Examining Culture Through Words

The other night, while listening to a Christian radio station in my car, a DJ was talking about Google’s Ngram viewer. Google’s Ngram viewer has digitized data from over 15 million works of literature. The DJ made an intriguing insight. He took the position that words communicate culture. His logic was that changes in culture can be seen by both the emergence and frequency of words used over various time periods. If we believe the adage that we tend to speak about those things which occupy our thoughts, wouldn’t that apply to what we write as well? Most likely, right? Continue reading

Self-Imposed Limits

Immediately prior to the new millennium, American rock band Lit released “My Own Worst Enemy.” A teenager at the time, I found the song to be catchy and meaningful, because I was regularly engaging in new experiences and too often learning the hard way—by screwing up.

The driving element of the song’s chorus is:

It’s no surprise to me, I am my own worst enemy

Continue reading

The Hulk Within

“Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23).

The Hulk is a fictional character that was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics in 1962. The Hulk comes into being when genius scientist, Bruce Banner, finds himself the victim of a gamma radiation accident. Similar to the body timeshare nature that exists between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the massive and powerful Hulk is generally depicted as taking form whenever Bruce Banner is overcome by stress or anger. Continue reading

Reverence

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:2-6).

I was raised in a devout, Roman-Catholic household. My family always sat in the first couple rows of pews every Sunday morning. We even attended holy days of obligation.

My parents also fostered a commitment to church service. Starting young—I think that I was eight—I joined the choir. I was its youngest member. A few years later, I became an altar boy. I served as an altar boy through high school, until leaving for college… Continue reading

Kings or Servants?

And [Jesus] said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:25-27).

Working in higher education, I constantly encounter students with grandiose aspirations. They are young, their careers are still in front of them, and they often envision—as they see it—the most idealistic career circumstances possible. Many want to hold leadership positions that are highly visible and possess substantial power. They desire to become CEOs, political leaders, leading-edge researchers, Nobel prize winning scientists, hall-of-fame athletes, etc. In other words, their aspirations often align with a secular (i.e. worldly) perspective of success and influence. Continue reading

sharp words, singular truth

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34, NASB).

In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:11, NASB)​

when words serve as shields, from what do they protect,
if not often the guise of self-righteousness as respect,
for words side with sins when used to shield, though save as a sword,
when responding with Truth to that which is deplored, Continue reading

Home

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20, NASB).

“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB).

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3, NASB).

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:8-10, NASB).

WHAT IS HOME?
Understanding what constitutes home for us is an extremely important question, as our conceptualizations of home have major implications on how we both view and behave towards others. Continue reading

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

“Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.” ~Tullian Tchividjian

As a Christian, there is a certain question that is bound to arise when speaking with someone who has recently encountered tragedy. I’ve had this question asked of me by both people who’ve professed faith in Christ, and those who’ve claimed to possess no faith whatsoever (though, in a previous post, I’ve pointed out how everyone has faith). In a culture that frequently attempts to ignore the realities of evil, sin, and death; when encountering circumstances where we must—it leaves us having to ask ourselves some difficult questions. This question always seems to be one of them: Continue reading

Distractions

NOTE: The following is heavily structured on a recent sermon by Pastor Carlos Sibley at Watkinsville First Baptist Church

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Martha and Mary
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42, NASB)

Distracted driving is defined as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Every year, approximately 421,000 people are injured in automobile crashes involving distracted drivers. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed from such accidents. More than three-fourths of these drivers were distracted because they were texting while driving. Therefore, it may be an understatement to say that—when driving—the compulsion to check our phones can cause serious harm upon others, as it distracts us from the much more important and immediate task.  Continue reading

A Clear Conscience

But this I admit to you, that according to the Way [Christianity] which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men (Acts 24:14-16, NASB).

No Regrets.

This has always been a personal goal: to live my life without regrets. There are definitely decisions that I’ve made during my life that weren’t the best in hindsight. And I’d call “bollocks (i.e. nonsense)” on anyone who suggests that they’ve never made a poor decision during theirs. Yet, I’ve been fortunate. I carry few regrets—at least, based on how I define regret. Continue reading

A Well-Placed Faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB).

Whether we acknowledge it, we all possess faith. We all worship someone (e.g. ourselves) or something. For most of us—possibly all of us—we worship that which we perceive as truth; thereby, placing our faith in it. Our faith in that truth is what establishes our beliefs; subsequently, driving our actions.

How does it establish our beliefs?

Glad that you asked 😉 Continue reading

Prejudice

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB).

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:254, NASB)

THE INCREASINGLY COMMON PRACTICE OF EXHIBITING GROUP PREJUDICE
The intense hatred and divisiveness that is commonly seen whenever checking the news or conversing through social media is harrowing. Much of it seems driven by group prejudices towards various classes and ideologies. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, social class, educational background, or ideological worldview, we’re all susceptible to prejudicial thought and behavior.

None of us are immune. Continue reading

Like A Child

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4, NASB).

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great” (Luke 9:47-48, NASB).

INTRODUCTION
My mother has often told me that I was born an old man. When I finally asked her for clarification, she answered, “You were a serious kid, and very aware of your surroundings.” Continue reading

An Unimaginable Relationship

In Power Evangelism, Wimber spelled out his understanding of the impoverished framework that is so basic to Westerners that they cannot even see the assumptions as assumptions but rather as fundamental truths about the world. Westerners, he said, assume that we live in a truth only through empirical study and rational thought. We feel confident in our ability to control our environment, and we feel little need for any help from anything outside ourselves. We assume that only that which has been tested and proven is true. And finally, we accept reason as the only and highest authority in life. This secular, self-reliant, materialist, and rational culture is, Wimber argued, the greatest impediment to a Christian’s personal encounter with Christ. Now, he argued, we live in a world in which most intellectuals have abandoned the hope that we have a purpose for being, and we live in a moral crisis and a miasma of existential doubt (Tanya Luhrmann, When God Talks Back, p. 317).

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There appears to be a growing approach to practicing Christianity—particularly in the United States—that concerns me. Maybe this is simply a case of semantics. I, however, believe that it’s much more divergent and deadly. What some would probably argue to be semantics, I consider fundamental differences of core belief; for these semantics lead to differences in how individuals come to know and relate to God. Subsequently, there is a schism in Christian orthodoxy (“correct belief”), which is noticeable when considering Christian orthopraxy (“correct practice”). And—truthfully—it’s always been there… Continue reading

Feeling Pressure: Fear Versus Faith

The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.
~Mark Messier, NHL Hall-of-Fame player (Oilers/Rangers)

Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing
~Chuck Noll, NFL Hall-of-Fame Coach (Steelers)

‘Pressure’ is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure.
~Tommy Lasorda, MLB Hall-of-Fame Manager (Dodgers)

Courage is grace under pressure
~Ernest Hemingway, Author

Whatever you see—any good results—are all from the pressure
~Ziyi Zhang, Author

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following post intentionally applies a secular position through its majority, eventually applying a Christian perspective near its conclusion. The rationale for this decision is that it will help non-Christians see the general relevance of the topic, while also highlighting my view that a Christian perspective for addressing moments when feeling pressure (or confronting those poorly dealing with pressure) is best. This post focuses on issues that I believe are both prevalent and pervasive within the culture in which I find myself. I attempt to be as thorough as possible in my logic and as reasonable as possible with my justifications. What I do not claim is omniscience or perfect clarity on this issue—or any issue. Therefore, I welcome thoughtful dialogue with anyone who may disagree with any or all of my positioning | Any bold, magenta words within this post are hyperlinks that provide useful, supplemental information. If the magenta hyperlink is followed by (a), for example(a), then there is an available blog or appendix page that allows for a deeper look into the topic hyperlinked.

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INTRODUCTION
Feeling pressure. Who doesn’t feel pressure at one time or another? But for as frequently as we feel pressure, do we even understand why we feel it? And, what is “pressure”—really? Continue reading

Investing Talents

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”
~ Leo Buscaglia

“Talent is God-given; be humble. Fame is man-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful.” ~ Harvey Mackay

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” ~Erma Bombeck

“No one respects a talent that is concealed.” ~Desiderius Erasmus

“Talent is always conscious of its own abundance, and does not object to sharing.”
~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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A note: while the parable speaks about a Master and His three slaves, I will refer to the slaves as “servants” throughout the post (except where citing specific scriptures). Slavery during our time in history is viewed (and I would say rightly so) with extreme negativity and assumes the exploitation of those individuals who are slaves; whereas, slavery was a more common and accepted practice during Jesus’ time. There were some Masters, however, that exhibited great humanity and kindness to their slaves. I believe that the word slave is an accurate term when used in the context Jesus most likely intends. We are property of our Lord—He is our Creator. He can do whatever He wishes with us, for we are His. Fortunately for us, our Master is good and loves us. But for those who would have trouble reconciling its common context from this message, I have substituted words accordingly.

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INTRODUCTION
Jesus’ parables from the Gospel of Matthew emphasize two narratives that are strongly related. His parables clarify the differences between our world and the kingdom of heaven, and encourage believers to be prepared for His return. This post will focus on the Parable of the Talents to answer the following question:

Q: What does it mean to be ready for the return of Christ?

Continue reading

A Healing Faith

“The ultimate purpose of reason is to bring us to the place where we see that there is a limit to reason.”
~ Blaise Pascal

“The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.”
~ Hubert H. Humphrey

“Righteousness and faith certainly are instrumental in healing the sick, deaf, or lame – if such healing accomplishes God’s purposes and is in accordance with His will. Thus, even with strong faith, many mountains will not be moved. And not all of the sick and infirm will be healed.”
~ David A. Bednar

“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
~ Marianne Williamson.

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Disclaimer: This post is written for a Christian audience, and may be challenging for those adhering to a different worldview.

INTRODUCTION
Ever been hurt? Consider the following questions:

  1. How many of us are broken and need healing in some aspect of our lives at one time or another?
  2. How many of us struggle to heal without success?
  3. How many of us abandon any hope for our healing, and accept a permanent reality of brokenness?

In response to the first question, addressing it from the perspective of a professed Christian, I would suggest that we are all broken to some degree—the circumstances of living in a world of sin. Moreover, I would assert that at some point in most of our lives we have suffered through immense pain and utter brokenness. When considering the second question, I would have to believe that most of us try—at least initially—to find means of healing when we view ourselves as being damaged or broken. And if we are individuals who respond to the third question in the affirmative, then we are probably resting in a self-perceived, inescapable despair…

For any of us who are currently residing in such a state of despair, the following scripture should come as a comfort and provide impetus for restoring hope: Continue reading

Kindness: Pay It Forward

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
~Lao Tzu

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love”
~Saint Basil

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you”
~Princess Diana

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see”
~Mark Twain

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For the past few months, the young professionals group at my church has been conducting a scriptural study on fruits of the Spirit. Recently, we investigated kindness as a fruit of the Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul provides a list of these fruits:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB).

As has been emphasized in other posts that I have recently written on fruits of the Spirit, certain characteristics are present among them all. A few core commonalities among fruits of the Spirit; they are: Continue reading

Joy: Following An Eternal Perspective

“I believe that a trusting attitude and a patient attitude go hand in hand. You see, when you let go and learn to trust God, it releases joy in your life. And when you trust God, you’re able to be more patient. Patience is not just about waiting for something…it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.” ~Joyce Meyer

“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone—but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” ~Walter Anderson

God’s plan for enlarging His kingdom is so simple—one person telling another about the Savior. Yet we’re busy and full of excuses. Just remember, someone’s eternal destiny is at stake. The joy you’ll have when you meet that person in heaven will far exceed any discomfort you felt in sharing the gospel.” ~Charles Stanley

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The purpose of this post is to examine the scriptural meaning of joy. More specifically, it will attempt to address the following three questions:

  1. What is joy?
  2. Are their types of joy?
  3. How can we experience more joy?

Continue reading

Peace through Love and Forgiveness

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”                    ~ Mother Teresa

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”                    ~ Francis of Assisi

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend” ~ Abraham Lincoln

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UNDERSTANDING PEACE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
At Sunday school a few weeks ago, our young professionals group examined the biblical meaning of the word “peace.” After reviewing definitions from a number of sources, and considering these definitions against scripture, we arrived at a succinct definition:

Unity absent conflict

While not typically included within a secular definition, unity is an essential component of biblical peace. When realizing that unity is necessary for biblical peace, we should become aware that how we pursue such peace differs from the traditional, secular definition of the word. While some people may seek “peace and quiet” by avoiding others and finding environments absent noise and disturbance, biblical peace cannot be achieved in this manner. For Christians, biblical peace is about establishing healthy relationship with God and others. Moreover, it requires believers to be at peace with all people (including non-believers) as much as it depends on them (Romans 12:18).

The Christian understanding of God’s being is emblematic of biblical peace. Christians believe in a Trinitarian God—three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in one God—existing in perfect harmony. God is never at conflict with Himself. As sinners, the same cannot be said of our relationship with Him. Continue reading