Perfectly Ordinary

A while back I saw this meme:

I understand the complaint, but at the same time, the cartoonist didn’t research into artwork of Jesus of around the world. He instead concentrated on European artwork. Following are several I found with a cursory Internet search.

From the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Korea:

Mongolia:

Philadelphia, USA:

I don’t know who painted this or where the artist is from (if you do, please comment), but I think it’s gorgeous:

While most agree Jesus was of mid-eastern descent, no one knows what he looked like. The Bible makes little mention of his physical appearance (with some notable exceptions). Many, however, attribute Isaiah 53:2 to Jesus’s appearance: “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

The notable descriptions of his appearance in the New Testament are during his transfiguration in Matthew 17:2: “And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.”

His resurrection in Matthew 28:3: “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.”

And his return in Revelation 1:13-15: “and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.”

All those descriptions never mention his skin or eye color, how tall he was, his build, or if he had any distinguishing features as he grew up and started his ministry.

In other words, he looked like everyone.

That different cultures would weave him into their own, and artists would depict him with their own ethnic features is a beautiful thing. Because God doesn’t care about our physical features, neither should we care about Jesus’ physical features. It’s all irrelevant anyway. What matters is the heart and soul.

That’s how he would want it, I think, because he didn’t come to earth to save only the Israelites, mid-easterners, Europeans, or anyone else of a specific ethnicity or nationality.

He came to save all of us.

Undisciplined Devotion

Once again my church offered an opportunity to write several devotionals for Lent. This time focuses on the book of Mark. Because I have so much reading and editing to do, I chose to write only four (I usually pick five or six).

I’m not one to set aside time for devotions, whether it’s reading the Bible, other devotionals, or scriptural studies. My faith suffers a little for it, but it’s never been enough to change my ways.

The main reason I like to volunteer to write devotions is it forces me to read and study. Even more than that, it forces me to discover how it applies to me, so the reader can apply it to his/her life also. Writing devotions requires study, but also introspection and humility.

Laying one’s heart and shortfalls on a page for hundreds of people to read is never easy. It’s a 300-word journey from ignorance to wisdom. Even more importantly, it should end with a focus on God, not the writer. A difficult task for someone as prideful as me. So much so, this time I’m tempted to tell the editor to add Anonymous to my devotions instead of my name. I want God to shine through the words, not me.

Save the Date!

It’s official!

My short story called “The Eye,” will be published February 28, 2019! It’ll be free to read on that day only on gohavok.com.

A few days ago, I submitted another short story to a speculative anthology about the Beatitudes and Woes in the New Testament. I chose “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I expected the story (titled “House Rules”) to end up at maybe 3000-4000 words. It ended up just over 8300.

There’s no guarantee it’ll be published, but I’m confident. Either way, I enjoyed writing it. Mostly because I hadn’t thought of that particular verse and what it really means. Considering how prideful I can be, I don’t see myself as “poor in spirit.” I researched the verse, and it felt almost like a treasure hunt, and I found a lot of gold.

Anyway, I will keep you apprised, and I will also send a reminder when my Havok story is released!

A Glimmer

Sometimes success comes from unexpected places.

On a whim I submitted a flash fiction story to Havok Magazine, and surprise of surprises, it was accepted!

I don’t have the date of when it’ll be published, but I’ll be sure to let you know so you can read it (you can even vote on it if you sign up). It’s just shy of 1000 words, so it won’t take long to read. That and it was fun to write. Having concentrated on writing novels, I wasn’t sure I could pull off writing flash fiction. I guess I can after all. At least once, anyway.

But that’s not all!

Someone posted on a Facebook group of Christian speculative writers that someone should create a speculative anthology based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, specifically the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-11) and the three woes (Luke 6:24-26).

So many people jumped on the idea, including a publisher of a small press who offered to publish it, that I barely managed to grab the first blessing (blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven). The stories need to be from 1-10k words with 7k the optimum.

There’s a catch, though. It has to be finished by February 7th. He’s in the military and deploying this spring, so he wants everything completed before then. Plus there’s no guarantee he’ll publish it if he doesn’t think it’s good enough.

How’s that for a challenge? So far I’ve written about 800 words. I don’t know if I’ll reach the optimum of 7000, but I figure I’ll reach at least 3000-4000.

Defend Yourself!

“I learned a long time ago that anything worth doing is worth defending.” ~ Mike Rowe

Does God call us to follow him blindly and without question?

Some like to accuse Christians of being blind sheep, ready to dive off a cliff simply because God said so. I’ve heard some Christians accuse others that to doubt and question is a lack of trust and faith in God — and could even be considered blasphemous (I was told this once as a teenager when I revealed that God makes me angry sometimes).

In a previous entry, I talked about how God appreciates when we doubt. A friend commented thusly (in part), “Though a Christian may from time struggle with the no fear part of our faith, I believe when we still follow God’s word despite that fear, that God rejoices in our faith, love for him. So submit to His Word!”

To which I respond:

I’m not suggesting God doesn’t rejoice in our faith. Of course he does! Nor does doubt mean we love God less. All I’m saying is God understands and even expects us to doubt. Having doubts is part of who we are in this world. Nor do I recall him ever saying we should never ask him questions, or to never get angry at or frustrated with him (acting out in that anger is a bit different. When God told Moses he couldn’t enter the promised land because he acted out in anger, and as such didn’t give God credit a good example [See Numbers 20]). As if we could hide our doubts from him anyway.

Doubt isn’t always a bad thing, as long as we come to him with those doubts.

Moses argued with God, as did Abraham (which saved Lot and his family). David and Job had doubts. Lots of doubts! Jonah tried to run away, and got angry with God when Nineveh repented. Naomi believed God had abandoned her (as did Mother Theresa for most of her life). Peter argued with Jesus, Thomas doubted him. Paul worked against him, and Ananias felt a little betrayed when he was asked to heal and forgive Paul who had persecuted so many of them.

So what does all that have to do with defending oneself as the title suggests?

Because when we struggle and doubt (and as long as we turn to God with those struggles and doubts) he teaches us where we have fallen short or are mistaken in our assumptions. When we learn through those doubts and struggles, we grow stronger in our faith, and as such can better defend that faith.

God often compares us to sheep, because sheep are stupid creatures. They will literally jump off a cliff following other sheep, never realizing the danger until it’s too late. That does not mean, however, God wants us to remain like sheep. He wants us to be able to defend our faith to those who also question and struggle (including ourselves).

Proverbs 2:1-5 says, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Emphasis mine).

Other such examples of the importance of seeking God and his wisdom, and for defending our faith:

Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

1 Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (Emphasis mine)

2 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Titus 1:9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

In short, yes, we need to submit to God and his word, but by submitting without question or not attempting to overcome our doubts, we can neither grow, understand, or defend our faith.

Prove It!

I see a lot of this on social media: Someone makes a charge or claim, and someone else asks for verification or citations of said claim. Instead of providing any evidence, he/she says something like, “I’m not your research assistant. Google it.”

Nope.

If you make a claim, it’s your responsibility to provide the evidence. The same goes for me, too, by the way. If I state a certain fact, I better have the evidence ready to back it up.

The US judicial system is based on the idea that the accuser has the burden of proof, not the accused. I see discussing and debating issues the same way. The burden of proof is on the person making a claim, not on the person who questions it.

After all, if someone states something as fact, that person had to arrive at that conclusion somehow. Logically, shouldn’t that person have the evidence already? Why try to force someone else to do the research all over again? It’s rude.

When people make statements like the above, it implies to me that they have no real evidence, and instead don’t want to be proven wrong. I’ve lost count on how many people have blocked me, or refused to respond because I dared to ask for evidence.

Ignorance really is bliss, I guess. Or they prefer a delusional world of their own making instead of the real one. Scary either way, because, as a character in one of my books said, “Reality will only kick you in the face that much harder.”

Carbon Copy Christians

How do you like my alliteration, there?

Yesterday someone posted this on Twitter which states: “To the “Christians” who gave money for a GoFundMe to build Trump’s Wall, there are children & veterans without shoes, sick people without healthcare, a city without drinking water, and immigrants fleeing from certain death. Please reevaluate your Christian values and try again!”

I responded thusly: “Do you have proof that Christians who donated for the wall don’t also help children, veterans, the sick, etc.? If not, then your assumption is false. Christians can do more than one thing and donate to more than one cause, you know.”

This isn’t about the wall, or politics, but how some perceive Christians in general. They seem to think we’re all monochromatic in our beliefs and actions. Truth is, I know many Christians who:

Believe homosexuality is a sin;

Believe homosexuality is not a sin, and some even go so far as to say Jesus and the disciples were all gay;

Believe God condemns abortion;

Believe God approves of abortion;

Believe God condones the abuse of women and children;

Believe God both condemns and expects punishment of all abusers;

Believe Jesus was a pacifist;

Believe Jesus was a warrior;

Believe God would be for gun control and that all guns should be banned;

Believe God would not expect people to give up their ability to protect themselves with firearms or other weaponry;

Give to liberal causes;

Give to conservative causes;

Vote Democrat;

Vote Republican;

Want a border wall;

Don’t want a border wall;

Want bigger government;

Want smaller government;

Want lower taxes;

Want higher taxes;

And the list goes on.

People insulting Christians, or non-Christians telling Christians how they should act is a pet peeve of mine. I can’t judge how a Jew, Buddhist or Muslim how to act or worship, because I don’t know enough about their religion to make that call. Now, if they do something illegal or harmful to others (Christian and non-Christian alike), then yes, I will shamelessly point fingers. Not as far as how someone decides to spend their time or money, however, because it’s none of my business. In the end it’s between them and God.

Still, although it bugs me, I don’t get as upset as I used to, because someone reminded me of a verse where Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18).

Therefore, I should be more surprised when people (non-Christians especially) express love and admiration for Christians.

A sidetrack here: You might wonder how people within a single religion could have so many opposing beliefs. There are many reasons, I think. One is we’re all individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and therefore points of view. Because the Bible is so big written by many authors, and with many messages and stories, it’s easy to approach it with our own colored view, to see what we want to see, and be blind to the rest, especially when those parts seem to contradict each other.

I’m reading “The Rational Bible: Exodus” by Dennis Prager. He said (paraphrased), that God always leaves us room for doubt, including doubt in him and whether or not he even exists. Now why would he do that? He’s God, after all. Couldn’t he reveal himself to everyone in a single moment to where no one could deny his existence? Sure, but he also wants to be chosen, just like we like being chosen and having choices–whatever those choices may be.

No one doubts the Sun gives heat, or that winter is cold and summer is warm. Why? Because they’re obvious based on mere observation. They’re undeniable. Therefore, there’s no need for faith in whether or not the sun will continue to give off heat, or that I will need to wear a jacket in the winter and put on sunscreen in the summer.

God wants to be sought after, and yes, to be doubted. Part of it is because he loves it when we ask him questions, to seek truth and understanding. Doubt spurs us to ask those questions. No questions can be asked if we already know all the answers. Mystery is a fabulous thing, because of the joy in making the discovery.

Someone once asked Dennis Prager why he’s a Jew and not Muslim. He said (again, paraphrased), “Because Israel means to struggle or wrestle with God whereas Islam means to submit. I prefer to wrestle with God than submit.”

So do I. Sure, God always wins in the end (even if he does cheat sometimes. Just ask Jacob [Genesis 32:22-32]). I have grown more in my faith wrestling with God than simply submitting to him. Why? Because I gain more understanding of who God is and why he does what he does after that struggle.

And don’t we all want people to ask us questions, to be noticed, believed and understood?