To Infinity and Beyond

One Does Not Simply Walk into En-Dor

The following is a reflection on 1 Samuel 28.

“But Saul swore to her by the LORD” (1 Sa 28:10).

Here we read of the case wherein Saul, fearing the upcoming battle with the Philistines, disguises himself and crosses into enemy territory in the midst of night to consult with the medium of En-dor, through whom he seeks to access the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel.

A man such as Saul is dangerous. In fact, double-mindedness might be one of the greatest dangers plaguing the modern church today…

One Does Not Simply Walk into En-Dor

The Paradox of Our Faith

The following is a reflection on 1 Samuel 26.

“Who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” (1 Sa 26:9)

Think about this question, posed by David in response to his second opportunity at taking Saul’s life. His point is obvious: Regardless of who is in the right and who is in the wrong, to act against the Lord’s anointed is to seemingly disregard the will of the Lord. To act against the Lord’s anointed is to act against the Lord Himself.

And yet this is precisely what we did when we impaled the Son of Man!

The Paradox of Our Faith

Resurrecting God the Father

It is essential to my argument that I begin today’s writing with a disclaimer:

** Before even beginning to address specific gender roles as they are outlined in the Bible – especially as it pertains to why God is consistently, throughout the biblical narrative, referred to with male pronouns – we must establish that we are discussing things from a strictly Christian perspective. It is easy to object to the biblical ideas of masculinity and femininity when considering the sinfulness of man and the oppression that submission might so easily espouse within power-hungry and demeaning individuals, but we must accept, going into the argument, that we are speaking from the ideal as established by God in His creation of man. In this, we must discuss matters such as submission, sacrifice, headship, and leadership not according to the negative connotations established by a prideful and lustful society, but rather according to the biblical standard to which we all must strive. When you give a man a gun, he may use it to either protect or to slay – we may guide him towards the former, but the option by which he uses it is up to him. All rules and roles in any governance or society stand the possibility of being abused; the Bible seeks to establish gender roles in a manner that is holy and set apart, glorifying to God for the betterment of mankind. A rational and concise conversation regarding such matters is impossible if we do not first establish a stable worldview which we can then extrapolate. Thus, for the purposes of this article, it is my request that we set aside secular ideologies and rather read the “He” of God the Father according to the Biblical context, that we might better understand Christian ideals and even more greatly come to grasp the beauty of God’s love towards us. **

I will begin my argument by stating this: God is spirit. Of course, He stepped into the flesh via the person of Jesus Christ and thus lived on the earth for approximately thirty-three and a half years as a Middle Eastern man, but from eternity past to eternity future God is, according to His divine nature, spirit. Thus, He is neither male nor female; however, the way in which God manifests Himself is masculine in nature, in that he designed man as an image meant to reflect Him. Therefore my thesis is that our use of the pronouns “He,” “Him,” “His,” etc. are essential in comprehending our own selves in relationship to God.

Resurrecting God the Father

Zeal For Your House

(On the subject of righteous anger.)

How is a Christian supposed to respond to injustice in the world? In the presence of sinful society and oppressed peoples, how is the Christian supposed to handle himself? Shall we unleash the tongue as did Elijah and John the Baptizer, suffer the scourge as did Christ and Paul, wield the sword as did Joshua and David? Of prophets and priests and kings, by what manner shall we act? When is the appropriate time to overturn tables and fashion a whip of cords?

In this write-up on the matter, I do not [expressly] seek to push a single point of view, but rather to provide more of a systematic study on the subject of anger as it is found in the biblical text.

Zeal For Your House

On a Trip Fully Paid

In one of my classes this morning – amidst talk of morality and revenge and Nietzsche’s [frankly odd] views of justice and punishment – we arrived at the happy tangent of the Gospel promise and what it meant for the Christian life, especially as it pertains to the factor of human choice coupled by divine sovereignty.

“imagine you have been offered the chance at a luxurious trip by which you can skip school without punishment, and that trip is fully paid,” said one student, or something along those lines. “That is the Gospel.”

“If it’s been fully paid, why would you not accept the offer?” asked another.

Precisely, thought many people throughout the room. A few said it out loud.

“But if you get on the plane and go on the trip, what prevents you from doing bad things?” asked another, this in response to the matter we had been discussing, that idea of a true Christian not continuing on in an abundantly sinful life. “What motive do they have to do the will of the one who paid the price? The metaphorical salvation has already been grasped, so why do good things at all?” From this broke out discourse over definitions of mercy and grace and sin, and in no time we had wandered so deeply into the weeds that every Calvinist and Arminian in the room was getting sweaty at their palms.

Then Nietzsche came calling once again, and our tangent came to an abrupt end. Back to what we were actually supposed to be studying.

But this thought stuck with me throughout the day…

On a Trip Fully Paid

The Fruit of Grace (Reflections on Genesis 41)

Hey everyone. Here's another reflection for today:
GENESIS 41. Leku el Yosep, aser yonan lakem ta’asu. “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do” (v.55). This calls to mind the first miracle of Christ, when His mother Mary said to the servants at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).
Both stories provide an evident shift in power—Joseph, the prisoner, has now become a czar, and Jesus, the perfect son, now addresses His own mother as “Woman” (v.4), signifying that His ministry has begun and they now share a different relationship.

The Fruit of Grace (Reflections on Genesis 41)

From Graciousness to Grace (Reflections on Genesis 33)

Hey, everyone.

Here’s something a little different, I guess. It’s been a while since I posted on here, but just so you know I didn’t slip off the face of the earth, I figured I’d share one of my reflections with you today. I’ve started reading through the Bible chapter by chapter, day by day, and today, July 24, was Genesis chapter 33. Here’s what I got out of it:

GENESIS 33. Chanan – to yearn towards, long for, be merciful, compassionate, favorable, inclined towards. Graciousness. We have encountered a derivative of this word many times before – in 6:8; 18:3; 19:19; 30:27; 32:5; and even here, in 33:8, 10, and 15 – but here we encounter it as an action, something actively poured out. These previous occurrences are the noun chen (typically translated “favor” or “Grace”), but they are nothing without their source derivative of chanan, graciousness, without which they would cease to be. There would be no grace if there was not first a gracious person who chose to give that grace life. So we see here. As Jacob and Esau reunite, thrice Jacob says unto his brother that he desires to find favor in his sight: “To find favor in the sight of my lord” (Limso chen be’ene Adonai, v.8)…”if I have found favor in your sight” (Im na masati chen be’eneka, v.10)…

From Graciousness to Grace (Reflections on Genesis 33)

The Artist's Intent

ART AND BEAUTY – creation and attractiveness – are two entities that are as inseparably linked together as they are curious to the pining soul. One’s definition of art might differ from another’s just as easily as what they call beautiful might differ from their best friend’s definition. Nevertheless, despite cultural changes and despite stretches through millennia and despite various styles and products and mediums being passed throughout all history, art and beauty are indissolubly bound together, connected by the fact that art cannot be art without layers of beauty, and what is beautiful cannot be beautiful if it is not in some way artistic. They are two sides to the same coin, one the entity as described by the quality and the other the quality given expression through the entity. When you begin to interpret these two things in conjunction with one another, you arrive at the point of purpose, what some would call “meaning.”

The Artist's Intent

How Many?

Billions of people, all going in different directions to their own destinations.

I look at them.

Some smile at the sight of someone looking their way; others look away as quickly as they can.

Some wear baggy clothes to cover insecure bodies; others wear tight clothes to accentuate the same.

I can see it in their eyes.

How Many?

Why Are We Surprised?

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."

That phrase was written in Greek to a church in Italy by a Jewish tentmaker nearly 2,000 years ago, but perhaps it applies even more so to modern-day America.

A few days ago, YouTuber Logan Paul gave rise to massive controversy when he posted a video containing footage of a hanging dead man, which they found while filming a vlog in the Japanese suicide forest. The internet erupted in hatred and started slamming the 22-year old left and right, with politicians and celebrities alike condemning him for displaying “sociopathic qualities” and failing to “honor those who have committed suicide.” Within two days, Paul issued a public apology in which he admitted that his actions were wrong and went on to set aside “time to reflect” on his actions, yet people continue to blast him, continue to defame him, continue to tear him to shreds. Angsty internet users tell him to kill himself. A recent petition asking YouTube to terminate his account has reached over 200,000 signatures.

My question is this: Why?

Why Are We Surprised?

Here & Now

In my own humble opinion, one of the most enticing and yet aggravating concepts of all Scripture is that of Eden.

What must it have been like to walk with God in the garden? For Adam specifically, what must it have been like to be alone with your Creator for days, weeks, months, perhaps even years on end, walking and talking and laughing and working? We do not know how long Adam was in the garden before Eve was introduced, but if he successfully named each animal before recognizing there was no suitable companion for himself, it surely must have been some time. What was it like to spend such an extended period of uninterrupted intimacy with the Lord, to wake up every morning with knowledge of His presence and go to sleep each night knowing that He would be there to meet with you next day?

What was it like to be free from the burden of sin? What was it like to walk openly amongst the plants and animals, naked and unashamed? What was it like to see things in their true beauty, untainted by man’s fallen blindness? What was is it like to taste the fruit from un-cursed ground, to drink from streams purified beyond any form of natural purification? What was it like to see animals in harmony with one another – no death, no disruption, but just peace? What was it like to dream? Were dreams mere reflections of the reality around you, or was every dream a nightmare when compared to the magnificent world in which you lived?

Here & Now

Christ is Enough

Christ is enough for me…Christ is enough for me…Everything I need is in You…Everything I need…

What do we mean when we sing these words? Do we soak in their meaning and consider the weight of what they are saying, and then sing them out in humble admittance and glorious recognition? Or do we sing them merely because they are the words that are on the screen, and since the melody is familiar to us we find no fault in harmonizing?

Perhaps neither. Perhaps you find yourself somewhere in the middle. The words ring vaguely true in your head, but in reality you are focused on the errands you have to run after church or perhaps taking notice of the elegant pattern-work and stitching in the suit coat of the church member sitting in the pew ahead of you. Perhaps you know these words to be true, but you have heard them sung so often that they have lost their meaning.

Christ is Enough

Batman & the Death of Morality

We had a guest lecturer in my Business class this morning.

He was a nice man, an entrepreneur and multi-time author who was wanting to teach us the methods of being successful, but no sooner had he posed his first question than division spread through the entire class. Motioning to two cardboard cutouts he had brought with him and placed in the front of the class, he turned to us and spoke three class-shattering words:

“Batman or Superman?”

He called for a vote. “Who likes Superman better?” he asked first. Twelve people – myself included – raised our hands, most of them timidly. “And Batman?” he asked. Over a hundred hands shot into the air, bold and unashamed.

This was very interesting to me. I like to consider myself a superhero fan – a nerd, some might even say – but the thing that has unfailingly amazed me is people’s absolutely love for Batman. I understand the interest in him and find him quite fascinating myself – the Joker is without a doubt my favorite fictional villain of all time – but how on earth is he more favorable than Superman? I’ve heard the various arguments, but none seem to hold up.

Batman & the Death of Morality

A Parable Revisited

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-8)

Anger burned through the Father’s heart as He watched the man and woman exchange words with the serpent. He could hear each word exchanged, could sense their thoughts straying from what was true, could feel their throats growing thirsty for the juice the fruit had to offer. Don’t do it, He thought. Don’t  do it. But even as He watched, He knew the action they would take. He had known from the very beginning. Since before He had given His Son the authority to create them. Since before He had given His son the authority to create anything. Even back then, He had known.

A Parable Revisited

How to Make Reading Genealogies Fun

Doesn't it fall in line with God's character that He might place little Easter eggs of truth throughout the Bible for His disciples to find, little tidbits that help reaffirm those truths found throughout the rest of the text?

In this video, David addresses one of these possible "hidden messages," found in the genealogy of Genesis chapter 5, which traces Adam down to Noah.

How to Make Reading Genealogies Fun

With Great Power...

“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

Isn’t it interesting how the first sin is shortly followed by the first excuse? God sees Adam, Adam sees God, God asks Adam what’s going on, Adam says he’s ashamed because he’s naked, God points out that Adam isn’t supposed to know that he’s naked and the only way for him to know that was if he had eaten from the tree he wasn’t supposed to eat from, and then Adam blames Eve, and if that wasn’t good enough, he blames God too. “Well, you see, God, ultimately this is your fault. Things were fine until the woman came along, and didn’t you make her?” Adam is trying to deflect responsibility off of himself at all costs.

But God plays along. He turns to Eve, who proceeds to blame the serpent, which you can imagine ticks Adam off a bit, since it makes a lot more sense to blame the devil for your sin than it does to blame a holy and perfect God. Nevertheless, God continues to play along, and He turns to the serpent, who knows better than to provide an excuse. God reveals that it was in fact all three of them that were to blame, and their shared sin will affect not only them, but the entire world.

How often do we do the same thing as Adam and Eve?

With Great Power...

Stop. Surrendering. All.

Imagine a husband who stands before his wife, grabs her by the hand, looks into her eyes, and says, “I love you.”

The next day, he cheats on her with another woman.

Now imagine another scenario: A second husband stands before his wife, grabs her by the hand, looks into her eyes, and says, “I love you.”

Just a few hours later, he cheats on her with another woman.

Imagine one more scenario with me: A third husband stands before his wife, grabs her by the hand, looks into her eyes, and says, “I love you.”

Only a few minutes later, he slides into his car to drive over to spend time with his mistress.

My question to you is this: What do these three men in common?

Stop. Surrendering. All.

Will the Real JC Please Stand Up?

It’s Sunday morning and your church is going up in a riot.

A crazy man from out of town is running through the entrance hall, knocking over the bookcases in the gift shop and spilling the money from the cash register all over the ground, yelling loudly and shaking with anger. Ignorant to anything more than the man’s name (because you have most definitely heard of him before), you turn to your friend and ask him to dish out more details.

He’s from a small town you’ve never heard of, but people speak of the town like it has a bad reputation. He is apparently a “teacher” even though he himself is uneducated, and he has grown in popularity thanks to his acts of witchcraft that he performs on a near-daily basis. He and his closest friends are all homeless, wandering from town to town just to argue nonstop with the local authorities; he preaches a message about the loving and goodness and holiness of God, but he himself seems to contradict this apparent “holiness” by constantly hanging out with well-known thugs, thieves, prostitutes, swindlers, murderers, and whores.

Will the Real JC Please Stand Up?

Our Topsy-Turvy Gospel

Just last night, I read the introduction to John Bevere’s Good or God?, a book that tackles the subject of how “good without God isn’t enough” – in other words, how doing good things does not necessarily mean that you are aligned with God’s will. I’ve been wanting to read this book for quite some time, but only recently did I find myself with the spare time to actually sit down and start reading.

However, as is the case with most books (and all other sources of entertainment, for that matter), I felt the need to go online and start reading reviews of the product prior to beginning it myself – I do this not so much to see whether or not I will enjoy it, but more so to see how well it holds up doctrinally and whether or not it is written to a standard that leaves people actually enveloped in what is being said, rather than bored to death due to lackluster insights and overall lack of passion by the creator of the piece. Good or God? received amazing reviews (4.52/5 stars on Goodreads), but there was a something I noticed: of the two “bad” reviews the book received, they both seem to address a particular touch subject…

Our Topsy-Turvy Gospel

1 Pasadenians

From David, your brother in Christ, to the youth ministry at First Baptist Church in Pasadena, those brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I have had the pleasure of spending the summer.

I wanted to begin by thanking God for giving me the opportunity of working with each and every one of you for the past three months. I consider each moment a blessing, I truly do, and I think it would be sinful of me to not also extend my gratitude out to each of you as well for welcoming me in and making the job not feel like work at all. I have thoroughly enjoyed each moment spent with you all, and before I headed away, I felt the need to, at the very least, extend that gratitude. So thank you. Of course, I will be returning quite frequently to check in on you and make sure I am not totally absent from your lives, but wanted to still send a letter of encouragement to you as your new school year quickly approaches.

1 Pasadenians

Restless

“And my soul is getting restless for the place where I belong…”

As the final word of that phrase rang into the nighttime sky, the entire audience drew in a unified breath, chills passing throughout each of their bodies as raw emotion flooded the entire amphitheater all the way up into the open-air lawn at the very perimeter. From my spot upon that lawn, I could do nothing but close my eyes and soak in the moment, a second wave of chills passing over me as the audience suddenly broke into a chorus of applause, myself included. There was but one man standing on the stage before me – with nothing but a guitar in his hands and a microphone before his lips – but his voice as it burst across the arena was like that of church choir singing as one breath:

“—I can’t wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song.” I had never heard truer words in my life.

Restless

Why You Should Stop Inviting Jesus Into Your Heart

Church, we’ve got a huge problem, and it has to do with our Gospel.

Maybe I should show you where I would like to place the emphasis here. You see, the problem doesn’t have do with our Gospel, but it has to do with our Gospel. We are the problem, not the Gospel itself, and this is what I mean: the way in which we present the Good News of Christ to every single lost soul we encounter on a day-to-day basis is flawed, rooted in something extremely unbiblical. The Gospel itself is something so beautiful and unique that only a church run by imperfect sinners could screw it up, but the sad thing is that, I hate to break it to you, but we are a group of imperfect sinners, and it’s negatively affected this group of people we call our Church.

We’ve screwed up the Gospel.

Why You Should Stop Inviting Jesus Into Your Heart

As the Battery Starts Dying

Let’s talk about cell phones.

I’ve gotta say, I love my cell phone. It’s a great toy and a handy device that gets a lot of stuff done and gets me information faster than the blink of an eye, but do you ever stop and consider how the way we treat these tiny, metal do-everythings are really, well…odd? We stare out those bright little screens for hours on end without questioning it, and if you are ever alone in a crowded room, you can guarantee that the phone is whipped out so it looks like you are doing something important. Most people can’t successfully walk from point A to point B without checking their phone at least a dozen times (even if there has been nothing but silent inactivity for the last hour and a half) and we have a near heart attack at the realization that the battery percentage has dipped underneath the 25% mark, even though we know good and well that we will be able to charge it back to 100% as soon as we get home.

Kind of strange, isn’t it?

As the Battery Starts Dying

My One Birthday Wish

Today I write with a heavy heart.

Two days ago, a friend of mine passed away in a freak accident that nobody could’ve seen coming. One moment she was alive and well and enjoying the beginning of her summer, the next she was in unbearable pain and just barely grasping onto the finals cusps of life. In the moments that followed that, what little life that was remaining seeped out until, with one final breath, she was gone. Here one moment, gone the next. Boom. Poof. Gone.

She was nineteen years old.

I can’t claim that this girl was a particularly close friend of mine, but she was a friend nonetheless. We’d shared conversations and we'd shared laughs; we'd even had a few classes together back in high school and I just recently learned that apparently she had gone to Texas A&M too (I had just never seen her there). She was a funny and kind and caring girl who was amazing at pretty much anything she set her mind to (sports, academics, you name it), and I can just imagine in my head all the dreams and aspirations and plans she had to have had for her life. Scenarios that would’ve played out in her mind. Places she wanted to go. Goals she wanted to accomplish. Things she wanted to experience.

But now she’s gone.

My One Birthday Wish