Searching for Truth in a Bookstore

Although they are dying out, bookstores are temples for seekers searching for Truth.

Pontius Pilate wasn’t really searching for truth when he asked Jesus, “What is Truth?” He was scoffing at the notion that Truth existed, or that the Man before him was Truth itself. Although they are dying out, bookstores are temples for seekers searching for Truth, asking the same question.

Searching for Truth in a Bookstore

Time was, if you wanted a book you had to physically go to a place and buy it. You could browse shelves and shelves, or you would ask a clerk, and they would help you find one. Then, if you found one, you would pay, and immediately take it in hand and read it. Those places were called bookstores (catchy, right?).

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating just a little bit. I mention bookstores because I want to tell you my bookstore story:

Continue reading “Searching for Truth in a Bookstore”

Wrestling Unwillingness into Obedience

Just about everything in the Christian life is a call to do what our natural man hates. We are called to not love the world or the things in it, to not worry or be anxious, to love and serve others above our own selves… Every command of God is a command to abandon our fallen natures. In this era of “born this way,” God says, in effect, “So what? I say do this, not that.”

Obedience to God is only possible through the power of Christ in us, through the Holy Spirit. We may have been “born this way” but through the double-miracle of repentance and faith, God changes us. We go from darkness to light. Death to Life. “Born this way” to born again. He replaces our heart of stone, the Bible says, and gives us a heart of flesh.

And while all of that is glorious and true, there remains an inner struggle. The Old Man, wretched and decaying and continuing to want to feast on sin, still exists within us. Practically speaking, we don’t always want to obey God rather than man. We’d rather dance at the edge of darkness. We’d rather serve Mammon. Sometimes we’d rather hold onto our anger/fear/doubts/what have you, then let it go.

The New Man, thank God, has the upper hand in the fight though, and is helped every moment by the invisible Person of the Holy Spirit and the power of Christ in us. Humanly speaking, it is our duty to be pliable. Obedient. Even when we don’t feel like it or don’t fully understand how.

As I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount recently I was reminded again of all of this. How exactly does one turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) when someone slaps us not with their hand but with their words or actions? How exactly do we love our enemies (5:44)? Surely it’s not a sappy, Hallmark card artificial gushiness. Jesus says to greet them (5:47). How do we do that? Do we smile? Shake hands? Act as though we really don’t wish them out of our lives? What does forgiving those who wronged us, even if it’s a brother or sister we love, look like (6:14), especially if they don’t even know they wronged us?

Reading the Sermon on the Mount again, I wrestled with these questions and my own weak-willed obedience. I want to obey. I know I should I obey. I know I must obey. But like a child being told he must he his vegetables, even at 48 years old I am prone to pitching quite the inner temper tantrum. I’m reminded again of the comfort of Scripture; I am not alone in my heart’s cry, “Oh wretched man that I am!”

The answer and consolation is found in Matthew 5:45, “[do these things] that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” What does that look like in us, exactly? How are we to “be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48), especially since we are woefully imperfect?

First, let’s acknowledge it is contrary to our fallen human nature to do these things. Second, admit that sometimes we just don’t want to. He knows our hearts anyway! Just admit it! But then, thirdly, speak candidly in love to God admitting our weakness and seeking his grace. We really do love God and, thus, really do, deeper down, want to obey. We know He is good and right and these commands–like vegetables–are good for us. Fourthly and finally, with the Lord as our model (as always), step out in faith and obedience. He sends his rain on the just and the unjust–who hate him daily; the least we can do is pray, forgive, smile, and wave.

G.K. Chesterton famously said, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” At least try earnestly to obey the Lord and his commands. You and I won’t get it exactly right, but that’s still way better than getting it completely wrong.

Christian Bloggers: Write for God, Not Google

There is no sphere in this world where the world’s conventional wisdom does not ultimately come at odds with Christ. That’s not to say that every sphere is wicked and useless. We need education. We need legal systems. We need business. Even entertainment is a grace of God. He made us creatures who laugh, after all.

Still, in every area of life there comes a point where the conventional wisdom in that area hits up against Christian ethics and there they go their separate ways.

How Blogging Butchers Writing

I come up against it a lot in blogging. For those of you who maybe read blogs but have never written one, the written word in blog form is increasingly being commoditized. Good writing, like any art form, really is both an art and a science. The painter works within the science of light and color to make art. The writer’s science laboratory is full of beakers bubbling with words and ideas, figuring how best to get them to interact to produce the desired effect in the reader.

The conventional wisdom about blogging, however, is as mechanical, cold, and efficient as a modern slaughterhouse. It is all about butchering real writing to render quick, consumable byproduct injected with as much keyword filler as you can get away with and still be humanly digestible (readable).

One article I read recently summed up the world’s conventional blogging wisdom perfectly:

The only way to attract long-term traffic to your blog is to start writing for man and machine.

God, Not Google

Said another way, conventional blogging wisdom is surprisingly religious. It is encourages bloggers to leave their first love and bow down and appease Google’s All-Seeing algorithms that rank and rate posts and blogs.

There is definitely hyperbole in my analogy, but you see my point. The whole SEO thing (Search Engine Optimization–the process of mechanically crafting blog posts for maximum exposure across the web), is obviously lame in my opinion. Not evil. Just lame. If I were running a business site, I’d have to conform my posts to it if I hoped to attract business. That leads us to consider the question: Is a Christian blog a business?

As a Christian who writes and runs a blog, do I hope one day to be able to earn a little money off a site like this? Sure, that’d be nice. Nothing wrong with that. But that should never be my first goal, nor the goal of any other Christian blogger. We serve the Lord. We serve HIs people. We serve God, not Google.

Christian writer, let me encourage you: Follow the conventional wisdom about blogging to do what you can, within reason, to increase the visibility of your blog because you want it to be a helpful resource to the people of God. But better to write 500 words of clear thought that makes you happy and pleases the Lord (who may be the only One to ever read it), than to meticulously cobble together some keyword-laden post just to win the praise of men (or machines). Remember,

For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.

Psalm 75:6-7 (ESV)