Scylla and Charybdis: Between Fear and Courage

According to Greek Myth, Scylla (pronounced SIL-ah) and Charybdis (pronounced kah-RIB-dis) were monsters that inhabited opposite sides of a channel of water, sometimes imagined as the Strait of Messina separating Italy from Sicily.  Scylla, a former lover of Poseidon, had been transformed into a hideous beast by the poisoned bath salts of Poseidon’s angry wife Amphitrite.  Charybdis was a massive underwater beast, later rationalized as a whirlpool, that would drink in ocean water three times a day and spew it out again.  Sailors had to choose how to navigate the hazard.  If you sailed too close to Scylla, she would snatch 6 people from your ship, but the rest would survive.  If you went to close to Charybdis, you risked your whole ship being sucked down and destroyed.  “Caught between Scylla and Charybdis” was the ancient equivalent to our “stuck between a rock and a hard place.”  Continue reading

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Wrestling with God’s Wrath

“The Wrath of God.”  Just say the phrase and I guarantee you people will cringe.  I know I do. If there is any attribute of God that no one wants to talk about its His Wrath. Maybe some people want to…hose weird people on the news that give Christians a bad name by thumping their Bible and taking pleasure in telling people they are gonna burn in hell.  But for most of us.  The wrath of God is at best an uncomfortable topic and at worst a source of fear.  But if we will look beyond our surface gut response, if we will wrestle what the wrath of God really means,  we will be shocked to find something incredibly important, significant, satisfying, and helpful.  Continue reading

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Anfractuosity: The Case against Christianity as Wish Fulfillment

A common criticism levied against religion generally and Christianity specifically is that it is simply wish fulfillment, a human invention to help us manage our anxiety in the face of a chaotic world and eventual death.  Wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true.  And Christianity is just whistling in the dark to keep our hopes alive.

Some answer such arguments by saying that just because we desire it to be true, doesn’t mean we are inventing it.  Starving people didn’t invent the idea of food.  Human longing could be an indicator of truth as opposed to falsehood.  Others counter that advocates of wish fulfillment desire Christianity to be untrue and therefore, using the same criteria, their position can equally be falsified as wish fulfillment.  To my mind, the most satisfying answer to this objection, an answer that honestly deals with the objection rather than obfuscate or accuse, comes from C.S. Lewis’s work The Problem of Pain.  Continue reading

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Robinson Crusoe and the Goodness of God

Most people haven’t read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.  When asked, most people muster a vague recollection of a story involving a man shipwrecked on an island, learning to live in a primitive wilderness all by himself. Many who attempt to read it either lose interest because Crusoe doesn’t even get shipwrecked on the island for several chapters. (much like Moby Dick, which takes a hundred pages to get Ishmael out to sea).  Those that persevere frequently complain that the book becomes a tedious literary version of a survival guide, a “what to do if you are ever stranded on a desert island,” kind of book.  Most people, not needing such a manual, pass on the opportunity to read this work…to their loss.  Robinson Crusoe is more than just a Swiss Family Robinson-style book on how to survive in the wilderness.  It is a meditation on the Goodness of God and mystery of Divine Providence.  Defoe’s preface, which is not included in many modern editions for some reason, makes this point explicit: Continue reading

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MLK vs Gandhi: The Path of Bonhoeffer

Martin Luther King, Jr and Mahatma Gandhi stand as shining examples of the power of non-violent resistance  to overcome profound injustice.  The similarities in method between the two have oft been noted, as has the one’s (Gandhi) influence on the other (MLK).  What I offer here is a reflection not on their similarities but on one key difference:  MLK knew not just the power of non-violence resistance; he knew its limits. Continue reading

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10 Commandments of the Internet Hobo

I love and frequent establishment with free wi-fi.  I can transform just about any place into an office in no time flat.  Starbucks, Barnes &Noble, or Panera may be the cliché paradigms for this, but there are other establishments with comfortable environments and available internet…and I am a sucker for eating breakfast out…especially anything involving biscuits or breakfast tacos.  So for me there is something refreshing and therapeutic and productive about setting up at Chick-fil-a, or Taco Cabana, or Rudy’s BBQ.  All of these places also have superb free-flowing Dr. Pepper on tap.

But I have recently become aware the certain establishments are “cracking down” on internet hobos… people who squat at places, consume free wi-fi, buy nothing, take up space, and never-ever leave.  Restaurants have started metering their wi-fi, providing login codes on receipts, even covering outlets in order to limit your stay to your available battery life.

Free Wi-Fi is a privilege not a right.  Continue reading

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Joseph’s Unexpected Christmas: A Person God Can Work With

Joseph is often treated like a spectator or an afterthought to the events of Christmas.  But Joseph shows, in the way he handled Mary’s unexpected Christmas, some key attributes of a person that God can work with. Joseph has his own unexpected Christmas. How he handles it reveals the attributes of a man worth imitating.

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Jesus: Prince of Peace

Kingsland Baptist Church, Katy TX
December 18, 2016
Text: Isaiah 9:6, Philippians 4:4-8

 

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Mary’s Unexpected Christmas: How to Handle When God Interrupts

I wrote previously about how Christmas is not about having the perfect celebration. Christmas is about God interrupting our plans. He does so for His glory and our good. He has a grander plan that is coming true and He is inviting us to be a participant in it.

No greater example of this can be found than in the person of Mary. Mary goes from being a young girl from a small town, engaged to be married, to being personally invited into a much larger plan, a plan which will “ruin” many plans that she has already made.

I am sure you have had your plans interrupted too; perhaps by crisis or catastrophe. Maybe it was the loss of a job, the unexpected diagnosis, or the unanticipated accident that interrupted your best laid plans. You didn’t see it coming and it makes you wonder what is going on and whether God is in control. My challenge for you: watch how Mary handles it.

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America’s Epicurean Side

epicurusIf I said America had an Epicurean side to it, most people would either blink their eyes and fuddle their brows in a vain attempt to understand what I said or let out a collective sigh or a sarcastic exhalation. But I am serious.  American has an Epicurean side.  And by Epicurean I do not mean the easily lampooned version of Epicureanism which amounts to perpetual and severe over-indulgence.  The correct term for that is hedonism.  Rather, I mean Epicurean philosophy can be seen as a unifying principle behind several key and seemingly disparate aspects of American society.

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