and remember that when we raise our friendly finger to someone in traffic... that's hate. When we say all sorts of "choice" words in our head at the ____ who's blocking the line at the store ... it's hate. When we think the worst of someone when we might not have all the facts ... it's hate. When someone derides anyone on account of their beliefs and treats them as lower than themselves, it's hate.

I'm fairly confident in saying that we're all guilty of being hate-filled bigots to one degree or another. No one can claim that they didn't treat someone poorly because they didn't like how they dressed, acted or what beliefs they hold.

Imagine a world where we accepted that others can hold a view different than us, and still treated them with grace and love. Imagine if we didn't insist that everyone needed to be convinced of our way of thinking before we treat them nicely. Imagine if we all showed humility and understanding to others, knowing that we all fall in many ways. Might be a little more peaceful and positive in our culture. Might be a place where we didn't see so many people in need of emotional healing.

Okay, I guess that wasn't a quick thought. But I hope this resonates with all my friends. Merry Christmas!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Noah - The Best Outreach Opportunity in 5,000 Years?



I've heard a few things about this movie. Most notably from Russell Crowe, who said something like "Noah wasn't a good guy ... he basically watched the world die." Ummm, yeah. The dirty scoundrel. And if that makes Noah a bad guy, then what's that say about God?

I also read that this movie has tested poorly with Christians, Jews and agnostics. Kind of sounds like they missed their target audience. Or, any audience, for that matter.

The director, alone, gives me a bit of pause. This guy did Black Swan, as the movie trailer points out. I haven't seen the movie. By design. I read about it and decided that it had some really strange sexual issues in it that were not good for my consumption. And I'm not really that into ballet dancers.

Answers In Genesis has been a vocal critic of this film, though they haven't seen it. The assumption being that the director will essentially bastardize the story into some God-is-evil tale in which Noah is the bad guy.

Well, Russell's comments sort of fueled that idea.

Now we have our first look. Here are my thoughts from the trailer. 

What I liked

Noah receives his message from God. His father (I presume) confirms that God is speaking to him. This is all Biblically accurate. Noah's father, Lamech, prophetically announced that Noah would bring them comfort, which is what the name Noah meant. It is believed that Lamech, whose father was Methusela, saw the greatness that God had in store for Noah. They were direct descendants of Seth, the son born of Adam that replaced Abel's line after Cain murdered him.

The story of Genesis shows how Satan sought to destroy God's image by seducing Eve and pulling Adam out of obedience to God. Then, he incited hate and envy in Cain against Abel, resulting in the first murder of the world. Cain's line was wicked and reviling toward God, while Adam's line through Seth, was kept separate and honored God, waiting for the promised redeemer who would remove the curse.

It is supposed that Adam and Eve might have thought Cain was the redeemer, since they might have assumed God would provide a remedy for their sinful state right away. Of course, that didn't turn out. But then, by the time of Noah, over a thousand years had passed, Adam had died a few hundred years ago, and Methusela would have known Adam, due to his long life. Great things were in store for Noah.

In the trailer, the destruction of the world seems to be linked to rebellion against God in the form of wickedness. We see glimpses of the forbidden fruit, Cain killing Abel, etc.

Noah tells the earthly "king" of the people that he's not building the ark for protection from him. Clearly, the ark is protection from the wrath of God.

Probably my favorite line is when the king tells Noah that he's got men at his back and challenges Noah that he's alone. Noah's reply, "I'm not alone."

I think anyone who has repented and stands as a redeemed son or daughter of God can really relate to that scene. How often will the worldly challenge the missionary or the Christian neighbor with the charge that they stand for foolishness alone. We're not alone.

We get a glimpse of what might be the angel with his sword of fire sealing off the Garden of Eden.

We see rapid growth of trees, presumably at the time of creation.

Noah tells his family that it isn't the end when the world is cast into upheaval and destroyed. It's the beginning of all things.

What I don't like

Noah stating that the ark is to protect the innocent. No, the ark was to save the lost who feared God and believed in His salvation (the ark). See, there had been no rain, no storms, no tsunamis at that time in the world. So, when Noah warned people of the need for the ark, he was viewed as a nut. When he started building a large wooden vessel in the middle of a field, he was certifiable. No one listened. No one repented before the promised wrath of God.

That said, I suppose it's a theological quibble. They would be innocent in God's grace through faith in Jesus' sacrifice.

The other couple complaints are joined: Noah throwing a spear at the hoard of godless men charging the ark and the image of Noah watching the water rush up to the door.

The Bible is clear that God shut the door to the ark 7 days before the water came. This would make Noah look all the more crazy, I suppose. The animals all go in to the ark, Noah and his family go in. the door shuts. Then nothing. What's he gonna do with all those animals?

Then the storm came!

So, the movie looks like it might have good points and bad points. But it does look like it captures the overall trajectory of the story. I think it might beat Ted Dansen's Noah movie that had been made for TV back in the 90s, or whenever that was. Will it be the greatest outreach opportunity in 5,000 years?

No. The godless people, perhaps including the star and director, never listen to the message God has for them to repent and believe in the only salvation there is from God's wrath.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Click "Like" and post "Amen!"

We've all seen them, those pithy little hopeful sayings with a blissfully peaceful picture as a backdrop. Or, a little nod and wink with a statement like the following one from MyBible.com:

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Yeah, those stupid men! I think this rankles me because it puts men down, trivializes sin and a cosmic sacrifice of, well, Biblical proportions all in one little quasi-blasphemous postcard. It almost ranks up there with the T-shirts that were going around back in the late 80s, early 90s that had a picture of Jesus on the cross and the slogan, "This blood's for you!" Or, maybe Air Jesus T-shirts which attempted to say you put Jesus on a high pedestal like Michael Jordan.

While I'm all for naming the promises of God, I'm mindful of the fact that they don't apply to everyone. Esau, for instance, would derive no benefit from any of God's promises. Mainly because he despised his birthright, both physical and spiritual. And he couldn't bring himself to repent. He just lived in his passions and appetites.

Sadly, that describes most people. Jesus taught this in Matthew 7. He described the narrow gate (Himself) as the way to life. But the wide gate (personal gratification and an unrepentant heart) as the easy way that most would follow.

So, for those who don't see the horror of their sin before a holy God, for the people who actually recoil when you talk of spiritual things (I'm talking about Biblical spiritual things, not magic crystals, incense and sacred stones), these hopeful little catch-phrases are actually harmful.

Why? Why would I say such a horrible thing! After all, we need to convince the lost of how awesome it is to have all these cool promises to quote with Hallmark pictures to back them up!

I say this because of what Jesus also taught in the sermon on the mount. It's not one of those verses that get quoted with a field of lilies.

"Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." Matt. 7:6. 

Can you imagine? How about a picture like this: 



Yeah, I don't think that would get too many "likes," or "shares," or "amens."

Or how about something more convicting for the lost. After all, before a sick man can seek a cure, he needs to realize he's sick. So, just as God introduced the Law first, to show us our sin, we should help people realize the sickness before we trot out with the promises and hope. Because a sick person shouldn't be celebrating with the healthy until he's received the cure!

Maybe something like this:






It could have the caption, "You are dead in your sins and trespasses! click "like!" and Amen! And Share if you agree!" Or, it could say, "Our good deeds are as grave clothes before God. Click "Like" and say "Amen!""

I suspect that would start knocking down people's "friend" list pretty quick. It might be as effective as Jesus' statement to his followers that unless they drink his blood and eat his flesh, they can have no part of him. That was just too freaky for most of the crowd. And, interestingly, Jesus turned to his 12 disciples and asked, "Are you leaving, too?" Of course they didn't. Peter even confessed, "Where else will we go? You have the words of life!"

Unfortunately, a great many people don't see it that way. They don't care about Jesus being both God and man, living perfectly holy all his life so he could drink the wrath of God that was poured out for all those who would repent and accept His sacrifice in their stead. They trample that wonderful grace underfoot and claim God is not loving because He will require payment for all the sin we commit while conveniently forgetting that they've rejected His loving offer of forgiveness on account of Jesus' sacrifice. Just see your sin for what it is before God. Agree with God that you're a sinner with no excuse. Then repent, and turn from that sin trusting God's spirit to help you leave your sin behind in an ever more powerful way.

But like Esau, many will find it too difficult to repent. And they'll heed the call of their lusts and passions and despise the birthright that could be theirs. They won't "like" God's plan of payment for sin. And they won't say "Amen" to obedience to God's word. And they certainly won't "Share" the good news.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Basically Good



While washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, I got to thinking: What does it mean when atheists and humanists say that people are 'basically good.' I've heard it all over the place. In fact, when I opined that it wasn't the case, a proponent for the 'basically good' camp got red-faced-angry and stormed away from the lunch table, livid at the thought that humans weren't inherently good at heart.

But what does it mean? If you were fighting for your innocence in court, would you want an attorney who was basically good? If you went to an expensive restaurant, would you want a dinner and/or service that was basically good?

Just what is the BASE in basically? How far down, exactly, does this floor lie? In terms of behavior, is it basically good to simply not steal from someone, but still ignore someone in need? Would we still think someone is good if they ogle women, but refrain from verbally harassing them? Or worse? Or maybe, it's fine to indulge in fantasizing about thievery, adultery, etc., but avoid DOING those things ... too much.

And maybe that's it. It's a matter of degree. Perhaps what basically means is that, in the end, when the scales are set, the bad won't break the scale. And if you're above the base, you might even break even or tip a bit over the bad. So, it's a good deeds vs. bad deeds sort of thing.

Of course, anyone in their right mind ... or who has ever tried to raise children ... knows that it's not even close when it comes to good behavior vs. bad. Let me put it this way: You don't have to teach a child to lie, slap, spit, sass, steal, covet, rage, lash out, etc. No, they do those things quite eloquently on their own. The challenge is to teach them proper behavior. The further challenge is then not to undermine that training by our own lack of discipline in those same areas. Hmmm. See a problem here?

Lastly, the biggest problem for those who think humans are basically good is this: What measures good? Earlier, I mentioned the degrees of goodness. But really, what is good? Who says coveting is wrong? Or stealing, for that matter ... what makes that wrong? After all, if someone is poor and needs to eat, why should they be stopped from taking what doesn't belong to them? Don't they have rights? So goes the mindless rambling of Godless man. In the end, all 'morality' is situational. Thus, goodness is elusive since no two people could be measured by the same standard.

But, if God is the standard of goodness, if His Law is the yard stick, then goodness can't be 'basically' measured. It either is good, or not. You either honor your father and mother, or you don't. You either love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, or you don't. You either keep all these commandments continually, or you've broken them and are no longer good. In fact, you're basically evil.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Crave

Here's a great quote for the day:

"...nothing that man makes is adequate to supply the immortal cravings of the soul which, having come from God, craves for God." --F.B. Meyer

Monday, August 12, 2013

Elysium - Propaganda much?

So, Elysium is about how the Rich People build an exclusive city above the world where they have amazingly great healthcare. The Poor People below have no healthcare and little girls are dying of cancer that some robot could heal in a second. So, a thieving Christ figure Matt Damon, who is also dying, must "sacrifice" his last days to break down the doors of an exclusive "heaven" and provide healthcare robots to heal the world.

Um, so we got blasphemy and socialist propaganda rolled into a sermon action flick. No thanks.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The UN-Just Judge




Icy rain drizzled over balding shingles into tarnished gutters and swirled through downspouts to the crab-grass lawns of the worn-out, working-class neighborhood. Beneath the low swag of the thick, black electric and phone cables, huddled around a sunken front porch of a 1930s home, mourners peered through bleery eyes as Sarah emerged from her dark parlour, bolstered by her two teen-age sons.

“Thank you,” she said. Her face dropped to the rough wood, cloaked with countless layers of light gray paint. Paint that Charles, her husband of 21 years had slathered on in his faithful upkeep of their tired home. “Thank you all for coming.” Raising her chin, defying the despair that would drown her heart and mind in a cistern of bitter tears. “You all knew Charles. We AAAlll knew Charles.”

Firey passion ignited her eyes and strengthened her voice. And while her chin trembled with the palsy of loss, pain and sorrow, she burned with righteous anger and determination.

“Charles was better than his end! He didn't deserve what this son of perdition brought to him that night. His kindness was repayed in hate and his charity with wickedness.”

Amens shot forth from amid the black umbrellas.

“And while we may forgive this misguided son for his evil deed, he HAS EARNED a punishment. He HAS EARNED what's comin' to him.”

Shouts of approval rang through the throng.

Sarah stepped back as Reverend Frank moved forward from his place on the porch. After a moment of bowed silence, he said, “I knew the boy who pulled the trigger. I know his family. And while we may understand how people can be living in anger and pain, we know that we can't allow such things to go on. Without justice, there's no peace. Without payment, there's no freedom. And, like sister Sarah just said, we will work to forgive that young man, we will do our civil duty to see that he pay for the cost of his wretched deeds.”

More amens rose up.

At Reverend Frank's lead, the gathering lifted their somber voices in several hymns of hope. They sang well-worn lyrics penned during times when meditation on God's truth reigned as a stolid virtue.

With prayer, the faithful departed and the family retired to their emptier, more silent home.

As weeks progressed, Sarah met with the prosecutor. She gave statements and interviews. She met with police to discuss when she'd have the mortician take the body so she could arrange the funeral.

One afternoon, as she stood in a daze in the checkout line at the supermarket, she spotted the boy's mother several lines down from her. Rising like a flame doused in gasoline, she felt her anger burn against that woman, her family and all she held dear.

She left her groceries there at the store and fled to her church. Tearfully, she poured out her bitter feelings to Reverend Frank.

“It's perfectly normal to feel anger, Sarah. It grows out of our natural understanding of justice. When someone does something against us, they create a debt. They owe us something. Sometimes it's as simple as an apology that they owe us. In this case it's a debt that boy can never pay. Nothing he ever does will ever bring Charles back.”

Sarah whiped her tears on a tissue and then the corner of her sleeve. “But... if the kid just said he was sorry for what he did. Admit he made a mistake!”

Reverend Frank put his arm around her. “People seldom will say they're sorry, Sarah. Even in little things, we tend to underestimate how much we truly offended people. That boy is so messed up he doesn't see clearly. He can't see the depth of his own wrong. He only sees the wrong he feels the world has done to him. And because of that, he feels he's not to blame.”

More weeks passed and a judge announcemnet came. The prosecutor took the news somberly and delivered it to Sarah slowly.

“This judge is … well, he's very compassionate.”

“That's good, right?” Sarah said.
The prosecutor shook his head with a long face. “Let me put it this way … He sees victims and tries to understand why they did what they did.”
Enraged, Sarah shot to her feet and glared down at the prosecutor. “That's NOT his job! His JOB is to see if someone broke the law, which this kid DID, and pass down judgment for the crime!”
Nodding, the prosecutor said, “That's right. But he feels compassion is lost, then.”
“And HIS way, justice is lost!”
Sarah had spent so many afternoons taking Reverend Frank's time, she felt guilty for stopping at the parsonage again that day. But she needed him to talk her through this issue about the judge.
Nodding after hearing the news, Reverend Frank said, “I've heard a lot about this judge. I've read many a op ed about him, too. He's very popular among some, and less popular among others.”
“Can I ask to have another judge?”
“Well, that's a question for the prosecutor. But I don't think that sort of thing happens without some really good reasoning, like a conflict of interest, or something.”
“I'd say siding with the guilty is a pretty good conflict of interest!”
Reverend Frank chuckled. “What I can offer is spiritual advice, Sarah. And this is important. Regardless of what this judge does, there is a judgment that this young man will not escape.”
“The final judgment. I know.”
“You don't seem to take that very serously.”
“I think he should have to pay here and now.”
Reverend Frank nodded again and let out an understanding sigh. “Believe me, the judgment of God will be unlike anything we could deal out here. And, if he realized what was going to happen, he'd gladly take the punishment here in exchange for a 'not guilty' from God.
“But I think you are looking at an interesting thing here.”
“How is this interesting?”
“Well, many people live however they want, and count on God to be loving. To forgive whatever they've done. But that's not how it works. Remember how we talked about the debt that someone owes when they do something wrong to us?”
Sarah nodded, whiping tears.
“Well, because we sin every day with out thoughts, our actions and our words, we are in constant rebellion against what God wants us to live like. His command is to love Him with all our hearts, souls and minds and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But every time we think of ourselves over God, we dethrone Him in our hearts. Every time we neglect a need of a neighbor or think a harsh word against someone in traffic, we violate our Maker's manual for ourlives. We incur a debt that we owe against Him. The mounts and compounds and is unpayable by us. And we deserve God's wrath.”
“I thought God was love?”
“That's right. God is love. He loved us so much He came to live among us as a man, but without sinning. As hard as it is to keep from cursing when we get cut off from traffic or feeling hurt and getting bitter, Jesus experienced all that, but never sinned. And then he took the punishment for us, the eternal wrath of God on himself so that we wouldn't have to.”
“So we get off without paying.”
“That's right, because Jesus paid in our place. There had to be a payment. Justice had to be met, or God would not be a Just God.”
“So, this kid, if he gets off here ...”
“It would be the same as if someone never repented of their sins and accepted Jesus'sacrifice, but expected to be forgiven their debt without payment.”
“So, how does that help me, pastor?”
“You are struggling to forgive this boy.”
“Well … YEAH! Why should I? Especially if the judge lets him off light?”
“Jesus paid for the full weight of your sin on the cross. I remember you repenting and asking for that forgiveness on Jesus' account. So much was fogiven you all because of the work of God. He paid your debt. What this boy did is horrible. He can't pay it back any more than you could pay your debt to God. You need to forgive him for simple reason that God has forgiven you more than you could ever pay.”
“I do, but the feelings keep coming back.”
“When God forgives, the Bible says He puts the offense as far as the East is from the West, or in the depths of the ocean. We're not perfect, Sarah. We keep finding those offenses and picking them up again. We have to keep on going back and forgiving people. Now go tell God, your father about your feelings. He'll help you through. And pray for that boy's soul. Because he won't be getting off light if he doesn't find true repentance with God.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Need A Hero

 

It's an exiting time to be living. And a fearsome time, too. Our world teeters on the razor edge of truth vs. emotion, canting precariously, threatening to spill over. Every day brings a news feed about “faith-based hate,” or some controversy about racism. And the response to these issues appears as violent as the percieved offense. Cultural temperatures rise and fall, stretching our public dialogue to the breaking point.

What we need is a hero. We need someone to show the way. It's what our culture desperately looks for.

In the past ten years we've seen superheros take center stage in our pop culture. Spider-man, Captain America, Iron Man, Batman, The Green Lantern, The Avengers, Thor, Superman, Wolverine and the X-Men.

Never before have such extravagant heroes been brought to the silver screen. And at such an increasing rate of speed. This year we'll have seen 4 different major super heros in theaters. Next year we'll have at least 3 new superhero movies derived from comic books. And I'm not counting the Percy Jackson and Hobbit movies, which are also hero-style movies in which the protagonist has or gains extraordinary powers.

The reason we, as a culture are eating these stories up is that we need a hero. We're looking for one with the ability to defeat all the troubles we face, to absorb the world-rending stress and put down the deceptive enemies that threaten us.

And we're confused about the nature of this hero. With Batman, we want someone who is dark and frightens the underworld of cutlural destruction, playing with the same tactics, but holding to an ultimate moral standard. Superman used to be brighter, but now he is “finding his way” and actually kills the villian and doesn't allways save everyone. Iron Man is a conceited, flawed man who ends up doing what's right, but wreaks smaller havok in his personal life with his friends.

These heros are all too human. And so, we look to Wolverine, an eternal hero who suffers under his immortality, but needs it to save the innocent. We turn to Captain America, who also has a degree of immortality, spanning decades and coming to a contemporary culture that needs his “old fashioned” sense of righteousness to save it.

In the end, these heros fail to give us direction. After all, they come from a culture that doesn't want the truth. We all know what morality is. But, as a world, we don't want it to be anything more than a preference. Unless we're hurt by someone else breaking morals.

If we break a marital vow, there's a good reason. If our mate breaks it, we're devistated. If we hate someone, we're justified. If someone hates us, we're being harrassed. If we take something, we had a need. If someone steals from us, we've been violated.

In the end, we know, deep down, what is right. We know this because of the stories we tell. Superman must feel horrible about killing the villain. Iron Man knows he needs to stop his filandering ways and “do right” by Pepper. We won't accept a hero that takes God's name in vain. W applaud Captain America for his belief in “One God.”

Despite all these choices for heroes, we still search. None of them show the way. None of them can really shoulder the world and rescue us. Because they're products of our culture, really. They're not truly from outside of our world. They're not truly spotless and able to die on our behalf.

That's the other thing: A crime is worthy of its punishment. All these stories show that. When a villain does something evil, we expect that wrong to be set right. We expect punishment for that crime. If movies ended with the wicked prospering, we'd feel horrible.

This acknowledges that our sin will require punishment. We know this. And we want a hero. We want an indestructible shield or an invincible man from outside of our planet to come and stand between us and the destruction that we're due.

I wrote RESISTANCE for this reason. I wanted to address the superhero genre with an answer that was more in keeping with Truth, with a capital 'T.' Biblical truth, in other words. There is a hero that took the weight of the enemy, took that pain and torture for 6 hours, descended into death, then rose 3 days later in victory. The fallout of that victory is ongoing, but the victory is secured nonetheless.

Throughout world history, since the dawn of Sin in the garden of Eden, people have been recognizing their wretched condition and falling on God's mercy, as presented in His love and personal sacrifice with Jesus, God Himself in the flesh. When one sees the doom that is rightfully theirs, the rebellion he or she is against God, the only hope is to turn and fall on God's grace, asking for Jesus' sacrifice to be counted as payment for that sin. Then to turn from sin and follow God's law in loving obedience, realizing that God wants us to be free of the conflict and pain of sin. That's why He sent Himself, the only hero that could end the conflict within us that will spell our destruction.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

About My Fathers



In a world so fallen where fathers are called "baby-daddies," I'd like to say a few words about my father. First, I'll tell about my earthly father.

Needless to say, he wasn't perfect. Neither am I. He lost his temper. So have I. There have been many times, I'm sure, he didn't live up to the calling of being a father. I certainly know I've failed again and again.

But I remember the time my dad passed on the sea food dinner on a long flight to Italy because I wanted it, too, and they only had one plate left. Then I remember throwing it up into my lap. And my dad helping with cleaning up.

I remember my dad teaching me to hook a worm and wait for the bobber to dip before yanking. Then, he made countless trips down to the dock to help get the Blue Gill off and then filet them for me for dinner.

I remember one time, driving back from our humble vacation at my grandparent's cabin, my dad listened to the Tigers on the radio. We sort of slept in the back of the station wagon watching the street lights zip by overhead. We were cruising down 75, passing Tiger's Stadium and my dad turned the radio down and rolled down the window to see if we could hear any of the game as we passed by. It strikes me now as kind of silly. But fun.

I know that my love of communicating through writing comes from my dad. He inspired the writing gene. He also passed on a love of music-making.

I remember him playing a song on his guitar, a jazzy number with a real classic melody. Wowed by this tune, I asked him who wrote it.

"Me," he said with a slight chuckle.

I was floored. My dad had written what might have been a top 10 Billboard song.

The greatest thing my dad did for me, though, wasn't giving me fun times fishing, a love for writing or a desire for making music. No, what he did that is above all other things and, if we were counting on works to balance the scales, would rank up there - he introduced me to my true father.

See, my Heavenly Father has never lost his temper with me. He looks down and sees a faith that He gave me, a repentance that He drew from me and a trust in His sacrifice for my sin. He sees a perfect son of His own making.

My Heavenly Father teaches me and always gets it right. He disciplines me and doesn't let it get out of hand. He guides me and never leads me astray. He loves me because He decided to, not because of how I behave or perform.

Knowing my true Father has been the single most transforming thing in my life. And I was introduced to Him by my earthly father.

Thanks, Dad.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Paperback Writer






My dream began with yearning to see my name grace the cover of a book. My book lining the shelves of a brick and mortar book store. Me, sitting behind a table stacked with books and flanked by a large poster. Me, greeting lines of eager fans waiting to say "hi" and get my Bryn Jones on their warm copy of thrilling prose.

As with most dreams, they don't come true from simply wishing on a star. No, all those days of dreaming wouldn't make that book materialize or draw fans to my web site that didn't exist.

So, I buckled down and wrote a novel. I edited the crap out of it. I re-wrote it. I passed it around to friends and family. And some of them read it!

When it was ready (in my mind a #1 Bestseller just waiting to happen) I started shopping it to agents. For a solid year I got good leads that dried up. "Love it!" "It's just not right." "You're not quite ready for Prime Time." "I couldn't put it down." "I didn't find this Romantic Comedy that funny, or Romantic?" "No Thanks." "Go into politics." Just kidding on that last one.

I did get an agent. So, I was a shoe-in! NY Times, get ready! Well, then he couldn't find a buyer. My dream was turning into one of those that has a hallway made of checkered tile where you run, run, run and never reach the end.

Then, I considered this thing called e-publishing. I noticed a lot of regular publishers were offering contracts for e-publishing books. That just seemed sick and wrong. Since Amazon, the biggest name in ...well, everything now, would allow you to keep 70% of your sale price, I would have to then share that with a publisher who did  nothing more than convert the file to an e-pub format. No thanks.

So, I did it myself. And now, thanks to Amazon, I have it in paperback, too. I can't compete on paperback price. I have to charge a little more than the $7.99 to $9.99 that big publishers can charge for paperback. But I do have both e-book and paperback. And my readers have direct access to me. And, the book is quite a fast, wild ride. I hope you check it out in either format.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Eternal

 

Listening to atheists, it's clear they have no problem with something being uncreated and eternal. After all, atheists insists that all things come from “natural” processes of other material things, clearly leaving us with the notion of eternal matter. What they don't like is the existence of the eternal, supernatural God.
Richard Dawkins is famous for asking Christians, if God created the universe, then who created God? While he congratulates himself with that question, he stammers and falls when asked, if the universe created all that we see, who created the universe? The answer seems to be, well, it always existed. Only, it didn't.
Science has concluded that there was a definite beginning to the cosmos. Arno Penzias won the Nobel Prize for discovering that beginning in the cosmic microwave background. That is where the concept of the “Big Bang” came from. Of course, defining what the bang involved, is pure speculation. No one was there and it can't be observed. But cosmologists all agree there was a beginning to the cosmos. Giving rise to the question, who lit the fuze?
Atheists insist that no one lit the fuze. It just happened. But that sounds too Tooth-fairy or Santa Clause for me. It sounds like a pat answer that shuts off further discovery, if I'm to be completely honest. If I find a broken chair in the middle of my living room floor, a good number of feed from the dining room where it would normally be, I would assume some force had brought the chair to the living room, acted upon that chair and left it in the condition in which I found it. When I ask my child what happened, he might tell me, “It just broke.” The intent of my progeny is to cut off further inquiry into how it might have found itself in the living room or what force acted upon the chair in what manner to destroy it. No, the idea that the cosmos began by “just happening” is a foolish, close-minded, unscientific answer.
A similarly childish answer is another I've heard from Dawkins, “we're working on it.” I'm wondering, how, exactly, are you working on it? How do you 'work on' figuring out how something 'just happened' without a guided cause? And, if that unguided cause needs to follow natural processes? I might presume the “we” is “working on” what natural process exists that will spawn something from nothing. And while the ambiguous “we” is at it, why don't “they” figure out how such “natural processes” came about to begin with, without an intelligent source to form them.
This is the ultimate point where the God-deniers find themselves thoroughly painted into a corner: Design comes from intellect, a distinctly non-material essence. You can't even call intellect a “thing.” It isn't. Intellect defies definition, really. Is it the sum of all the things we know? No, it's not. A baby has intellect that guides the very process of gathering knowledge. Intellect is provides us the means we use to decode language and even create language (such as American Sign Language or even Klingon, a fictional language in Star Trek). Intellect is evident all over among the human race. Books convey information for building knowledge, as well as fictional adventures to allow our minds to soar to different places, times and worlds. Machines, build by the use of intellect shorten work, increase productivity and ease our lives. Music, from instruments crafted from hair, wood, metal and hide, using mathematically precise notes, chords and tempo express emotions, stories and experience.
Intellect created all those things we enjoy. Yet, no one would say that our intellect was, thus, created by a banjo or drum or ink and paper. No, our intellect brought the material together to make the ink and page, the letter and meaning to communicate our message. So, nothing created our intellect, right? It just happened.
To hear an evolutionist, one day, an ape-like creature just decided to stand up. And grow feet. And, for no reason, began thinking in abstract ways, drawing pictures and then figuring out ways to make ink, paper, etc. And, amazingly, these ape-like creatures all seemed to develop different, and very complex communication matrixes, forming different languages, all complex from the day they appear in archeology. Equally amazing, these complex languages are accompanied by societies that could perform successful brain surgery and erect buildings we can't reproduce today, with all our high tech engineering.
It just happened.
No, that's a foolish path to follow. Nothing 'just happens.' We know that an effect has to have a cause. We know that an intricate design that serves an observable purpose had an intellect that designed it for that purpose. And we know that intellect does not sprout from nothing. There must be a source that gave the intellect. And, whatever that source, it necessarily must be the ultimate, uncreated source of all things. It must be eternal.
The choice for us then is this: Do we reject God as the ultimate, eternal, uncreated source who has the intellect and power to cause the universe to come into being and design its natural processes, and sustain them? Or do we elect to reject the idea of God in favor of eternal, unguided matter that cannot create intellect, leaving us with a madman's reasoning that we can observe reliable laws that follow set designs for operation, but conclude they formed randomly and without any purpose?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Iron Man 3 - The End Of Man

For those who haven't noticed, the current superhero movie trend is, essentially, our culture re-creating the god myths in a modern context. And with it, we should question, what is the chief end of man?

It began with Superman, a Moses/Jesus character (more on him when I review his movie). Then, in the 60s we got Stan Lee introducing characters like Iron Man. Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) is a deeply flawed man, a war profiteer who comes face-to-face with the horrors he helped make. And while Stan created this character in the midst of Vietnam, the billionaire weapons contractor hasn't become any more sympathetic in the last 50 years. When he's given a choice to make a super weapon for an evil army or die, he takes the scraps and gives himself a third option: Iron Man. He busts out of prison in a high-tech suit, capable of decimating his opponents.

This is like so many of the Greek or Roman gods. A brash, arrogant man with unlimited power (intellect, in this case), who, through a humbling process, gains a new understanding (a new heart?) and sets to defend humanity from evil.

We celebrate this and cheer the idea of a hero who will, even at the last minute, show up to save the day in a blast of energy and impenetrable armor.

The first film did a great job of showing Tony as a wealthy playboy who gains a startling wake-up call. He is given a new heart (a glowing one that keeps him from dying as a result of his own weapons--a symbol of his own sin?). And, because of this new heart, he is changed and begins turning from his old womanizing ways to be the hero that covers him.

The second film, he all but eradicates major war and terrorism. He boasts that he has successfully privatized world peace. But there's something dark at work. His new heart is powered by an element that will kill him. Unless he finds a different way to power the arc reactor in his chest, he'll die. Seeing no solution, he tries to return to his wild ways, reaping the consequences of his rash behavior. His friends turn on him and he's put on house arrest. He's also forced to confront his father, via an old film clip and other documents. He has to accept that he's not the genesis of his own greatness. He needs to turn to his father, against whom he rebelled and still regarded with private disdain. Then he up and creates a new element, cures himself and saves the world.

Now to the third. We've seen him in Avengers, which might have been Iron Man 2.5. Briefly, in that he learns that he needs to lay himself out there, without an armor and put his life on the line for others. And he does. But it leaves him frightened. He can't sleep. He builds an endless army of wildly different armors. He adapts an armor that can fly to him, piece by piece. And he frets about protecting the "one thing he can't live without," Pepper Potts, his steady woman. So, he's changed. He no longer chases women. He's proved he'll lay down his life for others. He's saved himself several times over. But he fears that he can't control everything. He can't always protect the one he loves.

The movie doesn't answer this with anything as dramatic as the first film, where he had to confront and repent of his weapons dealing and his cavalier profiteering. It doesn't have him reach back and recant his rebellion against a father and be humbled, recognizing he didn't come up with all of this on his own. No, this one doesn't involve him finding an answer outside of himself at all. Quite the opposite. He finds that HE is Iron Man, not the suits.

In all, Iron Man 3 is a satisfying popcorn blockbuster film. It's fun to watch. It has some good humor. I think Robert Downey Jr. is a wonderful actor, able to pull you in to a story and make you like him (even when he's being a jerk). There is no doubt he was an inspired choice for the role of Tony Stark. But, while I like the Iron Man movies, 3 just solidifies an atheist view. We are our own creators. There is no God. Morality is subjective. We change because it's what the circumstances require, not because we will be held to account by a higher power. Submissiveness is never exalted. Tony will, hopefully, do what's right. Because he certainly won't take orders from anyone other than himself.

So, with Iron Man 3, what is the end of man? Does he need something outside of himself to provide peace when the panic attacks come and life's problems are seemingly too great or too fearsome to handle? Or is the end of man that we're ultimately on our own and need to raid a hardware store and build our way out of trouble? And then, essentially, become gods, able to handle any threat? Tony Stark's answer seems to be the latter. Which should provide Christians with a lot to discuss in regard to God's sovereignty vs. man's ability.



Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Betrayer

At the Last Supper, Jesus said that one would betray him. Incredulous, the disciples all asked, "Who? Who is it." I wonder if they thought, could it be me? Will I betray Jesus? After all, when Jesus was arrested, everyone scattered, and Peter followed at a distance and then denied Him 3 times, saying "I don't KNOW the man!"

So, knowing that they all had that potential in them, they were worried. But then Jesus said it would be the one to whom he dipped the morsel and gave bread first. This was usually the choice piece of food, given to the person of highest honor. And it was given to Judas, the betrayer.

Could Judas have changed his mind? Could he have chosen NOT to betray the Lord? Regardless, he didn't. In fact, he was ordained for that purpose. He was the son of perdition. The one who it would have been better for him had he not been born.

But think about Judas. He spent 3 years hanging with Jesus. Listening to His teaching, seeing miracles first-hand. Yet all he could think of was money and selfish needs. Perhaps he, like those crying Hosanna on Palm Sunday expected Jesus to overthrow the Romans and free Israel. When that wasn't happening, he might have felt betrayed, embittered. And no amount of kindness or show of love from Jesus would win back his loyalty. Jesus, to him, was a fraud and one that needed to be discredited publicly. With such a dark heart of selfishness and rebellion, Judas was open for Satan to enter. He went and sold the Creator for 30 pieces of silver.

And like it always is, when Christ was delivered up for torture by the Religious leaders and the Roman soldiers, then sent to be crucified, Satan left Judas. Left him with the hollow despair that a world without a Savior offers. Left him to realize that his best life was now and it wasn't that great. He'd just shown all his friends from the past 3 years what an absolute louse he really was. Who would take him in? Who would he hang out with?

In that obsidian darkness, he did the only thing that's left for a child of this world - he hung himself, falling and spilling his guts in the valley below. Such is the end of a rebel's earthly life after rejecting and murdering Christ. Unfortunately, that's not the final end. He will endure his atonement for his sin eternally in Hell, suffering eternally, never reaching the peace that could only be offered by Christ and His 6 hours on the cross.

Don't be Judas. Don't take the choice morsel and then reject Christ as a fraud. The irony for Judas is that his role served to provide the only victory for hope that he could have had.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Changing the Rules on God

It appears that many are following the notion that marriage is simply a human invention that can be re-invented according to subjective values based on nothing more than what we feel is right.

God's enemy is clever. Satan isn't an obvious villain who twirls his mustache and cackles wickedly. No, he re-defines things. He says, "Did God really say..." and then, "you won't die ..." in fact, "God wants to keep you down, make you a slave, prevent you from being His equal."

Satan re-defines an argument so it seems that God is the bad guy and the only sensible thing to do, the only RIGHT thing to do, is disobey God's directive.

In the case of marriage, God ordained it. He invented it. He said it is one man, one woman.

Then you read some Satan-inspired take on the Bible that says, "Did God really say..." and then points to instances of polygamy, rape, incest, etc. They suggest that God authorized such things. Don't be fooled. The Bible never endorses anything other than one man, one woman. Whenever people in the Bible varied from this model, trouble followed (just like it does today).

The next thing people point to is the Law, which called for stoning of homosexuals. Guess what? The Law also called for stoning of people working on the Sabbath. The first instance was someone gathering wood on the Sabbath. Taken out and stoned to death. Pretty harsh? Yes. But it wasn't about the act of collecting timber. It's about a human's decision to do the opposite of what God said to do (or not to do).

One might say, well who is He to say what I can or can't do? Um, He's God. He made you. He can say what you should do.

Another might counter that they believe in a "Loving" God who doesn't "Judge."

That's like saying you would want a "loving" judge who won't "condemn" a mass murderer who just tortured and killed your family, but will rather let them off with a smile and nod.

See, the flip side of love is hate.

What? Are you INSANE, Bryn? No. And listen up: If you LOVE your wife, you will HATE anything that would take her from you. If you LOVE your children, you will HATE anything that would destroy them. If you LOVE peace, you will HATE war. And so on. You can't have one without the other. And neither does God.

God LOVES righteousness. He HATES lawlessness.

And this affront to God's order for marriage is nothing short of lawlessness.

Does that mean that I support stoning homosexuals. No. I believe in kindness and love toward all people.

But, you just said that the Bible calls for stoning of all who don't do what God says. Yes. It did. In the Old Testament Law. That Law had a purpose: To show how pervasive sin is in our lives. If you read the Law, one can't blink without breaking a law.

How wonderful, then, is the New Covenant, the one of Grace, forged by Jesus Christ on the cross. He was fully God, but fully Man, lived in complete obedience to God's Law, loving God with all His heart, soul, mind and strength, loving the sinful wretches of the world, choosing to love the unlovable, then died for them, taking God's wrath in full for those who would repent.

Christ was the sacrifice that all the animals in all the rituals could never be. He took God's wrath for us so we could be forgiven for our rebelliousness and lawlessness.

But here's the thing: If we accept His sacrifice, we can only do so for real if we repent of our lawless nature and turn to Him for rescue and reformation. We can no longer go on willfully sinning and endorsing sinful behavior.

That's different than those who go around hating on sinners. We're all sinners. So, we have no place to be hatin' on each other. Jesus calls us to love one another. And He sets and example of loving the worst sinners. For God so Loved the World - he did this to a world that was vile and odious, wretched and stinking. We're called to love the unlovable. And yet, to preach God's grace through the cross, calling sinners to repentance.

It's hard to call people to repentance if we condone the sin as being an issue of "equality."

Truth is, homosexuals are equal to everyone else. We're all equal in God's eyes. Equal to receive the wrath for our lawlessness. Or equal to receive His grace when we repent and accept Jesus' sacrifice. But we're not equal with God and we don't get to change the rules He's given us.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Image He Loved



In the beginning was nothing. Not even a canvass. He stretched it and formed it on the frame he had fastened with steel nails. With the canvass spread, he placed it in his studio and arranged his tools around him. Before the first stroke, he felt the picture growing within him. An emotion he knew and nurtured blossomed until the colors bled into his mind's eye. As the image formed within him, he lifted the brush and dipped it in paint.

Strong, veined hands guided each tender stroke, bringing richness and depth to what had been empty and void. Order marched in harmony from his heart, his will, his hand, the brush and onto the work before him. Bright light cascaded from the sky, dappling the subjects, illuminating the bowls of fruit and glinting off silver platters. A festive feast awaited his creations, everything to sustain and please them.

Tirelessly, the maker coaxed his world into focus, providing joy to their faces and strength to their frames. Among them, a gentleman smiled, while a lady demurred innocently. Behind them, some laughed brightly and others nodded in fellowship.

He formed a tree, a sprawling, fruit-bearing tree, with various creatures playing beneath its shade. The fruit hung heavy on some branches and a few of the people held it in their hands, admiring it.

Hour upon hour, the maker smeared, blotted, stroked and refined his painting. From top to bottom, corner to corner, he worried over every detail.

While he worked, his young son came in to watch, marveling at his father's skill. Without a sense of time passing, his son would watch him work, drinking in the glorious creation sprawling out before him. It was as if he could hear the laughter, feel the giddiness and enjoy the camaraderie of the friendly throng. 

At times, father and son would sit back and tell stories, sometimes talking to the friends who inhabited the picture.

Then, after carefully applying his brush, the maker was finished. He and his son stood back and gave their approval. It was good. The maker never used a scale for his work. He would never say something was better than bad, but less than good. It was either good, or bad. Either it would hang on the wall or fuel the furnace.

Together, father and son, they carried the picture up to the master dining room and hung it over the grand mantle, above a roaring fire. In the pristine light from the windows and the glow from the fireplace, the image took on greater life. The people in the painting enlivened the room with their infectious companionship.

It was then that the maker decided to have a feast and invite all his friends to join him to celebrate the picture, feasting with them, in a way, around the grand table, warmed by the fire and in the glow of this wonderful image.

The next day, when he entered the grand room, the picture caught his eye, but not in a good way. Something looked odd, like a cold breeze had settled over the people and darkened the sky. Wondering if this was just a trick of the light, he brought his son to the room without telling him why, or what concerned him. He, too, said something looked distant, detached with the people they had, just the night before, been so familiar with.

Each day that passed, both father and son watched the picture darken and twist. They took it down and returned to the studio, looking at it in different light. But there, something more startling happened.

The woman in the foreground, the one who had the gentle blush, glared out defiantly at her maker. The man's smile had turned to a sneer. The merry crowd gathered around were now engaged in riot and vile activities. Clothes were torn off and the people were bent to degrading tasks, painfully, yet with hungry abandon. The fruit that had been so lush and inviting hung withered, dripping with rot.

As the maker and his son watched, their carefully created subjects joined the mob behind them, engaging in thrusting pain and empty amusements that further marred their images.

Then the son said, "What will you do? What you made good has turned bad."

"Yes. It's fit for nothing but the furnace. But it isn't that way because of how I made it. Somehow it chose to stop being what I intended it to be."

The son could see that, though the picture now reviled its maker in every corner of its canvass, the father had not stopped loving it. In fact, he seemed to love it just as much, knowing how painful this path was and what would have to happen to the world he'd created.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Never Let a Crisis Go To Waste


"Please ... sit down."

More of a hallway than a room, it stretched out in gray, smooth concrete blandness, draped in shadow and swathed in riddles. The steel table, affixed to the slab with knobby bolts, sat adjacent to a sturdy chair that was likewise immobile. A single, angry bulb buzzed above, its harsh light forcing me to squint.

"The chair, Mr. Jones."

Mr. Smith, for all I knew, or Carter, or ... whatever, wore a severe expression of seriousness that drove any hope of a shoot-the-breeze-joke-to-break-the-ice from my mind. I suspected he despised humor.

"Let's have a ... meetingoftheminds. What do you say?"

He ran those three words together, forming a single, oppressive verb. Ordinarily, I'd say that would be grand if his mind weren't as thick as a bunker wall. Of course, saying that would be sure to illicit something rather nasty from The Man.

"I'd like to ask you about the YouTube video you not only liked, but also shared with your 'followers.'" He made careful use of his fingers to form phantom quotation marks in the air.

From his dour expression and Gestapo style, I ruled out the videos of the Beach Boys I had shared from their 50th Anniversary concert tour. Then again-

"You think this is a sign of intelligence, I suppose. Critical thinking? Maybe? You suppose yourself part of a 'civil resistance?' Perhaps. You wish to open people's minds. Yes?"

Definitely not the Beach Boys videos.

"Does questioning the established facts from reliable sources give you a thrill, Mr. Jones?"

Mr. Smith had moved in so close I decided to take him up on his offer of sitting down. Unfortunately, this gave him the chance to plant his fists on the metal table and glare down at me, the light casting deep pools of blackness in his eye sockets.

"Do you get off at the idea of your own government conspiring to kill a mall full of children, Mr. Jones?"

"So, when do I get to meet the 'good cop?'"

I regretted that one before I finished the question. Smith pulled out a file folder and slapped it on the desk, making me jump. After flipping it open, he pushed it my direction. I could see it was a write up from Snoops, a mythbusting news organization. I'd seen this article before.

"As you can see, Mr. Jones, the whole conspiracy has been deconstructed quite handily. It is just the fevered imaginings of folks who refuse to believe we live in a world where terrible things happen."

"And, I suppose, you and the Snoops people live in a world where the government would never perpetrate a terrible fraud on the public?"

Smith stood up and paced around the other end of the table, his face hidden in gloom.

"Let's be reasonable," he said, "would an act like this really be able to be kept secret? Would the government be able to make everyone go along with a story that was a complete fake?"

"I think you're right," I said, "I think there would probably end up being people who questioned the lack of emotion from parents who supposedly lost their children and are even seen laughing, then mustering up fake emotion when they get on camera. There would be questions about the lack of emergency vehicles in front of the mall, or SWAT team at the site. There might be those who would notice an utter lack of patrons at a supposedly busy shopping center or question why none of the regular employees were working that day."

"Every one of those points was addressed in this article, Mr. Jones. It is pure insanity to go on trying to connect the dots from buckshot and insist it has a pattern."

I looked up, surprised he had pulled that little simile from his tight little, pressed gray pocket.

"Okay," I said, "I admit that I don't buy everything they said. And I'm not ready to accept a conspiracy out of the box."

Mr. Smith moved in, smiling and nodding.

"But, there are some good points in that video that no one has properly explained."

Smith didn't like that.

"Mr. Jones, it sounded as though you were about to show intellect."

"You mean, it sounded like I was going to go along with the official version without reservation?"

"Yes, that's what I meant." 

"Here's what I see. I see some good questions being raised about a government that has said 'Never let a crisis go to waste.' I've also seen some absolutely absurd allegations by the people who have raised those questions, which makes them look like a bunch of looney grass-smokers." 

Smith liked the 'grass-smokers' part, even though he probably supported legalizing pot and outlawing smoking. 

I went on, "The last time I checked, I lived in a free country where people, even the nuts who believe in alien abductions and government conspiracies were allowed to voice their views. If for no other reason, I posted that video. And I liked the idea that they were able to express their concerns." 

"Are you about done?"

"Why, you have somewhere to be?"

"No, but you do." Smith smiled broadly and spread his hands out to the side. "You see, a crazed, lone conspirator is about to walk into a bus station wearing an explosive vest hidden under a winter coat, convinced that he's stopping a government coverup in progress." 

"Let me guess, then you'll get a law passed against winter coats." 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mission: Impossible!

Navigating the downtown crowd, someone had given him a small mp3 device. The LCD display revealed a number, which matched an embossed address on the building to his right. Crossing the street, dodging the jostling cars, he skipped up three steps to the massive glass, rotating doors.

Inside, the lobby bustled with activity. A man dressed as a porter stopped in front of him, and handed him a small, manilla envelope.

"You'll find this helpful, Mr. Banks."

The porter left, mingling with the crowd near an elevator alcove, and disappeared.

Banks found a bench seat, opened the envelope and pulled a pair of ear buds out. Plugging them in to the mp3 device, he pushed the play button. Immediately, a deep, resonant voice began speaking.

"Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to warn as many people as you can about a coming disaster. You will find the tools you need in the janitors room on the other side of the elevator bay.

"Now, I should warn you, your mission will make you a target. You'll be warning people of an enemy that they don't accept as real. In fact, it's an enemy they are convinced is, essentially, good. So, you will be telling them that they're whole outlook on everyday life is backwards. Many will ignore you. Some will try to silence you.

"But there will be help. In the interest of time, I've put together a team for you. You won't be alone. But, you should know that you might be incited to argue or even fight among your team. This mission will test the fabric of your faith in its ultimate purpose. .

"If you, or any one of your team refuse this mission or fall away, deciding it isn't important, you and your actions will be disavowed. But, if you or any of your team are discovered or killed during the course of your mission, you can be sure that your message will go on. In fact, it will become stronger. And you and your actions will never be disavowed. This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds."

Banks rose from the bench, leaving the black device sitting behind. Smoke rose from it as it dissolved. Down the hall from the elevators, he found the janitor's room. Inside he found a wooden box with a book sitting on top of it. A bullhorn sat next to it.

The book had a ribbon marking a certain page. After opening it, he realized what he needed to do. 


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Saturday, January 12, 2013

In Darkness I Remain

With an act of will I choose my path, reach out to heaven, grasp grace at last.

Amid my struggle, darkness coils its tendrils round my soul.
Lifting, groaning, stepping, falling, the weight will lift, I know.

For I have made my choice, my life, I’ve chosen wisely, left the strife.

But still the soil of life ensnares me, reaps my sweat, uncovers, bares me.
My fist I shake to heaven’s gate. Where is the promise, I’ve come to hate? Where is my blessing? What sin remains? I’m left with rags and filthy stains.


Here within the wedding feast, I’m dressed to kill but not to eat.
All those around me I despise for glowing robes and then their eyes.
They see right through me, the choice I’ve made.

With mine own hand I sought to save, this wretched soul, this dirty slave.

It belonged to me, I sought to boast, my own to give, my health to toast.

Yet coming swiftly is the One, whom I fear, I loath, I shun.
My putrid clothes He must reject, and me, who wore them as his guest.

How did I come to such an end? Not by the door, not as a friend.

My will I kept to my demise, the clothes of death that never die.

He doesn’t care, my counsel firm, He meets me here, on my own term.
Yet thrown away, apart from them, I find myself alone again.
For all my work through toil and rain, the door is closed.

In darkness I remain.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Does God Need to Audition?

I had a mind to throw it against the wall. What held me back was the nice paint-job my wife had done, which I didn't want to nick or scar. I settled for closing the novel without putting the book-mark back in.

My wife asked what was wrong.

"This book is crap," I said. "I can't believe this stuff gets published. Did an editor even read this? Did the author do the least bit of research on the human race and how one might respond during a crisis? Is this actually meant to be a satire and I'm just missing the point?"

The book was a well-known novel, and, to its credit, well-loved by tens of thousands of book-buyers. So, it is very possible I was in the vast minority in my critique of the book. Or, perhaps, I'm just more ticked by having to stretch my suspension of disbelieve to sci-fi when I'm reading a standard thriller. Give me a heads-up if you're going to make people behave like androids!

And here's where it got me thinking. We all read books where we say, WTH, would anyone really do that? I think I'd just go to the police. Full disclosure: someone said the EXACT SAME thing about my novel The Next Chapter. Of course, they liked romance novels, primarily, so I took that criticism with a whole salt mine. 

Then there are those eye-rolling novels where people begin praying aloud to God. Or, worse, where God becomes a character in their book. I mean, does God have to audition for the role? And how do we humans, who can't seem to portray each other in consistently believable ways, hope to depict God in his awesome, unfathomable ways? And if a fictional character is praying, does that prayer represent true conversation with God, or is it taking God's name in vain?

Let me know what you think about this issue in the comments below. Check out my books, if you like, and let me know if you think I portray faith respectfully in a fictional context.

As a parting thought, Cecil B. DeMille, director of The Ten Commandments, said once that there were two things that couldn't be properly portrayed in film due to their highly personal nature: sex and prayer.