It’s All About Him


It’s easy to forget that life isn’t all about me. I would like it if it were. Everyone would cater to my every desire, worry about keeping me happy. They’d make sure they didn’t offend me, be quick to encourage me, tell me how kind or smart or talented or helpful I was.

OK, OK, you all can get up off the floor now and stop laughing.

The old saying is that babies are born into the world thinking they are the center of the universe and spend the next eighty years learning they aren’t.

Pretty true. Kids tend to think every toy they want should belong to them. When they’re hungry, it’s time to eat. When they wake up, it’s time to get up.

When we become adults, of course, we realize we need to take into consideration the “others” in our lives.

But if we stop with that realization, we are still woefully wide of the mark. Life isn’t all about me, and it isn’t even all about other people.

Why I am here–why we all are here–isn’t about us. No matter how great an impact a person has on society, how many people he helps, he will soon be gone, and another generation may not even remember his name.

I suspect when President McKinley, the twenty-fifth President of the US, was assassinated, people throughout the country thought he would never be forgotten, that his death was one of the most tragic events in the history of the US. Of course, that was before two world wars, the rise and fall of Communism, the Great Depression, Vietnam, or 9/11. Today he is little more than a footnote in history books. And he was the leader of the nation!

Men of wealth don’t fare much better. Once the names of Rockefeller and Carnage demanded the kind of respect we give Bill Gates and Steve Jobs today. Or what we once gave Steve Jobs.

The Apostle James is right about Mankind. We are just a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

How silly, then, for us to believe life is all about us?

It ought to be abundantly clear that our comfort, ease, security, happiness is transitory and cannot be the ultimate purpose of our existence since we ourselves are temporal.

Who wants to draw bucket after bucket of water to pour into the gutter? Why would we spend our time in such a futile effort?

Yet that’s what we so often do when we make life all about us. We spend our precious hours trying to shore up a sandcastle. We might even landscape and furnish it with elaborate, expensive pieces, but in the end, it all washes back out to sea.

How much better if we spend our time on what lasts!

Life, after all, is all about God, not about us. He is the Creator, and we, the creatures made in His image. We exist for His pleasure, not the other way around. We glorify Him, exalt Him, worship Him. He’s the One who is high and lifted up, whose thoughts and ways are higher than ours, whose name is above every name.

How far we have fallen, to think that we should only read the Bible or pray if we feel like it, or that we have a right to complain if in church we sing too many hymns or not enough or if we stand too long or the lighting is too low or too bright.

If life is not about us, worship is certainly not about us either. How different our days would be if we remembered that we exist for God; in fact, life, creation, all He made, exists for Him.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in June 2012.

Published in: on June 23, 2017 at 5:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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Warnings Or Threats


Jesus Christ came to seek and to save. That cost Him His life. But Scripture also says He gave us an example to follow. Peter said it clearly in his first letter.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:22-24)

So Christ is our model. When he was condemned, censured, abused, attacked, He didn’t sling invectives back. While he was beaten bloody, while he hung dying, He didn’t curse those who were responsible. He didn’t threaten them with Hell, and surely He could have.

I started thinking about threats in the context of warning sinners about their eternal destiny if they don’t repent.

I’ve said before that part of a Christian’s responsibility is to tell people the truth about what their headed towards. How else can they turn from the error of their ways if they haven’t heard that their ways are leading to destruction?

I’ve likened the Christian’s role to that of an emergency worker warning traffic that up ahead the bridge is out. They can’t slow down and carefully easy their way forward. No, the bridge is gone! If they continue down the road, they will crash. No other option. They must either turn around or die.

Is that a threat?

I know some atheists think so. They look at Christians as gleeful in their pronouncements of doom.

The truth is, there’s a difference between warning someone of impending disaster and threatening someone with it. In the first case, the person is trying to prevent harm and in the second, he is calling it down on another’s head.

Sadly, I believe the Christian’s job to proclaim the truth about God’s justice is much harder as a result of a misguided group of people professing Christ but listening to false teaching—five years ago it was the Westboro Baptist folks and now it’s many in the alt-right.

Five years ago the Westboro Baptist group was in the news here in SoCal as they made plans to come and picket the funeral of a soldier killed in combat. As it turned out, they didn’t show up, but the local community was up in arms and ready to spring a counter-protest.

These wrong-headed people are in no way following in Jesus’s steps. This from a news release sent out days before the funeral and still available on their web site:

GOD HATES AMERICA & IS KILLING
YOUR TROOPS IN HIS WRATH.
Military funerals have become pagan orgies of
idolatrous blasphemy, where they pray to the
dunghill gods of Sodom & play taps to a fallen fool.

The last line is the worst: “THANK GOD FOR IEDs.” That would be the weapon used to kill this soldier.

So how is it that people like this think they are walking in obedience to God’s will? Christ was suffering but He made no threats. Do they think that because they’re not the ones suffering, it’s OK to issue threats and recrimination?

In the end, all they accomplish is to confuse society so that when someone wants to issue a warning, it’s taken as a threat. But that’s what false teaching does—it plays right into the hands of Satan, the father of lies.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in June 2012.

Published in: on June 19, 2017 at 5:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Button Girl—A Review


One thing is true about having the kind of stroke I had: my recovery has allowed me to do more reading again. Here’s one of the best books that I enjoyed recently. (This review is a repost of one I published at Spec Faith last week).

The Button Girl by Sally Apokedak is a digital, soon-to-be-in-print-also young adult fantasy intended for the general audience. See excerpt here.

The Story

Young Repentance Attwater has reached the age of “buttoning,” or marriage, but she lives in a breeder village under the control of the overlords. She decided years ago when she witnessed her brother taken away from his family into slavery that she would never bear children only to lose them to the overlords. Even if she had to go into slavery herself. Even if she’d be separated from her family, from her sister who she wanted so desperately to protect.

When the day of the buttoning ceremony, Repentance must decide if she will follow through on her commitment or if she’ll become like her mother—contented, and powerless, in the face of the overlords’autocratic rule.

The Setting


The Button Girl
is set in a fanciful place, in an indeterminable time, where overlords rule lowborns, where some people live in the hot, swampy fog created by the hot springs and others live in the sun on the top of the mountain in the ice castle, where some have gifts of moon cloth and others have skimmers and still others have dragonsticks or sun cloth, but the overlords have taken control of it all.

The land is appropriately “other” for a fantasy, and feels very real and vivid.

The Characters

The cast of characters in The Button Girl is not overwhelmingly large and each individual has clear, discernible motives. Repentance is the point of view character, and like many teens, she thinks she knows better than her parents. She may not be able to change the world, but she wants at least to gain some measure of control over her own circumstances. But she underestimated the effects of her choices. She didn’t know or understand all the factors, and in the end she must make a heart-wrenching choice that she never anticipated.

She’s a likeable character, and all along I found myself cheering for her and hoping that she’d found the path to safety and happiness.

The other characters remain true to form and each acts in understandable ways. Sober is a compelling character. The king is sympathetic and powerless, Comfort is vulnerable, the prince is selfish and greedy. They all act in ways that are true to their character. Together they create a story that is intriguing, to say the least.

The Plot

Repentance doesn’t want to have kids because she doesn’t want to give them up to the overlords. She doesn’t want to stand by idly as her own parents did when the overlords took their sons. She wants to protect her younger sister Comfort, but realizes she really can’t do anything to keep her safe. Against the helplessness of her life, Repentance decides to control the one thing within her power—she can refuse to button.

But to make that decision, she is dooming herself and her would-be button mate, to lives of slavery.

Only after her choice is irrevocable does she realize the ramifications of what she’s done—and the evil far outweighs the good.

Throughout her journey, Repentance struggles with why Providence has allowed the overlords to have control over the lowborn. Is Providence unfair? Or does He even exist? Why do her prayers seem to fall on deaf ears?

Repentance continues to act rashly, and one poor decision seems invariably to lead to another.

In the end, she knows what she should do, but does she have the strength of character to do it?

Recommendation


The Button Girl
may be a YA fantasy, but readers of all ages will be delighted with this story. It’s filled with gripping tension, engaging characters, a fantasy setting that comes to life, and above all a problem that is so relevant to our times.

Apokedak gives no easy answers, but she does put her character into a situation that forces her to choose, and in so doing she allows us to see more clearly what our responsibilities are today. It’s a brilliant way to address what our culture faces.

I give this book my highest recommendation. Readers of all stripes, but especially fantasy readers, will be thoroughly engaged throughout. This is a book you won’t want to miss.

Published in: on June 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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