Words

Discipleship & Personal Growth

Personal growth and discipleship are both integral to Christian life. They are distinct in that one is inherently relational, and the other is not. However, they are so intertwined as to merit the combination of both into a singular topic. While the logistics and other details of discipleship and personal growth can vary greatly from one person to the next, some core elements are key to each.

What is Discipleship and Personal Growth?

Let us first begin by defining each of these two topics, specifically as they relate to a follower of Jesus.

Personal Growth

To “grow” as a Christian implies some observable and measurable improvement, progress and otherwise positive change over the course of time. Being a Christian is not a binary state of existence any more than being a human is. That is, one does not simply “flip a switch” to become a Christian and leave it at that. The language and analogy of becoming “born again” helps explain this concept: a baby once born is not “done” being a human, it must embark on a life-long journey of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development, aided and directed by peers, and inevitably filled with varying seasons of “ups and downs” and observable trends.

Exactly what must we measure for improvement? Well, the short, ambiguous answer is “everything.” Christianity is meant to permeate every aspect of one’s life. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT) states as such: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (Also Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:17, 1 Peter 4:11).  A transformed mindset (Romans 12:2) governs our thoughts, decisions, actions, and relationships, by conforming, submitting, and merging our will with God’s. That close relationship with God, based on love and fear, is one purpose for which God created us. (See anthropology)

Unlike physical growth, of course, spiritual growth is not measured in pounds or inches. What then can we look to as markers of spiritual development? The transformative and guiding power of a Christian is the indwelling of God’s spirit; this is the gift of the church age. The results, or “fruits” of a life submitted to God’s spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT): “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Elders and Deacons, selected in part for their spiritual maturity, were given a more specific list of qualifications, all of which can be related to the fruits of the spirit. (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-4) These are indicators not of perfection or “completion” but of enough maturation over time that they are no longer considered spiritual “infants.”

Discipleship

Discipleship is nothing more than personal growth in the context of other believers. While a Christian’s growth is “personal” in that it involves internal, specific transformation of an individual, it is not “private” because it is meant to be shared, passed on, and multiplied. That is how the global church began, immediately following the gift of the Holy Spirit, as can be seen throughout the book of Acts. Like a holy virus, it spread from one man, Christ, to his closest disciples, the apostles, and from them to thousands, from those thousands to millions and so on.

Discipleship is peer-guided education and improvement. It is learning from more experienced (or differently experienced) believers, and in turn, providing mentorship for others. Even a “newborn” Christian has enough information to start propagating other new followers immediately. (See Mark 5:19-20 for one example).

Importance of Discipleship and Personal Growth

Discipleship is key to the propagation of the gospel and multiplication of the church.

By its very definition, discipleship is the engine for continuous multiplication, edification, and growth, for individuals and the church at large.  Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) describes this concept at its best: “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” The body is not a static fixture; a crucial function of “each part” is to help the other parts grow. Discipleship is not an optional or secondary function of the church; it is the core function of the church.

Both are prescribed by scripture.

To be a follower of Jesus is to strive to emulate His example, and live out His commands. Jesus was holy and blameless from birth and therefore free from needing any “improvement” in that regard (more on that, and scriptural proofs to come in Christology). However, even He grew, as every human must, over time (Luke 2:52) and it was not until He was about thirty years old that He began to minister publicly and make disciples. (Luke 3:23) From that point on, He invested His life heavily into those of His disciples, setting a precedent and example for each of them to pass on.

Personal growth is an explicit prescription for all Christians; we are expected not to remain stagnate, as infants, but to actively and continuously seek growth. (Hebrews 5:12-14, 6:1, 1 Peter 2:2-3, 2 Peter 1:5-8, Colossians 2:6-7, Ephesians 4:13-16) And of course, Christ not only modeled discipleship, but He also commanded his disciples to make disciples. (Matthew 28:16-20)

Personal growth is our duty and pleasure.

Recognizing God as our creator and savior should be enough reason on its own to inspire us towards personal growth, seeing that He has prescribed it to us through His Word. However, it is also our pleasure and honor as humans and results in greater satisfaction and fulfillment in life. To quote John Piper, “God’s ultimate goal in the world (his glory) and our deepest desire (to be happy) are one and the same, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Not only is God the supreme source of satisfaction for the human soul, but God himself is glorified by our being satisfied in him. Therefore, our pursuit of joy in him is essential.” In other words, fulfilling our truest purpose is what ultimately results in our greatest joy. 

(Psalm 16:11, 25:11, Ephesians 1:4-6, Isaiah 43:6-7, 43:25, Romans 15:7-9, 3:25-26, 11:36, John 7:18, Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12, John 5:44, John 14:13, 12:27-28, 1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Peter 4:11, Philippians 1:11, John 17:24, Habakkuk 2:14, 

Philippians 1:19-23, 4:4, Psalm 1:1-3, 19:8, 34:8, 37:4, 32:11, 33:1, 67:4, 90:14, 100:1, Jeremiah 15:16, Deuteronomy 28:47, 30:6, Hebrews 11:6, 11:24-26, 12:1-2, John 6:35, 15:11, 16:24, 20:31, 2 Corinthians 1:24, 8:1-8, 9:7, 1 Peter 2:2, 5:2, Matthew 13:44, 5:10, Romans 5:2-4, 15:13)

Components of Discipleship and Personal Growth

Having defined each and established them as critical to a Christian’s life, how then can they practically be achieved? As I mentioned earlier, there can be a great deal of variance depending on the context of any given situation. However, I believe each of the following is fundamental to achieving discipleship and personal growth in any situation. 

Components of Discipleship

Relationship

Discipleship is impossible apart from relationships; its definition implies this. Discipleship is a relationship, a specific, intentional category of relationship. Discipleship is not achieved in isolation. The nature of this relationship should include friendship and love, and inevitably both parties are sharpened in the process. However, discipleship is different from general fellowship in that the one who disciples has some level of authority or experience compared to the one who is discipled. This allows for components in the relationship such as teaching, correction, and guidance. Such relationship dynamics can be observed throughout the gospels, Acts, and epistles.

Scripture 

Scripture is the binding common denominator of the relationship. The knowledge and purpose of the Christian faith rely on the Bible as our source of truth and guidance. It is the standard which shapes our worldview. (John 17:17, Romans 10:17) Two people with nothing else in common can find common ground in God’s word. (See bibliology and anthropology). It is only logical, then, for scripture to be central to any discipleship relationship. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) says: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

Ministry 

The fundamental concepts of Christian service should be an underlying current and goal of discipleship. We are all called to be ministers (2 Corinthians 6:3-4), and workers who are ready and prepared for the job (2 Timothy 2:15). After all, good works are the purpose for which we are redeemed. (Ephesians 2:10) Ministry should be a way of life for a Christian, and discipleship is a venue to teach it as such while accomplishing good work at the same time. (Matthew 5:16, James 1:22, 1:27, 2:14-26, 2 Timothy 3:17, Titus 2:14, 2:7, Galatians 5:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:13

Ecclesiology

The health and growth of the church has already been established as a reason for the importance of discipleship, but what exactly is the role of the church in discipleship? Discipleship being a form of close, productive relationships, it is not accomplished by or dependent on a centralized structure. However, that is not to say that organization and corporate gatherings have no benefit to discipleship. A full discussion on ecclesiology is reserved for another essay, but I want to point out a few ways the church relates to discipleship, because discipleship is a function and result of the self-propagating church. First, a group of people pooling their resources and skills enables a more efficient distribution of ministry and service. Second, a larger gathering of people can provide opportunities for people to meet each other and form discipleship relationships within the body. It is also an opportunity for encouragement and inspiration, sharing what God has been doing and motivating each other to make disciples and seek discipleship. A church can also organize programs to facilitate discipleship. I think there is a danger in such programs in that they can tend towards classroom environments, or on the other end of the spectrum, party-like events with little to no focus on real spiritual growth. Neither one of those things is wrong, and both can certainly be beneficial. They can be wonderful supplements and tools. However, neither are a replacement for the genuine relationship necessary for true discipleship.

Components of Personal Growth

Scripture

Just as scripture should be central to discipleship, it should be central to one’s personal life. One of the most effective ways to grow is to simply read and meditate on God’s word, absorbing and soaking in it so it becomes a part of you. (Psalm 143:5, 119:15, 63:6, 1:2, 119:11, Joshua 1:8, Hebrews 4:12, Jeremiah 15:16) Access to scripture in our culture has become ubiquitous, so memorization has become less of a necessity, but it is no less of a beneficial habit. Memorization truly binds scripture to your psyche, so it can be a part of your life even while you are not actively reading it. In addition to meditation and memorization, it is helpful to spend time studying scripture. Examining historical contexts and literary devices, tracing themes, and other such academic endeavors can provide a greater depth of understanding and appreciation of God’s word. (2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Timothy 4:15, 2 Peter 1:5) 

Prayer & Praise

Necessary for the development of any relationship is communication. Prayer is our method of communication with God, and thereby important to developing our relationship with Him. It is only logical, then, to say that spending time in prayer is conducive to overall personal growth. Equally important is praising God, which could be considered a specific type of prayer, whether in song or otherwise. (Ephesians 6:18, James 5:13, Romans 12:12, Luke 6:12, 18:1, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, James 5:16, 1 Chronicles 16:28, Daniel 2:20, Jeremiah 20:13, Ephesians 1:5, Deuteronomy 10:21, Psalm 100:1-2)

Ministry

I have already covered the topic of ministry, but I think it is important to reiterate that ministry is a way of life, which means it is not merely a component of discipleship or something that can exclusively be accomplished in a group context. A pervasive internal mindset focused on God’s mission is critical to personal growth.

Discipleship & Community

Similarly, I want to reiterate that discipleship and personal growth are not mutually exclusive, rather, they are components of each other. Someone who is discipled well will experience personal growth, and the more someone grows, the more they should be equipped to disciple others. Again, “personal” growth is only “personal” in that it is the growth of a specific person. It is not isolated growth, nor is it meant to be kept private. It is growth that happens in a forest full of trees, all of whom are dropping seeds and nurturing each other with God-given water, as they all stretch toward the same source of light. May we remember that this is our foremost purpose: to grow closer to God and others, with others, and bring more people into the family to do the same.

Anthropology: What I Believe About Humans

Part 1: Defining Humans

The human creature is classified in scientific taxonomy as Homo sapiens, a species recognizable as distinctly unique standing amid the rest of creation. Our particular capabilities, capacities, and accomplishments have bred much introspective questioning. Centuries of self-recorded human history reveal endless questions about where we came from, why we are here, what our ancestors have done, what our purpose is now, and if there is any hope for our future. 

These existential questions are foundational, paramount topics of human thought, as (in my experience) people do not find satisfaction, peace, or fulfillment during their lives unless they first find some answer for those types of questions. I believe the Bible provides the best answers to all those questions, and the following is my understanding of exactly what its answers are.

Where did humans come from?

Humans’ first appearance in the narrative timeline of scripture answers the first foundational question: where did we come from? The Bible’s first character, introduced as a powerful, creative being, brought the world and life into existence. (Genesis 1-2) On the final day of creation, this God created a new type of creature, a human, described first in Genesis 1:26-27. The process by which they were created is detailed further in Genesis 2:7, 21-22. A man was both formed out of the ground and given breath (life) by God, and in turn a woman was formed out of the man. (1 Corinthians 11:8-9)

Why were humans created?

Humans were the only part of creation described as being created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1-3, 9:6). The decision to create such a being reveals that God desired a being that would reflect His nature and act as His standard bearer on Earth. They were told to populate and govern the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Throughout the rest of scripture we can see humans’ overall role in creation. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question is “What is the chief end of man?” and I believe its answer is one of the best and most concise summaries of scripture’s response. It simply states: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (Psalm 73:24-26, 16:5-11, 144:15; Isaiah 60:21, 12:2; 1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:31; Romans 11:36; Philippians 4:4, Revelation 4:11)

Part 2: Human Past, Present & Future

What happened to the original humans?

When God placed humans in their original home, a garden sanctuary, (Genesis 2:8-17) He gave them some guidelines and He was their only source of defining right and wrong, good and evil. (Genesis 2:16-17) Tragically, they chose to instead define those values for themselves, in direct disobedience to God. (Genesis 3:1-10) They took something for themselves that was good in their own eyes, instead of trusting God’s definition of what was good for them. As a result, God kicked them out of the garden and placed a curse on them and all their descendants. (Genesis 3: 14-24, Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

The subsequent history shows the violent, destructive, and self-centered behavior of humans left to their own devices, distancing themselves from God by their sin. Patterns of human behavior in the Old Testament reveal the innate corruption of man due to the original man’s sin and is further defined in the New Testament, showing that humans have been unable to improve or cure their depravity. (Genesis 6:5, 12, 8:21; Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 1:18-25, 3:9-23, 7:18, 1 John 1:8-10)

Is there any hope for humans?

Fortunately, God did not completely forsake humanity. Even as He cursed them, He hinted at His plan to restore humans and conquer sin and death. (Genesis 3:15) He chose to continue interacting with humans, using some of them to showcase His mercy and serve as a conduit for His glory. In doing so, He also revealed humans’ need for redemption and salvation. (Read the whole Old Testament)

Over time, He established a series of covenants with His chosen people, the Israelites, and gave them teachings (including principles, concepts, customs, rituals, laws, and regulations) through which they could enjoy His blessings, guidance, and even His presence. People could experience God’s forgiveness and holiness through ritual purification processes and animal sacrifices. These rituals symbolized the cleansing of unholiness and absorption of their sin into an innocent replacement, the animal. However, they were never able to sustain their end of the agreement consistently. They entered cycles of holiness, loyalty, and prosperity, followed by depravity, rebellion, and destruction. Even over hundreds of years, this cycle only spiraled downward. (Again, see the whole Old Testament. For all the detailed explanations of their rituals and customs, read Exodus-Deuteronomy)

Because humans are incapable of saving themselves, God provided a new kind of human, born to a virgin woman through the divine intervention of God’s spirit. (Luke 1:34-35; Matthew 1:18, 20) This man, Jesus, walked the earth as a human manifestation of the holy creator God, and as such, lived a perfect, righteous, blameless life. (John 1:14, 10:30, 14:10, Colossians 2:9, Matthew 3:17, 17:15; 1 Peter 1:19, 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 9:14, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 3:5, Romans 8:3) He explained the true meaning and purpose of God’s teachings and claimed to be the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. Furthermore, He revealed that through Him, God’s mercy would extend to humans all over the earth, not just Israel. (Luke 2:10, Galatians 3:28, Romans 10:12, 3:29, Colossians 3:11, Acts 28:28) He gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, a blameless substitute to absorb the sins of all humanity and redeem them into God’s family. He died brutally at the hands of men, was buried, then resurrected victoriously, all exactly as He said He would. (Matthew 20:17-19, John 19:5-6, 29-30, Luke 23:44-47, 24:6-7, Mark 8:31, 15:46-47, 16:5-7, Acts 3:15, 4:33, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 He left the earth still alive, shortly thereafter. However, He sent His Spirit to continue His work in and through those who believed and accepted Him.

To expound more on Christ’s story would be to overlap too far into Christology. However, the topic cannot be entirely avoided when discussing anthropology, because Christ essentially introduced a new way to define what a human is. Jesus’s life and work provided a perfect example of a “reborn” human, a “new creature” indwelt with the Holy Spirit of the Creator God Himself. (1 Corinthians 15:22, John 1:13, 3:1-10, Romans 6:3, 8:9, 10:9-10, 1 Peter 1:3, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Acts 2:38, Colossians 1:18)

The gospel of Christ is not only the hope for humanity but the great excitement and joy we live in during the present age. All humans can benefit from the gift of Jesus and the power of God to redefine who we are. (Not all do, but that falls under the subject of soteriology). Under this new definition, we are children of God, brothers in Christ, the functional and unified family and body of new humans. (Galatians 3:26, John 1:12, Hebrews 2:11, 1 John 3:12 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Romans 8:15, 12:4-5, Ephesians 1:5, 2:19, 4:4, 11-13, Galatians 3:26)

Why, then, do some who would define themselves as such not always look like children of God or act like brothers in Christ, but rather as a dysfunctional, broken and deeply flawed band of misfits?

This contradiction exists because even the spiritually reborn have yet to be physically reborn. God’s work is not yet complete. We may be in one of the final chapters, but there are pages written that have yet to come. To go much further would be to trespass upon the subject of eschatology, but I believe it should be mentioned that we are not the “final product.” That is the hope we have in what is yet to come, because humans in the present day are indeed deeply flawed and imperfect. Even the spiritually reborn at times succumb to the temptations and habits of their innate depravity. However, the promise we have is of an eternal life that extends beyond the eventual death and decay of our current bodies, and into a new body that will not be tarnished by sin. (Romans 7:14-25, 8:18-21, Philippians 1:6, Revelation 21:3-4, Isaiah 65:17-25, 66:22-23, Matthew 19:28, 2 Peter 3:7-13)

Psalm 23: A Brief Exegesis

Psalm 23 is a beautifully crafted poem, well known and often memorized for good reason. It is an encouraging example of resolute faith in Yahweh and the comforting peace that comes with it. I have been meditating on the passage while resting my own mind and body, in a grassy paradise beside the most refreshing waters I know, in the midst of family and overflowing abundance. It seems a fitting meditation. The following are some brief notes from studying the chapter and comparing various exegetical resources.

Wolfe Island

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Ecclesiastes: A Tonic in Troubling Times

I love the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, especially in times of emotional difficulty. It provides in some ways a contrast to the wisdom of Proverbs, with a somewhat more cynical, jaded perspective. This tone is cathartic to a throbbing soul, at least for me. Rather than focusing on simple cause and effect formulas for living a life blessed by wisdom, it considers the unpredictable and unexpected, the situations beyond our control and hard to explain. However, it does so rather stoically and philosophically, compared the emotional and conceptual grandeur of Job. It helps us to mentally transcend the vanity of emotion and earthly pursuits, while at the same time remembering to relish every gift of pleasure and fulfilment we are afforded, appreciating every moment simply for what it is.

What I Believe About the Bible

An explanation of my beliefs about the Bible as it pertains to doctrinally crucial convictions. I believe the Bible is inerrant, divinely inspired, has been accurately preserved, and continues to be personally relevant to every human alive. This is not a thorough defense as to why I believe these things, but I will expound on what these facets mean and why the Bible is so important to me.

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My Testimony - A Grace Story

I can remember in detail the evening that I sat down and prayed the five-year-old version of what is commonly known as “The Sinner’s Prayer.” It was May 6th, 1998. I was attending the weekly AWANA Cubbies program at my family’s church, First Bible Baptist Church in Greece, NY. We had finished our lesson and were settling in for perhaps the most highly anticipated event of the evening: snack time! It was a large group of preschool kids, and we were all sitting at those short little preschool kids’ tables waiting anxiously for our portions of animal crackers. They were the extra tasty kind that night, the kind with frosting on them! I was sitting by myself, not secluded but not actively engaged with anyone either.

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The Law of Spiritual Dynamics

Newton's "third law" has a spiritual parallel, that I am calling the "law of spiritual dynamics." Romans 7:21 says "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand."

Whenever I endeavor to do good, whenever I draw close to righteousness, there will be a resistance and opposition. It comes both from within, from my evil flesh, and from the spiritual forces of evil at work in the world. It will often manifest with intensity directly proportionate to the fervor with which I seek to do good.

Thankfully, unlike Newton's third law, which says that in physical matters the reaction will be "equal and opposite," I am comforted in knowing that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Nevertheless we must be watchful, aware, and prepared for this reactive opposition.

Spring Is...

A crisp but gentle sprite who giggles as sleepy sugar snow floats down to bright new blades of grass.

A welcome morning warmth like a slowly growing glow from a nearly forgotten sun.

The smell of thawing earth with ripe dew-covered will to push a life of color into breezy air and lengthy rays of light.

People are Books

People are books. More accurately, people are like books. This can be a useful simile overall, whether applied to friends and family members, or to a new relationship or conversation.

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The Fairy Stone

The fairy stone is a unique and all but lost family tradition here. It started and ended with my great grandmother, Marge Sturgis. I only partook in the tradition for one week as a child, but to me, the value of this story is not so much in the tradition of it, as what it tells of her personality and sense of imagination. It was a superstitious story of grandma's fabrication—I sometimes got the sense she had a whole delightful world of mythology, all her own, living in her head, that only she understood, but into which she would give us little awe-filled glimpses.

Wolfe Island

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Laughter of Children

No chorus of angels can rival the music in laughter of children.

Why Did I Choose a Career in the Arts?

My decision to pursue a career in the arts may be ascribed to four key factors: affinity, ability, passion, and philosophy. Ultimately I believe that God directed me to where I am and what I do, but these four factors are what I see as the primary instruments He used in doing so. Combined, they led me to study graphic design, photography, and, my current profession, web design. I could expound in much greater detail upon what follows, but will try to keep it brief.

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A Twilight Dream (Biscay Bay)

I lean against the buff Oak and catch whiffs of dried herbs and desert sage, distant aromas carried along the breeze of stormy weather lurking at the horizon.

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Not a Writer

“Not a writer” who doesn’t drink, Who doesn’t think in terms of words Constructed fondly, full to the brink With meaning and moving like herds Of a mass, many seemingly one thing.

Take Joy

We are told to never be content with what we have, to never settle for less than more.  I challenge you to take joy in any simple pleasure you are ever afforded.  Are you warm? dry? clean? healthy? Do you have friends? family? a roof? freedom? You obviously are using a computer with internet.  We don’t deserve the least of pleasures yet we ignore so many.  Even if you disagree regarding entitlement, there is little excuse for unappreciative apathy. 

Geyser

Bottle-capped geyser, never felt wiser, to drown an ear in bubbly fear and set the oceans free.

This, my friend, would be the end to ghastly pressure beyond measure.

Distracted

I find myself transfixed and contentedly so, to sit and stare in utter awe at the bushes outside the window beside me. Though they barely move in the breeze, their form is ever changing in perception, undulating with radiant propensity for existential significance, not the least of which is manifested in a breathing glow that swims and flies and dances among so many needles of evergreen wonder.

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Hurricane to the Head

My head is sent spinning, caught on the gust of an unexpected song, left unwinding in stupefying motion.

Imagination fell short by miles of nearing in precedent the delight within her soul.

At that I join the choir of those proclaiming this as madness.

Madness it must be, and to madness I must go.

After a while.

As Time Goes By

Love. Few words in our language carry so much weight, yet are flung so frequently from the surface of every English speaking tongue. Romantic love is often lauded above all else, and despite its age equaling exactly that of humanity itself, remains garbed with wonder and mystery. Science has yet to explain or quantify the effects which artistic endeavors have been so often dedicated to express, how this phenomenon endlessly enraptures, bewitches, enrages, and further proves apt to puppet the full range of human emotion from a cortex of immense power we call love.

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Amid

Sky on my head and ocean below, never such a sound as the cold clouds blow.

3/22/13

(Written last night, in observing my own journey through grief)

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Emotions

I have been recently bestowed with some emotional states of being, of intense proportion, that are not commonplace in my life. My examination of such emotion was both bewildering and enlightening.

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The Fruit & The Flower

Ohhhh the glory of harvest! Such magnificence is nearly unbearable, in all her shy, unbeckoned potentiality, hiding behind skirts of self-imposed obscurity, that blinding smoke of oblivion.

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Rock & Roll

A friend posted this on Facebook last night:

“So I been thinking about this for a long time and I can’t come to a decent conclusion. So I figured I’d ask my question here.

What is Rock and Roll? If you had to pick a band that personifies rock and roll who would you choose? Some people say that AC/DC are what rock and roll is. Others say Led Zeppelin is the one.
So who would you choose? Think on this. I want a real answer.”

Not being committed to any other engagement, and being profoundly passionate about music and especially R&R, I had to write a response. Though a little longer than I expected, I ended up with an answer worth saving.

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White Hole Cosmology

The following is a summary of Dr Humphrey’s White Hole Cosmology, a possible explanation of the cosmological events of creation week in the Bible. I do not know who originally created this list; I will add credit if anyone informs me of such. I am not implying my agreement or endorsement of the views represented henceforth, but present them as thought provoking and certainly worth consideration.

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Developmental Factors Regarding Legal Consideration of Minors

Children under the age of seven are not held responsible for crimes in America because they are said to be unable to form criminal intent. As evident in the story of a six year old from Michigan, the legal view of children and criminality can have a significant impact on people’s lives and the outcome of major criminal court cases. The scientific support for such must therefore be observable and convincing enough to uphold this legal stance. Moral development, emotional development, social learning and brain development are all relevant factors in situations leading to crime. To understand the legality of child crimes one must thereby consider the prevailing psychological concepts relating to such developmental components.

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Is Hacking/ Cracking Ethical?

Spoiler: there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there are perfectly ethical uses for hacking.  Though there is debate over the meaning of the term, a positive application is possible regardless of any one definition.  Both good and bad reasons and uses for hacking exist.  In other words, hacking can be unethical, but it does not have to be.

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Developmental Theories from a Christian Perspective

There are many legendary scientists and theories that provide insights invaluable to modern research, and which broke both hardened and uncharted grounds in their day. However, Christians have a crucial element to add to any perspective, and it can have a significant impact on how we use our predecessors’ findings and conclusions. I see the five grand theories as valid (if not true) explanations for different facets of the infinitely complex diamond that is human development. In fact, the major tenets of all five seem fairly compatible with each other when the weight of influence is distributed, if not evenly, across every aspect of the perspectives.

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Pride & Beowulf

While Beowulf is far from my favorite piece of literature (shoot me), the classic hero is a prime example for a discussion of pride which I have been mulling over after a discussion with a friend of mine. There are polar conceptions of pride, and talking about it recalled to memory a discussion in school about Beowulf.

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Interpreting Colossians 3:1-4

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (ESV)

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Nipples

I am often frustrated by socially imposed, misplaced taboos that we encounter everyday in first world civilization. One in particular that has been crossing me is that of a woman’s chest.

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The Gospel

The Christian gospel is perceived in as many different ways as there are different people who hear it. There are, however, certain general categories, and I will share a few that I have noticed.

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Atypical Despair

I do not read enough to recognize authors simply by their writing style, but the subject matter in A Grief Observed is certainly uncharacteristic of Lewis. His writings tend to be objective, logical paths of discussion of truth on matters such as morality, nature, and goodness. A Grief Observed is instead an outpouring of personal emotion and feeling, deeply and passionately dark and heavy in nature.

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Angelology, Satanology, & Dualism

The conflict between good and evil in the world is pervasive and undeniable. Its effects have been observed and contemplated by people all throughout history. Because there are many other fundamental opposites in the universe, a dualistic philosophy may be a very logical arrival. While much of our existence does in theory seem dualistic, good and evil are not quite that simple. This arises mainly from the fact that “good” and “evil” are not merely cosmic forces.

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Spiritual Gifts & Speaking in Tongues

Though Christ ascended from the earth, he sent to his disciples for all time the Holy Spirit to equip them in continuing His work. He baptizes us and dwells within us, guiding us in our life on Earth. Through the Holy Spirit, the church has been prepared and provided for so that it may function as Christ’s body. One fascinating and powerful aspect of our provision is that of our spiritual gifts.

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Christology

The person of Jesus Christ is a unique and highly controversial topic. The bible teaches that he possesses full deity, yet walked the earth as completely human as any other man. This union of God and Man is called the hypostatic union. Because that attribute of Christ is essential to Christianity, heretical fallacies must be avoided.

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Inerrant Inspiration

I firmly believe the Bible is inerrant, inspired, and authoritative. These concepts are closely correspondent and strengthen each other. There are several basic arguments for these properties, which I will briefly outline. It is more relevant to someone with a basic acceptance of the bible, as opposed to someone who rejects it completely.

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Painful Paradox

In chapter seven of The Problem of Pain Lewis presents six paradoxes. The paradox in his first proposition is very fascinating to me. I have actually thought about the problem before, but not to conclusive ends. As usual, Lewis was able to articulate the matter in an almost transcendentally clear and understandable way.

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Good God

There is grave danger in misunderstanding the goodness of God. Unless we have a good working understanding of the goodness of God, we may unwittingly fall into a type of devil-worship. The problem, ironically, simply comes from a misinterpretation of a perfectly valid, and, in fact, very important truth realization.

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The Numinous

In The Problem of Pain Lewis tells us about the numinous and about how it relates to fear. He says the fear of the numinous could be otherwise stated as dread and awe. It can be explained as the sort of dreadful awe that comes with belief in the supernatural. People are naturally equipped with a strange supernatural dread and awe of the concept of spirits and the like.

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“Heaven”

The word heaven is used very frequently in the bible. Many people just automatically assume that each case always refers to the same thing. They assume there is only one meaning of the word. However, that translation is used to represent several different original ideas.

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Childhood Inquisitiveness

Human beings enter the world of life when they are born with a vast storage space in their mind that is constantly expanding. At the same time, it also constantly matures in its processing complexity. All this space starts off empty, though, and has no facts with which to interpret any aspect of their surrounding environment. It has only its rudimentary programmed instincts which allow it to stay alive. Thus, once a child has acquired the ability to communicate to the level of inquiry, the child will naturally begin to ask any questions necessary in order to fill gaps in their understanding and interpretation of their sensory input.

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Hell on Earth

Some have posited that earth, if chosen instead of heaven, will turn out to have been only a region of hell, and earth, if put second to heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of heaven itself. While it may not be true in a purely literal sense, the concept and experience certainly is. In other words, hell, heaven, and earth may be distinctly separate places, but one can at least have a “hellish” or “heavenly” experience on earth based on their attitude towards it.

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Books About the Bible

Books about the bible by scholars are not necessarily bad thing, but it is crucial to caution one’s self when diving into them. Many people put too high a value on scholarly books about the bible, and may even spend more time reading them then they do the real thing.

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Lewis’ Grand Miracle

Lewis explains that in his view the “grand miracle” is the incarnation of God in Christ. That is, the physical coming of God as the son into a man’s body through human birth. The reason he believes that this event is the pivotal, central miracle (the “Grand miracle”) is because every other miracle is a preparation for, exhibition of, or a result of that one event. In other words, every other miracle that we can see recorded actually points ahead, inwardly, or retrospectively to the incarnation.

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Miracles

Some people, in their attempt to refute the possibility of miracles, must argue that they go against the laws of nature. They say that miracles by their very nature contradict the natural flow of events. However, in light of our understanding of God’s nature, that is not a necessary or even reasonable conclusion.

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CS Lewis & Nature

Lewis has stated that only a super-naturalist can ever really truly see nature. The basic reasoning behind this type of view is that to super-naturalists the whole of creation, which includes both nature and men, is something of an epiphany. It is God’s love made manifest in his attributes. Such various attributes of his can be found all throughout nature—beauty, order, intelligence, love, unity, reason, power, harmony, etc.

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The Church “Body”

The local church is a believer’s immediate access to “plugging in” to the body of Christ. Just as each Christian is a small yet vital member of the vast church of Christ, each local church is a unique and important part of the global church. The human body is an excellent illustration to how that works.

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Humor

Humor can be either detrimental and sinful, or innocent and healthy, depending on the use and context. Humor is a gift granted by God that allows humans to have pleasure through a curious experience called being amused.

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Screwtape and Pleasure

Screwtape’s comment that the “Ever increasing craving for an ever decreasing pleasure is the formula” provides insight and warning as to how pleasure may harm us. Pleasure, though a gift granted by God, can if abused lead to the treacherous downfall of any Christian. Proverbs 21:17 warns that “He who loves pleasure will become poor.”

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Screwtape and Freedom

Human freedom allows us to choose to sin and disobey God’s commandments. It enables us to act in discordance with His will, even if such is quite clear to us. For this reason, in The Screwtape Letters Screwtape was telling wormwood of the advantages of free will.

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Judging Hypocrisy

One does not often know another’s heart and soul, their past, or their present situation. It is easy to accuse someone of hypocrisy when they commit a sin that goes clearly against Christian principles. However, they may be at a point in their spiritual transformation where they have come a long way from the amount or magnitude at which they used to sin.

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Death and Life & Clive

Amidst the fear and uncertainty often surrounding thoughts of death, Christianity offers hope and even joy when it comes to such thoughts. CS Lewis has given some excellent perspective on the matter. He is very thorough and careful and explains everything from a wide point of view, and thereby avoids unnecessary confusion or offense.

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Money

The issue of generosity and giving is one I have contemplated many times. A chief conclusion I have made is a desire to maintain a mindset of earning money for the purpose of giving money.

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CS Lewis’ Law of Nature

The continuity amidst the various conceptions of the “law of nature” manifested across the globe is indeed crucial. It is perhaps the strongest practical testament to the existence of an externally (supernaturally) administered standard of morality. It is a simple, yet often overlooked concept. This evidence for the law of nature presents a major problem to any worldview or religion which denies the existence of an absolute standard.

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Music

I am fascinated, maybe obsessed, with the uniqueness of people’s musical tastes, preferences and listening habits. I am constantly prodding my friends with questions regarding music, asking them to listen to songs so I can know their thoughts on them.

All You People

All you people You are doing what I do.
You are saying what I say.
You are watching what I watch.
You are listening to what I listen to.

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A Reflection on the Book of James

Quotations taken from the ESV (English Standard Version) translation of the bible.

The Book of James is a letter with many powerful and convicting truths that provide practical help for daily Christian life. James uses a lot of imagery and straightforward language, which I personally appreciate immensely. He aims to guide and instruct his brothers in Christ to a unified life that carries out the work of Christ, pleases the Father, and yields spiritual fruit.

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