Thursday, July 24, 2014

Warped Together

Everyone who has a passion or hobby of some sort grows to love very specific things within that passion. For a guitarist, he might love the stiffness of a certain, rare guitar pick. For the runner, they find the particular pair of running shoes that best aids the way that their feet... hit the ground? I don't know. I can only speak of what I do know.

I am a prestidigitator - a sleight-of-hand artist, if you will. I love working with playing cards specifically, and I've learned a few things about my own tastes. I like it when card manufacturers use a thicker stock of playing card paper, like Studs (out of production). I appreciate the Linoid finish used on Tally-Ho's. I greatly value the packet-ability of Bee Wynn playing cards. This might all be Greek to you, but to me, I find great pleasure and happiness in appreciating the details. However, the flip-side of that appreciation is finding great annoyance when something is just a little bit wrong.

Warped playing cards.

It's hard to describe just how much I am disgusted with warped playing cards. Even the slightest curve make fan spreads feel wrong. They make you hate to spring the cards, because you know you will only add more distortion to the deck. And you cringe every time you see someone perform a riffle shuffle without completing it (the bridge thing), for you know that they are bending the cards without accomplishing an equal action that will unbend them. It's hard to watch.

One thing that you notice about bent playing cards is that it's almost never just one card that is warped. It is every single card in the entire deck - they are all warped together, with the same horridly unnatural twist running through the whole deck. If it was just one, you might be able to fix it; an entire deck cannot be salvaged. You must put up with them, throw them away, or do what I do and give them to people who want to play a game of cards so that you don't have to give them anything out of your more expensive decks. Selfish? Perhaps - I have 70.
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. (Galatians 5)
The fact of the matter is that we are the lump. You and me? Lump. The whole church of Christ? Lump. A lump of dough cannot be separated. You can't go into it and begin to separate the water from the flour. So whatever you do to one portion of it affects the rest. If you set a lump of dough on a table, with just the end of it peeking over the cliff, what happens? It is not just the little piece on the end that falls, it is a whole section of dough.

Just like a deck of cards, the church acts cohesively. If it allows false teaching in, large amounts of those who aren't careful will be poisoned with lies (as was happening to the Galatians). If someone in the church continues to remain in unrepentant sin, it will affect the people around him. We warp together. It is for this reason that we must be exceedingly careful about what we allow into this deck.

Oh, that we might let go of our self-centeredness and grasp the gravity of the reality that we are all responsible for each other - that what we do has ripple effects for those who God chose to be near to us. Let us not sit with our hands folded at the effects of our own sin and the onslaught of false, demonic teaching.

For this we have been doing far too long.

Friday, July 18, 2014


How dare I?
It'll be all right. I'll think about that later.
There's more than this. I know it. He has more for me. He promised.
Stop it. Right now is calling.
Ignorance is bliss. Forgiveness is always there on the other side, anyway. Plus, you've already made mistakes. We'll just consider this whole thing a package deal.
At this point there is no ignorance. There is only willful, intentional disobedience, and to call it anything else wouldn't even be a respectable attempt to lie to myself.
You think too much. Just stop thinking. God would forgive a moment of forgetfulness, no?
Of course He would! But can't you see that's not the point!? More than forgiveness, I desire repentance! I want less reasons for Christ to have to forgive me! Shut your mouth and slay thyself.
Why do you stay? Why does even the name of Christ not keep your shadow from being cast over me? Why does your darkness continually loom over my head?
Because as much as you want me to leave, you've already proved that you want me to remain. Your will is weak and slowly cracking, and I do not need more than a small sliver to wedge myself inside.
This is God we're talking about here. Maker of every atom which dares not even spin without first asking His permission. Commander of every gale and all its raindrops, He tells them not only stop, but to begin raging. Every speck of light in thunder being told, "Here, and not there." Every sonic crack making people run from the sheer terror of simply experiencing its deafening might, and might I defy this God? This God Whose throne is surrounded by exponentially more terrifying iterations of these meek earthly detonations, and I dare willfully turn my back before the One Who gives my ankles the ability to twist? Somehow, this pathetically microscopic sack of water and carbon, when faced with the immediate, unquestioning obedience of a Creation that dwarfs its existence, shakes its fist at the heavens and says, "I deny You, Mountain-Mover." And yet, this ant dares defy Mt. Everest. What frame of rational thought exists to even conceptualize this kind of rebellion? I have decided - there is none.
This is You we're talking about here. And I've already done more than enough to break Your heart. Please don't leave me. But more than forgiveness, I ask for repentance. Would You let me walk away? You are God, and, right now, I'm not the one who gets to decide what's best for me, no matter how bad I want it. After all, of what worth is denying myself and following when it costs me little? Some, I admit. But, oh, the immeasurable reward for those who choose You when storms like these rage. Oh, Storm-Maker, I know not how to give You my will for longer than the few seconds ahead, but for these few moments, it is Yours. And when he shows his face again, as he will not long from now, may I be humbled by thunder once again.
How dare I?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Open-Handed Entitlement

A few weeks ago, I was in Sibiu, Romania. It was one of my family's last days in the motherland, and we were enjoying the city that had once been voted the Cultural Capital of Europe. And in case you're wondering why some town you've never heard of in a country you think is a part of Italy got that title, it's because of the many nations that gather in the city year-round for festivals and events. Plus, it's beautiful to a level that goes beyond ridonkulous.

We sat down at a little restaurant away from the crowds and ordered some food. I got up to go to the bathroom, and when I got to the sink to wash my hands, I stuck my hand underneath the soap dispenser and waited. And waited. It took me a bit of time to figure out that this soap dispenser was, in fact, not automatic - a fact that came as a bit of a surprise considering the reality that most of them nowadays are.

Our society is teaching us things. Sometimes, it's small stuff, like sticking out an open hand and expecting a dollop of soap to magically be squished out of a dispenser. Other times, we stick out an open hand and expect it to be filled with free money from the government so that we can pay for school. Or housing. Or (insert whatever you want right here). I mean, that's fine, right? We do deserve it, after all. We've worked so hard to, uh... you know, exist. We should be rewarded for our efforts!

There are good things about my generation. Plenty. We work together well. We're huge on innovation. We love approaching age-old issues with fresh perspectives. However, one of our greatest disadvantages lies wrapped in one word: entitlement. We expect things to just be handed to us. When we get those things, we aren't super grateful, and when we don't, we get angry. We are the generation that was raised to think that everybody's a winner, we can be anything we want, and we shouldn't have to work as hard as our parents worked. 
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3)
So, good news - the truth is, we're right! We are entitled! We are entitled to all that comes with falling short of the glory of God, namely, death. That's right, because of the excellent strides we've made in loving sin and showing our disrespect for God by doing everything that He told us not to, we get to stick out our hand and expect eternal torment and punishment for everything we've done to earn it with all the hours we've put in to this daily grind of sin. Yay!

*Puts sarcasm aside.*

Dear friends, approaching faith in Jesus Christ by feeling deserving of anything more than God's wrath is destruction. Not only is it flat out unBiblical to expect God to give you a fancy car, the perfect job, and great health 'till the day you die of old age in your sleep, but it sets us up for great disappointment. 
"In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16)
Every single thing that God gives us is a gift, from the beating of your heart to the strength in your legs. The oxygen in your lung branches to the slow growth of your fingernails: gifts. The alarm clock that wakes you up and the waking hours to serve Christ that face you after it does: gifts. The struggles of life that break us to be rebuilt and the pain that makes us hope for the rest of Heaven's gates: gifts. These gifts, in fact, force us to face the Gift-Giver, Who, through the merits of His own grace and perfection, becomes the only One actually entitled to blessing. So, if you stick out your open hand, expect it to be filled with the hand of someone who needs to be pulled up.

This is your entitlement.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gaudy, But No God

You may think that I have gotten lazy and not posted anything on this dear website of mine, but au contrair, dear, dear reader (please read that with all of the anger it's due). Though I have been out of the country for the past month, I've made sure that I would have some stored-up articles ready to be posted every week. I simply have not announced them, o impassioned follower of Kingdom Eyes. I do believe I am allowed to take a vacation, no? (I really need to start being nicer.) I went to Romania.

Let's start off by saying that you need to stop everything you're doing right now, buy a plane ticket, and go to Romania. Like, right now. It's that great. I truly believe it is one of the most hidden gems of geographical and historical beauty that exists in the world. And yes, I know it is hidden because when I tell people my family is from Romania, they think I'm some Italian or something.

Anyway, woven into the history of this great nation is its involvement with the Eastern Orthodox church. Almost all of the great monasteries, cathedrals, and monuments scattered throughout Romania are Orthodox constructions, and they present a very unique and distinctive look and feel when compared to the religious buildings of other countries.

I won't dive into all of the difficulties and problems I have with the Orthodox church, but I will simply give an example that might get you to see what has molded my view of it:

My family had the opportunity to spend time with a group of Orthodox priests and monks, visiting various monasteries and churches. Contrasting with the often clean, un-cluttered look of Catholic cathedrals, stepping into an Orthodox church consists of first being affronted with the overwhelming smell that results from burning incense in a small room for hundreds of years. Once your eyes adjust to the light, you are bombarded with floor-to-ceiling, multi-colored, gold-laden depictions of Biblical characters and stories, painted in the same Byzantine art style that has existed for centuries. There you will find golden icons, relics, and artifacts which people touch, kiss, and rub their religious products all over for the betterment of their loved ones, all in accordance with their "holy tradition". But above all this noise, I was impressed with one important detail:

It was small.

This monumental building with all of its religious splendor could fit no more than perhaps 30 people inside of it. Don't get me wrong: from the outside, it was quite sizeable. But venturing to the inside, you find that man's attempt to create religious splendor crowds out the very people that would come to worship in this place. In the exorbitant amount of money spent to build and maintain this monstrosity of a building, there is no room for the needy and searching soul that might come to its doors.
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24)
O God, that we might not become obsessed with appearance and pride and forget the poor man who lives in brokenness. Let not our buildings and services become theater, but a home and a place for family to come and fellowship. Rebuke our desire for architectural and visual majesty at the cost of the orphan. If we must tear down our concrete so we may have bricks for the widow's home, let it be so.

You have already given us the most sophisticated temple, constructed by Your own hands; let us not frustrate ourselves in the futility of making something better.