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Another Perspective on Sin

It’s interesting how we view and rationalize sin.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that God wants us to be happy.  To maintain that position we must completely throw out 1 Thessalonians 4:7.  Why should we try to be holy, anyway?  Joel Osteen sure makes Christianity sound easy with a limp wristed god that will give us a fancy car just so that we will bless him with our presence.  How can anyone even want to submit to an impotent god that will shower us with gifts so that we will spend time with him?  Oh wait.  We don’t.  Even people that subscribe to Osteen’s brand of Christianity probably are more concerned with what God will do for them than what God has done for them.

We can fall into another pit when we believe that God made us this way (whatever this way happens to be), so God must be pleased with our current fallen condition.  As a matter of fact, since He made us this way, wouldn’t our present condition be more desirable than holiness?  I have heard the argument, “I was born gay, therefore God made me this way.”  I can just as easily say, “I was was born with a predilection to alcohol, so if I choose to be a drunk it is because God made me this way.”  The rapist can cay that they were born with these tendencies, so ultimately, God created the rapist.

If this argument was valid, Paul would have not addressed the Church in Corinth with, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)  So was Paul mistaken when labeling certain people as deviants?  Who is right?  Are Paul’s words divinely inspired, or should I lean upon my own understanding? (Proverbs 3:5)

I’m also intrigued when someone resorts to pragmatism as a defense to homosexuality.  Usually, the argument is meant to divert the attention from homosexuality to adultery.  I agree that adultery is sinful and should be addressed, and at least in the case of my church, these matters are dealt with in a biblical manner.  Notice that there is no argument that adultery is sinful.  When someone who supports homosexuality by equating it with the normalization of adultery, he just admitted that homosexuality is a sin.  Otherwise, he would have defended adultery as natural, or preferable, but would not assent to the fact that it is sinful.  What was 1 Thessalonians again?  The ESV states, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”  That sounds nothing like “adultery isn’t that bad or God reveres homosexual practices.”

From our perspective, we may try to minimize our guilt.  Is lying really all that bad?  If lying is okay in certain circumstances, then maybe adultery is acceptable.  Afterall, illicit sex isn’t really immoral (as long as no one gets hurt and both parties want to engage in sexual deviancy).  From there, it’s not a stretch to say that homosexuality is natural, and maybe even more than just an alternative lifestyle.  But is this our view of sin or is it God’s view?

The only thing that matters is God’s perspective regarding sin.  If sin wasn’t so deadly, we would not have continuous warnings.  Paul states, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)  The issue at hand is not merely homosexuality.  The problem is with all sin.  We are called to be holy and we will be judged accordingly.  All sin is unnatural.  They are abominations, yet we try to normalize them because we believe that our feelings are more important than our God.

CC image courtesy of Bront Nolson.

CC image courtesy of Finlayfox.

An Anniversary of Sorts

Today marks five years since my metamorphosis. In my Kafkaesque world, I haven’t developed into something beautiful or desirable like a butterfly, but my devolution can be more appropriately imagined as one who transformed into a cockroach. A stroll from order to disorder. A life of good health that descended into an existence of chronic pain.

Five years ago I underwent a simple elective procedure that changed my life in ways that I had never bargained. I had a vasectomy because I’m not Dick Van Patten and three is enough. After the pain didn’t subside after a few days, I sought the advice from a new urologist. It’s as if I won the lottery as he said my condition is exceedingly rare.

I told him if I had been advised of the possibility of crippling pain I may have avoided a vasectomy altogether. This doctor who performed an epididymectomy in a failed attempt to release me from the pain, made an analogy that made my apparent informed consent conundrum make sense. He humorously told me that there is a small chance I may fall off the operating table in the middle of a procedure, but the odds are so ridiculously small that he doesn’t inform his patients of the risk. I actually thought his response was hilarious.

Notice how I said his attempt to relieve me of my pain was a failure. If we fast forward to the end of the rainbow, I had some experimental procedures and eventually had an orchiectomy. And I still have pain.

Four years ago tomorrow marks the day I was hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer. For weeks prior I periodically woke up in the middle of the night with heartburn and a rotten taste in my mouth. This was the mother of all bad tastes and no amount of mouthwash could make it go away. I didn’t realize I had an ulcer until the morning I started my day with a sinkful of putrified blood. I still went to work because my wife thought I was being a wuss. I was hospitalized that afternoon and enjoyed a nice relaxing four days watching cooking shows while my diet consisted of nothing but broth and apple juice. (I like food so much that I enjoy it even when it is off limits).

I was also recently diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis.  It is an autoimmune disorder that is unrelated to my original pain, but it is all too evident on days I’m only able to lurch about in my daily activities.

I completely forgot what today signified until I read Matt Walsh’s latest contribution.  I don’t follow the news very closely, but I’m now aware of a woman named Brittany Murphy who has terminal cancer.  She is going to commit suicide on November 1.  I’ll admit that I have no idea what it would be like to have a bleak future of pain that I cannot even imagine, but I have to agree with Matt Walsh that there is nothing noble in suicide.  I have lived with pain everyday for five years.  Some days are so excruciating that all I can think about is putting a gun in my mouth.  I get it.  Pain is horrible and sometimes I don’t know how I will survive another day.  Yet, my condition isn’t killing me.  I’m 39 and it’s entirely possible that I may live for decades with pain every day.

Walsh made an interesting point regarding euthanasia.  The assertion is that this woman is being brave by ending her life to escape the pain and indignity of cancer.  If that is true, are people who choose to endure the horrors of cancer until they are removed from this life any less courageous?  Or are they cowardly since their choice is the antithesis of Brittany’s brave choice?  I only consider this because I live everyday with pain.  Am I a coward to endure suffering?  As a Christian, I know that suicide is not a viable choice, but if there is a growing consensus for euthanasia, could there be a day when the choice is not mine to make?  Mind you, I’m unable to work, so I’m not a productive member of society.  Should productivity be a determining factor?  Will a day come when “useless” people are exterminated en masse for the benefit of society?

These are big questions that I have no answers for.  I was just reminded that today is my anniversary.

Tomorrow, I’ll celebrate with cake.

CC image courtesy of Finlayfox.

CC image courtesy of Itamar Grinberg on Flickr.

Salt and Light

The past couple of days have been harrowing as my bones and joints hurt.  I don’t know if this is a side effect from my Humira injection Tuesday, or if this is just a novel approach my body is taking to share the joys that are chronic pain.  Nevertheless, there are more important things in life than my discomfort.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about friendships that I have, or at least perceive I have, and it appears that there are essentially two types of friends.  There are those that are genuinely concerned about others (including you and your well-being) and then there are those that are wrapped up in their own little worlds that they cannot be bothered with anything other than their pity party.  (I have not forgotten that I have my fair share of pity parties due to my chronic pain.  I even had a perpetual pity party once.)

There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, my Christian friends take the time to ask how I’m feeling.  They have genuine concern for my health and show concern for others.  Most of the time I don’t feel like talking about my ailments as I already have to endure them.  I don’t care to suffer them again by discussing them.  These are the friends I prefer to surround myself with, though.  Who wants to surround themselves with a narcissistic man-child who is financially secure, yet cries himself to sleep because he cannot have his way.  (I’m not trying to sound mean, I just have a tendency to be more blunt than usual when I’m in excruciating pain).

This particular friend has no foundational concept of right and wrong as I explored earlier.  It’s more of a lack of conviction because he cannot take a stand on any point either out of fear of being wrong or out of hurting someone’s feelings.  I also wrote about him in the Fallacy Factory because I was amused by the sheer number fallacies he invoked to support his reasons for discounting Christianity.  Everyone has a right to reject Jesus Christ, just reject Him with a well-thought reason instead of rehashed fallacies you read on some half-baked atheist website.

I’m interested in his change in demeanor as I changed from a profane heathen to a Christian.  We’ve probably been friends a dozen years or so, and in the years of my binge drinking and erratic behavior as a disc jockey, we got along pretty well.  He even attended my wedding in some perfunctory capacity.  I’ve always known him as one of the biggest God haters I ever met as he went out of his way to be offensive to anyone with any Christian sensibilities.  At that point in my life, I think I just laughed.  The subject matter isn’t what was funny, it was the reaction.  He could blaspheme God with as much enthusiasm as he could stomp around like a five year old after a pimple-faced teenager forgot to super size his order at the drive thru.

These past five years since my conversion, I have seen a conversion of sorts in him as well.  There was the time he “tried” Christianity.  I don’t even know what that means.  You repent of your sins, you put your trust in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit “will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV)  This is not something that you put on like a pair of skinny jeans.  Since Christianity was unsuccessful, he has embraced post-modernism wholeheartedly, and all paths lead you to the Supreme Being (a very impersonal name which seems to assail the very personal nature of God).  Let me rephrase, “All paths lead to the same place, but not YHWH, or the God of the Bible, because I have read a couple of chapters and found some discrepancies that I refuse to investigate further to see if these are just apparent inconsistencies, or they are actual proof that the Bible is errant.”  In short, he has come full circle.  He still rejects the one true God.

I think what bothers me is that I poured my life into him and another friend for three years so that hopefully they would come to know the truth of Jesus Christ.  This friend spent every opportunity heaping abuse, and even threatened to murder my pastor because I offered to set up a meeting so he could have some of his questions answered.  Looking back, it’s quite comical as he was ashamed of his behavior, but he always phrased his apologies as non-apologies.

He would say things like, “Well, things got out of hand and I said things that I shouldn’t have.”  Never a simple, “I’m sorry.”  It is always a rationalization, and the instant you think you might get to the moment where the friendship can heal, the conversation is deflected.  I wonder how my wife would react if I told her some rationalization.  When I’m wrong, there is only one thing that can be said:  “I’m sorry.”

My other friend that I have spent a lot of time with is moving cross country today.  I’m glad for him that he found a new job that pays better.  That was the reason I was given.  Normally, he would wax poetically about how this new job would help him express himself better, or how he will not have to sell out his convictions, or maybe the perks are better.  This time, the pay is better.  I have seen him traverse the country in pursuit of more money, more freedom, just more of something.  Through my chronic pain, I have been trying to demonstrate that there is more to life than money, or fame, or [insert idol here].  He never even said he was moving for happiness.  Only money.  We’ve been friends for almost seventeen years and he didn’t have time for a quick lunch before he left.  Packing the U-Haul wasn’t something that thrust itself upon him, either.  He accepted the job two weeks ago.

I have a number of close friends, but God has burdened my heart with these two jokers.  I have changed so much, I don’t think they even like me anymore.  Nor do I care.  My job isn’t to affirm their lifestyles or faulty belief systems, or to tell them how awesome they are when they do things that are an affront to God.  My job is to be salt and light.  John MacArthur said, “The world may hate us and persecute us, but the world is absolutely dependent on us being the influence and the verbal manifestation of the Gospel of God.”

I’m reminded of Luke 6:22, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”  Maybe their feelings aren’t so caustic.  Well, maybe one has destructive feelings with the whole pastor-murder thing.  In any event, God still has not lifted my burden of unending physical pain, and He may not free me from these burdens, either.  After all, “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 ESV)  That includes me.

CC image courtesy of Itamar Grinberg on Flickr.

The Fallacy Factory

Before I wrote this piece, I spent a lot of time in contemplation and prayer.  My intention is not to impugn my friend’s character or beliefs.  I have genuine concern for him and hope my words are not misconstrued.  This is simply an attempt to understand him better, and at the same time, it has been a great opportunity to consider my own views and the fallacies I cling to. This is an important matter but my arguments are often met with silence. All I can do is assume that my argument is completely valid until I’m shown otherwise.

Have you ever felt like you are wasting your time?  I’m not denouncing the integrity of Candy Crush, either.  We all know that is not a silly diversion, but is an important application that we use to hone our skills to effectively crush candy.  Even burning ants with a magnifying glass carries more import than some discussions into which you may ensnangle yourself.  (As far as I know, ensnangle has not found itself into the English lexicon until this moment.  You’re welcome.)  I’m reminded of something Jesus said that illustrates my quandary.  He confesses, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” (Matthew 13:57 ESV)  The fruitlessness of sharing the Gospel with people that know you well is apparent.

I have a number of unbelieving friends, but there is one in particular that makes me want to set my hair on fire.  There was a time when he was an angry atheist who raged against anyone who exhibited any belief in God.  I’m specifically discussing the Judeo-Christian God because I don’t recall any moments where he became unglued at the mention of Brahma, Dagon, Zeus, or any other false deity.  He has since completely changed positions since he read some of the Bible.  Now, instead of his entertaining conniption fits, discussions are loaded with fallacy upon fallacy.  That’s fine, but the moment I call shenanigans the discussion is immediately terminated. (I know that some know me as Captain Fallacy, so before you pick apart my argument, I already know it is probably fallacious.  I believe that statement alone is known as the Fallacy Fallacy.)

In a previous post, I explored his argument that people are basically good.  You can always find someone more evil than you that makes you look virtuous.  It’s an association fallacy known as reductio ad Hitlerum, or the Hitler Fallacy.  Nobody thinks the idea of going to hell is very appealing, but if we rationalize our comparative goodness against Hitler’s badness, we might conclude that only Hitler deserves to go to hell.  Jesus’ own words dismantle this argument when He said, “No one is good but God alone.” (Luke 18:19 ESV)

In the same discussion, my friend pelted me with the Genetic Fallacy.  His belief is that the matter of faith is merely based on geography and the parents’ faith.  Essentially, I am a Christian because I was raised by Christians in America (when Christianity began about 2000 years ago after the resurrection of Jesus Christ in Judea.)  If we follow this logic, should I not be in Israel or should I hold a belief native to North America?  It is true that faith is influenced by geography and family, but that isn’t the point of the Genetic Fallacy.  The argument is to subvert any validity of any one faith over another.  Instead of boldly rejecting John 14:6, the unbeliever can rely on an error in logic.

He also tells me about his new philosophy of not judging peoples’ beliefs. As you may have guessed, this includes his refusal to “impose” his ideology on others. Is this an act of respect or nescience regarding his own convictions?  Perhaps he thinks that truth is relative.  If truth is relative, then it doesn’t matter what you believe, so why bother discussing belief systems, right? The Relativist Fallacy is quite popular as people seem to be so unsure about their own beliefs that everyone else’s must be just as valid. In my estimation, nihilism is preferable to the postmodern nonsense in which we are subjected.  Let’s reject all principles if our beliefs are so squishy they are not even worth sharing.  Additionally, how do we know that judging (or discernment) is inherently wrong? The sheer fact of stating you don’t judge someone’s beliefs is a judgment statement in itself.

Finally, my friend paraded the tour de force of fallacies: he will not submit to God because of the threat of hell. (This is the argumentum ad baculum or the Threat of Force fallacy.) He actually said, “If it results in him facing everlasting damnation, then so be it.” Really? That is a ridiculous conclusion, but Christians have to shoulder some of the blame for perpetuating this argument. He should be afraid of hell as the Bible is clear as to who will go there.  John, the author of Revelation, states, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 ESV) Though true, the eternal damnation argument for those who choose unbelief is not likely to win any beauty contests.  We should want to submit to Christ because of His mercy and love for His creation.  We should turn to Him out of gratitude, not fear.

Image courtesy of Bob Walsh.
Threatening me with hell is a fallacy! (Image courtesy of Bob Walsh.)

What is interesting is that this argument unveils logical inconsistencies.  Why is submission to God so loathsome? Submission is not foreign to us.  We submit to parents, teachers, the police, the government, etc., but we don’t want to submit to God. Certainly it’s not because He is unworthy as the people we submit to are definitely flawed, and in some cases, may not even deserve submission, but we do so anyway.

If we choose defiance over compliance to basic demands such as following the speed limit, are there repercussions?  We are threatened with consequences, and most of us choose compliance.  I, however, choose to reject authority and am inclined drive 55 mph in a school zone.  Will there be consequences?  I’ll have to pay a hefty fine.  Again, I am determined to defy The Man and I refuse to pay the ticket.  That won’t work because the police will track me down and throw me in the hoosegow.  My rejection of authority did not nullify the consequences.

The same is true with God. We have sinned against Him and we have a fine to pay. We can allow Jesus Christ to pay our fine for us, or we can pay the fine ourselves by going to hell.  Unbelief in God is a sin that condemns an individual to hell, but even if we set that one sin aside, we still have to answer for a lifetime of sin.  Yet we still insist that we are good when, in fact, we are utterly depraved.  Paul said it best in his letter to Corinth, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)

Life is much easier when you can pick up your toys and go home.  I can be defiant by withholding the Gospel.  It saves me grief.  I can shorten my prayer list.  Besides, my friend is intelligent.  He might figure it out.  He might embrace the cross.  He might not.  Even Penn Jillette, an atheist, believes it is exceedingly unloving for a believer to withhold the Gospel.  He states, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”  Jillette’s appeal to emotion may be fallacious, but that doesn’t abrogate our responsibility to share the Gospel.

Which god do You Worship?

It’s interesting how people like to place limits on the sovereignty of God. It is something that is impossible, because if God has limited authority, He is not sovereign. Yet, some are not comfortable with the idea of a sovereign God. You can see this as books of the Bible are ignored, concepts such as justice are glossed over, and you are left with a spiritless, plastic, bumper sticker god. The bumper sticker says, “God is Love,” or more appropriately, “god is love.”

What is interesting with “do it yourself” religion is that you can add or subtract components to make your faith truly unique. God does some pretty scary stuff and the Bible promises some scary stuff for unbelievers, so it is easy to dismiss the Wrath of God because it sounds mean. Now that eternal punishment is off the table we are free to do as we wish. At least that’s what we want to believe.

CC image courtesy of dingler1109 on Flickr.
CC image courtesy of Rox Steady on Flickr.

Let’s assume that this bumper sticker is true. Does it mean that God is only love? Or is He more? What about righteousness? What about justice? What about mercy?

As I was exploring this concept I focused on 1 John 4. It’s very compelling that the first verse of the chapter exhorts the reader to test the spirits as there are many false prophets. Nevertheless, we are adhering to the assertion that “God is Love.” One noteworthy verse mirrors John 3:16. It states, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9 ESV) Is this saying that we all will live through Jesus? It says we might. John 3:16 was also a conditional statement. The verse doesn’t say that everyone will have eternal life, but “whoever believes in Him.” So we are left with two groups of people: those who believe, and those who do not. So far, I don’t see evidence of unconditional love.

If believers will have eternal life, what happens to the unbelievers? John 3:18 leaves no room for interpretation when it says “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” If we take the Bible seriously, how can we synthesize this with our newfound belief that “God is Love?” We can’t.

I read a post recently that said God cannot execute wrath because it is sinful. I searched the Bible to find if there was scripture where someone might come to that conclusion. Granted, it is a stretch to use the Bible to assail God’s character at all, but if we believe that God loves unconditionally, we can believe whatever we want.

Colossians 3 teaches the believer to seek Christ, not his sinful nature. It also mentions God’s wrath. But is His wrath sinful? In verses 5-8, the reader is advised to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:5-8 ESV) In one short passage we have God’s wrath and man’s wrath. But are they the same?

CC image courtesy of dingler1109 on Flickr.
CC image courtesy of Rox Steady on Flickr.

To learn the original intent it is best to read it in the original language. Regarding God’s wrath, the Greek word is όργή (I’m aware the markings aren’t quite right, I just can’t figure out how to type them). This is #3709 in Strong’s Concordance and it defines this word as fixed, controlled, a passionate feeling against sin. Man’s wrath is θυμόν in Greek. This is #2372 in Strong’s Concordance and is defined as rage which is a flaw not present when the Lord expresses intense anger. We see that God’s wrath is controlled and purposefully executed without sin. Man’s wrath is not righteous, rather it is an impulsive fury.

God is Love. But is that all He is? He is also Just. God could be a Just Judge and be unloving. He could be like the Pharisees and carry out the Law to the letter. God cannot be Love and not be Just, though. It seems counterintuitive, but if you love someone you also hold them accountable. This is what people don’t like. Accountability. We want to sin as we please but we don’t want to reap the consequences. The consequences are real. The Bible says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV) “And such were some of you.” Paul was addressing true believers who repented of their sins.

We all worship a god. Do you worship materialism? Do you worship a god that turns a blind eye to sin? Do you celebrate a god that affirms a sinful lifestyle, like the god of this age? Or do you worship the Living God of the Bible who detests sin? 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is patient so that we can come to repentance. This is where people quote John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” I agree with that statement wholeheartedly, but are we loving if we avow or even encourage a sinful lifestyle? That is most unloving as we are spreading lies from hell when we promote happiness over holiness.

Are My Ears Deceiving Me?

Last week my wife had a glimpse of my world. Apparently, she had pleurisy. I had it once when I was around 12 and I still remember the staggering pain. I was caught unawares when she asked me rhetorically, “Is this what you endure everyday?”

I was astonished to hear that as I didn’t want her to be in pain, but she also revealed true understanding. She has carried me for almost five years on account of my chronic nerve pain. I was also recently diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. The back pain has been present for years. I just thought I had a crappy bed.

Nevertheless, this was the first time that anyone I know has expressed understanding. Sure there’s the sympathy and the empathy. There’s the prayers and the thoughtful looks. Friends and family regularly ask about how I’m feeling, but I’ve never been able to adequately verbalize my condition.

“I can’t imagine that you suffer this everyday.” I didn’t even know how to respond to that. Have you ever suddenly awakened in the middle of a vivid dream and you can’t determine where you are? Are you still dreaming? Maybe you were buried in a deep slumber that when you even forgot who you were when you were thrust into consciousness. That’s how I felt when I heard those words escape her lips. I didn’t know if I could trust my ears. Nobody has ever expressed anything that made me remotely believe that they knew my agony.

October 9, 2009 marks the fateful vasectomy, a day that should have ushered in a less complicated era. Instead, I live in a new world where pain is my timeless companion. After five years, I have a confederate who finally has a real appreciation for my condition. Thankfully, her pain has passed, but I’m glad that my problem isn’t a phantom. I’m not the only one who can see it anymore.

…As Long As I’m Happy

How important is it to be happy? I’m aware that the pursuit of happiness is an American right, but how aggressively should happiness be pursued? Should an individual attempt to attain happiness himself or should it be handed to him?

It sounds innocuous. I certainly enjoy the moments I stumble into happiness, but it certainly is fleeting. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. I have a beautiful, loving wife and three wonderful daughters. I also have chronic pain. I suffer from bouts of depression. I live in Louisiana and it gets really hot here. Happiness is nice, but at what price?

I read an article yesterday that caught me by surprise. It was denouncing gay marriage, but from the perspective of the jilted spouse. I have not heard the media report the number of families that have been torn apart because one party in the marriage decided to break the covenant. The marriage was destroyed because somebody “deserved to be happy.”

I’m a Bible believing Christian and I believe a marriage is between one man and one woman. I also believe that a marriage is for life and mustn’t be ended over trivial matters. As far as I’m concerned, regarding divorce, all matters are trivial except in the cases of spousal abuse and adultery. You certainly don’t file for divorce because you are chasing a fleeting emotion such as happiness.

Gay marriage aside, is it acceptable to pursue happiness at the expense of others? Is it appropriate for a man to abandon his wife and children so that he can be happy with a younger woman? This happens all the time. Or should we affirm the husband who always wears protection, but he cheats on his wife? He sleeps around in the name of happiness, so we must celebrate his brave action, right?

Wrong! This man is a jerk! He is an adulterer and dishonors his family with his crass behavior. What about the kids? His paychecks should be signed over to his spouse to support his children. His paramour can take care of him. How can anybody in their right mind leave his loving family in hot pursuit of happiness in the form of a 23 year old blonde woman? Not me. There’s matters of honor, love, respect, keeping your word, and numerous other virtues that pleasure seekers dismantle daily. If these cads are called adulterers when they leave for another woman, how can the man be called ‘brave’ and ‘heroic’ by divorcing his wife to marry a man?

What is required for the public to call shenanigans? A man leaves his wife for two men? Will there be public outcry because beautiful family was destroyed by a selfish man or is he just brave and heroic?

blackened1

Blackened Trout and Sauteed Kale with Ginger

In an effort to eat healthier, we have incorporated more fish into our diet.  Well, I have incorporated the fish and the rest of the family enjoys the benefits as well.  So far, I haven’t had a lot of resistance and Maddie, my five year old, actually comes home from school every day wanting to share a nice can of King Oscar Brisling Sardines.  As far as sardines go, they’re the best.  I’m actually really excited to have a kid to share this tradition with.  My dad used to kick back with a can and I’d hover around like a baby bird wanting to get my fill.

Eating better is nice, but it actually stems from trying to eliminate nightshade vegetables from my diet in an effort to reduce inflammation.  Autoimmune diseases are no pleasure cruises and it’s about time I try to monitor what I eat.

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I’m not really a fan of cruciferous foods, but that kale actually tasted…great.

Today was a bit challenging as I wanted blackened fish, but most blackening seasonings contain paprika and cayenne, two delicious nightshades.  I quickly looked up a nightshade free blackening seasoning recipe and decided I could make something taste halfway decent.  Granted, I only scanned the ingredients on Seaweed Girl’s Blog.  It was the first thing I saw on Google.  Though I’m not a ginger dynamo, the flavor is growing on me and today was a nice day to experiment.

If you want a zesty bed of kale, this worked out well.  I didn’t really follow the directions that closely.  Be sure to add about a half teaspoon of minced fresh ginger when you add the garlic.  Niiice.

I went with steelhead trout again.  I think it just has an amazing flavor.  I scraped the scales and coated the fillets with extra virgin olive oil.

Ingredients for Blackening Seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon lemon peel (I found it on the spice aisle.  It’s granulated and worked nicely.)

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

Method

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This seasoning made a really nice crust.

Combine ingredients.  Simple.

Liberally rub seasoning into fish and allow to marinate 30 minutes.  I just left mine on the counter on butcher paper and continued prepping the rest of the meal.

Heat cast iron skillet.  It has to be hot to get the coating to crust.  Science happens right before your eyes as your food undergoes the magic that is the maillard reaction.

Place fillets flesh side down and make sure they make good contact with the skillet.  (If you have a lot of fish, you’ll need to work in batches.)  Allow to sear for three minutes.  You don’t want to fiddle with it and end up with a broken mess.

Turn fish over and allow to sear an additional two or three minutes.  It really depends on how thick your fillets are.

Remove from heat.  Enjoy.

psalms

Neutral Response

We live in a world where everyone is hypersensitive and we expect everyone to be nonoffensive. That sounds great. Who wants to be offended anyway? These expectations have culminated into full-on demands where it appears that nobody is permitted to have an opinion about anything. At least no one is permitted to have a dissenting opinion.

Where did this come from? Generally speaking, there are two positions: right and wrong. Left and right. Up and down. Creation and evolution. Abortion and pro-life. Gay and straight. Maybe my memory is failing, but wasn’t there a time where you could hold a view contrary to another and not be labeled as a hater?

Our society used to have a sense of right and wrong. Now, we embrace some distorted pluralist view that there is no absolute right and wrong, or worse, it doesn’t even matter. I recently had a religious discussion with a friend. I was explaining how pluralism does not apply to Christianity as Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) It’s pretty straightforward. Either it is true or false. You agree or disagree. He easily could have said, “You’re wrong.” It would have been refreshing to receive such an honest response.  Even saying, “I don’t know” would have been acceptable in this case.

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Instead, I received some vapid postmodern double-speak. I still don’t know what to think of it. His response was something like this: “I have searched and am no closer to knowing if God is real or not [fair enough], but the First Amendment guarantees everyone freedom of religion and I’ll defend that 100%.” That’s like saying, “I don’t know if you like Cocoa Puffs, but let’s think about the Monroe Doctrine.”  I know why he brought up the First Amendment, but it had nothing to do with the conversation at hand.  Let’s leave the fallacies to the professionals, please. 

I can understand if someone is unsure of their religious views. It is a very lofty subject that has eternal implications. I also agree that freedom of religion is terrific, but the First Amendment was piggybacked onto the former statement which only confounded the issue. I asserted that John 14:6 is true, and instead of telling me I’m wrong, I get some noble Voltaire-ish rhetoric, except the quote that is misattributed to Voltaire begins with, “I disapprove of what you have to say…” There is a judgment statement attached to it. Instead, let’s not judge because truth is relative, or more appropriately, truth is irrelevant, and I’ll defend it anyway.”

Whaaaat? This is an exercise in absurdity. There is no truth. There is no falsehood. It’s all immaterial. I’m reminded of the Esurance commercial when the lady exclaims, “That’s not how any of this works!” This isn’t mere apathy, it’s propping up the virtue of ignorance.

“That’s not how any of this works.”

We aren’t discussing ice cream flavors. These are important matters! Is Jesus the only way? Is abortion murder? Are Trix really for kids? You can’t give a neutral response and wrap yourself up in your Enlightenment superhero cape.  In a world where far too many refuse to take a position of consequence, it is admirable to encounter someone who has the courage to take a stance even if he is in peril of being wrong.

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Pan Seared Rosemary-Ginger Steelhead Trout

I really don’t particularly care to have restrictions on my diet.  I know I could lose twenty pounds and who knows what my cholesterol count is, but I’m experimenting with my diet in an effort to reduce inflammation.  I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disorder and there’s nothing worse than angry joints.

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Marinating trout.

I’ve read that nightshades can cause inflammation.  My issue is that I eat nightshades daily.  I’m on my third day without tomatoes, potatoes, or peppers.  Believe me, trying to season my food without cayenne, paprika, chili powder, or Tabasco is a real challenge.  The plan is to see if I have any improvement after a month free of nightshades.

I’m also attempting to eat a little healthier.  I’m trying to get my family on board to eat fish at least once a week.  I spotted some beautiful steelhead at the grocery store and knew this was going to be dinner tonight.

I didn’t use any special recipe, I just knew I was going to use rosemary since my rosemary shrub is basically a tree now.  I didn’t measure anything, but I have some pretty close approximations.

Ingredients

olive oil (for coating the fish fillets)

1/2 cup rosemary, finely minced

1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, minced

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Nicely seared.
Nicely seared.

Method

Mix all ingredients except for the olive oil.  This will be your rub.

Coat fish fillets with olive oil and apply rub liberally to both sides.

Allow to sit at room temperature for thirty minutes.

Heat iron skillet.  Once medium hot, add fish fillets flesh side down.  (This may have to be done in batches depending on the amount of fish).

Sear fish for three minutes.  Turn over and sear the skin side for three minutes.

Fish should be cooked through and ready to eat.

Pan seared trout, mixed greens with apples and raspberries and a simple garlic vinaigrette, and black rice.
Pan seared trout, mixed greens with apples and raspberries and a simple garlic vinaigrette, and black rice.

I'm just a hack who likes to eat.

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