“YOLO, yo…”

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “YOLO,” which stands for “you only live once.” Of course many people will know that this is really a hip way of saying “carpe diem,” which is Latin for “seize the day.”

Countless people have tweeted, updated their statuses, and uploaded Instagram photos using this phrase as a hash-tag as if to say, “Life is short, so this is what I’m doing.” On the positive side is the cherishing of every single moment in life. But on the negative side, which happens way more than it should, is the living recklessly.

No, not everyone who uses this phrase is reckless. In fact, I think most who use this phrase do not have a reckless or irresponsible lifestyle. But there are many who do and one can clearly see why: it justifies whatever one is doing, whether good or bad.

It justifies getting drunk every night despite the amount of homework one has. It says that it’s okay to sleep around or to try different kinds of drugs. “Life is short,” goes the reasoning, “might as well.” It is dangerous because it promotes the forbidden. It’s like Adam and Eve in the Garden; Adam says, “No, we shouldn’t eat that fruit!” Eve replies, “YOLO, yo.” Adam says, “Fair point, okay…”

What can we do to replace such an ideology?

Answer: YOLE.

You only live eternally.

Or to put it another way, you only die once; you spend the rest of the time alive. I don’t intend to get into any kind of lengthy discussion about heaven and hell, which one’s real, which one’s sort of real. But I will say that I tend to agree with Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz; that hell is simply eternal loneliness. Or C.S. Lewis’ (at least I think it was him) belief that whatever we wanted we’d get for eternity, but we’d get the consequences for eternity as well.

What’s my point? This current life matters not because we should try everything and live whatever crazy lives we want to; but because we are being prepared for eternity.

If we want to live well with God for eternity, then we must be living well with God now. We must be guarding ourselves against unhealthy teachings and practicing the healthy teachings – or as Paul says, “sound doctrine.”

No, I don’t mean that belief statement you once signed or were asked to sign; I mean beliefs that promote a healthy and Spirit-filled walk with the Lord. I mean teachings that lead us to be selfless, kind, patience, self-controlled, humble; to regard others as better than ourselves and to see ourselves not as someone who ought to be served, but rather to serve.

“Sound doctrine” could also be translated as “healthy doctrine,” which essentially points out that whatever we believe determines our spiritual health. If we believe that we ought to sleep around and get drunk, then we aren’t going to have very healthy spiritual lives (or even healthy physical lives). But if we believe that true religion or true Godliness is loving God and loving your neighbor, then we will be healthy.

We are being prepared for eternity like high school students for college. If we are only being selfish, then we’re going to get nothing but ourselves for eternity. No one to talk to, to laugh with, or to hold. If we are allowing ourselves to be persuaded by public opinion and what the masses say, then we will be constantly going with the flow, heading straight for the waterfall.

To prepare well for eternity, Paul says, is to live a healthy life – not being controlled by pleasures and comforts of this world, but seeking to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Being spiritually healthy means being kind, patient, peaceful, loving, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22). Seize the day to prepare for tomorrow.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things,” Philippians 4:8, NASB

You only live eternally; how are you preparing?

God bless.

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A New Kind of Man…

“We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character,” C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I don’t like to talk about it much because it is terribly embarrassing, even shameful, but my struggles with internet purity have not gone well recently. Tonight marks only the 14th night in a row wherein I have not gone to a dirty site. Although it’s been two weeks, my mind still often entertains the images, which rekindles the urges all over again, which then makes my fight for purity that much more difficult.

Reading has helped quite a bit. It’s gotten me away from the computer and focused onto something far better and much more respectable. C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain has been particularly helpful, though probably not in the way he intended. His entire discussion in this book (as far as I have read, anyway) has been about why pain exists and what function it plays in our spiritual lives. Since this is a topic that at least hints at origins of one thing or another, Genesis 3 has often been the reference point for Christians to say, “This is why pain exists.”

Lewis, however, does not paint the picture that simply. He’s gotten into some much deeper subjects, but still discussing the story within Genesis 3 as a necessary topic. When he describes the original humans (as symbolized by Adam and Eve) he points out where they went wrong (and where we go wrong nearly on a daily basis):

“They wanted, as we say, to ‘call their souls their own.’ But that means to live a lie, for our souls are not, in fact, our own. They wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, ‘This is our business, not yours.’ But there is no such corner. They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives. – Page 75

What then happened when the first humans insisted upon themselves was an internal shift of power: A shift from spiritual (and therefore total) control to natural (and therefore painful) consequences. Lewis writes:

“Thus the organs, no longer governed by man’s will, fell under the control of ordinary biochemical laws and suffered whatever the inter-workings of those laws might bring about in the way of pain, senility and death (***Side note: Lewis did not use the Oxford comma! Chew on that, Tyler and Cindy!***). And desires began to come up into the mind of man, not as his reason chose, but just as the biochemical and environmental facts happened to cause them.” – Pages 77-78

Insistence upon self means the destruction of man. No, I do not mean we will all necessarily die off and cease as being a species upon this earth. I mean that whatever God intended humans to be with His creation of the prototypical man and woman can no longer be. Those blueprints were tossed out the window when the fruit was eaten. What then can be the future of mankind?

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive,” – St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:22

God must have known that his original blueprints were tarnished after the first pair chose for themselves. But that didn’t mean all hope had been lost. By Christ’s willful surrender of His own life, power was returned to the spirit of a man by the Spirit of God.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” St Paul, Philippians 2:8

Man as God originally created him was then able to recover total control, but only by complete self-surrender to God. We cannot be nouns; we must be adjectives.

In describing the “Paradisal man,” Lewis says:

“His data, so to speak, were a psycho-physical organism wholly subject to the will and a will wholly disposed, though not compelled, to turn to God. The self-surrender which he practiced before the Fall meant no struggle but only the delicious overcoming of an infinitesimal self-adherence which delighted to be overcome – of which we see a dim analogy in the rapturous mutual self-surrenders of loves even now.” – Page 76

In the Garden, Adam did not struggle to surrender to God; it was a part of his very nature. He had not even begun to acknowledge his own existence; “I think, therefore I am” did not apply to him, for he knew not of “I.” But when he did, that’s when surrendering to God became difficult – painful even. Yet, when Christ rose from the dead, so, too, did the blueprints for the prototypical man – and much stronger, also.

If we live by Christ, then we have total control over ourselves. We are then able to master our desires, especially the ones we thought most difficult or even unbeatable. As long as we genuinely follow and surrender to Christ, then lust, pride, unwholesome language, and many other potentially-sinful inclinations are now being re-wired out of our genetic mainframe and His Spiritual genes re-wired into it. Adam displayed what a God man could do; Christ displayed what a perfect God man can do.

By Christ’s doing, I am now consciously in control of my desires – something Adam didn’t have. It isn’t my second nature to surrender to God’s commandments – and do so delightedly. I must fight to allow God to change that within me, but I do not fight alone. God lives within me. His genes are becoming my genes. Like Christ being God’s Son, I, too, am becoming a child of God.

My personal struggles will always be present – until I die or Christ returns. But knowing that control is being returned to my choices makes my struggles a little easier, yet more essential to deal with. As my pastor, Tony, once said, “The closer I grow to Christ, the more aware I am of my own sins.” Yet, what I’ve discovered within the last couple of days is equally true: The more I walk with Christ, the more I become the “new kind of man” God is creating.

God bless.

Our Hearts; God’s Palace…

I’ve talked about this before, but I have some serious trust issues. Few friends know of my deeper struggles and shortcomings in life and even fewer friends know of my doubts and fears. When it comes to making new or deeper friendships, “Trust is earned,” becomes my favorite motto. But is this mindset, this attitude, appropriate for our relationship with God?

When I think about the meaning of the phrase, “Trust is earned,” I often wonder if people thought this way in the Garden of Eden. Did Adam and Eve ever have trust issues with God? Scripture doesn’t say whether they did or not; Adam worked hard every day with no notion of a wife nor any desire for one and yet God surprised him with Eve. It seems to me that trust in God was inherent in the Garden.

Why did this evaporate? Our simple answer is, “The Fall”; when Eve ate the forbidden fruit and gave some to her husband. But The Fall was only an act of sin; it was a break of trust. That snake persuaded both Adam and Eve – although he asked Eve directly – to distrust God; he told them He was holding out on them. When they ate that fruit, they displayed their belief that God wasn’t giving them everything. Their trust in Him was broken.

My trust issues, which I believe stemmed from never knowing my biological father, often have an influence on my walk with God. I often attempt to make moves on my own because I don’t believe God will provide. For example: finding a wife. There have been several seasons of my life where I was reckless with my approach to women. I didn’t proceed with caution to guard their hearts; I was trying – almost desperately – to win them over. I wanted a wife so badly that I took matters into my own hands. In a sense, I ate the forbidden fruit; I displayed to God that I did not trust Him.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life,” – Proverbs 4:23

This Proverb is often used as the reason behind the motto, “Trust is earned.” We want to guard our hearts and emotions lest we get hurt – and hurt badly. I completely agree with this idea and that’s why this Proverb is posted on the side of my blog: It’s the verse with which I go about my day-to-day and how I approach my friendships and relationships (obviously, not always; but most of the time). But when it comes to God, I think our trust in Him should be inherent.

In the prior chapter of Proverbs, verse 5 says this; Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” In fact this entire chapter lists the benefits of inherently trusting God; our paths will be straight, our bodies will be healthy, our bones will be well-nourished (Hebrew connotes a sense of “fattened” or “thickened”), and the Lord will be our confidence. Why then do I find myself becoming anxious about my future – finding a wife, getting a job, etc.?

I would have to say it’s because I’ve retrojected my experience with my fellow humans back onto God and His character. But this is something Scripture emphasizes throughout the entire Bible: God is not like our human fathers. He cares for us always; not sometimes and bails. Always.

Our lives in Christ are in constant change. Why? Because the side effects of that first break of trust long, long ago are still reverberating back onto us. We’ve become inherently dysfunctional; set to repeatedly mess up in our relationships with each other and God. The process in becoming like Christ – like the true sons and daughters of God we were created to be – is a process in which our old dysfunctional ways are being removed. We’re being rewired to the tune of God. What I am finding to be the most helpful action on my part is if I simply live out my days throwing my entire trust into God – truly trusting Him with all of my heart.

Yes, I will have doubts. Yes, I will worry. And yes, this life with all of its trials will bombard my heart and soul. But unlike my emotions, God doesn’t change. He cares for us the same today as He did yesterday and as He will tomorrow. The challenge of faith is then an issue of trust: If we remain steadfast with the One who is Perfect, our lives will be filled with peace. God wants us to inherently trust Him – not only so that we may remain faithful to obeying His commandments, but also because He’s building a new kingdom in and through us.

Earlier this morning, I met with my pastor, Tony. We were reading through John 12 and verses 42 and 43 stood out to him:

“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

It reminded him of a quote from C.S. Lewis, which neither of us remembered correctly, but was something along the lines of this: We invite God into our homes and are glad He is there. But then he starts tearing down walls and removing the foundation; that’s when we want to throw Him out. What we don’t realize is that He doesn’t like the house we’ve built for ourselves; He wants to build us a palace.

No, our trust issues here in this life do not apply to God. We ought to do ourselves a favor by inherently – as if it were no problem at all – trusting in Him in all the renovations He’s doing in our hearts. He’s a big God and doesn’t want a small house; He wants a palace for His Kingdom.

God bless.

Adam and Eve: The “Intended World”?

For the past couple of weeks I’ve had a lingering question on my mind about 1 Corinthians 15:45-47. I think there is a general theme within the Christian culture that regards the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden as a depiction of what life was intended to be, but was not. In other words, I had looked at this story as the intended world. And then a couple weeks ago, a discussion arose about the old Adam and the new Adam from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.”

It seems that Paul debunks this notion of the “intended world” of the Garden of Eden by suggesting that Adam, though he was the first man, was incomplete because he lacked the spiritual; “It is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual,” (v.46). If this is the case, then it almost indirectly suggests God’s foresight in creating the world. If He knew that the Adam He was creating in Genesis 2 was still going to be incomplete, then wouldn’t that suggest He had a plan throughout it all anyway?

Another question that gets raised is a famous one that many agnostics have asked (and probably haven’t been satisfied with the answers): Why pain? If God is a loving God as the N.T. portrays and this is the same God of the Hebrew Bible, then why would He create a world fully knowing that pain would be wrought onto the people He created? This isn’t really a question that I intend to address here, but I find it closely tied in with creation. In this particular text of 1 Cor. 15:45-47, however, it hints at the possibility that God did not initially create a complete world. In other words, Adam’s world is not the intended world, but rather the foundation on which the completed world would eventually be built.

It seems to me that we as humans (especially Americans) desire a God that will give us what we want. For some, it’s an I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine sort of theme where the man makes a “self-less” contribution to his local or national society, but then expects God to reward him for his great deed. In a very similar way, when we try to address the problem of pain in the world, we usually portray a God that will give us what we want. Pain is terrible and we don’t want it, therefore God should take it away. At least, this seems to be the reasoning. And yet all the while, we tend to forget that our God is not some sugar-daddy.

He does not go out of His way to spoil His children with riches and fame and every possible gratification. “Well, but doesn’t He love us?” Yes, He does; and that’s exactly why He doesn’t give in to our will. He’s God – He sees the broader picture in life and knows exactly what would happen if He did give us everything we wanted; we wouldn’t worship Him. We wouldn’t take delight in Him, we wouldn’t love Him, and we wouldn’t seek His comfort for the sake of being comforted. God doesn’t need any of us. But He wants to be with us.

Reading on in 1 Corinthians 15, I don’t find an answer to why God created an incomplete world that would quickly be filled with pain. Instead, I find a clue, a hint, a world that is arriving: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven,” (v.49). The spiritual world has broken into the natural. Our pain emerges because these two worlds have collided and are waging a massive war. What we find in the risen Christ isn’t some magician, isn’t some genie in a bottle granting our every wish; He’s our King building His kingdom.

This post may have raised more questions than it answered and if so, then my job was done. The problem of pain is much more complex than we could really understand. It raises a lot of doubts and fears about believing in God and it has caused many to fall away from faith. But what I’ve seen in this passage in 1 Corinthians is a God with an elaborate plan. He built the physical, natural world with the natural beings of Adam and Eve. And ever since Jesus broke in, tied up the strong man, and began plundering the household, He has begun to build the spiritual world (Matt. 12:29).

We would be wise to trust what He’s doing and allow Him to continue His work.

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To open the discussion, how do you answer the problem of pain? Or do you even try?

My Life-long Christmas Wish…

Days like today make me want a wife. It started off well, but ended on a bad note and I came home to an empty apartment; no one to vent to. I don’t necessarily need a wife to vent to, I guess; a girlfriend to call would suffice. But even so, being alone just sucks sometimes. I don’t really hang out with my roommates all too often, but merely having them here in the same apartment is a comforting thing in itself. When they’re not here and I’m feeling lonely, that’s when marriage seems to make practical sense.

I don’t like writing about how much I truly desire a wife because it usually only increases the yearning. And then it turns to eagerness. And then it turns to desperation; I do not want to marry a girl out of desperation. That has emotional destruction written all over it. No, at this point in my life, I believe I’ll be married soon enough, but yet there are moments where I wish she was here already. She wouldn’t have to say anything at all; just someone to listen and bear with my venting about overpriced car maintenance or the hope of a better-paying job in the future. It’d just be nice.

In hindsight, my day wasn’t all that bad. I had a great morning Bible study with Tony, my pastor, and then I picked up my paycheck. But that’s about where it went south; not even twenty minutes after depositing my check, over two-thirds of it evaporated in a couple engine services from Oil Can Henry’s. There really wasn’t much I could do about either; basically my car was either going to blow its engine today or in a week from now if I didn’t get some things cleaned out. Realizing that it’d be riskier not to get the system flushes that I needed, I handed the guy my card and watched that fresh money go down the drain with the sludge clogging my car. It just sucked.

Usually after something as unfortunate as expensive car repair is, every little thing that could possibly annoy me does; a book I ordered is not yet available to me (even though the tracking system from FedEx says “Delivered”), I’m out of beer, and then the TV remote suddenly stopped working, so it was impossible for me to change the channel (the buttons on the side wouldn’t change the channel, either). Being alone with nothing to take my mind off my frustrations did not help at all.

As I’ve said elsewhere, being married means so much more than sex. It means having a companionship, an intimate friendship, and just not being alone anymore. Sure, there’ll be the days when we’ll need our one-on-one time with God, but aside from that, for the most part, there’ll always be someone else to work my schedule out with because I won’t be alone.

I’ve been thinking about marriage for the last couple days now, mostly because I watched the movie Hitch and felt inspired to throw myself out there for a girl (literally, if need be), but also because I’m just tired of having lots to say about nothing in particular, but yet no one to really say it to. I’ve got some close buddies, yes, and a grandpa who’s a constant chatter-box, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is laying out on the couch, mindlessly flipping through TV channels (assuming the remote works), while wrapping my arms around a cute girl whose hair smells amazing. I’m talking about the only kind of friendship that goes beyond all other friendships; the kind of relationship that is second to one’s relationship with God; and the kind of existence that is no longer an “I,” but rather a “we.”

Trust me, I asked Santa for this for as long as I believed in him and I’ve been asking God for as long as I’ve been following Him and in all likelihood, I won’t find her under that mistletoe in my doorway (metaphorically speaking; I don’t actually have mistletoe hanging from my doorway… or do I? 😉 ). This type of friendship my heart craves is a kind of friendship that develops with time. She could be a girl I already know but haven’t yet seen in that context or she could be a girl who shakes up my world from the day that I meet her, I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that with as difficult as marriage will be for me, I’ll remember this day – with as “sucky” as it was (thanks Buddy the Elf) – to remind me of what I really long for and what I truly value from a woman; not her body, but her presence.

I guess at the end of the day, I feel like Adam when he was still naming animals. Eventually I’ll find my Eve, but probably not before I get done with writing down all those names. I don’t know what that looks like exactly in modern-day times, but I know it requires diligence, patience, and a constant, unwavering trust that when God said, “It isn’t good for man to be alone,” He meant it.