Trash Cans and Terrorism

M-NYMTA-station-trashcanI am on a train going north from Warwick to Edinburgh after attending the annual conference for the Society for the Study of Theology. I even got to hear N.T. Wright speak! After taking the train to Birmingham Moore Street Station and then walking to New Street Station in Birmingham, I grabbed a cup of coffee (I stopped drinking caffeine two months ago but gave in this morning!) and started toward Platform 6. After stopping at the toilet, I came out and saw a man that was doing janitorial work. I asked him if I could toss my coffee cup (at least it was paper and not plastic) in the trash bin. He said, “Sure.” I then made the light-hearted remark, “I am asking because I cannot seem to find trash cans anywhere in this station.” In a friendly tone, he responded, “Yes, you are right; you will not find many of them because of terrorism.”

Interestingly, the remark made sense and I found myself grateful for this wise decision. Yet, I walked away thinking, “What a different world we live in today.” I am 40 years old (I still can’t believe it) and let’s just say that my children are growing up in a very, very different world than what I grew up in. It can be summed up in the following manner: they are growing up in a post-9/11 world. In some sense, it is sad. My heart is grieved that terrorists have so influenced contemporary life on such a dramatic level that even the presence of trash cans has been affected. But it is what it is and safety is worth minor inconveniences, right?

You are probably reading this wondering what point I am going to eventaully make. Sorry, but I am not sure that I have one today. I am just reflecting. While looking for a trash can, I was reminded of horrendous evil that has (and still is) affected so many lives and families. Let’s be honest: this is not going to change. It is the “new” world that we inhabit though a far cry from the new creation that God has promised and has already begun to break through. We live in the time-between-the-times, the “already” but “not yet” of redemptive history.

May we have peace. May we not fear. May we be guided by the Holy Spirit when danger is present. Actually, the better prayer is, “May we be guided into obedience and faithfulness no matter the situation.” The Lord is so good to us no matter how fast the moral, social, and political forces are spiralling out of control.

The Lord is a rock. Let’s plant our feet on him so that no matter the height of the waves, we can stand firm.

Ephesians 6:13-14a

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then . . .

I Have Never Regretted…

I found myself thinking today about an event from my mid-20s. I am not sure why (Who can ever trace the complete “family” tree from one idea to the next?). I thought of this event and then immediately remembered going to the person’s house to say, “I am sorry” before the day was over. I am so glad I did. It was one of those situations that had the potential to affect the quality of the relationship on a long-term basis (i.e., it was not a romantic relationship of any sort).

So why do I write this?

After remembering this event and the subsequent apology, I had this thought: I have never regretted saying “I am sorry.” 

There may be things that I do regret from time to time, but I cannot think of one apology that I would take back. So what is the moral to the story? Saying “I am sorry” is a good thing no matter how much pride and comfort must be sacrificed. Besides, is there a more efficient path to developing the virtue of humility?

So what is most important? If you need to say “I am sorry” to someone, just get it over with. Just do it. Push through, squirm, and make it happen. God is with you.

Tim Keller on “Dark Times”

If you read my social media posts or this blog from time to time, then you probably know that I work part-time as a course writer and teacher at Enlightium Academy. I am finishing the second half of a Psychology course. All I have left is one project. In this project, students are asked to reflect upon depression, an experience that comes to all (mild, medium, or severe) at one point or another. And yes, this includes Christians. God doesn’t put a person in a happy bubble just because they choose to believe and follow Jesus Christ.

For this project, I am requiring students to watch a message that Tim Keller preached in London titled, “How to Deal With Dark Times.” Rooted in Psalms 88, Keller points out that this Psalm and Psalms 39 are the only two Psalms (out of 150) that do not end in hope. If you are going through a difficult time in life, this message can help your mind and heart. Keller’s first point is worth mentioning: Through no fault of one’s own making, a Christian can be in darkness for a long time. If you click here, you will be redirected to an Evernote file that contains a rough outline of Keller’s talk. I hope you find it helpful.

As Keller explains, there is no such thing as “objective” abandonment for Christians. Only Christ was actually abandoned by the Father. Therefore, all that remains is “subjective” abandonment. In other words, though we may feel abandoned by God (feel = subjective), it is never the case (objective). He is with us. He is for us. He has not and will not walk away from us. It is important to remember that feelings do not always paint an accurate picture of reality. And when they do, the image is probably quite impressionistic in style.


Great Online Tool for Getting a Quick Greek Overview of Certain Verses

I am pausing my clock for my online job to write this quick note. Bible Gateway has a translation available online that is a great tool for anyone that is not a Greek scholar but who wants to dig deeper into the meaning of God’s word (I am not a Greek scholar!). You can simply type in the book, chapter, and verse. Or, you can read chunks at a time or use this source to study. It is a translation provided by Bill Mounce, one of the most well-known and respected authorities on Koine Greek (as opposed to Classical Greek, Koine Greek was the common language with which the New Testament was originally written).

Let’s take John 3:16 for example. If you click here and then type “John 3:16,” the following will appear:

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 6.28.51 AM

You can then click on each Greek word that is shown. Let’s say that you are interested in the type of love that is mentioned here. C.S. Lewis writes that there are four Greek words for love: storge, eros, philia, agape (see his book, The Four Loves). All you have to do is scroll the mouse over “loved” and click. The particular Greek word (with it’s particular tense in that passage) will then appear in the right-hand column. It looks like this:

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As you can see, the transliterated word agapao is a different tense than the root, but it still gives a good indicaiton of what is meant here by the word “love” in John 3:16. This kind of love, God’s unconditional love, it not based upon the merit of the beloved. This is handy to know and is wonderful to grasp on a personal level.

So whether you are studying to teach or wanting to get a better idea on what a verse means, this is a great source. Also, I have found that Mounce’s English translation reads well and is therefore pleasurable to interact with. That being said, I still enjoy using the NIV on a personal level and the NRSV for more academic-related work, but this is a good source for anyone that is hungry to know and understand God’s word.

My prayer is that we will approach Scripture with a pure heart, truly longing to know what God is saying as opposed to what we want him to say.

Hope this helps.

The Lie That Buries the Heart

I had a conversation with someone the other day and thought, “I really need to blog this.” As the individual discussed various concerns, I found myself thinking that what makes a difficult situation (a seemingly unsurmountable challenge, a relationship that is on the rocks, a season of unemployment, financial woes, depression, struggles with anxiety and fear, a sense of purposelessness, or ____________) even worse is when you believe the lie, “This season will last forever.” Of course, this lie takes on different forms:

  • “This season will never pass.”
  • “This is the way that I am going to feel for the rest of my life.”
  • “I will never turn a corner.”
  • “I will never be healthy again.”
  • “I am never going to have someone that I can truly trust.”
  • “I am never going to succeed at anything.”
  • “Nothing is ever going to change.”
  • “It is always going to be this hard.”
  • “I will never catch a break.”

This list goes on and on and are the type thoughts that can lead someone to the brink of suicide. Let is suffice to say that when you and I bite into this “fruit” (Genesis 3:1-6), we are playing right into Satan’s hands (Yes, I believe in an actual evil being who possesses significant power and who is masterful at lying; does Jesus himself not refer to his archenemy as the “Father of Lies”?). When you began to feel these things, you are on a fast track to psychological and spiritual darkness. One of the main ingredients that constitutes depression is hopelessness, and what is more hopeless than the thought that nothing is ever going to change when you are, from an emotional vantage point, lying face down in a ditch.

If your daily diet has consisted of biting this fruit, find help. Start reading a Psalm a day. Read a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John). Read one of Paul’s letters. See how Jesus lifts handles broken people. He truly is the lifter of our head (Psalms 3:3). Have a talk with a parent, close friend, or pastor that you trust. If you do not have someone, then force yourself to get involved in a local church until relationships begin to form. You must face any insecurity and awkwardness and make yourself do what you need to do so that relationships can eventually take shape. We so desperately need people. One of the great advantages of having people in your life is that you hear other stories of change. In other words, other people who have felt the same thing only to find out later than we do adapt, God is faithful, and that the sun will break through the otherwise deceiving clouds. Only a few things last forever.

Do not mistake that which is impermanent for that which is permanent, and do not mistake that which is permanent for that which is impermanent. 

This too shall pass.