Saturday, July 16, 2022

Unbalanced Truth

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. -Matthew 23:23-24

This passage says much about human nature. An aspect of our nature that the disciple should seek to overcome, but frequently we do not even stop to consider it. Our tendency to over-emphasize one area that inadvertently leads to neglect of another. When you get down to it, Christianity is not a salad bar where you just take the parts you want and leave the rest behind. So it's no wonder that the people who approach it this way end up with an unbalanced spiritual diet, with far too much junk food on their plate.

I just spent all last year pointing out one of these imbalances. Specifically the most neglected dimension of holiness. Yet, I tried to frequently remind everyone that wholeness is but one dimension that is tied to the other two. We seek wholeness not just for the sake of self, but so that we can be better equipped to live a more righteous life. As well as discover what we are set apart for in God's kingdom so that we can touch the lives of others. Far too often we try to skip to the end or get stuck in the middle of the process.

One could probably write a thousand-page book on all the ways we neglect one truth for the sake of another, but for this blog let's just address this one example subject that seems to be in my face a lot lately, service. When we get down to it, we can serve self, serve God, or serve others. It can be really easy to convince ourselves that one of these is more important than the others. Even if it is, that does not necessarily mean the others are completely irrelevant. So getting them out of balance can actually impede what it is that we are trying to emphasize. While it may seem rather vain to serve self, and it often is. But, we got to remember Jesus himself took time to eat, sleep, as well as go to isolated places to pray. So obviously denying self does not go that far. Jesus set an example of being a good steward of self. To remind us that if we allow ourselves to get drained to the point that we can't serve God or others very efficiently, then our overemphasis has indeed become counter-productive.

There are three dimensions to serving self as well, physical, emotional, and spiritual. While they are separate and distinct, they are interconnected as well. Suffering a debilitating physical illness can take an emotional and spiritual toll on us. Just as emotional stress can bleed into our physical well-being. So we can't treat any of these as completely unimportant either.

There is nothing noble about stuffing our faces with junk food and letting our health suffer for it, even if on some immature level it is a form of serving self. Just as there is nothing noble about over-emphasizing our physical health out of pure vanity. That is only serving self for the sake of admiration and praise. Self for self's sake, if you will. Somewhere in the middle of all this extremism, there is a proper balance that allows us to better serve God and others without wearing ourselves down.

Our emotional needs are a bit more complicated. Yet, we often see one of two extremes. Following feelings blindly, or denying them entirely. Treating our emotions as absolute truth often just leads us to provoke feelings we want, and cover up feelings we don't. This approach can lead to a lot of sinful actions as a quick and easy pain killer to our broken hearts. Never truly facing or dealing with the emotional wounds that are holding us back spiritually. While we often deny emotions to avoid the pain of our scars as well. However, you can't contain feelings forever, they will rear their ugly head, eventually. Somewhere in the middle, we find healing and ultimately wholeness. This is the first step to true holiness. Yet I repeat, not the only step.

Our spiritual well-being is a little more complicated than we often treat it as well. True spiritual well-being is achieved by seeking God, and his truth. Then apply that truth by seeking all three dimensions of holiness. Not by just knowing a definition of it. In embracing the full spectrum of holiness, there's spiritual prosperity and fulfillment. Many may say otherwise, but how would they know, they are only following one dimension of holiness. People like that definitely need some more fruit in their proverbial salad. For many, spirituality is just going to church to get uplifted by the music. I dare say they may be getting emotions and the spirit mixed up. I liken this to buying a Bucket of chicken and only eating the skin, that's very immature and unhealthy. That part of the chicken has its place, but only as a single part of a well-balanced spiritual diet.

While serving others often seems very noble on the surface, sometimes our motivations in doing so are less than noble. We often see approval addicts taking on a self-sacrificial mantra, but it's actually motivated by a desire for acceptance, inclusion, and validation. They are merely trying to buy loyalty, not benefit others. They are actually serving themselves in a very covert way. For the disciple, where your heart is at matters, it's not merely about surface behavior. (Mark 7:6)

Let me also remind you that Jesus told us that serving God and others is very much intertwined. (Matthew 25:40-45) So if in our attempt to emphasize serving God we end up neglecting people, or treating them with contempt, we have failed miserably at serving God as he wants us to. It's such a simple truth, but we see it being violated with such alarming frequency. All because some find that truth inconvenient, and unpleasant. So we try to skip over that in the salad bar of discipleship and try to compensate by taking a double portion of the camel, so to speak. It just doesn't work that way, because an incomplete truth can be just as bad as a falsehood. So I close by asking you this, are you practicing the whole truth, or are you neglecting something that you have a problem with or find too difficult? Or maybe you're just too fond of the sinful shortcuts to self-care that you have rationalized? If so, what are you going to do about it?


a man trying to force cylinders in to various shaped holes.


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Powerless

Blasphemy of the spirit or the unforgivable sin as it is also known; is a subject that isn't talked about much. Maybe that is why so many are getting dangerously close to crossing that line these days. I think the best way to understand what Jesus meant by this is to simply read all three gospel references in context. (Matthew 12:22-37, Mark 3:20-34, Luke 12:1-12) I say that because I have read many commentaries on these passages, and many get rather absurd. Trying to interject conditions and time frames into the applicability of the passage, despite that Jesus' words are rather straightforward, and there's nothing in them to support any such variables. But, if I were to summarize it in simple terms, blasphemy of the Spirit is simply accusing the Holy Spirit of being evil. Why is this important? If one were to experience something that cannot be explained by conventional means, it would be very easy to react in fear and dub the unfamiliar as wicked. Where we should be more deliberate and cautious about the event from both ends. (1st John 4:1-3) Not just reject all spirits to avoid what may be evil, because rejecting the Holy Spirit is the greater sin.

Granted, when we read the gospels or Acts it may seem like something supernatural happens every day. In reality, these books take place over multiple years, and we are just getting the highlights. I'm sure those who say things like that don't happen anymore are not taking that into account. Then again, there may be some arrogance behind it too. Such people often think that if miracles were to happen today, they would be entitled to them. Since it hasn't happened to them, it must not happen anymore. However, it's more likely their lack of humility that keeps the Spirit from working in their life.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.-2nd Timothy 3:1-5

This passage hits the nail on the head, all the way down to denying Godly power. Many today are turning the Trinity into the Father, the Son, and the Bible. Their main argument for doing this is that if it aligns with the scripture, then what the Spirit says is redundant. My main problem with this is that the ancient Hebrews had scripture, yet Jesus had to correct their misapplication of it at times. (Matt. 5:33-48 & 23:23-24) I have no doubt that if Jesus came back today the first thing that he would do is correct the church. This is probably why many deny the Spirit, they don't want anyone disrupting their presuppositions, humbling them in their pride, questioning their traditions, or asking them to be more gracious to people they despise. Besides, sometimes we just need someone to jog our memory at the right time; the spirit is good at this.

Not that the Spirit is only about relaying information, he offers strength as well. What good is it to go to so much trouble to define a moral standard, only to deny us the very strength we need to overcome the sinful nature of the flesh that stands in the way of living up to that standard? Otherwise, you are resisting the flesh by the power of the flesh. Naturally, you shouldn't be surprised if your own strength pulls some punches in that battle.

Let me offer one last observation, in most passages where the Holy Spirit shows up, apart from prayer, it tends to be rather unexpected. Nobody is invoking him like magic or bending him to fulfill their will. He just shows up to empower us when we need more than our own strength to fulfill God's will. This may be another aversion many have to the spirit. We want a say in which way that wind blows, so he won't take us to uncomfortable waters. That is more about faith in self than God. So it's no wonder the church universal has become so powerless; we don't really know the advocate. (John 14:15-20) With the state of the church being what it is, it will take more than man-made programs to revive us. But that won't happen if we offend our helper.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” -John 3:8

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, -1st Thessalonians 5:19-21

a man swiping at the Holy Spirit with a Bible




Monday, June 6, 2022

Between Anger and Sadness

In my Mystery of the Heart video, I pointed out how the Bible never uses the word emotions or comments on them in general. Yet, it does mention specific emotions.

With the art for suicide prevention show coming up I find myself thinking about specific feelings. I say that because the theme is always hope, which I approach very cautiously. Speaking from experience pressuring people to put on a happy face for the sake of the comfort of others can be very detrimental for the one being pressured. There is plenty of research to back up this statement as well. So the last thing I want to do is become a source of pressure for the depressed by just telling people to have hope and not showing them the way there.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that believes that examining sadness magnifies sorrow, yet indulging anger releases it. Yet, all the research on the subject says just the opposite. We see this faulty perception perpetuated in the recycled tv plot where somebody is trying to control their temper, only to blow up at the end. Then express great relief after 3 seconds. In reality, this explosion would only open a floodgate of multiple destructive waves. As well as the recurring scene where someone is trying to hit a baseball or get a strike in bowling is told to imagine the target as someone you hate. This actually blunts your edge, not sharpen it. Anger management classes wouldn't need to be a thing if the Hollywood reality were actually true.

Not to mention society routinely criticizes the melancholic. Granted there will always be those people that only want to constantly illicit sympathy, and never move forward. However, this person may actually be a narcissist who is manipulating you into treating them the way they feel entitled to. Such people actually have a high opinion of themselves and are not genuinely sorrowful at all. Some narcissists really do give the depressed a bad name. The truth is, the most effective way to overcome sadness is to face it, not deny or detour around it.

I bring this up because the Bible was way ahead of the curve when it comes to these psychological findings. Even if the church is slow to live by said truths.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires. -James 1:19-20

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, -Ephesians 4:26

We are warmed to not indulge our anger blindly, or even bottle it up. Rather deal with it deliberately. This requires self-examination, instead of just blaming everyone else.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. -Psalm 126:5-6

See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. -2nd Corinthians 7:11

We are instructed to keep moving forward in our sadness, instead of coming to a standstill as the depressed tend to. As well as take direction from examining our sorrow, instead of ignoring it. Plus, so many of David’s Psalms are such honest expressions of sorrow. So why in the world are we encouraging such utter dishonesty when it comes to sadness? Why do we think we have failed as Christians when we feel sad? If anything scripture paints it as a big part of our growth as people, and ultimately disciples. So why shun a potentially transformative process?

“Boys are taught, sometimes with the best of intentions, to mutate their emotional suffering into anger.” -Andrew Reiner, Towson University

The final years before my brother had taken his own life were earmarked by much anger. Only in hindsight can we see all the sorrow behind all that anger. This worldly advice of shun your sadness, but not your anger did not serve him well at all, if anything it contributed to his death. So I would discourage you from doing the same. Yet more important, don't encourage others to take this faulty path either, no matter how uncomfortable it may make you. Believe me when I say the potential ramifications are far worse.

I myself try to live by the mantra, feelings are not necessarily true nor are they inherently false. So many go to either extreme and for those that do, they always find out the hard way when they get a particular issue backward. Easy to say, but not always easy to live out, especially when the Achilles heel of your spirit is being tripped. Yet it's important to know where they are; it reveals so much about us. It's an important part of self-examination and awareness. Speaking as an artist, it truly is the exciting part of the journey.

The pressure to be happy
Social psychologists have found that the expectation to be happy can cause great pressure (A pressure we often put on ourselves) Great enough that it can cause unhappiness Ironically enough. 



Thursday, May 12, 2022

Equipping the Church

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. -Ephesians 4:11-13

Paul specifically mentions five types of equippers of the church. While there is some overlap, our understanding of the distinction between these roles have become a bit muddy in present day. Therefore, there are obvious issues in applying the passage. It's important for all church participants to have a general knowledge of all five roles, not just the one we are gifted at, or work with. For one, we won't know how to work with one another if we don't understand what the other parts are actually doing, and why. Plus. It can be very easy to over emphasize our particular talent, and hence become inadvertently dismissive of the others. While we may mean well in doing so, Jesus never intended his church to be built by one type of servant.

To defy his will on this is to make church more about self than God. This is a real problem that can rob us of many blessings, as well as the structural integrity of the church. So naturally, we need to educate ourselves so that we can better equip one another as Jesus would have.

It takes well-equipped people to build a strong church. Yet, I keep hearing about the need to build up the church, but nobody is talking about equipping the people of the church so that can happen. I also hear people saying Go and make disciples, but I don't see anyone equipping people to do that either. One may argue that people should be able to do what they are called to by the anointing of the spirit. Yet, the church teaches so little of that subject as well. So I dare say we need to take a step back and take a closer look at what scripture says about equipping the church.

Apostles. While the word apostle is often used synonymously with disciple, this is not entirely accurate. The word disciple implies a student or trainee, not so with Apostle. The word Apostle literally means "send out" so on the surface there is an implication of missionary attached to it. The first-generation church naturally had to be dedicated to missions. However, there is another more subtle implication, one who leads the way for the rest of the followers. All the first-generation church leaders went by this title for that reason after all. Why don't ours? Apostles are mentioned first here, as well as in 1st Corinthians 12:28 for a reason.

Prophets. One who obtains divine knowledge through supernatural means. With false prophets being a very real thing, many churches have effectively dismissed this as something of the past. Some have even gone as far as to denounce it. Thinking it's better to stay away from the idea completely, to avoid those who would abuse the position. The question is, are we throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and the tub too.

Evangelists are proclaimers of the gospel. It's their job to connect with people, share the good news, and recruit. Naturally, this is where you start, since it is the gateway position that keeps the others busy. If there is no evangelism, your church can become an isolated island.

Pastors. A common understanding of the position of a pastor seems to be one who wears all the hats of ministry, but is this accurate? The term did not even get applied to the position that we know until the Protestant movement. Pastor literarily means "Shepherd of souls." If we look to the metaphorical image of the shepherd found in scripture for insight into whom the pastor really is; (Psalm 23) we will see that the pastor is a guide, protector, and comforter. You might have heard the term pastoral care, but that's a redundant phrase. A sign we are applying the task to the wrong people.

Teachers. This one is straightforward; a teacher teaches. Yet, the present age puts this task mostly upon our actual apostles anymore. Granted, there is an element of teaching in every position, which makes this dedicated position without any other implications attached to it something to consider indeed. Obviously a very important element. Our lack of in-depth teaching has led to the aforementioned misunderstandings about said terminology.

There is a time in every believer's life that they must get equipped, as well as a time to step up and equip others themselves. Or at least assist the equippers. Unfortunately, I see people being pushed into said roles far too quickly. As well as those who spend decades in the church, always consuming, but never producing. Yet, as the passage indicates a church built by Christ's standard should be producing servants, unity in the faith, knowledge of the Son of God, maturity, and fullness in Christ. If we manage all that, church growth should inevitably follow. If these signs of fruitfulness just aren't there anymore, maybe it's time to stop and take a long hard look at our methodology in equipping the church. As you may now see, since we have lost sight of the terminology, we might have lost sight of how to equip the church.

The Visual PARABLEist

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” -Matthew 9:37-38

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. -Hebrews 5:11-14

A man reaching into a painting to grab a sword and sheild

Monday, April 18, 2022

A Post Easter Message

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, -Philippians 2:12

Have you ever really stopped to think about what this verse really means. It’s a rather important point that fits into the theme of my recent Lenten social media posts. That we often put the resurrection on the shelf after Easter, at least until next year. Never venturing into true transformative discipleship.

The phrase “continue to work out your salvation” implies that holiness is indeed a process that takes time to implement. As well as there is something that isn’t working right, which interferes with our obedience. Since Jesus reveals in Matthew 15:19-29 that the heart is the source of our actions, it seems likely that this is what Paul is alluding to what we need to work on to ensure obedience. This is further reinforced by the phrase fear and trembling. As I indicated many times in my wholeness series, we often lack the courage to face the brokenness and scars in our hearts, for fear of dredging up negative emotions. Feelings connected to a trauma that we think we have neatly tucked away deep within ourselves where they can do no harm, yet in reality are influencing so many of our choices.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2

Again, what do you think Paul means by the renewing of the mind. I think this quote brings some clarity to the idea.

"You can't fix a problem with the same mind that created it." Albert Einstein

If we don’t continue to work out our salvation, instead of just accepting forgiveness, our hearts and minds will remain effectively the same. Let’s face it, we will repeat what we don’t allow to be repaired.  While the redemption we receive via the cross is an incredible and necessary start, it is just a start. Or as my pastor put it, we like to live on Saturday in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Perhaps it’s how we keep it all about self. The cross was indeed for our benefit, whereas the resurrection enables us to benefit others.

So I urge you this post-Easter season to step out of that proverbial tomb as a new babe in Christ and don’t look back. Even when we stumble as we learn to walk again. To walk with a mission as Jesus did, instead of selfishly as the world does. We live in an age where average, mediocre, and lukewarm are the new standards that the world strives for. Be a better example than that. (Revelation 3:15-16)


a man tearing off his grave clothes


Saturday, March 12, 2022

The value of testimony

As I shared on social media, I had an urge to do something special for Lent this year. While it has definitely been a valuable experience for me so far, the response to my official visual parable posts about it has been tepid at best. However, the response to the "share my story challenge" portion of the journey, which was put on my personal page has been a very different story. This got me thinking even more about the value of testimony, so let's have a closer look.

First, how is the faith community supposed to help and support one another if they have no idea how their stories intersect after all? We can't, at least not beyond a very generic surface way. So that often translates to, we don't.

The last time I had given my testimony before this, it was just a more detailed version of part two below. I hadn't discerned the trigger of my choices, or the ramifications of the scars left behind. This brings up another issue, it seems like so many believers never get past that initial glory of salvation. They don't always continue to work out their salvation and add additional chapters to their story. Yet, it seems like so many live out their lives in quiet desperation as they try to maintain their clean slates, never adding anything beautiful to it. How are we supposed to delight and inspire the lost with stagnation? Again, more often than not, we don't.

Also, maybe the reason music has become such a big deal in the church is that they are sometimes mini testimonies. Musicians are the ones actually sharing their stories, which can be far more relatable than mere definition-based teaching. The Bible itself is composed of more stories that testify to the truth than systematic doctrine after all. Why don't we follow that example? So maybe the overemphasis on music lately isn't only about entertainment as people accuse. Instead, it is sometimes a response to the neglect of the practice of testimony in the church. As I type this, I have not seen anyone else who has stepped up to the online challenge of sharing their story as I had. Maybe there have been in other circles beyond my sight. Then again maybe this is yet another symptom of social media. The toxicity of it all has made us all that more reluctant to open ourselves up to that level of vulnerability. To this, I must say, much study has been put into the act of vulnerability. The consensus is that most find it a very attractive trait, in others at least. We never see it that way in ourselves, we tend to see it as a dangerous risk when it's our heart on the line. So for those of us in the church, it really is an act of faith. Not that I am saying there is no danger, there will always be those people who betray said trusts. They only expose their true faces by doing so, and we as the church should not encourage the behavior of gossips, busybodies, and naysayers. (Proverbs 11:12-13, 2nd Thessalonians 2:11-13)

It has definitely been a cathartic experience just taking the time to write it all out. Often, our stories are just a collection of abstract notions and feelings. Things have come into a far sharper focus of understanding by putting it into actual words. This can be key to moving forward again. So I would challenge you to do the same even if you are not ready to share it just yet. With that being said, you never know how your story may touch the life of another until you put it out there.

Two people looking at a painting, one is engaged, the other is dismissive
In a way all my art is a piece of my story, not all make the connection.

The Visual PARABLEeist

Here are the original posts from my FB page.

Chapter 1 - Soon, after my parent's divorce: my mother, younger brother, and I moved into a new house. We hadn't even gotten past the entryway when my little brother asked, "When are we going home?"

Then my mother said, "We are home sweetheart."

So Jason said, "I mean with dad."

My mother started to cry at that moment.

My father wasn't even in the room, and he managed to hurt the two most important people in my life. I was determined to not let that happen to me. So this ended up being the final straw in the emotional disconnect from my father. While he would continue to disappoint me plenty, he no longer had the power to hurt me. While in that sense it had been a good day, in another it was a terrible day. I say that because I had nobody to guide me into manhood. When a child tries to initiate himself into manhood, it's inevitably going to be immature and misguided. I assure you it was.

Chapter 2 — My spiritual upbringing was rather sporadic as a child. There were times we bounced back and forth between churches, others where we didn’t hardly go at all. While I did get baptized, it really didn’t resonate with me, it was just something everybody did it seemed.
   I tend to be a curious and philosophical person, even as a teen. So I was looking into a lot of alternative ideas at the time. Many of them were rather dark. In retrospect, I was likely trying to find my strength, and a sense of control, as most men tend to. However, this was a very scary and out-of-control time for me. I was certainly astute enough to walk away from all that darkness eventually, but that was easier said than done. I was still so full of hate and anger that nearly every emotion I had was negative. I was barely able to keep it all bottled in.
   My lifesaver came via a guy named Aaron, it was his witness that got me to reconsider Christianity. His words had weight for the simple fact that his story was relatable. (Imagine that) While I was starting to see the value in it, I was hesitant to go there myself, having had such bad experiences recently. Then came the day the words “What are you waiting for?” echoed in my head. I had no answer, so I finally let go of my hesitance and took the proverbial leap. All the negativity within me just melted away in an instant.
   Even with the relief of such an incredible deliverance, this was but the beginning of my story. I still had to get past what I now call “Common knowledge Christianity” to find the more detailed answers that I needed. So I finally was able to direct my spiritually curious nature to constructive use. I also needed to identify and face the scars that were left behind.

Chapter 3 — My father only taught me one thing about being a man, that I didn't measure up in his eyes. It seemed as if I had so many strikes against me in that sense. You are terrible at sports, that is not manly. You are highly introverted, that is not manly. You have fair skin and blond curly hair, that is not manly. You like art, that is not manly. The constant criticism left me wanting to dis-identify with this one-dimensional Homer Simpson definition of masculinity, not submit to their disapproval. Pair that with previously mentioned experiences of self-initiation, how could manhood not be toxic in my eyes. At least the church just expects you to be a nice guy, right.
   I would definitely not follow my dad's example of earning lots of money, buying a fancy house, and car to be the envy of everyone. The by-product of that was that he hopped from wife to wife, frequently. All this left a long trail of hurt behind him. While he might have been oblivious to the damage done, I was not, even if I wasn't one of his direct victims. Yet, he projected that expectation on me all the way to the end, even on his deathbed.
   So I carried on seeking what I couldn't put my finger on but wasn't ready to face yet.

Chapter 4 – Going into my twenties and beyond I had a fractured sense of identity. Not that I was consciously aware of it at the time. That didn't stop it from affecting every aspect of my life. It all seemed to become the most painfully obvious through my relationship with RC. As terrible as that experience was, it was necessary. I say that because that is what got me to reconsider my false assumptions about many things that I had never questioned before. (Just doing the opposite of what those who failed did is not a good strategy.) So what was I to do about this incongruence though? Trying to talk to common knowledge Christians who have never been challenged or questioned anything before proved fruitless. But, true to my curious introvert nature, my books became my teachers. Specifically, John Eldridge's Fathered by God & Gordon Dalby's Healing the masculine soul. They taught me what I was missing was something I had unconsciously rejected. Also, I didn't have to conform to the world's stereotypical one-dimensional archetype of a man. Nor did I have to become the Ned Flanders nice guy church stereotype either. Instead, a true man of God was meant to have more dimension than both of them. (See my Warrior, Poet, and King video on YouTube for a more detailed description of that.) This ended up being as defining a moment as my deliverance, it just happened to take place over a series of many moments this time. My own personal exodus through the desert if you will.

Part 5The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. (Their father) Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau. . . Genesis 25:27-28a

This verse could have been written about my little brother and me. So I really do identify with Jacob, including that scene in chapter 28 where God recognized Jacob as the true heir of the promise of Abraham. But for me, it's more about God doing what Jacob's natural father should have willfully done. I dare say I have done my fair share of wrestling with God as well, mostly over my assumptions and misconceptions. Sometimes a proverbial body slam is what it takes to wake us up.
   Through it all, my constant search for more specific answers seemed to always lead me into the role of a teacher within the church. I never sought that, I couldn't help fall into it.
   Although the world and sometimes even the church doesn't always value my talents in art, I know God does. So the world's approval is no longer my concern. I have even found ways to incorporate art into my teaching. This eventually lead to my Visual Parables online ministry.
   My former church's demise might have even played a role in my transformation. Over that 3 year period of no full-time pastor, I had to step up and be the man I always avoided becoming. Not that I know how to apply it all yet, but I still have more stories to write. As it's been said, there is a difference between knowing a path, and following a path. I would never have chosen the paths I ended up on, but they still took me just where I needed to be.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

A Secret Message

There is actually more than one Saint Valentine, yet no one is exactly sure which one the holiday is named after, it may even be all of them. Nobody is exactly sure how the current tradition of equating the day with romance got started either. We just follow the tradition blindly despite the history has been lost. My point is, the confused history of Valentine's Day seems to run parallel with our confused notions of love.

It is no secret that the world tends to define love as an emotion. Even the science of psychology backs up this belief. If you have been in the church for a while you should be well aware that the Bible does not define it that way at all, but rather as an action. (1st Corinthians 13, 1st John 3:14-18) Yet, even if we intellectually know this, we still struggle to live it out this way, and often fall back on human nature's tendency to apply it as a feeling. So instead of just rehashing a Biblical truth that we should all know by now, maybe we should take a closer look at why we don't live this truth as well as we should.

For example, speaking as a social media poster, whenever I make a warm and fuzzy post about the love of God people are all over it. Giving it plenty of likes. Clearly, God's unconditional love that we find so favorable is a good example of love as an action. If it were based on his emotion, we would have succumbed to his wrath already. Yet, why don't we follow that example ourselves? God's nature is the standard of holiness after all. It seems that we prefer to just give into emotion blindly, even when it hurts others.

Yet speaking as a blogger, whenever the title of a blog refers to love, it inevitably receives very little traffic. So they are some of my least read blogs. Hence, my vague title today, I didn't want to scare anyone off. Which begs the question, why are so many adverse to an in-depth look at the subject of love as it pertains to our practice of it? After thinking long and hard about this, here are a few possible reasons.

One, we think we know all there is to know about love. I dare say if people honestly believe that they know it all, they likely do see love as an emotion. That love is merely something we experience, not understand. Yet considering that many of the world's most common evils are done in the name of love, I find that approach faulty. The impatience, the unkindness, the rudeness, the criticism, the assault, the abuse, the stalking, are all often rationalized in the name of love. It all reeks of the love of self, not others. I've said this before, but you probably didn't read it. If love were just an emotion, it would be dependent upon maintaining those feelings. Meaning love would be inherently conditional.

Two, we don't want our assumptions about love challenged. We tend to put love on a pedestal. We long for a love that will fulfill this image in our heads. An image that will fulfill all our emotional needs. Our expectations are often highly unrealistic too. This often leads to all the aforementioned evils as an attempt to control the pre-conceived image in a vain attempt to be loved the way we think we deserve. Well, guess what, the person that we are with is as imperfect as we are, and possibly doing the same right back at you. So if you try to control their feelings you will likely get the opposite result. It may be hidden behind an act, but if you think people are truly happy faking it, you are only kidding yourself. Think about it, the people who approach love this way are probably the ones that have hurt you the most. Knowing this, can you really in good conscious do the same to others? Then again, you probably already have.

Three, we know the truth, but don’t want to be convicted by our shortcomings in living up to the true definition. When you get down to it, true love is selfless and sacrificial, two of Christ’s most defining characteristics. Not to mention the hardest to live up to since it requires transparency, vulnerability, and getting involved. Jesus commanded us to love as he did, and this is kind of a big deal if you actually stop and think about what he did for love. A far bigger deal than we really give it credit for. No wonder people shy away from it and try to bypass the subject. So it’s also no wonder why the church is struggling if we are neglecting such a pivotal part of the gospel.

So I challenge you on this holiday to look beyond the warm and fuzzy romantic tropes of Valentine’s Day and dive deep into the reality of true agape love. It’s not for the faint of heart that is for sure.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.-John 15:12-14


Wearing your art on your sleeve
True love is the ultimate act of vulnrability