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What Truly Matters

We had arrived. Where were we? At a children’s home in Kenya, Africa. We were there to paint the schoolrooms and build desks for the abundance of skinny children playing in the dirt around the compound, which was surrounded with 8 Ft walls. We had come from America, the land of wealth, to bless the lowly, these poor orphans in need. We had come to bless them. I had no idea. The next week proved how wrong I was.

The next seven days we did our best mission impression, but the natives out-blessed us at every turn. In our honor they killed and cooked their best food for us, prized rare chicken meat. They also provided expensive soda in our honor. The volunteer workers and teachers at the children’s home were paid very little, they suffered a hard job, trying to parent and manage throngs of orphans coming and graduating from the orphanage. Yet they always looked after us. One woman even washed my cousin’s feet because they were dirty. Every afternoon the children would be released from class and come running to play with us ‘muzungus’ (white people). They would marvel at our white skin and thin hair. We played basketball with them or spun them around by their arms. They never stopped laughing and smiling.

In the evening we would gather inside and sing worship songs together. They would teach us African songs and we would teach them American songs. On Sunday many people gathered together to worship. Different groups got up to sing for us. They were very lively and energetic. They had our mission team get up and sing, admittedly less passionate and lively than they were. The service went on, astonishingly lasting four hours in the heat. They were not going to shortchange God!

We come to bless the Kenyans, but truly they blessed us far more. What struck me the most about them was the joy and peace they contained within their hearts, despite having very little and living a rough life. They did not go around complaining that Americans had much more than they had. They were just thankful that we came; they enjoyed our fellowship. They taught me so much. Joy does not come from possessions or even living a #blessed life. Joy comes from knowing and pursuing God. Joy comes from being thankful for the good things, not focusing on the bad things.

In a culture that has everything, Americans want more. With technology, we have never had life easier, yet we are never satisfied. We are always discontent. Our focus is often on ourselves and how others have more than we do. Whether it be money, fame, beauty, talent, privilege, etc. there is always someone with more and that’s just not fair. We could do with a bigger perspective. Let’s not forget what’s most important: loving God and loving each other.  Let’s be thankful that we live in the top 3% of the wealth in the world and work to spread the blessing to others.

 

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A search for the Sublime

 

Sublime – of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.

All my life I’ve been searching for the Sublime, the mystery behind the mundane. I know there’s more out there in the universe than the surface level physical world that assaults our eyes. I know this because science, history, English, Philosophy, religion, etc. has explored them. I have experienced the sublime firsthand in sunrises and sunsets, in everyday miracles and grace given undeserved. I have experienced the sublime by way of the feeling of peace in the presence of great evil and danger.

But I want more. I want to peel back the layers of common everyday thoughts and actions to explore purpose, meaning, spiritual, and imaginative realms.
I have come far in my journey. Heck, I’ve read over 600 books in my lifetime, the majority of them being fiction. My desire for knowledge, wisdom, and truth has no bounds. There is a thirst within me that has not been quenched. I know that this world does not contain the living water that satisfies because the earth is not my home. To be more accurate, I am not even searching for a what, but a WHO.
My dilemma is that at times I’ve given up on this world, felt disconnected from life, and have suffered the consequences in my soul. I’ve felt lonely and empty, disenchanted and confused, wayward and apathetic…the list could go on. My problem is that I’ve become lost in the sin of this world and forgotten my purpose for this life.
I’ve separated the spiritual from the physical. Yes my thirst will not be fully quenched on earth, but I can find peace and contentment. How do I do this?
1. By loving God and loving others more than myself
2. By discovering my God given talents and investing in them to produce more fruit
3. By connecting with this world in order to bring God’s kingdom here and now on earth
The spiritual, mental, and physical is all woven together; truth, meaning, and contentment is not in one but in all. The key is balance in all of them.

 

Beyond The Shadowlands

eternityThe name of my blog “Beyond the Shadowlands” is a reference to CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce. The “shadowlands” is a term Lewis invented to describe the world as we know it. Lewis explained that while the earth contained elements of heaven, it was a shadow of its true glory. Heaven was like earth unblemished from sin. In The Last Battle (The 7th and Final book in The Chronicles of Narnia series) Narnia is destroyed and all those who followed Aslan entered heaven which looked like Narnia only more. The new residents found that their five senses were all heightened, colors became more vibrant, food become more luscious, smells became more intoxicating, energy became boundless, Narnia grew. The Narnia they once knew was now oddly familiar and strangely alien all at once. They realized that all along that the Narnia they once knew was just a reflection, a shadow, of the true reality they lived in now.

In this blog I hope to to discover glimpses of eternity  in my musings. I hope to strike at the truth contained under the veil of sin in this world. Though darkness shrouds our minds and hearts, God has provided us everything we need to follow him.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. -2 Peter 1:3

I hope you will join with me in discovering what is beyond the shadowlands so that we may live full, abundant lives and reflect the light of Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. -1 Peter 2:9

Exploring the Wild West of the future: Virtual Reality

A new frontier is approaching that has the potential to reshape society forever. Virtual reality is the next level of the technology age. Like the internet, virtual reality has sky sweeping possibilities and will most likely evolve more quickly and many more different ways than we can imagine today. However, just like the internet, virtual reality has many cons as well as pros. Scientists may hail this new world as another step toward utopia, the reality is that human corruption is inescapable. So in order to best utilize this new tool, society must advance with caution and wisdom, instead of repeating the mistakes the public dispersal of the internet created. We have all heard of virtual reality, but what is it? How is it used? Where is it going? What are the implications? In this article we will explore all of these questions and more.

What is virtual reality? Virtual Reality is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real, or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment in a way that allows the user to interact with it. This not only includes sight, but also has the potential to include touch, hearing, and smelling. Virtual reality is usually accessed on a computer screen or a special virtual reality headset.

Virtual reality today is mainly used for video games, but it is also utilized for practical purposes as well. Virtual reality technology has been used by Google in their street view, the military to train for combat situations, in medical education to train nurses and doctors as well as help patients heal from PTSD.

Virtual reality in the future could evolve in so many ways. Virtual reality could expand within the entertainment industry to include TV, movies, and sports. Virtual reality could become the next social network. Minecraft is a good example of a user-created world based on a limited number of options. Combine this with virtual reality, better graphics, and shared users, the potential is endless. Plus, the factors of smell, touch, realistic sound, etc. and the popularity could be staggering.

But virtual reality coupled with shared user interface does not have to be limited to entertainment. Virtual reality could be used in education. Imagine being able to take classes in bed. Your avatar is already dressed, you’re already at school, and you have to make minimal effort to do classwork. No need for pens and paper. A keyboard or fingerpad will suffice.

Businesses could also implement virtual reality. Huge, international businesses could use virtual reality to include everyone at the same place. Engineers, scientists, marketers, etc. could all implement virtual reality. Stores could transition to be completely online. Why would you need to go somewhere when you can see, touch, and interact with employees online, and have everything ordered to your front door?

Virtual reality has the potential to change our society. If virtual reality successfully implements some of the above ideas into society, then life will shift even more to the virtual from the physical. Since virtual reality could become so life-like, creative, and potentially useful, it could become highly addicting. While users could potentially create and interact together in virtual reality it still could not totally replicate reality and therefore create damaging isolation between individuals. Virtual reality will heighten the physical sedentary and obesity in our culture. Virtual reality will also heighten the need for instant gratification, short attention spans, and the false sense of control.

While the widespread implementation of virtual reality has yet to be realized, it might not be that far into the future. As our culture progresses into the technological age we must be engaged and thoughtful so that we control our technology instead of letting it control us.


Sources:
The future of VR with advertising:
http://www.curbed.com/2016/4/5/11368816/ikea-kitchen-design-app
VR description and history:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality
SEO keywords:
http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/?keyword=virtual+reality

 

The Character of God

This is the fourth opportunity I’ve been given by my pastor to speak at my church. I hope you enjoy and that it blesses you.

“Good evening. A month ago my pastor asked me to speak and I agreed. I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to this church full of people who taught me so much wisdom and showered so much love on me growing up.

I have been busy with papers in grad school so I decided to adopt this sermon from one of my essays. When I told my pastor what my sermon was going to be about he of course recommended a book for me. The book he gave me, Your God is too Small by J.B. Phillips was very helpful as was another book I read called The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. If you haven’t already guessed, my topic tonight is about who God is and who God is not. When I went to Summit (an apologetic camp) 2 summers ago as a student we recited this Tozer quote every morning during Bible study, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Our understanding of God is important because it guides how we live life. Likewise, it is important to know what God is not so we do not fall into the trap of acting out of a false belief of God. During this Christmas holiday I think it is important to remind ourselves of the characteristics of God in order to foster thankfulness and worship toward God.

God is not-

God does not expect perfection from man. Though we fall short of his glory, he still loves us and encourages us. He does not want perfection from us, but only for us to try our hardest and strive to grow in him.

God is not a God of escapism. God does not hide us away from reality so we can cope, but instead he is our anchor that we rely on, so we can be content and confident in life no matter what happens.

God is not a simple God, He cannot be put in a box – God is not a denominational God, or a God that only works in the church. He does not fit our finite human idea of him. He’s bigger than us.

God is –

Love:

1 John 4:16 “God is love.” In The knowledge of the Holy Tozer is quick to point out that this does not mean literally that God IS love, but that love is an essential attribute of God’s character (98).

God’s other characteristics tells us more about his love. For instance, God is self-existent so his love has no beginning; because he is eternal, his love can have no end; because he is infinite, it has no limit; because he is holy, it is spotless purity; because he is immense, his love is incomprehensibly vast. The very nature of love is active, creative, and benign. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 says. So therefore, love must give of itself, whatever the cost may be (agape Love). “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17).

Just:

God is a just God. God defines justice because he is perfect and sets the standard of morality. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus came to die for our sins because He wanted a relationship with us. Because of His holiness and justice we could not have a relationship with Him without atonement for our sins being made. God is compassionate because he is good.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Mercy:

God is also merciful,

“Both the Old and the New Testaments proclaim the mercy of God, but the Old has more than four times as much to say about it as the New. We should banish from our minds forever the common but erroneous notion that justice and judgment characterize the God of Israel, while mercy and grace belong to the Lord of the Church (Tozer 90-91).”

 

According to Tozer, God’s character is constant so he never changes from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Tozer claims that in order to receive mercy we must first know that God is merciful. We must believe that God’s mercy is “boundless, free and….available to us now in our present situation (92).”

Immutability:

God’s nature does not change. God remains consistent throughout the scriptures. God has no need to change because He is completely mature and perfect in every way. Man, because of his imperfection, is ever changing. Yet he desires the unchanging and mourns the decay of the changing in the world. But, God does use change to work toward a process of perfection. Tozer concludes,

Holiness:

God is Holy. Isaiah understood holiness and his lack of it. In Isaiah 6:5 he said, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah understood how holy God is and how he views his people. Tozer points out that,

“We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing. We are not disappointed that we do not find all truth in our teachers or faithfulness in our politicians or complete honesty in our merchants or full trustworthiness in our friends. That we may continue to exist we make such laws as are necessary to protect us from our fellow men and let it go at that (103-104).”

 

Tozer believes that man, even while fearing God’s power and admiring his wisdom, cannot imagine his holiness. It is possible to have truth in the mind, but not the heart. Man can only learn about Holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mystery:

God is mysterious. God is hard to know because we as humans understand what we already know, what is in this world. However, God is not from this world, he is both spiritual and physical. He is greater than us and he is divine. People only know God by what he has revealed in this world. Humanity cannot understand or comprehend what he has not revealed. The writers’ of the Bible use many comparisons (God is like…) to describe him, but these are not descriptions of him. Language cannot describe or comprehend him, for he is beyond words.

“…high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown… (Ezekiel 1:26-28).”

Tozer explains why humans struggle with the concept of God,

“Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like, and what He is like is of course a composite of all the religious pictures we have seen, all the best people we have known or heard about, and all the sublime ideas we have entertained (Tozer 8).”

 

The desire to know God comes from something he put deep inside of man, “deep calls unto deep (Psalm 42:7).” This desire can only be satisfied by looking at God’s son Jesus and through the revealing of the Holy Spirit. Tozer contends that God does not reveal his nature through reason, but through faith and love. While man has no answer to the question “what is God like in himself,” there is an answer to “what has God disclosed about himself that reason can comprehend.” These things are what God has revealed to the world, his attributes.

Wisdom:

The Bible declares the wisdom of God: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. … He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him (Daniel 2:20-22).” ‘His understanding is infinite,’ says the psalms (147:5). God gave man wisdom, but it is secondary to God’s and that is the reason that Romans 16:27 refers to God as “only wise.” The Bible defines the wisdom of God as being pure, loving, and good.

“All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined. An infinitely wise God must work in a manner not to be improved upon by finite creatures (60-61).”

Jealousy:

In Deuteronomy 6:14 God warns the Israelites not to follow false gods or he will destroy the Israelites because he is a jealous God. Jealousy seems like a purely negative emotion, but it actually can be used for good. God’s jealousy is a form of his love for his creation. He wants a loving relationship with everyone and will pursue that wholeheartedly. Anything that becomes an idol or more loved by an individual will be a source of jealousy to God. This is good for man because man will only truly thrive and experience life within a relationship with God. God’s punishment of war to the Israelites wasn’t solely because he was angry and vengeful, but because he wanted the Israelites to wake up. God wanted to remind the Israelites how much they needed him and how important a relationship with him is. God also wanted to remind the Israelites that true life is only found in him and that the temporary pleasures they were pursuing ended in death. God would rather have a short term, punishment here on earth for his creation, than an eternal punishment in the next life.

So in review God is full of grace, guidance, love, justice, mercy, holiness. He is constant, wise, jealous for us, and mysterious. Knowing these things about God gives us confidence that we can weather the trials of life and help others in need as well. Reviewing the attributes of God fosters a spirit of thankfulness and love toward God. Keeping in mind the character of God helps us prioritize life and grow closer to God. I am thankful that we serve a powerful, forgiving, and graceful God. Thank you!”