Words from a Father

Husband of One, Father of Four

Tag: Jesus

465. Essay: A Desire Fundamentally Wrong

The human heart is massively hungry, much more so than the stomach. Our longings are true and profound. Yet we have only been offered the shallow sense of momentary satisfaction instead of being given something that would truly sustain. In the absence of such an answer, most of us have bought into the futile pursuits of our society, and we are still utterly bored.

If our primary desire was material or physical only, it could somehow be satisfied physically. Pleasures and pursuits of an earthly nature cannot ultimately satisfy the human heart because our desire is not limited only to the physical realm.

The hunger doesn’t go away and the longing doesn’t disappear, it just finds new ways to resurface. With all the stimulation offered, it is easy to find a new thing each week until we are both overloaded and bored with life at the same time — overloaded with what’s available and bored with every last ounce of it.

Something is fundamentally wrong if you give yourself fully to something and it still leaves you wanting . . . or even worse, ashamed.

This is one reason why Jesus Christ is so intriguing: He is simultaneously too much and never enough, both inexhaustible and overwhelming, nearer than our very breath but categorically distinct from anything conceivable.

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462. Essay: Sacrifice and Relationship

We all long for things such as love and belonging, peace, joy, to make an impact, and even to live forever. The blunt person might say this is a good description of heaven. But to be with God in heaven requires two things according to Christianity: sacrifice for our sin and relationship with Him while we live — in that order. Sacrifice for wrongdoing is a common theme running through every ancient culture and still permeating our own.

Since we have all done wrong, we can only offer a sacrifice for our own individual sin; my sacrifice for my sin and you for yours. But once I sacrifice myself for my sin, I cannot live and be in relationship with God, which is the second requirement. This is the classic catch-22, like what we see in “The Gift of the Magi”. There is not enough money for a gift, so the giver sells the thing most precious to them to obtain the gift. Only after do they find out that the complement to the gift was destroyed in the process. It’s like selling all the salt to gain only the pepper.

If a sacrifice must be given first and the relationship formed second, then the solution seems logical. If a perfect human — perfect in the ultimate sense: perfect inception, perfect qualities, and perfect life — were to offer themself as a sacrifice, an imperfect human would benefit.

If this human were actually more than a human — eternal instead of temporal, all-powerful instead of weak — then their sacrifice would extend not just to one human, but to all of imperfect humanity. The acceptable sacrifice of one perfect human would be an umbrella of mercy covering every person who has ever lived.

No wonder that, amidst a chapter about the sacrifice of Jesus on the crucifixion tree, the speaker exclaims, “His banner over me was love” (Song 2:1–4).

Through Jesus the demand for justice is fully satisfied so that we may embark on being fully satisfied in relationship with God.

When we look now at the two requirements to be with God in heaven, it seems it was all a ruse. God did what we could not do in order to give us what we wanted all along: heaven. God the Son took on our debt of sacrifice so we could take on the joy of relationship.

420. Essay: The Paradox of Patience: Virtue or Figment

If an anti-theist tells you patience is a virtue, ask, “Why is patience virtuous? Humans are selfish by nature, so why is it a good thing to squelch one of the primary things that makes us human?”

Is it so we’re nicer to each other? No. At most, patience may only affect how quickly we start yelling at the moron who won’t drive when the light turns green. Patience barely registers as nice. We still yell.

Does exhibiting patience show that a person is internally good? No. Niceness is utterly distinct from goodness. Niceness is external; it’s about interacting with others. Goodness is about the essence of a thing; it is internal. Niceness will be exuded from the good, but goodness is not a byproduct of platitudes.

Is patience about acting in a more socially acceptable manner?

People tell others to be patient because selfishness is one of the brute facts of being human — evidenced by the sheer quantity of its existence. They are calling them to something higher, something above ourselves, something unattainable within the basic frame of being human. Patience is a charge: a delicate mixing of command and invitation, an entrustment of responsibility. But that is not all. The charge to be patient is the charge to look at true goodness and become like it so that you may practice the qualities of the good, of which patience is one. “Be patient,” is meaningless without an example of perfection because it is then only utilitarian. And if it is utilitarian it will be only a matter of time until patience is no longer useful; then it will not even be utilitarian, but begin to stumble under the terms that other undesirable qualities receive: antiquated, puritanical, old hat, not helpful in my situation, doesn’t apply to this circumstance.

You see, virtue is a religious term stemming from the understanding of the moral perfection of mankind. Anti-theism is not the least bit concerned with religion (obviously) or virtuousness. Virtue can only exist if there is a perfect standard, but perfection is not scientific, not evolutionary, not materialistic. Good and bad, right and wrong, ought and ought not are outside of the domain of science, evolution, and materialism. These things only exist where moral law is necessary and religion (the canonization of moral law aligned with the character of God) flourishes — in other words, virtues only exist where divinity exists.

My conclusion, then, is that patience may only be charged if virtues are necessary. Virtues are necessary if goodness exists. Goodness exists if a perfect standard exists. And a perfect standard exists only if God — perfect goodness in Himself — exists. However, if God does not exist, neither does a perfect standard. If there is no perfect standard, then goodness does not exist. If not goodness, then not virtues, of which patience is one — and it is not a human virtue, but one issuing from the essence of God and imparted within the requesting human.

If these are so, then patience may be considered a virtue; not because any society says so, but because God is patient in His essence. And if patience is a virtue, we can rightfully ask and expect ourselves and others to look to God’s example of patience in Jesus Christ. If none of these things are true, then requiring patience of yourself or others is worthless because patience flies in the face of everything human, but is sourced in the nature of God.

Patience is either virtue vérité or futile figment.

419. Knowledge Fails

The old joke goes like this. A communist says he can put a new suit on that man. Christianity says it can put a new man in that suit.

We have access to more knowledge, experience, history, culture, research, philosophy, political stances, art, and plain old information than ever before in time. Yet we are no better for it. It is past time to admit that information and access have failed to produce better people, as was hoped by the likes of Marcus Aurelius and others. Neither external forces nor accessibility can ever change a person within. Permanent and positive change begins only inside the human being, and that is precisely what Christianity — and no other religion or philosophy or political stance — promises.

407. Quotes: Your Dad on Wisdom

“Somewhere famous there is a good quote about being as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. As a whole, contemporary Christianity seems to have the impotent thing down to a science; it’s about time we get wisdom.”

—Your Dad

343. Quotes: Steve Turner’s Poem, “Creed”

“Creed”

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin.
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes, UFOs, and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man, just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher, though we think His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same — at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its
compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors.
And the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.

If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky
and when you hear

State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.

—Steve Turner’s (English journalist) satirical poem on the modern mind

340. Essay: Jesus’ Birth, The Ultimate Minimalism

Minimal Me

The move toward minimalism that has arrested the design world over the last decade or so owes the Internet a debt of gratitude. Where else can you call out dreadful design, redesign it yourself, and publish it in a matter of moments — all with an unlimited audience? We champions of web minimalism can have an accidental air of arrogance: I’m better because I’m cultured, refined, and can easily see what should be obvious to you and your blind grandma. Some are professionals now, some have schooled themselves, and others just know exquisiteness when they see it. We are well-meaning perfectionists usually lacking in some restraint when it comes to offering our help, unsolicited. Classic Asperger’s autism, what with all that social ineptness and such. But we truly do care.

Trend-ginnings

It seems a trend began by decrying bad design: hating Myspace because it was the Vegas of online sites with too much blinking and hollering to be of any benefit to the sober; Microsoft and their lack of caring . . . about anything, like font rendering, bloatware, user experience, and quality and polish; excessive buttons or steps to complete a process; Adobe’s frustrating and unclear software installation process; poor instructions for assembling a new piece of furniture.

But shouting about what’s wrong doesn’t show others what’s right, so the second wave of minimalism was rooted in pointing toward the archetypes that were right, those who merged the necessary and the beautiful, the function with the form. Dieter Rams, Apple Inc., Swiss and Bauhaus design, Occam’s philosophical razor, writers Samuel Beckett and Ernest Hemingway, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the asian zen harmony, and glimpses in Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture.

From recognizing the masters came the ability to balance the equation: Less is not necessarily better, but there should only be what is necessary — and what is there should be exquisite.

Divine Restraint

Minimalists should, at the very least, recognize the genius within the birth of Jesus. It has all the hallmarks of a coulda-gone-over-the-edge event, but was the epitome of restraint.

The Christmas story says that a baby was born in Israel about 2000 years ago. So what. Babies are born all the time. Well, I guess baby is a bit of an understatement. It was God who was born. God. The only uncreated being created the world with His own power and then came to be sequestered within it; not only that, but sequestered within fragile flesh as well. That’s like covering a volcano with plastic wrap or trying to shroud the sun with tracing paper.

Divine Surroundings

Biblical descriptions of heaven are nothing less than stunning, the physical as well as the intangible. We now turn to the backdrop of heavenly extravagance to set the scene in great detail.

There are layers of substance and activity long before reaching God. It starts out looking like a windstorm with lightning flashes and diffused, emanating light. This fog-like cloud is the most exterior layer and its center glows like fire. In the center are strange and captivating creatures that look like charcoal after it’s been set on fire. Flame bursts shoot between the creatures as they move around on bejeweled wheels, accompanied with flashes of lightning. Over their heads is a hovering platform that sparkles like blue crystal; imagine looking up at the blazing sun from underneath crystal blue ocean waves. Over the platform is a throne, and this is where God is, surrounded by a radiance that looks like a green rainbow on a misty day. He is categorically supreme, unparalleled in essence. Were it not for Jesus Christ, God would not even be approachable.

Turning around away from the throne will fill your view with majestic hills, rushing rivers — simultaneously crisp, refreshing, and afire — that have the power to sustain and heal, cities that house the holy, and gold-encrusted streets. Like an ocean wave when it pushes the body, color itself has weight and substance to it. It communicates on another emotional level to fill in context and connotation.

Color and sound are basically the same thing, just at different points of the spectrum, so color has a sound when it strikes the listener. This means music is always heard in heaven. There are no vocal celebrities, but an ever-rising crescendo of worship given to the only being who is worthy of adoration. Harmonies dance in unison with the pulsating instrumentation and anyone can join in at any moment, but the human voice, fortified with its free will and bursting with thankfulness, is the preeminent instrument.

And this is only the beginning of the emotional aspects of this environment. God is perfect, and because His qualities emanate from within His being, His qualities are also perfect. His love, goodness, and joy have no comparison. The brute substance and amount of the qualities rushing forth from Him would make the imperfect wizened in His presence. Power, even emotional power, must be under control or it will overwhelm, domineer, and possibly destroy, which is why His mercy and self-control are so pivotal. These emotional aspects make it seem as if heaven will be level upon level of personal connections — of true family.

Earthly Restraint

Had Jesus been born into the extravagant luxury of a palace, it would have been justified. Had it been announced far and wide with fireworks and a week-long celebration, it would not have been too much. Regardless the heights, the pomp, or the superfluous expense, it would not have been enough to mark the most important birth on that day: God Himself was born.

But, no. We have none of the rightful self-promotion we would expect from someone of such status. There is no hype in Jesus’ birth.

The most we get is a group of angels who make the announcement, but even that is minimalized. Notice the angels only appeared to some unimportant shepherds; that it was done at night; that at first there was only one angel until a group of angels appears at the very end of the announcement; that the angels were preoccupied only with giving a message and nothing more; as such, the angels only appeared for a short period of time; that the angels did not even sing. The Bible says the angels praised God, saying, “Glory,” or that they shouted with a loud voice, but there’s no singing. When the shepherds arrive where Jesus was born, there is no king in sight, only exhausted parents — themselves outcasts several times over — in the most meager of settings with a newborn son.

Minimalism in any category makes room for drama. If the story began at the crescendo, the narrative would have nowhere to go. But by starting at the lowest, the story is an ever-increasing crescendo. In a palace birth, the shepherds never would have been able to intrude in celebration, but this was a child given to the world rather than only to the wealthy. God intruded upon the world, the angels intruded upon the shepherds, the shepherds intruded upon Joseph and Mary, and the Messiah intruded upon our deepest and eternal needs — all this accomplished in the most non-intrusive, minimal way possible.

Comparing what Jesus came from in heaven with how He was presented at His birth highlights the minimalist qualities of merging the necessary and the beautiful, the function and the form, and the wisdom of restraint.

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