The Forever Part

If you aren’t stubborn in your quest for a life that matters, you’ll waste a lot of it building hype and hope on things that won’t outlast a goldfish. The difference maker seems to lie in one’s understanding of “the Forever Part.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11
 [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. And He has put eternity into the heart of man.

There’s a Forever Part of every human heartbeat. God put it there. Even those who don’t believe He exists still have the Forever Part. It’s just hard for them to hear sometimes.

Jesus came so that we could see that death isn’t the end. He offered eternal life. It’s the life we always knew, in our heart, was the truest life. In the Forever Part. 

But Christians many times forget about it. We can work and think and stress on things that rob our attention from what makes our lives matter. The forever stuff.

I try each day to hear the Forever Part of my own heart. There are dozens of ways it stirs to life. Little reminders help the most. For instance, there’s a clock on my desk. It’s frozen in time at a quarter to 8. Each time I sit down to write she tells me, “Unless this is linked to God’s Word and stirs the Forever Part of someone, you’re wasting your time.”

This blog post will fade and be lost soon, but you won’t. God and His Word won’t either. And if reading these words reminds you of that, then I’m doing something meaningful. Something that will, in a way, last forever.

Find little, everyday things that do this. For me, it includes reading (and writing) fiction. G.K. Chesterton was absolutely right when he said, “[Fictional stories] are more than true. Not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be defeated.” Short stories are a favorite because I can read them in one sitting.

I’ve written a few that were inspired by the Forever Part and included it below. Perhaps they will inspire you as well:

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King Arthur and King Jesus

Both dramas have stood the test of time. Both take place in real periods of history. Both have hero vs. villain storylines and relate moral lessons to their readers.

So, if someone asked the difference between the Legends of Camelot and the Gospel of Luke, what would you say? Are both (or either) to be taken factually? What convinces millions of people that one is a fairy tale and the other is true?

In a society that likes a “turn the other cheek” Jesus but wants to scrub out the “resurrection Sunday” fairy tale parts, it’s important to know how to respond. What separates the tales of King Arthur from the words of King Jesus?

I think a good place to start lies with how such a narrative begins.  There are literary cues to every story – fiction or nonfiction; novel length or 140 characters.

“Knock, knock…” sets up a joke.
“Roses are red…” a poem.
“Once upon a time…” a fairy tale.

The writers in the New Testament, however, start their accounts of Jesus’ life much differently. Here are two examples:

Luke 1:1-4
In as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

1 John 1:1-2
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.

If the Gospels were meant to be moral fairy tales loosely based on a real-life person, then Luke and John are terrible writers.  It would’ve been impossible to follow for 1st century readers because it would’ve been penned in a fictional format that wouldn’t exist for another millennium. Instead, it claims to be a careful, fact-checked, peer-reviewed report of something they actually saw happen.

People 2,000 years ago might not have understood Germ Theory or aerodynamics, but they knew virgins couldn’t get pregnant and dead men don’t join you for lunch. This is precisely why the Biblical writers were so careful with their words. Something entirely different from normal life had happened, and it would change everything.

John concludes his book this way: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

You shouldn’t base your life on fairy tales. Luke and John didn’t.

Good Reads for The Fall

I’m always on the lookout for a good book. The best ones I’ve come across were recommended by someone. I’ve written before on the importance of reading, and want to throw out a few that I’ve found helpful or interesting. If you’re looking to add to your list this fall, consider…

  1. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller (254 pages)
    Keller gives approachable answers to deep philosophical questions about Christianity. If you’re struggling with whether or not the teachings of Jesus are true, this is your book. If you’ve never critically evaluated your own faith in Christ, get it.
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    “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life to busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”

  2. “Why an Historical Adam Matters for a Biblical Doctrine of Sin” by John W. Mahony (17 pages)
    This scholarly article published in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was a short, helpful explanation of the importance of a real Adam and Eve. With the rise in popularity for evolutionary theism, understanding the various interpretations of Genesis 1-3 is critical.
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    How essential is it, given what the Bible says about sin, to maintain that Adam was a historical figure? What do we lose if we deny this point? In order to answer these questions I will proceed in three steps: (1) I will survey the biblical view of human sin; (2) I will discuss the various interpretive options proposed by current evangelicals who are questioning the actual historicity of the Genesis account; (3) I will conclude by arguing that the biblical doctrine of sin requires an original image bearing couple, rooted and grounded in history.”

     

  3. The Problem of Pain: How Human Suffering Raises Almost Intolerable Intellectual Problems by CS Lewis (154 pages)
    Although I disagree significantly at points (i.e. Lewis’ Darwinian view of humanity), he lands in orthodox places and forces you to face tough questions gracefully.
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    “Pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that Ultimate Reality is righteous and loving.”
  4. Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots) by Matt K. Lewis (219 pages)
    I listened to Lewis on a Podcast recently and was interested in his assessment of the current political world. He pushes back on the conservative “echo chamber” and suggests that our society has become polarized in Washington because of it. Read it before November’s election.
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    “New technology allows us to avoid coming into contact with opposing viewpoints. There is no common culture or consensus. It’s entirely possible nowadays to go through a day and avoid hearing information that challenges your assumptions.”

     

  5. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. (224 pages)
    Every Christian should read this. Moore analyzes the Bible Belt South with aggressive clarity and refocuses Americans to the original message of Christianity.
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    “We are Americans best when we are not Americans first. Therefore, we cannot build Christian churches on a sub-Christian gospel. People who don’t want Christianity don’t want almost-Christianity.”

  6. Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney (67 pages)
    Whether you have small children at home or are trying to figure out how to start family devotions with teenagers, this little book will be very helpful. Whitney takes away all the typical excuses by replacing them with practical (and realistic) suggestions.
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    “Husbands, fathers- if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or your children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today.”
     
  7. Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavin (336 pages)
    Sometimes, you need to read something fun. Klavin’s novel is about a cop who solves top secret crimes. It gets real interesting on nights with a full moon because…you know…he’s also a werewolf. You might find the gore a little much. Either way, find a Werewolf Cop for your reading list.712XqhTMN8L-682x1024

There’s one more that I’m excited about…

8. Dear Frankenstein: Letters of Hope to Pieced Together Families by Blake Hudspeth
I’ve been working for the last few months on a short, free eBook that will be available this month. My aim is to encourage families that need hope. The ones on the brink of collapse, or perhaps are now on the other side of divorce and just want to keep their head above the water. Watch for it on this blog in the coming weeks.
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My family didn’t become functional overnight. Each person made important decisions en route and learned many lessons through tears. You will find them embedded throughout this book. Every chapter is a letter addressed to you- someone who needs hope. They will not teach you how to build a healthy, blended family. But they will give you hope that it’s possible.”

Happy reading!

A Meeting in the Bog

Until the Blue Planet, I had never seen a place where something other existed. There were cosmic worlds suspended in darkness and nomadic chunks of iron, like myself, barreling along waiting to be pulled into one of their orbits. That was it. Gas and metal and rock and speed.

I’d seen a few of us get close enough to collide and disintegrate into some of these distant worlds. Even so, after the enormous amount of energy was released, not much changed. Gas and metal and rock smashing into more gas and metal and rock for billions of light years in every direction.

But when I saw the Blue Planet, it was filled with…life.

Massive life. Strange life. Life much different than after our collision. Life with fangs and tusks and scales. They were equal parts majesty and terror, and I would soon disintegrate with them. It’s the reason The Mover redirected me towards it in the first place. He knew an object of my size and speed would modify The Blue Planet without destroying her.

It was a magnificent place. There were steep mountains with glowing rivers, thick patches of vegetation, and black swamps that breathed steam. They sat waiting to swallow up the creatures. Those that dared to cross a swamp became trapped in its sludge.

A few days before contact, my eyes happened upon such a pit and noticed two creatures caught in the tar. The tree-like one must have submerged some time ago leaving only her tall, slender neck sticking out in the air. She seemed to know that death was imminent in the bog. It was also hurtling six miles closer each second.

“My name’s Agnes,” she said. “But that doesn’t matter anymore.” The anguish on her face was both deep and kind, as if her insides were boiling but she didn’t want the other creature to know. A tree behind them had been laid down in the bog. Its trunk stretched all the way back to land. I wondered if she knew about it. There was little doubt it could support her weight.

“Maybe you’re wrong, Agnes,” the other said. He was a stumpy brute with three horns protruding from his head. There was an innocence in his voice, but not the naive kind. His skin cracked with age. The ooze crept in his pores. “There’s always a way out.”

“I’m sure many have said that.” Her lips were somewhere between a snarl and quiver. “It’s ignorance. No one knows how to get out of the mire. I’ve been here for weeks, and each minute the bog swallows me more. I’m tired of thinking. Everything’s a dead end.”

“Weeks?” he replied. “I’ve been in one before but only for a few days. It must be agonizing.”

“More unfair, really.” she said.

I couldn’t believe it. Had she not been listening? Freedom wasn’t impossible. He’d found a way out once before. Perhaps she didn’t believe him. It was hard to tell. To be sure, these creatures were mysterious.

The tree sat half-submerged listening to their conversation.

“I know it’s dreadful,” the brute said. “But if you would be willing to stay uncomfortable for five minutes longer, we might see the way out.” The thought almost convinced her. She could tell that he, too, was uncomfortable. The crisis would have driven anyone to their breaking point.

They were silent for some time. “Even if you’re right,” she straightened her neck, “we’ll all die soon enough. One way or another.”

“Yes,” he said. “Death will meet us all.” There was more silence.

The brute took a long, calculated breath. “But when he looks at my eyes, they will be filled with hope,” he said.

“Good luck with your hope,” Agnes replied. There was despair and contempt in her words. She was angry. Not at him, but at hope itself and the notion of purpose. She could see no meaning in life and, therefore, no meaning in death. It must have been more unpleasant than the awful bog.

The Blue Planet turned away before I could see the end of their encounter. It wasn’t until the next day that I saw the tarry swamp again. Neither creature was visible, but over by the tree there was one set of black footprints trailing away from the mire.

Time had come to enter the atmosphere. I would soon become part of this world forever. As its surface cradled the impact and sent my DNA burning across the land, my eyes raced to find the one who got out. After a moment, I saw him. He was easy to see. It wasn’t his size or beauty that caught my eye as I rushed towards him. The brute’s face was what separated him from the others.

He was the only one smiling at me.

Summer Reading: Grab (at least) One of These

Summer makes a book better. Maybe it’s the weather…or the beach…or the years of counting down those final, creeping seconds before school let out.

When making a “to-read” list, it’s helpful to have recommendations. Mine is ever growing. Good readers don’t waste their time with dull books, and I’m always curious as to which ones they have found worthy of the list. Of the dozens on that lineup, here are 5 that grabbed my interest until the end.

Non-Fiction

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

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Have you ever been sad after eating a sundae? Not “eat your emotions” sad. More like “this was the best sundae I’ve ever had and now I want more sundae” sad. That’s what it felt like when I finished Wolfe’s version of the Gemini space saga.

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

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If this one doesn’t make your list, get the cliff notes in this post: “Phone Smart- How to Live Untethered (Realistically)”.

The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer

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He ranks with the brightest evangelical minds of the 20th century. His approachable writing style both sharpens the faith of Christians and helps with the philosophical hang-ups of others.

Fiction

Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline

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If an ’80s arcade and The Hunger Games had a kid together, it would look like this. And it looks awesome.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

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Do you enjoy Civil War history, but want more vampires? You’re in luck. The book is nothing like the movie. But it’s exactly like the 16th President- unique, battle torn, and sort of weird looking. Beach reading was made for this one.

What’s another book I need to add to my list?