Reflections of a Broken Man

On Speculation by StephenMac
June 1, 2009, 2:57 pm
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**Currently “listening” to a lecture… I don’t understand where we are going with it… it seems so disjointed and while filled with gems, I can’t seem to find the filter that allows me to catch them**

Someone asked me yesterday if I was dating a certain someone at college. I hate that… I really really genuinely hate that. Because it’s akin to saying to someone, “Don’t think of a pink elephant” and all of a sudden, the thought is there. You may be able to force it out by distracting yourself, but as soon as you relax and let your guard down, there it is.

And then, every single action and thought that then occurs, I begin to speculate. Every word and action: “Does this come across to others as me dating her?” “Is there actually something here?”

I hate this with a passion. It was an innocent mistake, they were genuinely interested, but what do you do with that? The damage is done, and now I am continually double guessing myself.

My two best friends from high school married each other. I treasure their friendship more than anything else (within reason). And yet, while they were engaged, if I met up with the girl, and the guy was out, it would always be in a public place (rather than their place where she was staying) for the precise reason of avoiding speculation and maintaining her honour. It may be overkill, but I stand by the principle. And now, what I had always sought to avoid has happened, and I have no idea how I got there. Whatever happened to developing genuine relationships? Why must I now second guess and triple guess my actions, words and thoughts? Screw that…

…but speculation still exists. And I can’t avoid it, no matter how much I try.

When life is in discord, praise Ye the LORD…


On Game Theory and Evangelism by StephenMac
May 25, 2009, 9:17 pm
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**Currently mellowing to Transatlanticism – DCFC**

So today, I found myself in a conversation that, as it usually does by God’s hand, ends up on the topic of Christian faith and apologetics. It was only semi-planned, but I found myself doing the usual “So how do you know?”

I am beginning to wonder why God has brought me here to college in the first place. A year and a bit, and I still can’t do much more than rant (just now at a more educated level…) But while my ineptness was salvaged by the fact that at least the Gospel was proclaimed (I think…), I began wondering if there is a game theory of evangelism.

Think of this scenario: two robbers pull off a heist. They hide the evidence, but are imageseen coming out of the bank which has just been robbed. The police arrest them, and interrogate them separately. There is only enough evidence to nail them for a minor charge (6 months gaol time). If they both say nothing, they get nailed… 1 year each. However, the police cut a deal: if one of them defects and rats out the other guy, he gets to go free, and the other guy takes the rap (10 years). If they both defect, then they both get 5 years.
The two robbers have to trust each other to get the best scenario for both of them. But the best scenario for the individual is to defect, and hope that the other is a sucker who trusts you.
There is a thing called a “one-shot game”. If you knew that there would be only one game played, and thus no repercussions, would you play differently? Would you, instead of choosing to trust, defect?
This kind of thinking is used to determine behaviour of rational humans, as well as politics and economics.

My thought is this: in evangelism, if you are planning on developing relationships, prisoners dilemmawould you do things differently than if it was a one time conversation? If you knew that you would meet this person again, you would aim to develop relationship, ensure that you said nothing that would inhibit the relationship until you were certain of the strength of the relationship (in game theory terms, you would acquiesce as you knew that there were repercussions). If you knew that this was the one conversation that you would have, you would approach it differently… perhaps say a few more controversial things, perhaps be a bit more forward than you would normally, because you knew that there would be no relational repercussions…

If you were on the proverbial train, being asked the proverbial question “What is Christianity in 30 sec”, would your answer be different to if your best friend asked you the same question?

Question: at what point is evangelism (particularly walk-up/spontaneous evangelism) a one-shot game?


On Wisdom by StephenMac
March 11, 2009, 10:08 pm
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**Currently playing in iTunes: Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights) by Anberlin**

I think the chorus of this song sums up this post:

Live, I wanna live inspired
Die, I wanna die for something higher than myself
Live and die for anyone else
The more I live I see this life’s not about me

Wisdom is the art of godly living. It’s something that I make no claim to know extensively, nor even able to live out. It’s about living our life in a way that brings glory to God. I also think that wisdom is a moral category: to act foolishly (to act without wisdom) is morally wrong and reprehensible, because it fails to bring glory to God (cf. Romans 1:21-23).

As Christians, we live in a family: adopted children of God, and so interpersonal relationships is a key part of our life. Thus, I would argue that wisdom involves understanding how to be in relationship with others (specifically other believers), and involves selflessness.

Oliver O’Donovan, in the CASE lecture series in 2007, describes morality in terms of being “awake” and “aware” of what is around us. It is morally wrong (foolish) to be inattentive, or unconcerned, or even ignorant of what is going on around us.

Drawing these threads together, I want to say that wisdom is being aware in our relationships, and failure to do so is morally wrong. We need to be attentive to how we are interacting, how we are impacting and affecting people around us.

What is the motivation for this left-field post? At the risk of trivialising this post, I have recently been reflecting on relationships. To put it verbosely, what is the wise way to pursue courting? To be blunt, what is the wise way to tell a girl you like her? Wisdom, being aware of the way that you affect people, warns us that just because you think that asking a girl out for all the right reasons as you see it may not be the wise thing to do. You may think that she is the right person for you because:

– She would be a great partner for ministry
– She is precisely the kind of girl you want your sons to marry, and daughters to be
– She is the epitome of Prov. 31.

Wisdom warns us that we need to be aware that in fact, our “overtures” for a relationship may not be wise. What happens if our pursuit of a relationship in fact harms her, for whatever reason? I would argue that our inattentiveness, our lack of being “awake” or “aware” of the impact of our intentions is therefore morally reprehensible, foolish, and wrong.

Wisdom tells us, “The more I live I see, this life’s not about me.”


On Confusion by StephenMac
March 8, 2009, 11:19 pm
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**Currently playing in iTunes: Emergency Broadcast :: The End Is Near by Underoath**

No matter how many times I’ve read books on, or heard sermons or talks or read through Job, I still find myself asking “why?” When bad things happen to good people, when a series of events that independently good, but collective cause all hell to break loose for you, I still ask the question “why?”

There are people who I know who have it worse than I, that is perfectly obvious, but when crap hits the fan for them, it still affects me I think. I am thinking of two people in particular: for one, relationships are seriously broken and I don’t know how they are going to sort it out. The other has just had one of those weeks where nothing has gone right. Both are peeps that I hold in high regard, they are people that strengthen me by their faith and witness. And so I ask the question: “why?”

Life is beginning to get full. Is this what ministry life is gonna be like in the real world? Where “down time” just seems to ineffective? I don’t even think that I’ve been in a situation before where my health has been as bad as it has been while at college. It may because of stupid things like poor diet etc, but it may be stress… I don’t know but I begin to wonder… “Why?”

My relationships with my folks are beginning to disintegrate… arguments are becoming an issue, and it’s because I’m in that bizarre scenario where I am young enough to still be their child, but old enough to be independent. My faith is becoming another sticking point, and I don’t know where point scoring stops and genuine disbelief begins on their part. I don’t know how to answer them, because they are parents: they still believe that they are the one who teach, and to learn of their son is strange. And I don’t know how to teach in love. Things are slowly getting worse I think… “Why?”

While I think it’s true that Peter was writing to a situation far more dire than my own, of genuine persecution for following Jesus, I still think that these words are of comfort in the day-to-day sufferings of this day and age:

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Relatively speaking, my life is great compared to some: but I still feel that some passages like this are the only things that keep me going. And as always, there is great comfort in the Anberlin lyric: When life is in discord, praise Ye the Lord!


A Question of Blindness by StephenMac
November 11, 2008, 7:24 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

**Currently listening to “Define the Great Line” – Underoath. I think the opening words of “In Regards to Myself” (Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!) seem somehow appropriate**

I’m currently “studying” for my NT exam on Wed, and I’ve been struck by some of the themes in Mark. When we started the year, our lecturer proposed the theory that Mark is actually a literary narrative (as opposed to a history or a biography). And so NT class felt very much like an English class (perhaps the reason for my initial dislike). However, upon reflection, I’ve found simply the depth of Mark’s narrative to be especially challenging and hopeful. Let me explain:

In Mark, we have I think a distinct structure. There are two halves, with the “turning point” being Peter’s confession of Christ in 8:27-30. Within the first half, the characters seem to ask “Who is this” (or variations on that theme) in response to Jesus’ actions/teaching. By chapter 4, Jesus calms the storm, and there are three questions which set up the rest of the narrative, but more than that, are the three big questions of the Gospel. The first is the panic of the disciples “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”. The second is posed by Jesus “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”. The third is again by the disciples “Who is this?”

These three questions seem to drive the whole story. But it seems as though the disciples need the first one answered before they could even comprehend the others. And so after a little while, we come to the second sea story, where Jesus walks on water. The language there reminds us distinctly of the LORD “passing by” Moses on Sinai, and Jesus’ reassurance of “I am” (ἐγω ἐιμι) seems to point distinctly to Jesus’ divinity. And yet, the disciples still do not see it. The final sea journey occurs after the feeding of the 4000. Jesus overhears the conversation of the disciples, and chastises them for still getting him wrong. All the miracles, they point to who he is, and yet Jesus still must ask them “Do you still not understand?”face-eye copy

However, I think that the key miracle is in the very next episode. Jesus heals a man of blindness, and yet, it takes two goes. The first time, the man can see, yet it’s nothing more than shapes. The second time, he sees in full. The reader must then ask, well, if Jesus can heal this man of blindness, can he heal the disciples of their blindness too? Upon Peter’s confession of faith, we hope that the blindness has been healed. But Peter still does not fully understand, he sees, but only in part. He rebukes Jesus for his prediction that he must die. Jesus in turn rebukes Peter for thinking on the ways of man, and not of God.

For the second half of the the book of Mark, we therefore have an expectation. Sure, we know now that Jesus is the Christ, as Peter’s blindness has been partially healed. The disciples question “Who is this” is almost answered… And so the second half of the book is bound up with this question, perhaps characterised by the disciples’ first question: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” What does it mean for Jesus to be the Christ? Well, as the story continues, we see that the Christ must die, so that man may not, so that man may not be punished for his sins, a punishment he so justly deserves. Jesus dies, so that we don’t have to. This is what it means for Jesus to be the Christ. In doing so, Jesus answers the question of “Don’t you care if we drown?” with an emphatic “YES! I do care. I care so much that I would die so that you don’t have to!”

While this post is in part a way for me to think about Mark, and to reaffirm the truth’s of Christ, I ask myself, am I as blind as the disciples? Not in regards to Jesus, but in terms of seeing people for what they are (perhaps a poor application point, but hey, I’m not preaching to you). Yesterday, I had a revelation about a friend which seriously struck me. I had no idea where they were at… and when I found out, well, I couldn’t believe I was so blind. There are a number of other relationships where I still can’t see what’s going on. And it scares me, because like the disciples, I may be missing something, and that something is really really important. Other times, that something could be trivial. Yet I have to ask, if I am so blind in answering the question “Who is this”, then when it comes to the important things, how can I be a good friend?

I think the other point of reflection is that there are some things that force me to crawl out of my own self-induced depression, to see the world how it truly is. To see that life is bigger than me, to see that my problems (aka exams, relationships etc etc) are seriously pitiful when they compare to some of the needs other friends have. Am I so blind that I can’t look beyond myself?