February 23, 2016

Closer to the Dream

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Yes, it is February 23, 2016, and I have two days left (Wednesday and Thursday) before my oral defense in Virginia Beach, VA. I just received a text message from my colleague who announced she had passed! She is the second person from my study group to survive the trial, and she passed! I am so happy for her, so relieved, and so anxious now that my turn is up on Friday. It all seems so surreal. I mean, I am about to finish three years of intensive study, and in a two-hour conference session, I will either pass or fail. I cannot stand the wait, but I know that I must remain steady, and just let this wash over me as the Lord guides and leads me through it. It is trial by fire, and I am ready, I am ready. God is so good to me, so very good to me.

I was thinking about this very thing today, how God has made this way possible, how He has brought me through to this point, and how I now must go and defend my answers to my professors. I am ready, of course, but there is part of me that dreads the "unknown." I think I have moved from fear to dread, which I guess, is a good thing. I am hopeful, so very hopeful that Friday will come and go without any hiccups or fuss.

Wondering and Thinking Aloud

As I process this all today, I cannot help but give praise to God for His goodness and mercy toward me. I mean, who am I that the God of the Universe should wash His mercy and grace over me? What have I done to warrant His great care and love? Nothing. Nothing at all. There is no good thing inside of me, and yet, the Lord of Hosts has chosen me as His instrument of grace, of goodness, and of gladness. Yes, I rejoice in the Lord this good, good day. I lift His Name up high for I know that He alone is worthy to receive our praise. He alone is worthy to receive our adoration!

A Slight Digression

I was reading a Facebook post this morning that has upset my spirit. I mean, really, upset my spirit. I am getting to the point where I loathe this social media channel. In fact, I am getting to the point where I loathe social media completely. Sigh! I cannot help it, but I am finding that it is more difficult for me to sit by and listen to hateful people spew hate speech at Christians, whom they decry as hateful. It is as if these people do not even realize that the language they are using is filled with hate. The very words they use connote hate, and yet they believe that what they are doing is justified because they are name-calling other people, and pointing the finger at what they perceive as "hateful" speech. How can you call someone out for injustice when the very act is unjust?

Jesus said, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5 NIV). I cannot think of a more fitting Bible verse today than this one. Yes, the hypocrite in the 21st century is the liberal ideologue who bashes every person who doesn't agree with them. They say Christians are intolerant, and yet, by their very own speech codes, they demonstrate absolute intolerance.

My heart is so overwhelmed right now. I mean, why must our rhetoric become so filled with hate? I am reminded of something that Paul Copan wrote about human nature. Copan believes in moral absolutes and in a moral code (much like C.S. Lewis). He asserts that individuals, Christian and non, have a moral compass that was designed by God. All people, thus, have a sense of right and wrong. This aligns with scripture where the Apostle Paul says, "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" (Romans 1:20 NIV). Scripture tells us that even though no one is righteous (Romans 3:10), man is without excuse when it comes to understanding that God exists. Somewhere within the heart of man, there exists a moral center, a center that knows the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. Copan says it this way, "Objective moral values exist, and we can intuitively recognize that certain acts are right or wrong" (Copan, Luley and Wallace, 2003, p. 160). The issue at core is the fact that because moral absolutes do exist, individuals are without excuse when it comes to breaking the moral code or law. Therefore, when individuals engage in hateful speech and conduct, and they attempt to justify their behavior in a moral cause, they often do the very thing they accuse others of doing. In short, they act and behave in the exact same way as everyone else -- only they believe they are somehow morally superior -- to others.

I see this, day in and day out, on social media. It bothers me greatly because I believe that this behavior demonstrates the baseness of our society, how individuals have turned toward hate simply because of the way they feel inside. I was thinking about this today as I read several posts from a person who was moralizing on the Alliance for Defending America page. This organization is based out of Scottsdale, AZ, and they are a conservative group that takes up causes for individuals, particularly Christians, who have received unjust treatment from the government or a local governing body (such as a school). They post updates to social media, but they don't have anyone to manage or monitor the feed, so basically it is "open season" on the page. The issue today was a story about a woman who has come out to share her experience growing up in a LGBT household. She gives personal testimony saying that she wished she would have been raised with her two biological parents  instead of being raised with their same-sex partners. The story caption reads "in defense of traditional marriage." Several people responded saying "Christian" things such as to either praise the young woman for sharing her experience or to condemn the LGBT lifestyle. What upset me most was not the tenor of these posts -- they are pretty normal considering the forum. However, I was upset by one person, in particular, who chose to post responses to every single person saying the same thing -- calling them "haters" for expressing their views on the matter. I was struck by the way this person chose to use language to defend his own position, attack these other people, and to do it all while incriminating himself as the very thing he was denouncing. He was a "hater" who hated other people who didn't believe as he did. Intolerance in action.

I took a couple minutes after I calmed down to look at this person's Facebook page. What I noticed was this -- clearly the person was of the LGBT lifestyle or at least a strong supporter of it. My guess was that the person was "in the closet" and struggling to come to terms with his lifestyle choice. Second, I could tell that this person had no family or friends. In fact, I would say that this person had very little "life" at all. His profile was scant, filled with pictures of flowers, but no real "life" to be seen at all. My heart broke when I saw this because it said to me that the reason this person was so hateful to others is because of the hatred he has for himself. It is very difficult to love others if you do not love yourself. It is very difficult to be tolerant if you are filled with hate inside and intolerant of anyone and everyone who threatens your weaken social and self identity. I felt very sorry for this person. My heart was saddened because he was attacking the one thing that could radically change his life, transform his life from sickness and death to health and life. Yet, he was unwilling to even consider the life-giving medicine that would save his soul AND provide hope for his future.

As I thought about this today, I wondered about our world and how we have become a people who spew hate speech so easily, so readily. I also began to think about the illogical arguments that the left or those on the left seem to make. In fairness, I will also say that many on the right also frame inconsistent and illogical arguments. The problem is that we have lost our rational center, our ability to reason, and that scares me.

I was praying about this today, and I asked the Lord to help me learn to argue more effectively, to rationally and cogently give defensive answers. I hate to argue, mind you. I mean, I hate it. But there is part of me that sees the value in it today. I don't want to become a person who so strongly argues against another, but I see it now as a vital necessity. I see it as something that Christians must learn to do, rationally, logically, and with great skill in order to stand their ground against an increasingly hostile environment. Sigh!

Thinking About This More

So as I think about this more, I realize that I must become like the scholars I have studied. There is a reason why God chose to send me through a social science program and not a humanities one. I would have much preferred to be in the humanities, after all, that is my heart-field. Yet, God picked communications, and Regent, in particular, and as such I have been trained as a social scientist. Now, I must use what I have learned in a way that honors Him, glorifies Him, and serves Him. I think that perhaps I need to study rhetoric. Yes, perhaps I do need to study rhetoric. 

I had thought about studying it originally only to beef up my resume and make it seem more solid when it came to teaching English. Now, however, I am wondering if the Lord intends for me to study rhetoric in order to teach people, Christian's I mean, how to argue well. I am seeing more and more Christians who cannot argue at all -- I mean -- not the mean spirited or hateful arguments we see online. No, I mean strong, logical, and well-reasoned arguments that are useful for standing ground on matters of faith. UGH!

My good friend is an apologist. He loves apologia and evangelism, and I think his interest has rubbed off on me. I am so not comfortable playing in his sand box, and yet, the Lord has brought us together for a reason, and I believe that reason is for us to do ministry together. He is a much better, a more informed, apologist than I am. I am pretty pathetic when it all comes out in the wash. However, I feel so strongly that I need to do this, well somewhat strongly, that I am considering how and why and where I could pursue this line of study. Why Lord? Why now? Is this what you want me to do? Sigh!

I am not thinking about studying apologetics. My friend has that covered well. I am thinking about studying argumentation, logic, and philosophy that supports the WAY we argue. You see, this is going to be a lost art one day. Very few schools teach classical rhetoric anymore. Very few schools teach this type of rhetoric at all. I don't know what the Lord has in mind, but I am thinking that I need more study to be prepared for His work. I need to follow up my communication study with something different, something that will take what I know now and push it further into the place where He needs me to be. I am not sure what that will be, but I am open to what the Lord thinks is best.

Right now, all I can say is that my stomach is churning, and it is in knots. Oh, Lord, help me see my way through this good, good day!

Lastly, as I spend my remaining morning, I am thinking about all I have to do today. I have studying mostly on tap, but I also have some errands and I need to get ready for my trip on Thursday. I am panicked and I don't know why. Perhaps it is just nerves. Perhaps it is the way I feel inside -- sort of all torn up about this realization. I just don't know. But today, I let this be. I will let the Lord impress on me whatever He wants, and I will allow this trial to wash over me. I will stand firm in His name, and I will be fully clothed in the armor of God. I am ready, Lord. I am ready. Have your way in me this good, good day. Selah!

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