Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Holy Jealousy

My favorite story of this past week's chapter camp came courtesy of a student from the University of Rhode Island. He began his story by telling that of Gideon, how the latter brought an army of 22,000 to wage battle against the Midianites. The Lord told him 22,000 was too many, so Gideon sent 12,000 home. The Lord again told Gideon that 10,000 was too many and proceeded to scatter the army all the way down to 300.

22,000 troops down to 300. Yet, the Lord, and undoubtedly not the army, brought victory in the ensuing battle.

Similarly this week, the Lord whittled down the URI contingent at camp to disappointingly low numbers, especially given that URI has one of the largest fellowships in New England that crests triple digits in numbers of students regularly attending their events. Yet, this student told of vision given, hope restored, God's purposes accomplished.

Triple digits down to single ones. Yet, the Lord, and undoubtedly not the students, brought victory this week at chapter camp.

I spoke to the student after he shared, thanking him for telling his story. He replied quite simply:

"The Lord is very jealous of his glory. He refuses to let it go to another."

I love this about the Almighty. He remains jealous of his glory, refusing to allow us to take credit for the wonderful things that he does. Certainly, Israel could not take credit for a major military victory with only 300 soldiers present. Certainly, URI could not take credit for the kingdom's advancement this past week. The credit, the glory goes to the Lord God Almighty, as it should all the time. Praise God for times like this when he shows us that reality and refuses to let our pride take credit for the transformational work that he is doing.

The Lord is very jealous of his glory indeed. He refuses to let it go to another.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lent in September

You can tell a lot about someone by his or her trashcan.



Case in point: I like Dunkin' Donuts. In North Carolina, Dunkin' Donuts exists as junk food; accordingly, my semi-addiction left me a glutton. In New England, Dunkin' Donuts exists a staple, a way of life even; accordingly my growing addiction leaves me, well, normal. Normality eludes me most days in this strange and foreign land, so I cling to it on a daily basis at the purple and orange. My trashcan reveals this.

This September, however, my trashcan will remain empty. I will not consume Dunks coffee. I will not gorge on Dunks donuts. In fact, I will not visit Dunks at all.

Lent comes early this year for your humble hack.

Now, dear reader, you may find yourself asking, "Why this new found abstinence? Health kick? That seems rather out of character. Budget cuts? Well, coffee only costs $2.00. Tired of taking out the trash, perhaps? Foolishness! A small price to pay for such excellence! If not these reasons, then why?"

Glad you asked. Allow me to explain.

The InterVarsity chapter at the University of New Hampshire will travel to the Gulf Coast this Spring Break to help with the continued Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Three years later, much work still remains to help people recover their lives, though you might not know this since the media and many celebrities have not found it chic to continue pointing towards the need. Regardless, it remains and desperately so.

Last year, InterVarsity in New Hampshire sent 70 students (2 of whom were the co-captains of UNH's nationally ranked football team) down to the Gulf, half of whom did not profess a faith in Christ. Here, they found themselves exposed to suffering, Christians who care about that suffering, and the biblical truth about how God responds to this suffering. In short, they heard the Gospel and saw it in action. This year, we have implemented a new program called "Bring a Friend to Build." The gist: this Spring Break, any IV student who invites and brings someone not currently involved with the fellowship goes for half the $400 price. The invited friend also attends for half price.

We have to raise money to make this happen. To do so, some of the InterVarsity staff, self included, will embark on a marathon. No, not the kind that involves lots of running. We will take on a task much bolder, much riskier than that. We will tackle a 100-hole (yes, 100 holes!) golf marathon in one day, that day being September 24. Trees, houses, rodents, anything within reach of my slice, beware!

I seek sponsors for this endeavor.

Enter: my trashcan.

Now, I do not have a lot of money to fling around. Most of you find yourselves in similar situations, especially considering I have already approached most of you for money to fund my salary. However, I do somehow find enough money to fling around each day at Dunkin' Donuts - specifically, $3.00/day for a coffee and 2 donuts, 6 days/week, 4 weeks/September. Abstaining from coffee and donuts will free up $72 over the course of September.

I challenge you, dear reader, to find something in your trashcan you can give up for the month of September to enable someone to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ this March. Magazines. Coffee. Little Debbies. Deodorant. Sweet Tea. Beer. Movie Tickets. Join me in giving something up for the month of September and committing the savings to non-Christians seeking Jesus Christ.

If you commit $0.25/hole, that would be $25. $0.50/hole would come out to $50. If you committed $2/hole, you would send one non-Christian to the Gulf. All donations are tax deductible.

If this peaks your interest, send an e-mail to ben_humphries@ivstaff.org to let me know. I will let you know how, when, and where to give. If we can get enough people interested, I will write a post on it, and we can keep track of how our abstinences progress (or, even more entertainingly, fail) throughout the month of September. I may even ask some of you to write a post to let us know how it goes.

What's more, we will have much to celebrate together come Spring Break.

You can tell a lot about a person by his or her trashcan. May your trashcan make a statement about the Kingdom of Jesus Christ this September.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Slaughter Rule, Anyone?

Odd Encounter of the Week: "BAL Bullpen: 4IP 20H 24ER 7BB 7K"

This box score line rolled across my television last night, as ESPN rocked me to sleep with its Sportscenter lullaby. For those not familiar with baseball, that line reads as followed: four innings pitched, twenty hits, twenty-four earned runs, seven walks, and seven strike-outs.

The line did nothing to help me sleep. It simply made me laugh out loud. In my 400-sq ft apartment, all alone, I shamelessly cackled for seconds on end. It reminded me of the time I laughed out loud while reading a book on punctuation. Despite how it may sound, I stand not embarrassed. It was just that funny. Same deal last night.

The Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles last night 30-3. And no, these teams do not play football. In fact, that Baltimore FOOTBALL TEAM had not given up 30 points since 2005. This may, in fact, exist as the grandest professional sports thrashing of my lifetime. For certain, the four innings pitched by the Baltimore bullpen have to exist as the worst collective effort of any group of athletes in recent sports memory (though I am open and eager for a discussion of this which will no doubt lead to more smiles and laughter).

The stats around this thing are horrifyingly hilarious. They are also well-documented (and will continue to be) by ESPN. However, I feel a couple comments particularly noteworthy:

-Going into the 4th inning, a third of the game already over, the Rangers trailed 3-0. Going into the 6th inning, the game more than half finished, they had a paltry 5-3 lead. They won 30-3 with a, uh, strong finish.

-They set the record for most runs ever scored in a double-header - BEFORE THE SECOND GAME HAD EVEN BEGUN.

-The Rangers had scored two runs total in their last two games.

-The Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia entered the game batting .179. He finished batting .262.

-Two players hit two home runs in the game. Texas also hit two grand slams.

-Not one of the runs given up by the Baltimore bullpen, not a one, came as a result of an error. No blame, no excuses, no rationalizations. Every run, hard earned.

-And perhaps my favorite stat of all, Texas pitcher Wes Littleton EARNED A SAVE for his work to protect a 27-run lead. On a night of hilarity, nothing remained funnier than the diction and reality of this.

Oh, why not? One more time. We may never see anything this funny in professional sport again.

BAL Bullpen: 4IP 20H 24ER 7BB 7K

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Where's My Denomination?

I never knew I liked denominations until now.

In my observations of folks my age, I think this love for denomination places me in the minority - or at the very least, in a majority which makes far less noise than the minority.

I liken church denominations to political parties, something else which seems to have fallen out of favor these days. People often claim that parties divide us and make us hate one another. 'Tis not the parties which divide us but the issues around which parties form; these divisive issues would remain with us whether parties went the way of the woolly mammoth or not. As far as not liking each other, we do such a fantastic job of that in most realms of life that certainly we cannot blame our relational discord on such constructions as political parties. They simply organize our dislike which could actually make it easier to quench.

Parties do a fantastic job of relaying to the public a general political ideology to which a candidate subscribes. This can then clue us in to where this person stands on specific issues. Certainly politicians do not line up rank and file on all issues, and they often cross party lines. Even then, the line crossing creates such a stir as to alert us very forcefully to the person's stance on said issue. Thus, we become informed. For the job of informing the public, parties perform adequately.

Denominations perform a similar task, articulating where certain groups of the body of Christ stand on certain issues. Disagreements within the body exist as a simple reality. This should not surprise, as the perspective of a big toe would stand quite different from that of the elbow joint.

Denominations have taken much heat for causing these dreaded (cue dark, haunting voice) "divisions in the body." I often find this phrase hyperbolized, as generally denominations differ on tertiary issues unrelated to the heart of the Gospel, that Christ died for sinners among whom I am foremost. Using such harsh diction as "divisions," we often make mountains out of molehills, divisions out of differences when really we stand more on the same page than not. What's more, these disagreements would exist irrespective of the existence of denominations. We would simply disagree in a less organized fashion which could prove even more disastrous.

What I find particularly useful about denominations lies in the accountability which the concept provides. Forgive my use of the cultural curse word, but stereotypes do exist in our world and often ground themselves in much truth. Denominations carry stereotypes, but the fact that they do provides constant opportunity to ensure that we combat the negative aspects of these stereotypes.

For example, the denomination to which I subscribe often stands accused of being too academic at the expense of the relational and of caring too little about social causes. Whether fair or not, this reputation forces us to make sure we do focus on the fact that God very really LOVES us and that we very really love the people in the world whom he also loves. If we avoid becoming defensive, the very existence of denominations can help ensure that the main thing is that we keep the main thing the main thing - or something like that.

I have found that the New Hampshire (and I suspect the New England) church does not deal in denominations as heavily as the church in the South does. Perhaps this emerges from the fewer amount of churches here in the Northeast or from the desperate need for unity in an environment overtly disinterested, and often hostile, to Jesus Christ. I stand certain that good, godly, biblical reasons explain this lack of denomination.

However, it makes it darn hard for a new person, namely me, to find a church. Without denominations, I have no clue where to start my search, as I know nothing about any church I visit save for what their website may articulate - which is to say, not much. I imagine I could visit a church for several weeks without knowing rather important beliefs like whether it thinks the resurrection is metaphor or reality or whether it believes all religions follow the same God or not. Without denominations, it makes it difficult to ensure orthodoxy.

I do believe the lack of denomination a good thing for the church in New Hampshire if for no other reason than the people here have obviously decided it so. It merely makes it inconvenient for me, and so I whine. I'm impatient! I want a church!! And I want it now!!! [insert whiny, 3 year old in the grocery store tantrum now] The lack of denomination has slowed that process down.

I never knew that I like denominations until now.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Prayer Request

If you have read Redeeming Prufrock for any amount of time, you know by name and comment the husband and wife combo of Chris and Jenn Pappa. They comment often, with wisdom and wit no less. I found out this morning that Jenn has been hospitalized with what doctors suspect is viral meningitis after recently returning from a two week stint on an overseas mission trip. I once sat in a hospital bed a room over from a person with meningitis and discovered by audible observation that the disease does not play around.

Somehow, an odd and unexplainable community has risen up around this blog. I can feel it, and I sense that many of you do as well. It was not intentioned, and I really do not know how it happened. Jenn and Chris have been a part of this.

In that spirit, I ask you all who read regularly to pray for them this morning. Pray for speedy recovery for Jenn. Pray also for Chris during what must be a tiring, worrisome, and overall difficult time for him. Please pray also for their faith, that their onlooking family and friends may see the power and relevancy of the Gospel in the way they navigate through this difficult time. I believe they want you all to pray this.

Thanks.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Transitory Thoughts

I received an e-mail from a prayer supporter yesterday that merely said:

"you=blog
soon"

Oh yeah, blog. I can do that. If I still remember how.

Hello, dear reader! Long time, no see. My apologies on my blog silence of late. Much has happened over the past two weeks including a 950 mile move complete with interstate and Penske rental truck; five days of meetings, conferences, and, well, life; and my first couple days in my currently internet-less new apartment.

Alack and alas, I have found blogging rather difficult during this time of transition. But no more! Enter: Dover Public Library, the hero of our story, with its close proximity and wireless internet.

We talked about these times of transition in a New Hampshire team meeting recently, looking at the Joshua 1 passage where the leadership of the entire nation of Israel transitions from Moses to Joshua.

Most of us on the team enter into some period of transition heading into this school year, so the question was asked, "What promises from God do you claim heading into this transition? What will you cling to when you hit your first obstacle?"

This easy question remained difficult for a few pensive moments, as I kept thinking of things that I wanted God to promise but which he had not. Perhaps my answer needs to begin there, with that which God does not promise.

He does not promise success as I would see or define it. I think of Moses. The Joshua 1 passage starts out with a striking statement from the Lord of Life, "My servant Moses is dead." Moses died never seeing the Promised Land, the goal to which his life-long endeavors bent. He never tasted the milk and honey, only catching glimpses of it from a far cliff.

Similarly, the Lord does not promise me the Promised Land. He does not promise the chapter at UNH to grow. He does not promise that we will see people come to love Jesus. He does not promise that the students will like me. I pray that these things will come to pass. What's more, I hopefully and confidently expect them to because I do think they will bring glory to God. But God does not promise them. I have no guarantee.

What he does promise is that I am where he desires me to be in a very literal and geographic sense. Perhaps more than any moment in my life, I know southern New Hampshire exists as the exact PLACE to where God has called me. He promises this because of his sovereignty. He promises this because so much had to happen for me to claim this place as home that he could have stopped it at any number of points along the way. He promises this through my fundraising hitting a level which allowed me to move, through no traffic during the move, through the fact that my bed fits perfectly (but just barely) in my new apartment, through the fact that the rain stopped when we began to move my stuff in. . .

Furthermore, he promises to refine me independent of success or failure. In this place, the Lord will not cease to draw me closer to him and to continuously refine me in his image. This often hurts. The blacksmith must melt and mold the metal before a sword emerges. But the Lord will not abandon, forsaken, or become indifferent towards me. This remains his promise to which I can cling come mountaintop or gully.

Which brings us back to Moses's example. Certainly he must have found it difficult to never enter the Promised Land. Yet, his life did not sink to futility and purposeless. Why? Because he knew God. Above and beyond perceived successes and failures, he knew God. He prays, "Let me know your ways that I may know you" and "I pray you, show me your glory!" He does not ask for success but for God.

Transition or not, this prayer God promises to fulfill.

Monday, August 06, 2007

1

1. The local church is the hope of the world.

CAUTION #1: I did not write this statement. I shamelessly ripped it from Bill Hybels because he captures my sentiments in his statement better than I can myself.

CAUTION #2: We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and not by church attendance or anything related to the church. Accordingly, the acknowledgment of the supremacy of Christ's Gospel remains more important than what I shall soon write. As Chris Pappa commented, we peak only at the Gospel. Still, given my personal history and the world's opinions, this lesson struck more forcefully and more poignantly than any other this year.

And with that, off we go. . .

I love the church.

I have never had the ability to honestly say this at any point in my life. Not as a youth. Not in college. Not as recently as nine months ago.

Friends told me I should, but I refused. Youth group simply provided more ridicule for a smart kid, so I did not attend. InterVarsity and my summer ministries gave me plenty of spiritual growth, so I only attended church because IV required it of leaders. Even at the beginning of this year, I attended out of obligation and not desire.

Then I took a membership class at my church. I wanted the name tag. Here, the teacher brought us to Ephesians 5:25 which states "that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." The verse likens Christ's relationship with the church to a husband and his wife. In my walk with God, I had striven to love the Bible because Jesus loved the Bible. I had striven to love people because Jesus loved people. I had striven to love evangelism because Jesus loves it when people follow him.

Yet, I did not love the church though the Bible unequivocally teaches that Christ loves the church.

I became unable to avoid this set of hypothetical questions: Could I really love a friend if I did not care for his wife? How could I claim to love him if I refused to love the one with whom he had become one? How could I love him but not the that which mattered most to him?

In rapid time, the Lord used these Scriptures and questions to develop in me a love for the church. I still cannot explain the transformation, only attest to the results. I love church.

Now love does not necessitate hope, and I boldly proclaimed with Hybels that the church stands as our greatest hope. I believe the church works in necessary tandem with every lesson I have written about so far: It provides grounding for our faith, it meets our needs and our gifts at every age, it calls us out of ease to sacrifice, it guides us in the redemption of our past decisions, it provides a safe community of believers, it motivates and provides opportunity for generosity, it provides an answer for the searchings of our souls, it refuses to acknowledge death's lies, and it proclaims and protects the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In short, in the world I have seen this year, it provides hope.

The Lord has uniquely equipped the church for this duty. He has provided the leadership structure in Paul's epistles and in the example of the early church in Acts, laying out qualifications for and duties of the offices of elder and deacon. Furthermore, he has provided the necessary funds with which to minister to the world's spiritual and physical needs. Can anyone imagine the pile of money a 10% tithe of every world Christian's income would create? We could do unfathomable good if everyone called Christian would simply return to God that which he requireth. He has financially equipped the church as the hope of the world if we will only obey.

Yet, any organization can have solid leadership and plenteous resources. The church finds a great start there, but it differs from every other entity because of the spiritual and largely unexplainable activities between God and his church.

First, the church originates from the mouth of Jesus. Well before the first church ever appeared in Acts, Jesus Christ told Peter he would build his church upon this rock. The word order remains stark, as Christ clearly denotes that "he will build." Nothing can stand in the way of that which Christ claims to build. As Christ continues on and says, "Not even the gates of Hades will overcome [the church]."

Secondly, Jesus gives the church the authority of the keys of the kingdom. He elaborates, saying that whatever the church binds on earth will be bound in Heaven and what the church looses on earth will be loosed in Heaven. I confess, dear reader, that I do not know the specifics of that which Christ speaks. If you have any insight as to this binding and loosing, feel free to unleash in the comments. However, Christ clearly gives the church this extreme power which has consequences and repercussions in the heavenly realms. No other body possesses such outstanding authority or influence.

Thirdly, God has bestowed spiritual gifts for the edification of the church. Paul famously lays out a litany of spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12. His words toward the end of the chapter draw less attention where he claims that "God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." The Lord has certainly bestowed upon the body various and plentiful gifts but he does so by appointing them "in the church." In unsearchable fashion, the Lord has bestowed upon the church the perfect amount and combination of individual gifts that she may not lack and that her duties may not suffer.

Finally, Jesus Christ loves his church like a bride. Some of you know the love of husband and wife. Many of you know the love of boyfriend and girlfriend. Nearly all of us know the love of dream. Christ loves his church with that same intensity, fierceness, and commitment that a husband has for his wife, except this Husband loves perfectly. Just as a husband fights for his wife in all ways, so Christ battles for his church and will let nothing harm or abuse her. He looks out for her best interest and cares for her. He perfects her.

For what shall stand in the way of the love of Christ? Let the cross-crushed gates of Hell attest that nothing, nothing shall impede his fierce love!

Now certainly the church falls short of perfection and often even of goodness. It will continue to do so until Christ comes and perfects her members. Lest we use this as a fatal barb against her, if any of us required perfection, we would never marry. Still, the Lord has uniquely equipped his church to cure the ills of the world, both spiritual and physical. He has made claims about her which no other entity in the world may boast, and he has provided for her. What's more, he loves her.

In the face of a world which points to the church's sin and ignores her accomplishments, in our own experiences of disappointment within her walls, in our natural bent towards cynicism and despair, may we love her whom Jesus Christ loves.

She is the hope of the world.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

2.

2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ reigns supremely.

I do not have all the answers. In fact, I do not have many answers. The beauty, and perhaps curse, of a blog remains that the author can choose the topics he wishes to choose and avoid those he wishes to avoid. Know that many exist out there which I purposefully avoid in ignorance because I cannot explain God or his Gospel fully.

I find all life philosophies possess this same quality. All religions, all theories, all politics, all philosophies have critics. Hard questions often find silent answers, even when I speak of Christianity. Yet, I have become utterly and violently convinced of this one thing during my year off:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, that Christ died for sinners of whom I stand worst, fully satisfies the soul and reigns supremely over life.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the existence.

I wrote yesterday of death. I confess this burdened me all day. I felt bad. Dwelling on death does that to us because God did not make us to die. Romans says that death exists as the wage of sin, and the Lord designed us as sinless. 'Tis our sinned that ruined life and brought about death. No wonder death feels so unnatural. Like everything that results from sin, it is. This is why I wrote yesterday that death has nothing to do with life. God gave us life apart from death. Our rebellion brought death onto the scene.

But through the cross, Jesus has destroyed death and returned to us the life God intended us to have all along. This death which hounded me all day today, which often hounds so many of us, it is no more! Hear again, it is no more!

I love the tone the New Testament takes with death. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" cries 1 Cor 15:56. Romans 8:36 proclaims: "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." It continues, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life. . . will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The apostle Paul, in his divinely inspired words, mocks death. He calls out its weakness. He claims us conquerors, victors over death all because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mockery. Strength. Victory. These are our words to death.

Hear the arts as they join the chorus. Poet John Donne rudely addresses death in his Holy Sonnets, saying, "Death, thou shalt die." The hymn writer echoes with perhaps my favorite verse of song: "Death, in vain, forbids [Christ] rise" because Christ the Lord is risen today. In vain! Ha!

The death which consumes the world, which awaits all of us, which lyingly says we have no recourse, finds embarrassment, humility, and ultimate defeat at the cross of Christ because the Gospel reigns supremely over the existence.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the emotion.

Because of Christ's work on the cross, we have found new relationship with the Almighty God who has promised his presence with us always to the end of the age. Here lies the companionship for the lonely, the shoulder always available to which we turn, the constant Father, the constant Brother, the constant Friend. Because Christ died to remove the sin between us and a Holy God, we have everlasting companionship with the One who alone knows exactly how to love us.

Paul sits in a Roman prison facing torture and death. He is not alone.

A widow spends her days in a retirement community with only sparse visits from others. She is not alone.

A missionary couple sits in a foreign land, cut off from all they have ever known. They are not alone.

A man enters his 30's single, told by the world he should feel misery and pity. He is not alone.

A solitary middle schooler sits at the end of a table, reading because he finds no audience with the cool kids. He is not alone.

We never have to know loneliness because the Gospel reigns supremely over the emotion.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the social.

Just as Jesus Christ reconciled us to God, he calls us to reconcile with each other. From the Gospel of Jesus Christ emerges the greatest call to social justice the world has ever heard, not one of condescension or of politics or of guilt or of works-righteousness. No, the call sounds greater, nobler than that. It calls forth from thanksgiving and response.

Because of the right standing with God that Christ has given us as an indescribable free gift, we understand that we deserve nothing. In fact, we are not even our own; we were bought for the price of Jesus Christ. Who are we to elevate ourselves to any position above another? Let us respond and serve!

The Gospel of Christ shows us the way. Just as all stand equally dignified before the throne of God, so we should desire all to have equal standing in our world. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female before God. Let us strive, therefore, to love each other across the boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, and difference that we have made. Just as the Lord has provided all of our needs which we could not meet at the cross, so we should give generously of ourselves to supply the poor, the widows, the orphans, the oppressed the ones with whom Jesus hung out.

Let us strive for justice for others, even at our own expense, because of the One who expended himself for us!

What's more, the Gospel uniquely provides the power with which to accomplish this task, a power which no organization, no principality, no government has at its disposal. He is the Holy Spirit. He convicts, guides, helps, empowers, and works to bring about the Kingdom of God in justice as the Lord intends it to be.

We desire all these things because the Gospel reigns supremely over the social.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the intellect.

Though the minds of this world would call it foolishness (and the Bible says that they shall), let us not forget that smart men have analyzed the evidence and concluded the Gospel true. Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel set out to prove the Gospel false; instead they found conversion. Smart folk like Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and C.S. Lewis loved Jesus. Even great philosophers like Kierkegaard thought so highly of the Lord as to write things about him which most of us cannot understand.

People have thought on the nature of life and on the nature of man, they have observed our history and our writings, they have written and philosophized themselves. And they have concluded for, and not against, Christ. In the end, the message of Christ and the world they observed actually made sense. We should expect nothing else as we seek the one who told us to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and WITH ALL YOUR MIND" (emphasis mine).

Christianity does not require that we disregard our minds because the Gospel reigns supremely over the intellect.

The Gospel reigns supremely over the mission.

Let one never say that Christ leaves us without purpose in our earthly lives. He has commanded us to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Every moment, we have a purpose because the Gospel reigns supremely over the mission.

Every moment, we work towards that mission, to proclaim the supremacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

4, 3

4. We all seek to fill some intangible lack in our lives.

The sheer amount of spiritual material initially shocked me when I began to work at Borders. I remember taking the store tour and seeing, in order, "General Metaphysics," "Magic," and the section that contained so much weird material we could only call it "Other Divination." In my naivety, I laughed at this seemingly insulting label.

I laugh no longer because this is dead serious.

People search for something out there. What it is, I do not know. What they hope it will do for them, I do not know. Borders introduced me to Positive Thinking, "The Secret," and "The Law of Attraction," all of which say the exact same thing but have somehow marketed themselves to individual riches. I discovered that people really do believe in magic, and not Merlin from "Sword and the Stone" magic, but magic that openly claims the names of Satan and the Anti-Christ. Wicca flourishes. A co-worker of mine sports a pro-Druid bumper sticker on his car. The Self-Help section has taught me a new term: "New Age."

Here I thought our only options were Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Atheism.

And this only confines our search to that which we label "spiritual." Nevermind the role sports, pets, computers, kids, cars, marijuana play in our search for meaning.

What really fascinates me is the lack of "rational logic" which much of these ideologies can claim. "The Secret" sold millions and millions of copies on the idea that one can create one's own reality simply by thinking about it. Magic has always existed in the realm of childhood, Halloween, and fairy tales. Even the idea of placing sports as the sun around which one's universe orbits seems logically asinine.

I understand the cynic's claim that Christianity lacks reason. We do claim, among other things, that a man came back to life from the dead. From a worldly standpoint, I will not argue how foolish the Gospel may appear. What strikes me is how foolish most of our soul searches really are. Perhaps Christians and much of the world do not play on such different intellectual playing fields as the cynic may like to claim.

If these books sit on the self, they must sell. 'Tis the rule of capitalistic success. The presence of all of this diverse array of spiritual material provides strong evidence for some sort of existential lack in the lives of the public. We must be looking for something with the kind of money we spend here. Quite honestly, we must be jumping around from idea to idea in order for it all to find the success which it has.

Rick Warren sold millions. The Secret sold millions. They say not the same thing.

I have read it quoted that a God-shaped hole exists in the heart of every person. If I learned one thing from my work environment, it was this: that some kind of hole inhabits that intangible called heart. In this post, I shan't be so bold as to offer a hypothesis as to the hole's shape. I will only attest to its existence for which the mere presence of Borders provides evidence.

We all seek to fill some intangible lack in our lives.


3. Death dominates this world.

Our response to death has captured the greatest of minds. Shakespeare said to have kids. Marvell said to have sex. Donne said to simply ignore the tolling bell.

If one thinks on life at all, one must think on death.

The lover of cliche will say that life guarantees nothing but death and taxes. A glib line for certain, but one which may hold more truth than we acknowledge if we delve into it.

Now you might ask, "Humphries, you just learned this this year? Where have you been? What have you been looking at?"

Indeed, I had family, friends, and (sometimes harder) peers die in middle school, high school, and college. Death is nothing new. What surprised me was its frequency and the world's response to it.

This year death hit fast, often, and rather viciously. Early in my year, the father of a co-worker passed away. Then the infant child of my roomate's boss died in her sleep. Earlier this year, my college friend Jason Ray died in a freak automobile accident. Just last week, Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser died suddenly of a massive heart attack. And the list goes on. . . .

What horrified me even more than the actual deaths was the different response I found these deaths met with. Let me provide a contrasting example. A student passed away my senior year of college from a three story fall out a dorm window. The university shut down in the days following this tragedy. Death isn't supposed to happen at college, we said. He was too young, the campus lamented. Why, why, why, the halls echoed.

Death is not supposed to happen in college. It is supposed to happen beyond it.

This year my co-worker's father passes away. She is devastated. We console her, send cards, and. . . . get back to work. You see, in this post-college life, death, like the shit that it is, happens. People die. If we were close to the person, we grieve while the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders and says:

"That's life."

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Death is the opposite of the life in every manner conceivable. To say of death, "that's life" is a lie of the grandest and most tragic order. But this is how we respond. Death is inevitable, and there is nothing we can do about it but submit when it's our time. Death dominates.

I have become convinced that this knowledge of Brad Phillis's "certainty of the uncertain" grounds all that troubles us in this world. The reality of our own death is certain, and I believe no one, no one, can fully ignore this whether they realize it or not. I have become convinced that how we respond to this reality - whether we ignore it, submit to it, run from it, hide from it, or otherwise - determines how we live our lives.

Death does dominate this world. But it does not reign. . . .