Creative Writing

“PROMINENT GOVERNOR TERRORIZED BY CHRISTIAN PREACHER”

200px-Antonius_Felix

Excerpted from THE TIMES ROMAN, circa A.D. 60.

* “In a shocking series of events this week, a Jew and former member of the religious sect known as the Pharisees, laid into Caesarea’s most esteemed overseer, Felix of Arcadia, with a diatribe about ‘justice, self-control and the supposed ‘coming judgement”, causing the governor great consternation.

As has been provided to us through his transcriptions of all the goings on with respect to the movement known as ‘The Way’, Luke – a Jewish doctor – recorded that Paul, who is also a Roman citizen, has been accused of causing a disturbance in Jerusalem for both Romans and Jews in the area. Though Paul was to stand on trial in Jerusalem before authorities there, an assassination plot was uncovered to take out the Nazarene cult-leader and it was then he was secretly escorted by no less than 270 members of the Roman guard to Caesarea, where he would appear before Antonius Felix, the area governor.

Governor Felix, apparently well acquainted with ‘The Way’, a new religion that combines Jewish beliefs with the understanding that Jesus, a putative healer, self-proclaimed king and saviour of all of mankind, would also have known about the alleged resurrection of this ‘Christ’. (Members of ‘The Way’ continue to claim this resurrection event as being true despite the fact that their Christ was crucified under Roman decree for crimes of insurrection.)

In the Caesarean court at Paul’s preliminary hearing, a representative of the Pharisees, Tertullus, stated that in Jerusalem, Paul had been causing a disturbance. “He agitates trouble in Jewish communities throughout our empire as a ringleader of the heretical sect known as the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple!”

Paul, a weary looking man with poor eyesight – hardly an imposing figure – was then brought before the respected governor and allowed to represent himself in his own defence.

The Tarsus native proceeded to detail his account of events: that he went to ‘worship’ in Jerusalem just twelve days before and while in Jerusalem did not argue publically, stir up crowds or cause civil disorder within the city. He then summarized what he believed was the reason his accusers became aggressive toward him:

“I have a hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the just and unjust, which my opponents also share. … Perhaps my crime is that I spoke this one sentence in my testimony before them: “I am on trial here today because I have hope that the dead are raised.””

After hearing this, the most noble governor dismissed the hearing, promising a decision on the issue when the commandant of Jerusalem arrived to provide his evidence on the matter.

But it was a few days later, when Paul was graciously allowed to enjoy the company of the felicitous governor Felix, that things went south for the radical preacher.

Given an opportunity to speak freely of his faith in the Christ and possibly persuade the governor of the supposed ‘Good News’ message being taught by members of the infant religion, he made a grave error in judgment. Rather than pay homage to the esteemed Felix by complimenting him on his education and knowledge of The Way, Paul expanded on his beliefs by addressing the extreme importance of ‘justice, self-control and the coming judgment’.

Our revered governor was made to feel extremely uncomfortable – fearful, in fact! – due to Paul’s choice of subject matter. How dare this Jew turned Nazarene-follower address a most noble judge and Roman overseer in such a manner! It would have been far more prudent to secure the governor’s interest in (or possible conversion to) the new faith by stating how forgiving of sins the Christ was. Or that if one were to just believe in the Christ, pray a particular set of prayers or provide a specific type of offering, they would be guaranteed a place of honour in the afterlife.

Had Paul remained somewhat reserved with respect to his more incendiary beliefs, he very likely could have secured a shorter stint in Roman custody; the estimable Felix would surely have responded favourably toward him had the more positive aspects of the Nazarene faith been furnished during their time together and if Paul had thought to offer a generous donation to Rome’s interests via the fiduciarily responsible governor.

But such was not to be. Paul remains in prison and most likely will remain there until the esteemed governor Felix steps down and retires with his family to his beautiful summer home in Pompeii, near Herculaneum, in two short years.”

Correspondent for The Times Roman, Martinus Chrestus

© Flagrant Regard, 2015

*Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 23 thru 24

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Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Humor, Humour, Integrity, Liberalism, Spiritual, Spirituality, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

C.S. Lewis For The 21st Century

C.S. Lewis

Have you ever, on the recommendation of a teacher, book-review website, or a friend, began to read an old book – a classic – only to discover a few pages in, “I just can’t get into this … the language is so archaic!”

Nancy and I thought it would be a challenging exercise to modernize one of our favourite essays from C.S. Lewis found in his compilation of short works, entitled ‘God In The Dock’.

The essay we chose was “We Have No Right To Happiness”. I set out to rework the article in a way that I thought would align closely with C.S. Lewis’ original style, but with a modern spin via sentence structure and word choices.

Nancy read my modernized version and felt that she too could bring some 21st century life to the piece by structuring it more like a blog post.

Below represents each of our individual attempts to present the powerful, highly prophetic message penned by Mr. Lewis that examines humankind’s pathetic attempts to justify that which is unjustifiable – that we have the supposed ‘right’ to be happy in this world.

Please feel free to provide feedback with respect to our efforts to modernize the essay and, more importantly, share with us your reflections on C.S. Lewis’ thoughts re the society-eroding, self-entitlement posturing that so many among us now eat, breathe and sleep in this present day.


We Have No “Right to Happiness”
by C.S. Lewis
Paraphrased by Martin Douglas of Flagrant Regard

“After all,” said my friend Clare, “they had a right to happiness.”

We were discussing something that once happened in our own neighborhood. Mr. A, had deserted Mrs. A and got his divorce in order to marry Mrs. B, who had likewise gotten her divorce in order to marry Mr. A. And there was clearly no doubt that Mr. A and Mrs. B were very much in love with each other. It was equally clear that they were not happy with their former partners. If the newly formed couple continued to be in love and if nothing failed with respect to their health or financial security, they might expect to be very happy.

Mrs. B had adored her husband at the beginning, but then he was severely injured in the war. It was said that he had lost his virility and had also lost his job. Life with him was no longer what Mrs. B had bargained for.

Poor Mrs. A, too. She had lost her looks was no longer her vivaciousness self. It might have been true what some had said – that she had become worn down by having and raising Mr. A’s children and nursing him through a long illness that overshadowed the early years of their married life. But please don’t think that Mr. A was the sort of man who nonchalantly threw a wife away like the peel of an orange he’d sucked dry. Her suicide was a terrible shock to him. We all knew this, for he told us so himself. “But what could I do?” he said. “A man has a right to happiness. I had to take my one chance when it came.”

I went away thinking about the concept of a ‘right to happiness’. At first, this sounds to me as odd as a ‘right to good luck’. I believe (whatever any particular brand of moralists have to say) that for the most part our happiness or misery hangs on circumstances outside all human control. A right to happiness doesn’t, for me, make much more sense than a right to be six feet tall, or to have a millionaire for your father, or to have good weather show up whenever you want to have a picnic.

Now, I get that a ‘right’ is a freedom guaranteed me by the laws of the society I live in, therefore I have a right to travel along the public roads because society gives me that freedom (that’s what we mean by calling the roads “public.”)

I can also understand a ‘right’ as a claim guaranteed me by the laws, and as it correlates to an obligation on someone else’s part. If I had a right to receive $100 from you, this is another way of saying that you have a duty to pay me $100. If the laws allow Mr. A to desert his wife and seduce his neighbor’s wife, then, by definition, Mr. A has a legal right to do so, and we need not bring in talk of ‘happiness’.

But of course that was not what my friend meant. She meant that Mr. A had not only a legal but a moral right to act as he did. In other words, Clare is (or would be if she thought it through) a classical moralist after the style of Thomas Aquinas, Grotius, Hooker and Locke.

She believes that behind the laws of the state there is a Natural Law. I agree with her and I hold this conception to be common knowledge in all civilizations. Without it, the actual laws of the state become an absolute. They cannot be criticized because there is no norm against which they should be judged. The ancestry of Clare’s maxim, “They have a right to happiness,” is high-minded in nature. In words that are cherished by all civilized souls (but especially by Americans), it has been laid down that one of the rights of man or woman is a right to “the pursuit of happiness.” And now we get to the real point.

Just what did the writers of that grandiose declaration mean? We’re quite sure what they did not mean. They did not mean that everyone was entitled to pursue happiness by any and every means including, say, murder, rape, robbery, treason and fraud. No society could be built on such a basis. They meant “to pursue happiness by all lawful means”; that is, by all means which the Law of Nature eternally sanctions and which the laws of the nation shall sanction.

Yet here is where I disagree with my friend: I don’t think it’s obvious that people have some sort of unlimited “right to happiness”, as she has suggested.

For one thing, I believe that when Clare says “happiness,” she means simply and solely “sexual happiness”, partly because people like Clare never use the word “happiness” in any other sense. But also because I never heard Clare talk about the “right” to any other kind of happiness. With respect to her political views, Clare, being rather leftist in her approach, would have thought it scandalous if anyone defended the actions of a ruthless financial tycoon on the grounds that his happiness consisted in making money and he was pursuing his happiness. I also never heard her (a serious non-drinker herself) excuse an alcoholic because he was ‘happy’ when he was drunk.

Clare is, in fact, simply doing what I think the whole western world seems to have been doing for the last forty-odd years. When I was a kid, all the progressive people were saying, “Why all this prudishness? Let’s treat sex just as we treat all our other impulses.” I was simple-minded enough to believe they meant what they said. I have since discovered that they meant exactly the opposite. They meant that sex was to be treated as no other impulse in our nature has ever been treated by civilized people. All the others, we admit, have to be restrained.

For instance, absolute obedience to instinct for self-preservation is considered cowardice. An ever-increasing desire to collect things will have us in the grip of greed. Even sleep, normally a welcomed respite, must be resisted if you’re a officer on guard duty. But every unkindness and breach of faith seems to be condoned provided that your object is to have “four bare legs in a bed.” It is like having a moral standard where stealing fruit is wrong except if you steal nectarines. And if you protest against this view? You are usually met with rhetoric about the legitimacy, beauty and sanctity of “sex”. You get accused of harboring some Puritanical prejudice against it – that you view sex as something disreputable or shameful. (I vehemently deny being guilty of such a charge: Venus, Aphrodite, Our Lady of Cyprus – I never breathed a word against you!)

If I object to kids stealing nectarines, must I then be thought of as someone who disapproves of nectarines in general? Or even of kids in general? It might be the stealing I disapprove of, you figure?

The real situation is skillfully concealed by saying that the question of Mr. A’s “right” to desert his wife is one of “sexual morality.” If I may continue with the fruit analogy, robbing an orchard is not an offense against some special morality called “fruit morality.” It is an offense against honesty. Likewise, Mr. A’s action is an offense against good faith (to solemn promises), against gratitude (toward one to whom he was deeply indebted) and against common humanity.

Our sexual impulses are thus being thrust into a position of preposterous privilege. The sexual motive is taken to condone all sorts of behavior which, if it had any other outcome in view, would be condemned as merciless, treacherous and unjust.

Now though I see no good reason for giving sex this privilege, I think I see a strong cause, and it is this: the nature of a strong erotic passion, which is completely distinct from any heat-of-the-moment, fleeting appetite, makes more towering promises than any other emotion.

No doubt all our desires make promises, but not so impressively. To be in love involves the almost irresistible conviction that one will go on being in love until one dies, and that possession of our beloved will supply us with not just merely frequent ecstasies, but settled, fruitful, deep-rooted, lifelong happiness. Hence, all seem to be at stake. If we miss this chance we shall have lived in vain. At the mere thought of such a doom we sink into fathomless depths of self-pity.

Unfortunately these promises are often found to be quite unfounded. Every experienced adult knows this to be the case with regard to all erotic passions (except the one he/she is feeling at the moment). We discount the world-without-end pretentiousness of our friends’ romantic liaisons easily enough. We know that such things sometimes last and sometimes don’t. When they do last, it is not because they promised at the outset to make it last. When two people achieve enduring happiness, this is not solely because they are great lovers but because they are also – I must put it crudely – good people; controlled, loyal, fair-minded, mutually adaptable people.

If we establish a “right to (sexual) happiness” that supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience, but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it.

So while the bad behavior is real and works miseries and personal ruin, the happiness which was the object of the behavior turns out again and again to be illusory.

Everyone (except Mr. A and Mrs. B) knows that Mr. A, in a year or so, may have the same reason for deserting his new wife as he did for deserting his old one. He will again feel that all is at stake. He will again see himself as the great lover, and his pity for himself will exclude all pity for the (current) woman.

Two final points remain:

1. A society in which marital infidelity is tolerated must always be in the long run a society adverse to women. Whatever a few songs composed by men and/or satirical offerings might say to the contrary, women are more naturally monogamous than men; it is a biological necessity. Where promiscuity prevails, they will therefore always be more often the victims than the culprits; domestic happiness is more necessary to them than to us. And the quality by which they most easily hold a man – their beauty – decreases every year after they’ve reached maturity, but this does not happen to those qualities of personality we find in women. In the cut-throat promiscuity war that rages on, women are at a double disadvantage – they play for higher stakes and are also more likely to lose. I have no sympathy with moralists who frown at the increasing lewdness of female provocativeness. These are signs of desperate competition and fill me with pity.

2. Secondly, though the “right to happiness” is claimed chiefly for the sexual impulse, it seems to me impossible that the matter will remain there. Once such a fatal principle is condoned in that department (our sexual natures) it will sooner or later seep through into our whole lives. We therefore advance toward a society where not only each person but every impulse in each person claims no-holds-barred permissions. And at that time, though our technological skill may help us survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart, and will – don’t even dare add the word “unfortunately” – be swept away.

——————————————————-

We Have No “Right to Happiness” by C.S. Lewis
Adapted from the article of the same name by Nancy Douglas of Flagrant Regard

“Well, I just think everyone has a right to do what makes them happy …”

So said my girlfriend the other day when we were chatting over lattes. Luke had divorced Laura to be with Michelle who had likewise divorced her husband to be with Luke. They were hopelessly, madly, in love and, barring unforeseen health or employment issues, they were set for life in the happiness department. My friend continued giving her opinion that it was abundantly clear that neither Luke nor Michelle had been happy in their marriages. It didn’t matter that they were in love with their exes at the outset – because life happens, time passes, and looks get lost by the wayside. Things had changed.

There are any number of reasons why marriages fail and people get kicked to the curb but it does always seem to be an outworking of someone in the relationship deciding that they have the right to do what makes them happy.

Sadly, Laura committed suicide some months after her marriage dissolved. Of course, Luke was distraught but never showed regret that he had left the marriage. He always maintained they had grown apart and were floundering in the proverbial loveless marriage. When Luke had serendipitously met Michelle, she was like no one he had ever met before and leaving his marriage was, as he saw it, his only chance – his last chance – at real happiness.

I began to think about the idea of having the ‘right’ to be happy.

We live in a world where our happiness and, conversely, our misfortune is often predicated on circumstances beyond our control. That being the case, it seems that to expect – to have a ‘right’ – to be happy doesn’t seem like something that can or should be depended on; any more than we can expect or depend on perfect weather every Saturday in June so that all brides will be smiling. You pick your date, send out your invites, and take your chances.

I believe we can have ‘rights’ as far as what is legislated and guaranteed by the laws of the society we live in. For example, we have the ‘right’ to basic education because, here in Canada, we are given that privilege through taxation and public policy. That is why it is called ‘public’ education.

I can also understand a ‘right’ as it relates to a contractual obligation. If someone hires me to design a logo for them and I design it and charge them $100, then I have the ‘right’ to expect to be paid $100 for my work.

Back to my friend’s statement – “Well, I just think everyone has a right to do what makes them happy …”

What my friend was not saying was that, however you need to find happiness, whatever you need to do to be happy, is not to be held up for criticism or judgement beyond a bit of neighborhood gossip – because nobody knows the ‘whole story’.

The American Declaration of Independence laid down at the outset that one of the basic rights of any American citizen is the right to ‘the pursuit of happiness’. That did not mean that people should be entitled to pursue happiness outside of the law (i.e., through murder, rape, robbery, etc.) – but by lawful means. But this is too broad-based for what my friend meant. My friend is not philosophically deep. She watches The Bachelor and thinks the Tea Party is the party at Witzend in Alice in Wonderland. What she simply and solely mused was that people have the right to be happy when it comes to sex. Her view has been ‘trending’ for some time now and you have to look no further than the plethora of partnering change-ups in Hollywood at large.

There is no room for a counterpoint in today’s society. But, if you could get a word in, the counterpoint would be that, happiness aside, Luke’s leaving Lisa for Michelle was done in direct contravention of their marriage vow. That overarching solemn promise made up of subsets of conditions wherein two people promise that they will never leave each other – no matter what. This promissory social contract is sealed either in a civil ceremony or before God and, in both cases, before witnesses. Happiness is not even figured in to the marriage vow which is one of duty of care for the other – again, no matter what.

Today, our sexual impulses and proclivities have been put on a pedestal of preposterous privilege. And where sexual ‘happiness’ is not the order of the day, heinous acts have occurred. When lack of sexual happiness has been the motive behind murderous and unjust actions, the headlines have still – even in this day and age of post-modernism – spoken loudly and clearly in defense of the innocent. We don’t have to look past Susan Smith and the drowning of her two young sons so that she could pursue a relationship with a local wealthy man to find where the utilitarian doctrine of the ends justifying the means is so egregiously lopsided in favor of the means.

The problem with sex is that it makes more towering promises than any other emotion. All our desires make promises – that new car, that new house, that new job, that next You Tube video with over a million views – but none more so than the promise of sex. To be in love involves the irrational yet irresistible conviction that it will last forever and that our beloved will supply us with deep-rooted, passionate, lifelong sexual happiness. Everything is at stake. If we miss the chance to be in love or, as we are speaking of here, to get back in love, life will not have been worth living. Anything in the way has got to go – and fast. So thought Luke and Michelle. So thought Susan Smith.

But, if we establish a ‘right to (sexual) happiness’ which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we are chasing after the wind because the object of our behavior (erotic passion) is illusory and wishful. In the movie, The Life of David Gale, in a soliloquy on happiness, the main character portrayed by Kevin Spacey warned, “Be careful what you wish for. Not because you get it, but because you’re doomed not to want it once you do. Living by wants will never make you happy.”

As time permits, those experienced at long-term relationships know that erotic passion can sometimes last a good long time but that it will most certainly wane. For those relationships that continue long after erotic passion has waned, it is not because of the promises made at the outset. It is because the two people have found true love and contentment outside of the sex act, and have otherwise strived to make their relationship both mutually beneficial and sustainable.

In a few years, it is likely that Luke will leave Michelle to fulfill another last chance at sexual happiness. Or she him. And, again, my friend will say that she believes they have a right to be happy. That is, if her husband, Chris, doesn’t decide in the meantime that he has a right to be happy with that bubbly new hire in the Corporate Marketing Department. That could change her perspective.

For the here and now, the ‘right to happiness’ is predominantly the dominion of the sexual impulse. But, what if this ‘feel good’ principle creeps into other areas of our lives to the point where every impulse in every person has the ‘right’ to be indulged?

I hear the ticking of the doomsday clock …

————————————————————-

For the original article and other incredible essays and thoughts from C.S. Lewis, you can purchase “God In The Dock” at your local Christian book seller or online via any number of online book retailers.

Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, Creative Writing, Evil, Homosexuality, Human Sexuality, Integrity, Liberalism, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Reasons We Can Be Sure Jesus Christ Wasn’t/Is Not A Zombie

Nope!

… yeah, uh no, not exactly …

This post goes out to the somewhat supercilious fellow on Reddit who expressed how proud he was of his young son who, completely uncoached, came to the conclusion that if the historical Jesus had risen from the dead (as Christians assert) then He was in fact a zombie.

There seems to be a growing fascination and/or association with Jesus’ resurrection and zombie culture. It’s time to put this silliness to bed.

Without further ado, here now are the

TOP TEN REASONS WE CAN BE SURE JESUS CHRIST WASN’T/IS NOT A ZOMBIE

1. When a person has been turned into a zombie, angels do not materialize to herald his reanimation with the words, ‘Do not fear – He is risen!’

2. Jesus had a hearty hankerin’ for fish after His resurrection and not disciple flesh or brains.

3. Jesus easily left behind the burial linens He was tightly wrapped in after He rose from the dead and somehow managed to roll away a nearly two-ton stone that sealed His tomb. On the other hand, zombies can be restrained with straight-jackets (if you can suit them up without being bitten) or be easily held in place by a length of chain.

4. Jesus was actually worshipped by people after He appeared alive to those He knew. Zombies aren’t worshipped by those they knew as they’re too busy fleeing from them in terror or scrambling for a 22.

5. Jesus had to prove to the disciples He was not a ghost (but rather, a physical reality) by showing them His scarred hands and feet. Zombies often have little left of their hands and feet after some advanced rotting has taken place, which pretty much establishes they’re more dead-ish than alive-ish.

6. When the risen Jesus appeared before people, He spoke very articulately whereas a zombie’s vocabulary is generally limited to, “Uuuaaarggghh!”

7. Immediately following Jesus’ proclamation of the ‘great commission’, He was taken up into the heavens fully intact. Zombies, however, are ‘taken out of commission’ by bullets/axes to the head and end up splattered all over the ground.

8. After Jesus’ resurrection, both an angel and Jesus Himself gave advance notice that He’d be popping up in nearby Galilee. Zombies fail to provide advance notice for anything – they are rude and pop up unannounced at all hours.

9. Jesus returned to life in a very-much-alive human body in order to display God’s incredible power that will one day be fully extended to all believers as a reward for their faithfulness. Zombies are considered ‘the living dead’ and have nothing to look forward to but further putrefaction or a coup de grâce that ends whatever ‘life’ it is they’ve been enjoying.

10. Several highly intelligent researchers who investigated the resurrection of Jesus started out as skeptics but became believers. No amount of investigation, as of yet, has been able to confirm the existence of zombies as depicted in popular cinema/television, ever!

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”
Philippians 3:20-21 (New Living Translation)

© 2014 Flagrant Regard

1. Matthew 28:5-6 / Mark 16:6 / Luke 24:6 /
2. Luke 24:41-43 / John 21:9-14
3. Matthew 28:2 / Mark 16:4,6 / Luke 24:2,12 / John 20:5-7
4. Matthew 28:9,17 / Luke 24:52 / John 20:28
5. Luke 24:36-40
6. Luke 24:13-30, 38-49 / John 21:12-23
7. Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15,19 / Luke 24:51
8. Matthew 28:7 / Mark 16:7 /
9. Luke 24:36-43 / John 20:17,27 / John 20:31 / Acts 1:9-10 / Philippians 3:18-21 / 1 Corinthians 15:20-25 / Revelation 1:18, 21:1-7
10. C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Frank Morrison, J.Warner Wallace, Nabeel Quereshi, Philip Vander Elst, Alister E. McGrath

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Humor, Humour, Religion, Theology, zombies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Top Ten Reasons Why You Wouldn’t Want Your Parents To Name You ‘Messiah’

670px-Stop-Being-a-Bully-Step-3

In Tennessee this week, a judge was cited for his ruling that a couple who’d petitioned to have their new-born son registered with the first-name, ‘Messiah’ could not do so on the grounds that, “The word ‘messiah’ is a title, and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ.” (1)

While we agree that the judge was a little over-zealous in his ruling – that people should have the right to name their kid almost anything they want – we DO think that growing up with the name, ‘Messiah’ may have its drawbacks.

Here now (ala David Letterman format) are the

TOP TEN REASONS WHY YOU WOULDN’T WANT YOUR PARENTS TO NAME YOU ‘MESSIAH’

10. Getting caught swearing by people who are happy to note, “Well that sure doesn’t sound Aramaic to me!”

9. Having to avoid common sayings that could offend such as, “I’m just hanging around” or “Really nailed it” … (sorry!)

8. Trying to live up to the high expectation your mom has that you’ll treat her like Holy Mother Mary at all times

7. Problem when there’s a shortage of grape juice at the family dinner and everyone turns to you, begging for you do something about it

6. Finding that, when another kid named ‘Messiah’ in your class is the one causing problems, you hear yourself telling the teacher, “But I’m not the Messiah you’re looking for!”

5. Your mother talks about you to her friends, saying, “Oh he’s fine – just don’t cross him.”

4. Being chided by your professor of religion (right after he informs you that you’re failing his class), “If you are indeed who you say you are, throw yourself into your work and I’ll give you all the great grades you see before you.”

3. High probability of bullies in the schoolyard whacking you from behind and shouting, “Okay Messiah, who hit you?”

2. Being told by your family waiting at the airport for your arrival during the thanksgiving holidays, “Yeah, we saw you coming in the clouds” every flippin’ year

… and the NUMBER ONE REASON WHY YOU SHOULDN’T NAME YOUR CHILD ‘MESSIAH’ …

1. Far too easy for psychiatrists to figure out what kind of complex you’re developing

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

(1) http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sns-rt-us-usa-tennessee-judge-20131025,0,617443.story

Categories: Christianity, Creative Writing, Humor, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Matter of Some Integrity – Unfortunately, Not My Own

After hearing a sermon on ‘The Integrity of Joseph’ at church last Sunday and then my meeting up with a dude this week who demonstrated ethics and/or integrity that superseded my own, I hereby feel it is my solemn duty declare myself an abuser of God’s grace.

What I mean is that even at the best of times I know my goodness doesn’t add up to a hill of holy beans. I live with that – maybe a bit too comfortably – because I’m ‘covered’ by Christ’s work on the cross to ‘save a wretch like me’. But when I encounter a fellow who hasn’t declared himself to be of any notable faith-based disposition/persuasion behaving or acting better than I do, I am bugged. My spirit becomes irritated because it’s then I realize how badly I’ve been using God’s grace as a free pass to write off my less-than-perfect attitudes, behaviours or actions; labelling them ‘growth areas’ or things that ‘God’s still working on’. Cop-out!

So THIS is what the Holy Spirit’s job is then – to ‘convict me of short-comings’ and ‘guide me into all truth’. What better way to do this than to show me up with a man who displays integrity in an area I do not. It’s like I’m being told, “Martin! You see that? That’s what you should be doing but you ain’t. What are we going to do about that?”

Being put in one’s place by a person who hasn’t professed any religious affiliations is like my considering myself a pro-ball player, only to have a guy who specializes in making doughnuts step up to the plate and hit a home run first time at bat. That kind of thing catches you off guard because you think YOU’RE the one with experience and know-how and then boom – you’re blown away by the contrast created by a single, remarkable act performed by someone you’re not expecting it from.

The day before I met up with ‘Mr. Integrity’, I had been reading in the Bible about the story of a particular individual Christ encountered in his travels way back when.* It’s a sure bet that the ‘people of the promise’ (those of the Jewish faith) who began to comprehend that their Messiah was among them thought that they were the most blessed and holiest people, had the right God, were full of all the right beliefs etc.. Then Jesus meets a Roman official – a nobody as far as the Jews were concerned – but of whom Jesus remarked, “In all of Israel I haven’t found faith like this” … all because he did the right thing at the right time with the right Man watching. As the story goes, the Roman official had a sick servant he cared about and whom he wanted to see healthy again. No biggie: go find this Jesus guy because he’s known to have a one-hundred per cent success rate with miracles and because He’s a no-nonsense authority on lots of things. Because our Roman friend believed in such a matter-of-fact way, Jesus healed the servant from an untold distance – a first as far as we know with respect to the wonders done by the Messiah. I wonder how many of the Jewish folks standing around hearing Jesus remarking about the Roman official’s unique, exemplary faith, looked down at their feet at that moment feeling somewhat teed off with either Jesus or themselves?

This past Sunday, pastor G. opened his sermon with, “Integrity is the kind of thing you expect from other people“. How true: we often want to see authenticity in others first before we offer it ourselves. But that will not do for this believer. It’s not a pride thing that drives me to better myself or to shoot for a higher standard, but the desire to be more Christ-like and to be, as Paul the apostle said, “above reproach” in the sight of believers and non-believers alike.

Who’s with me? Who wants to shine a little brighter in the light of the Son? Time to get out the polish (God’s word) and also to learn from every example of goodness we see that sets the stage for changes toward the better in our own lives.

© 2013 Martin D. of Flagrant Regard

* Matthew 8:5-13

1 Tim 3:1-13
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap. The same goes for those who want to be servants in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things. Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on. No exceptions are to be made for women — same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine. Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith.
(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

Categories: Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Integrity, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flagrant Regard Launches Thought-Provoking New Song ‘Reimagine’

Reimagine’ Now Available On iTunes

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today”
(from John Lennon’s 1971 song, ‘Imagine’)

For years, John Lennon’s song Imagine has always been one of those songs that leaves me feeling unsettled whenever I hear it. There’s certainly no doubt that Imagine is melodically beautiful, artfully recorded and musically uplifting.  Lennon’s voice is in its prime and the piece is sung with sensitivity and raw emotion. The words represent John’s (and Yoko’s) heartfelt desire to see a better world come about through unifying peace. (A poem by Yoko Ono initially inspired John’s lyrics for the 1971 recording.)

Imagine is over 40 years old now and we still hear it being ‘covered’ or played at memorials and peace rallies across the globe.  It’s also somewhat odd that though Lennon recommended that we “imagine there’s no countries”, the song received renewed word-wide attention at the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics – a celebration that inherently lauds national pride and diversity in the wake of intense competition.

That said, as a follower of Christ, I feel compelled to take issue with the overarching message of the song. A good portion of the lyrics of Imagine are emblematic of the atheistic or humanistic idea of what it would take to bring true peace to mankind. According to Lennon, peace can come at a price that includes, among other things, that of forsaking belief in God, belief in an afterlife, and even the passion to live or die for something truly important.

Blogger Paul Wilkinson pointed me to an article in Christianity Today authored by David Neff that noted the following:

“… a friend reminded me of comedian Steve Martin’s comic tune, “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.” At the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Martin waved a single sheet of paper and told the audience, “This is the entire atheist hymnal, right here.” … “Martin is clever, but wrong. John Lennon wrote just such a tune in 1971. Lennon’s tune for “Imagine” is indeed inspiring. But Lennon’s text posits an existence with “nothing to live or die for.” With no countries, no possessions, no heaven or hell, no religion, Lennon promised, the world would live as one. Not likely. Perhaps Martin was right to ignore the song.”

Our pastor recently re-reviewed the lyrics of Imagine and made an interesting observation: “If you take out the first ‘verse’ of his song, he [Lennon] is actually describing heaven. The problem is that by ignoring the call of heaven (God’s Kingdom) and living for today, Heaven is only a dream never realized. The bitter irony of the song is that the call/desire of the first verse completely removes the possibility of experiencing the rest of the song’s desire.”

When people, beliefs aside, join their hands and light a myriad of candles while singing Imagine reverently (or at the top of their lungs) at some important gathering, it’s certainly not a bad thing. But there is a more excellent way.

God challenges us to ‘reimagine’ what the world and what the future is to be through the message of hope revealed to us through Jesus and his disciples. Some serious time spent reading the New Testament reveals that there is a God who is there and cares so deeply for us that He doesn’t want us to settle for the kind of peace that fades, but wants us to know a peace that is real, lasting and available to anyone by way of a dynamic relationship He is absolutely prepared to begin in each one of us. But take note, it will cost you – your preconceived notions about God, your level of comfort, your media-influenced beliefs or life choices, and possibly many other things along the way. But it will be well worth it in the long run.

Flagrant Regard, by way of this song, challenges you to reimagine peace, reimagine hope and reimagine what it means to truly experience life to the fullest.

It is our sincere hope that followers of Christ everywhere share this song whenever and wherever they can in order to open up discussion about or spark interest in the message of the cross.

In Him Who is Our Peace,

Flagrant Regard

Categories: Christian Contemporary Music, Christianity, Creative Writing, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Worship Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

My Nose Can See!

It was about 12:30am when I, chronic nighthawk that I am, decided to burn off my remaining energy and go for a long walk; a fairly recent habit I’ve gotten into since moving back to Uxbridge.

As I stepped out into the still night and mused over the beauty of the cheddar-tinted half-moon that hovered over the southern back half of the town, I began to stroll the many neighbourhoods that make up this wonderful little town and which my wife had once dubbed “Sweetville” shortly after our settling here the first time.

Halfway into my walk, I began to close my eyes and inhale deeply, saying a few prayers as I ambled along.  As I did so, I became electrically aware of something I’d never really experienced before.  My nose could see!  I mean, I know it’s always been able to smell stuff.  But I’d never actually accessed its lavish abilities.  I learned that when you really give it full reign, you can actually use your nose to assess where you are, what your eyes may or may not be perceiving and even what’s up ahead in your travels.  The olfactory proboscis bounces back information to your brain like a radar device and you find your self saying to yourself, “That’s a maple tree!” … “Oh, and that’s water – I smell the falls coming off the pond!” … “Apple blossoms are up ahead!” … “Must be recycle day – smell all of that card-board!”.

I got to thinking that a living and vibrant faith, once it’s been handed to us by the Creator above, creates within us the same kind of powerful awakening that would ensue upon our receiving say, a new set of eyes with which to view things, or in my case, a very awake nose with which I could identify my surroundings!

Unconventional thinking is how lives are changed.  If we always see things the same way, we can never grow or properly identify the world around us.  Faith is unconventional, and oft thought as being futile and ‘blind’.  But the faith Christ gives us is not that at all.  Faith in God is learning to see through His senses.  What was mundane to us due to our limited scope or that which might have been completely ignored by us before is gradually (or sometimes rapidly) thought of quite differently.  We begin to hurt over things that hurt our Lord.  We are enthralled by things that enthrall the Spirit of the Kingdom we become new citizens of.  Real faith changes our outlook and bridges the gap between what we’ve always known, and what we have yet to know about the familiar things in our lives.

If we learn to fully access the portion of faith God lovingly gives us, we’ll realize that it isn’t so much about our moving mountains as it is our allowing the mountains to move us.

1. “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

© 2011 Flagrant Regard

1. Words: Attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th Century (Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride); translated from ancient Irish to English by Mary E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Journal of the School of Irish Learning, 1905, and versed by Eleanor H. Hull, 1912, alt.

NOTE:  This blog-post was from last summer (2011).  We’ve since moved from ‘Sweetville’ to just north of the G.T.A. where nature and beauty still surround us.  We are so truly blessed!

Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boxing Day Musings on ‘Staying Grand’

In the course of my business day, I hear the latest and trendiest of corporate jargon (phrases such as ‘let’s consider the optics of that‘ and ‘let’s get alignment on this‘ and ‘let’s drill down‘ and ‘let’s unpack this‘).  We are definitely corporate cool when it comes to language. So much so that my uber-swank workplace even calls a Powerpoint file a ‘deck‘ which I personally consider a lexicon-fail because the word continually yanks my brain back to the gruesomely analog 70s where I sit on a floor subjected to watching an endless array of slides of my aunt and uncle’s seemingly incessant vacations, the horrible photography made worse by the excruciating clatter of 35 mm slides as they drop and pop and more-often-than-not stick as the deck turns. But I digress. The above highlighted snippets of pretentious vocabulary are my top nominations for 2012 Newspeak … or they were until Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I attended a soiree after our church’s first annual (and incident-free) candle-lighting service at which the better half of FR sang a song he wrote some 30 years ago accompanied only by his adept guitar playing. It is a truly beautiful song which puts forward the notion that, between partying and socializing and gifting and re-gifting, it’s okay to say ‘happy birthday’ to Jesus at this time of year.

The church, which we have been attending since last August, is full of many wonderful, mostly retired people, including a nonagenarian general practitioner and his wife, whom I shall call TB and BB. We had the privilege of sitting with them at the after party, munching and chatting (as we had done once before at a local Tim Horton’s after church) and, when it was time to mingle, and we stood up to leave the table, TB told my husband to “stay grand” … huh? What was that? Stay grand? I must say it took some time for my ear-to-brain mechanism to reconcile what he said and what he meant.

By telling someone to ‘stay grand’, it means, in your eyes, they have achieved a level of grandness. Grand is not a word flashed about in normal conversation in 2012, or even in the last few decades for that matter, and is an adjective describing what is “impressive in size, appearance, or general effect; stately, majestic, or dignified in front of an audience; highly ambitious or idealistic; magnificent or splendid; and noble or revered.”

I always knew my husband was something special and indescribable in many ways. It has always taken me a myriad of words to describe all his wonderful attributes (as evidenced by his Christmas card that I crafted about this time yesterday) but TB considered the optics, drilled down, and unpacked that my husband is, in a word, grand. That is the word I’ve been searching for … for 14 years! Grand … it seems to me that using that word to describe someone can only come from one who really, really knows your heart and nature. How could TB, who has only met my husband twice, both times over coffee, come to such a conclusion that I couldn’t grasp myself in our years together? The Bible says we never know when we are entertaining angels and I’m starting to have a funny feeling about TB …

Now that I officially live in the shadow of bona fide grandness on a daily basis (and I do have my tongue firmly planted in cheek), albeit that he oftentimes goes around in sweats, unshaven and wearing his hair in a ponytail, I feel it incumbent upon myself to rise to the calling and stay grand myself. Jesus said in John 15:5, “… for without Me, you can do nothing”. So I cannot be grand … we cannot stay grand … without Him. As the song my husband sang on Christmas Eve boldly asks, “how ’bout you”?

Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry New Year to all!

Link to A Christmas Song here.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The God Who ‘Sticks His Neck Out’

There was once a man who went for a walk in the fields near his home in the early springtime. As he began to make his way upon familiar paths, he eventually came up to a pond that he had passed by many times on his previous sojourns.

The winter had not been a heavy one and the pond was shallow enough for the man to see many rocks sticking partway out of the pond; some round, some more rough and angular.

The man decided to venture a little closer to the pond’s edge and noted that one of the rounder rocks in the water had a different sheen on it than the other ones. Not having the greatest vision, the man put on his glasses and was soon able to confirm that the rock indeed looked different from the others in the pond. Though mildly curious, he concluded nothing further and was certainly not about to waste his time getting his feet wet in order to determine why this particular rock was different.

He was about to tread up the hill away from the pond to resume his strolling through the fields when suddenly the sun came out from behind the clouds and the rock that he thought was an inert hunk of rounded stone moved!

A head, followed by a long neck slowly began to extend itself outward from one end of the semi-circular ‘rock’, eventually stretching its way out and above the surface of the pond and into the blazing light of day.

The man laughed at himself and said, “I should have known! That was no rock, it was a turtle all along! I guess if I’d made the effort to wade near the pond’s edge the creature might have stirred and I’d have known it was a turtle sooner. Heck, I could have picked up one of the long sticks that lay along the banks of the pond and reached out to prod the ‘rock’. Then I would certainly have known it was not a rock at all.”

Only the man didn’t.

However, the turtle did what turtles do: at just the opportune moment, the creature made his move – stretching out his head with eyes a’blinking – in order to bask in, absorb and reflect the light of the life-giving sun. Through this one act, the turtle revealed his true identity as a living being to a man who might otherwise have gone on his way thinking that he had simply seen a slightly different looking rock sticking out of a pond on a warm spring day.”

———————————————————————————————————————-

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, in one of his famous detective stories, once stated, “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes”. How true! We can often pass by a familiar object and not see any further significance in the object, other than the fact that it is there. A bit more investigation, if we’re interested enough, may reveal that the object we’ve thought as being one thing is in fact another thing entirely. Have you ever had a moment where it finally hit you that you’ve been seeing things wrong (or have maybe been oblivious to what’s directly in front of you)? That photograph you’ve walked by every day at the office, suddenly it’s, “Hey, that’s no photo, that’s a painting!” Or mom’s ‘fake’ plant in the corner of the living room – it turns out to be real (usually, right after you’ve accidentally ripped off one of its leaves in a careless moment). It’s times like these we realize that our perceived world is not always grounded in reality.

When it comes to our knowing what’s what regarding anything, we must agree that the goal of all humanity is to grow in knowledge in order to further benefit our existence and not to run on mere instincts. (When humanity does operate from primal or base desires, it often results successfully in filling up jail cells. Though correctional officers and police benefit from this via employment, no sane person would consider the situation utopian.) Growth in the area perception is one of those things that makes us truly human. With perception changes occurring as we mature, our creeds and philosophies are born and affect/frame our whole lives. However, there comes a point where we seem to settle in our ways and it’s at that stage where most of us are extremely disinterested in ‘re-perceiving’ our world or our views, religious or otherwise. We’ll look at things through the lens of our prejudices or from our set of perspectives and then comment on one issue or another (in attempts to find balance), often with tepid sayings like, “It’s all the same when you look at it,” or “To each his own,” or “A rose by any other name is still a rose”. But things are not all the same and there is an incredible amount one could learn about roses if they care to!

Is it possible your view of God is something like this? Maybe for years you’ve seen God in one way and one way only. Maybe you’ve always seen Him as an ‘amorphous blob’, having no definite shape, form or identity. Or maybe you view God as being like ‘the Force’ – a good or bad power as per George Lucas’ concept in Star Wars (and which was borrowed heavily from Eastern religions). Or conversely, you’ve always thought of God (or have been made to think of God) as the very opposite of ‘unknowable’ – that in fact, he’s very knowable: as an overarching, dominating being who arbitrarily picks and chooses who lives or dies, who’s saved or damned, and who is incapable of showing anything ‘humane’ or something akin to benevolent love to his creation? There are so many views of God that it would be next to impossible to list them all.

The only way we can become ‘unstuck’ regarding our view of God is through His Spirit (that personal extension of His very being) shining a light into our hearts so that we can clearly see that God is far more incredible, involved and interested than we think He is.  This applies to the unbelieving, the skeptical and even at times the religious-minded! If we’d only take (or make) time to wait for a ‘parting of the clouds’ – that moment when God reveals His true self to us – how much further along would we be? God has done this in the past for those who looked for truth and reality concerning Him and He can do this for us now. We so want God to ‘show up’ in this world and ‘do something’, but what if He already has (or still does) and some of us just haven’t grasped that?

Maybe you’re like Christ’s disciple, Philip, who in John’s Gospel, asks Jesus a ‘simple’ favour: “Show us (me and the rest of the disciples here) the Father (the God of Israel) and that will be enough for us!”

Jesus hands Philip ‘God on a platter’, so to speak, with the words, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

These words of Jesus should encourage some serious investigation, if in fact they’re true. For me, Jesus’ claims have spawned such investigation and thanks to superb authors such as Phillip Yancey, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and a host of others who’ve delved deeply into the Christian scriptures that hail back to the first century, I believe that one does get to know God by knowing Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us via the Gospels and other New Testament documents. But I also maintain that it had to have been God who shined down his light into my mind in order for me to ‘get it’ or understand the significance of Christ’s words and life. And if this Christ of the New Testament is truly true, as I believe He is, then He did more than just stick His neck out; He gave his very life-blood for the this broken world – for you – so that you could have a unique relationship with God unlike anything else this world and its many other religions offer.

For anyone willing to ‘stand on the banks’ and wait patiently, God will reveal Himself once His powerful light illuminates those priceless and pure realities that are found only in Him. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little prodding into things and step out into the mysterious waters of faith; that is true. But ultimately, it will be an intelligent, loving and amazing God who shows His true self to you and propels you into wanting to know more and more about Him with every passing day.

May that wonderful and superbly enlightening moment be yours soon, I pray,

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“… the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse, Chapter 2, verse 17

“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Peter’s 1st letter, Chapter 1, verse 19

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Shortest Christian Blog Post EVER!

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
Proverbs 10:19

… Yup.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012


Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Love Our Hollywood Heroes

Zoolander

How many times have you seen this in a Hollywood flick: 

Man falls in love with woman, woman appears to have her sights on or a commitment to someone else. 

The smitten man – always the story’s protagonist – does his best to win the woman’s affections and to become her ‘one and only’.  But, as the plot goes, the woman’s potential suitor finds himself in a losing battle with the other man in her life, or so it appears. And then of course, there comes this powerful moment in the story where he relinquishes his pursuit of the woman he’s in love with and, burying his hurt, stoically tells her something like, “I love you so much, I can’t afford to see you unhappy.  I want you to be with the man you truly love, and if it ain’t me babe, then at least I know you’re content.” 

In some movies the protagonist gets another kick at love’s can as the woman in the story realizes what a truly unselfish man she’s throwing away and, forsaking the safe and familiar, falls hard and passionately for the new guy.  At other times (but is less rarely seen in modern American films) the pursuing male wanders off dejected and alone as he sadly accepts his destiny –  not being with the woman he’s in love with.

In either outcome, we value the protagonist as a true, unwavering and selfless hero who wants the best for the one he loves even at the cost of his own happiness.  Now that’s a Hollywood hero!

We cherish our silver screen heroic archetypes, especially in stories like the above, because of the selflessness involved; the sacrifice that springs from genuine love.  As we watch the drama unfold, we find ourselves wanting to believe in that noble kind of love because we know it’s the right kind to fully embrace and which also ‘sets the bar’ for ourselves.

But what of our heroism with respect to our following Jesus?  How much more should we be ready to sacrifice our selfish wants and desires – no matter how painful it is – in order to make sure the God we claim to love is pleased?  Are we willing to give up all or, like the rich young ruler that Jesus encountered who was not willing to give up that which he held most dear to him, we too walk away without God’s blessing or true fulfillment in our lives? 

My wife and I heard these wonderful words of Martin Luther from a preacher just the other day:

“A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

In order to gain Christ, we are told it will mean us losing our very lives and sometimes walking away from the things we value most.  Will we walk away from a relationship that God’s word states is not right or will we blithely dismiss the clear instructions of the Scriptures in order to suit our desires or ideals?  Will we say in our prayers, “I want You to be pleased with everything I think, say and do, even if it means my sacrificing the things and/or beliefs I hold on to (which I think matter most).”? 

Loving God often means struggle and persecution, but it is ALWAYS about forsaking all in order to gain Christ’s blessing, once we’ve been saved by His grace.  If you view the Gospel in any other light, you are not yet a beneficiary of the truth.  Yes, God is all about love, but he’s also about holy living, exemplary behaviour as befitting His people and He expects TRUE REPENTANCE:  an about face in our hearts toward God and a resetting of our minds that enables us to seek out what God’s will is for every aspect of  our life. 

Do you want to be a hero?  Do you want to have the audience of angels and saints in heaven – and your heavenly Father himself – cheering for you?  Then be holy (sacred, morally upright, set apart), be seeking God’s will and be ready at all times to give your all no matter what the cost is to yourself.  This is how we win in this life and in the next.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“On His journey vast crowds attended Him, towards whom He turned and said, “If any one is coming to me who does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be a disciple of mine. No one who does not carry his own cross and come after me can be a disciple of mine. “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not sit down first and calculate the cost, asking if he has the means to finish it? — lest perhaps, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to finish, all who see it shall begin to jeer at him, saying, ‘This man began to build, but could not finish.’ Or what king, marching to encounter another king in war, does not first sit down and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand men to meet the one who is advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers and sues for peace. Just as no one of you who does not detach himself from all that belongs to him can be a disciple of mine.”
(Luk 14:25-33)

“Therefore, surrounded as we are by such a vast cloud of witnesses, let us fling aside every encumbrance and the sin that so readily entangles our feet. And let us run with patient endurance the race that lies before us, simply fixing our gaze upon Jesus, our Prince Leader in the faith, who will also award us the prize. He, for the sake of the joy which lay before Him, patiently endured the cross, looking with contempt upon its shame, and afterwards seated Himself– where He still sits–at the right hand of the throne of God. Therefore, if you would escape becoming weary and faint-hearted, compare your own sufferings with those of Him who endured such hostility directed against Him by sinners.”
(Heb 12:1-3)

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Mathterlife Equations


Ever wondered if all the world’s religions or faith-groups (and what they believe regarding the afterlife) could be broken down into simple mathematical formulas?

Well, here’s an attempt at what that might look like.

VALUES

M = Mankind
W = Works (usually referent to goodness via thoughts, words and deeds)
D = Death (the constant)
U = Uncertainty (unknown or unknowable outcome)
B = Belief (faith in an unseen force or being)
AE = Ambiguous Eternity (includes reincarnation belief systems)
S = Substitutionary Death (of Jesus Christ)
R = Relationship (faith based communion/prayerful intimacy with God)
GE = Guaranteed Eternity


NON-FAITH BASED EQUATIONS


1. Atheists

M + W = D + Ø

2. Agnostics

M + W = D + U

The Algebraic Take
In case of the agnostic, they believe M or W (or both) have a value higher than do atheists, in order for U > Ø. However, since M + W are in fact the same quantities then D + U = D, leading to U = Ø at the very least.

The Theological Take
Agnostics and Atheists have to be the saddest lot, in that their non-belief consigns them to a life with temporary significance. Meaning and purpose is measured (or experienced) via ephemeral/fleeting notions of what is good or bad given a particular moment in time. There is no grounded universal with respect to ethics or morality. No foundation of belief regarding the spiritual exists. The afterlife, if there is one, is wholly unknowable.


FAITH BASED EQUATIONS


3. Nontheistic or Polytheistic Religions

M + B + W = D + AE

The Algebraic Take
D + AE > D only if B > Ø. If belief with no quantifier (something definitive to believe in) is the same as no belief at all, then B = Ø and again D + AE = D, leading to U = Ø at the very least.

The Theological Take
In nontheistic faiths such as Buddhism, some souls might enter the ‘hungry ghost realm’ (if they belonged to evil people) or will reincarnate into another person until all bad karma has been dealt with and one achieves ‘Nirvana’, which is essentially a successful transition to blissful ignorance!

In the polytheistic religion of Hinduism or Jainism, karma is directly linked to your past deeds and/or misdeeds. Your bad debts are paid off in transiting from life to life and you can never hope to know what type of existence will befall you upon your ‘next go around’. (One of the reasons the poorer classes (aka. Talits) of India are not well regarded or assisted by many of the well-to-do in society is due to the traditional and pervasive belief that the poor are where they are because karma is being meted out to them by way of their suffering!)


4. Spiritualist, Mystical or ‘Fringe’ Belief Systems

(M + B) | (M + W) = D + AE

Note: “|= logical or

The Algebraic Take
If (M + B) > (M + W) in conceptual value, we have no contradiction if from the previous case B = Ø (non quantified), and again neither can be > D, and so again, here B and W can be used interchangeably, and in the end, D + AE = D, and so again AE = Ø.

The Theological Take
Wiccans, serious practitioners of eastern meditation, New Age types or spiritualists all have one thing in common: a desire to be non-conformist in their approach to faith or religious practices. In other words, if a belief concept is considered ‘outside the box’ or non-traditional, it’s a candidate for interest. Multiple elements borrowed from Christianity, eastern mysticism, witchcraft, Buddhism, Jainism and even voodoo form a hodgepodge of beliefs and/or practices. Achieving harmony with self, nature and others is the primary focus while thoughts of the afterlife are of secondary concern; often a mish-mash of various ideas with no root concepts. The need to address one’s own moral evil or sinfulness and how it relates to ‘the next world’ is usually regarded as ‘old school’ and even offensive, while goodness is whatever one deems it to be. What unifies people in this belief category is their having no unified idea of what God or the afterlife truly entails.


5. Monotheistic Abrahamic Religions and/or Christian Cults

M + B + W = D + AE

The Algebraic Take
Same as case 3.  D + AE = D, AE = Ø.

The Theological Take
Religions such as Judaism, Islam and even Mormonism have a munificence of customs and beliefs based on holy books or sacred scriptures. Beliefs and customs vary somewhat, but what they ALL have in common is an understanding that the rights and wrongs committed in this life are what impact one’s ultimate destination; that being heaven or hell and particular levels therein.

Doing one’s best, along with a general or committed belief in God should or could result in a good outcome, but there is still no guarantee! (Incidentally, women do not share celestial equality with men in Islam and Mormonism.)


6. Christianity’s Equation

S + M + B + R = D – D + GE

The Algebraic Take
Here belief is quantified by S and R, giving the all-important GE quantity, and interestingly, the constant D is cancelled out on the right side of the equation thanks to the substitutionary death S = -D on the left side.

The Theological Take
Christianity is the ONLY FAITH system where the belief in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ supersedes man’s moral uprightness. Classical first-century Christianity contends that mankind cannot (nor will ever be able to) understand or attain a level of goodness that God would be impressed by or satisfied with. It further asserts that even the negative, dark thoughts of the mind count as spots on our souls. In order for God to receive us into his presence fully and completely (in this life AND the next), we have to be perfect. Realistically, this is quite impossible. To become perfect enough for God, a person must accept that they are morally and ethically a shifty, inept being who can never attain a full level of goodness that meets God’s requirements in areas of purity, holiness and right-standing character and that the ONLY solution to this dilemma is to be made perfect! Christ, who while on earth was perfect in every way, was indeed a great teacher and an incredible man but Christians believe he was far more than that. They believe that God, through Christ, revealed his intense love for us by sacrificing His very self in death in order to make us perfect and bridge the barrier that exists between a holy God and not-very-holy humanity. A further step was taken by this same God – to provide evidence of His power and ability – when He caused Jesus’ body to rise up and out of death’s grip within three days of His brutal execution. This miraculous event, witnessed by several hundred people, validated to these people (and those who would believe their testimony) that Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be and that God’s seal of approval rests with Him and Him alone. (No other religious leader has ever left an empty tomb behind them.) When this is believed in wholeheartedly and whole-mindedly by anyone and a true one-to-one relationship between them and God ensues as a result, God determines them ‘fully qualified’ for entrance into a peaceful and purposeful eternity.

One may notice that the ‘W‘ (works) variable is missing from Christian math equation. The reason? A Christian’s relationship with God (as brought about through Christ’s saving work) is the only means by which we will ever be able to rest, let alone stand, in the presence of the Almighty. A turning away from things that are considered spiritually or morally unhealthy evidences true Christian belief and ‘good works’ will be the natural outworking that springs from the new life and relationship God begins in a real believer. Just as it is believed that in the next life evildoers will receive punishment that befits their crimes, Christians, upon entering their eternity with God, understand that they will receive some measure of reward for the good works that they have done while in their earthly bodies. (After opening and entering through the door of faith, it is very important to note that the Christian no longer maintains that any {or any amount} of their good deeds are what qualify them for an eternity with God and often reflects upon this, remembering that anything to the contrary strips away the true meaning and ultimate purpose of Christ’s death on the cross.)

My attempt to explain faith concepts using mathematical equations is certainly a feeble one, but fortunately God is not feeble. He is powerful enough to whisper into the deafest ear, “I am here – know my Son, know Me, know my intense love for you and believe”. Today, this may be you.

I pray anyone reading this will hear the call of the Master and come to know the truth that indeed sets them free.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012., with algebraic corrections and commentary provided by Boris D.


For further evidence of the above, please download a free copy of the bible (and a variety of helpful commentaries) from www.e-sword.net and review for yourselves, in context, the following verses.

Letter to the Romans 5:6-11
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
New American Standard Translation

Letter to the Hebrews 12:22-24
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
New International Version

Letter to the Philippians 3:7-14
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
New Living Translation

Letter to the Hebrews 10:1-25
The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—as is written about me in the Scriptures.'”

First, Christ said,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.”

He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says,

“This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he says,

“I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”

And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
New Living Translation

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