I was studying in my office at the church at around 11:30 today when I got a call from Breena. We have been trying, for some time now, to figure out what to do with our oldest son, Cyrus. He is obviously very gifted. He is only 3 1/2 and is quite the drummer, has taught himself to write in cursive, knows how to spell everything, and knew his alphabet at 17 months. We love him so much and want the best for him, but it can be challenging sometimes to know what that is and how to best raise him.

One of the things that goes along with giftedness is sensitivity, and Cyrus is especially sensitive. He gets angry quite easily. I don’t know what set him off today, but apparently Breena decided to address his anger. She began to tell him about Jesus (of course he already knows about him) and how the only way for him to be happy (and not angry so much) is to let Jesus into his heart. At first he didn’t want to have Jesus into his heart because he wanted to be angry. But then mommy said, “That’s okay. But if you want to be happy you need Jesus, just like I need Jesus.” She told him about sin and the cross and the resurrection. Then she asked him if he wanted to pray to invite Jesus into his heart. He said that he did. And that’s when Breena called me.

Of course I rushed home as quickly as I could. When I got there, I sat down with Cyrus on the pew (yes, we have a pew in our house) and asked him about his conversation with mommy. We went through everything that he had talked to mommy about and then I asked him if he wanted to pray to invite Jesus into his heart. He said “yes!” So the three of us bowed our heads and Cyrus repeated the prayer after me. It went something like this: “Dear Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Thank you for loving me and forgiving me. I am a sinner, but you have forgiven me for all my bad things. You died on the cross for me. They put you in a tomb, but then you came back from the dead. You’re alive! Please come into my heart and live with me. I love you. Amen.”

It was, for me, a beautiful moment–one of those times where you’re shocked by God and your amazing child. I don’t know how much he understands all this. But I do know that I’ll continue to talk about this with him and pray with him. He is truly remarkable, and his God loves him very much. As do I.

Jesus acts like he doesn’t owe me an explanation–like the calling is a sufficient act of grace in itself and I should be thankful simply for being chosen.

I wrote that a couple days ago and it’s been haunting me ever since. And like I said before, I’m beginning to understand.

I understand now that, if Jesus had given me any more clarity and direction since Ember fell apart then my life would, once again, be centered around the calling. The mission, the task, would become my idol. My gifts and sense of purpose would be the primary source of significance in my life, rather than the one from whom those gracefully flow.

So rather than making my calling an idol, I’ve made the search to recapture it the idol. The quest and the question have become the center. Only persons can sit on thrones, and yet I have offered the throne of my being to a nonentity–a vapor and a nothing. A quest. A recapturing of old glories that, like the wildflowers in the high country of Tuolomne, have blossomed and faded in their time.

What a wretched state it is to idolize a nothing. What emptiness is found in the centering of a phantom. Oh, how I have been mistaken all these years! Jesus didn’t call me to a task. He didn’t call me to a plan. He called me to himself. No wonder he didn’t give me an explanation–you can’t explain love! What a wonderful act of grace is this, that he would save me from the mission in order to be loved! And then, to love.

Lost. I’m a fan. Of the TV show, not the physical or existential states of being. I’ve been watching the show from the beginning and I’ve always had this sense that it’s inherently biblical, but I could never put my finger on it. After tonight’s episode I’m beginning to understand.

If you haven’t seen the show I don’t want to give anything away. I will say, though, that predestination v. free will is a central theme. Cool, huh? And they’ve managed to hold a huge segment of the population’s attention for six years!

Another major theme of the show, and the one that I really resonate with, is the concept of the unexplained calling. That is to say, certain characters believe that they have been called to the island but they don’t know why. They don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, and even as they begin to find out it’s only like the slow opening of a spring flower to the sun. One of the major revelations of this season, though, is who exactly has been doing the calling.

Without getting into any detail (for the purpose of not spoiling it), I wanted to write about something that I was struck by in tonight’s episode. One of the characters was shell-shocked. He was frustrated, at the end of his rope, because he had accepted the calling. He had said ‘Yes’ but he had never been told what the plan was. He didn’t even know what his own role was supposed to be. He was just there, obeying and waiting… Waiting for answers… Waiting for the plan…

Sometimes I feel like that too. I’ve accepted the calling of Jesus, but the details are fuzzy. And he tells me to wait… But I get frustrated because I want answers. I want to know what I’m waiting for, and why it’s taking so long. But Jesus acts like he doesn’t owe me an explanation–like the calling is a sufficient act of grace in itself and I should be thankful simply for being chosen. And I am grateful for being chosen. But sometimes I regret saying ‘Yes’…

That’s the tension of Lost. That’s the tension of my life.

I wrote the following article on my church’s blog and thought it was so nerdy I’d repost it here.


How do we get our English Bibles? What are the documents that the Bible translators work from? Haven’t all of the original documents been lost or destroyed? Is it true that all we have now are copies of copies and that they are full of errors?

The questions of Bible translation are difficult and complex. Some scholars would have you believe that we are in an impossible position because we don’t have any original documents and all we’re left with is a bunch of error-ridden copies of copies [of copies of copies…]. Like in the game “Telephone” where a message is passed from person to person and is inevitably changed at the end, the message of Scripture has been passed on so many times that we can’t possibly discover the original. Bart Ehrman even says that there are more errors in our New Testament documents than there are words!

And technically speaking, he’s right. There are more errors than the words. And we don’t have any of the original documents. All we have are copies of copies and all of them are at least slightly different from each other. What a hopeless state we’re in! We can’t possibly trust the Bible! My whole system of faith is falling apart! 

While it would certainly be easier if we had all of the original manuscripts of the Bible, we are not without hope. We can identify, with as much assurance as possible, the original readings of Scripture. As the man says, “There’s an app for that.” Our app is called textual criticism, and it is a proven scientific method for determining the original reading of ancient texts. Let’s do a contemporary English example.

Imagine that you’ve got five pieces of paper that are all supposed to say the same thing, but they’re all different. Your task is to reconstruct the original message of which these five are copies. Let’s look at them:

  1. Thee Bucki’s will win the national champion ship this year.
  2. The Buckees wil wind the nashunal championship this year.
  3. The Buckeyes will win the Big Ten Championship this year.
  4. The Wolverines will win the National Championship this year.
  5. The Buckeyes will win the National Championship this decade.

Now let’s examine each one in turn. #1 was clearly written by someone unfamiliar with college football, but you can still discern a coherent message if you know what they probably meant to say. #2 was written by an awful speller. #3 was written by someone who lacked faith. #4 was written by a heretic. #5 was written by a revisionist historian.

With these five texts in front of you, you can begin to piece together the original message. The first word is obviously The, with the only variant being a misspelling. The second word is interesting, not because of the misspellings, but because of #4’s insertion of “Wolverines”. In this instance, you would likely conclude that the original reading is Buckeyes, but you may also add a footnote that says something like, “one obviously heretical document substitutes Wolverines“. The third, fourth, and fifth words are easily discernible: will win the. The sixth word is interesting because you have another substitution. But which one is it? By all appearances it should be National, but if document #3 is unusually credible and strong, it could be Big Ten. In this case, it’s wisest to go with National, but to also include a footnote for Big Ten. The seventh and eighth words are clearly Championship this. The final word seems obvious, but we have another example of a single pesky variant. Here again, we’ll choose year but have a footnote for decade.

So our final text would read: The Buckeyes1 will win the National2 Championship this year3.

And we can be quite certain that this is, indeed, the word of the Lord.

This weekend I begin my four week class on Apologetics–a defense of the Christian faith. This one is challenging for me because I’m no apologist. But it needs to be done, and I’m the one who thought of the class anyway, so I guess I’m stuck.

In preparing for the class, I visited some websites for skeptics and ex-Christians. I wanted to get an understanding of what others think about our faith, particularly those who might be on the more hostile end of the spectrum. What I found was interesting.

There are a lot of very bright people who have very good reasons for not believing. For many, the Christian faith is unreasonable and illogical. It simply doesn’t add up. They understand Christianity to be at odds with Reason (Faith v. Reason, Faith v. Science) and have chosen the latter. The have well-formed and well-thought arguments to express their position.

I also found a lot of stories of pain and disillusionment. They tried Christianity and it didn’t add up. The promises that church leaders made were broken. Christianity didn’t deliver the goods, nor did Christians live up to the ideals and mandates of their faith.

Though probably none of these people will be in my class, I want to engage in apologetics in such a way that honors them. As we move into these spaces, we must do so as people who listen first, and when we open our mouths, we speak intelligently, with humility and honesty. No games. No intellectual short cuts. No preacher’s tricks. No shouting. No name calling. No condemning. The point is not to win their souls through well-reasoned arguments, but to honor them as human beings who are still very greatly loved by God. As Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

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