Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: April, 2007

Out on the town

Date night. Ariel was excited as could be. She didn’t get out on dates much these days. It seemed that she was only able to hang with her boyfriends on Mondays and Fridays. Then again, last week she was out Thursday and Tuesday as well. And she just remembered she had another rendezvous scheduled for Wednesday. And the weekend, of course. Except for Sunday. She tried to meet her husband for at least an hour on Sunday. She smiled to herself as she put on her makeup. What a wonderful husband she had. He gave her so much freedom. Very different from the rules and regulations her mother’s husband had to submit to. That proved that Ariel’s husband loved her more than her mother’s. Ariel, of course, loved him just as much in return. Sure, she didn’t show it in traditional ways, but her husband was far from a traditional man. If her husband gave her freedom to roam around, then the best way to show her love was to use that freedom whenever possible, right?

So there she was, getting ready for her big date night. The only date she’d had for days. Except, of course, the drinks she had that afternoon or the dinner date the night before. She slipped into a seductive scarlet dress that was given to her by one of her boyfriends. She spent the better part of an hour applying makeup, jewelry, perfumes and other things designed to call her lovers to herself. After her energy was spent she examined herself in the mirror. “Perfect.” She grabbed her purse and strolled out the door, careful not to attract the attention of her husband, who she assumed was asleep. She hopped into his car and sped away to the fancy place she clubbed at.

Beelzebub’s Brothel. The finest eatery in town. Ariel didn’t understand what the name meant. But that didn’t matter. It was certainly the best place for her on a date night. The staff was friendly and courteous, she got discount on her food, usually had a private room and even got weekly pay cheques for some reason. She never quite understood that one, but she had been taught not to question her blessings. She assumed it was her husband, showing his approval of her dates. What a wonderful man! Heads turned at she walked through the front door. She didn’t overhear the conversation of two dark men sitting at the bar.

“I thought she’d never come.” Said one to the other.
“The stupid wench will be worth the wait.” His companion replied.
“I’ve never had her before.”
“I have. She’s a fool and annoying, to be sure, but she’s also one of the cheapest whores in the whole joint. There’s something strange bout her. I get the impression that she doesn’t realize who she is. She thinks that we actually come here for a relationship.”
“Not a chance. That’s just an act they use to get us going.”
“Well, it works.” The man, whose name was transgression, stood and paid his tab.
“So who gets her then?” Said indulgence, his friend.
“A whore like this? We can share.”
“Excellent.” Both men watched as Ariel greeted her employer, whom she thought was actually a dear friend, and was showed to her room. She walked up the long, dark staircase alone, knowing that all was well in such a familiar place. As she climbed the stair she walked by a window. Out on the street she thought she saw someone. Someone standing in the rain outside. A strong, sad man with his arms waving in the air. Was he speaking?

O desolate one! What do you mean that you dress in scarlet, that you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint? In vain do you beautify yourself.

He looked strangely familiar…

Don’t you understand? Your lovers hate you; they seek your life!

Ariel’s master, who had been watching from his video camera, quickly pumped music through all the speakers in the house, breaking the connection between Ariel and the man outside.
“Rock on,” she said to herself, “my favorite song.” She bounced up the rest of the stairs to her room and waited for her lovers to come.

And so they came and they did what they paid to do. As Ariel slept they mocked her and cut her wrists and arms. She was so drunk she didn’t notice. They laughed and scoffed and called her a skillful piece of meat. Before they left they wrote her a note in her own blood. Telling her how much they loved her and how they’d be delighted to see her again. And they would. They always knew where to find her. She was always available.

Outside, amid the rain and thoroughly out of earshot the Man still stood. He looked at the house in bitter anger. He saw through the window in desperate sorrow. He saw his sleeping wife. Bleeding, dying, deceived. He called out, knowing full well that she was too drunk, drugged and delusional to hear a word he was saying. Nevertheless he called out.

Long ago I broke your yoke
and burst your bonds;
but you said, ‘I will not serve.’
Yes, on every high hill
And under every green tree
you bowed like a whore.
Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband,
so you have been treacherous to me,
O Ariel! You fool! You go to so much trouble and effort to bed your sins and lusts, never realizing that they hate you and will kill you. Indeed they kill you every time you meet them! Return, faithless bride, I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful. I will not be angry forever. Do you even know that I am angry? Or have you forgotten that the soul that sins shall die.
Return, faithless one. Let me heal your faithlessness.

Court is in session

The judge took his seat and eyed the accused with anger and compassion in his eyes. He took the list of charges in front of him and read it out loud.

My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water

At this charge the jury, witnesses and spectators were appalled, shocked and utterly desolate. Somebody screamed out, “How did this happen? Is Ariel a slave? Is she a homeborn servant? Why then has she become a prey? She was planted a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then has she turned degenerate and become a wild vine? What went wrong?” At this the judge nodded to his bailiff, a grave man named Jeremiah to answer the question. “The factors that led to this horrid crime are thousandfold. I will mention only seven, as seen in the second section of my report on this crime:

They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’

“That is, she has forgotten and refused to remember the great and wondrous miracles the Lord has performed on her behalf, both recent and ancient. She neither remembers nor cares.

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.

“That is, she has abused the good things that the Lord has given her. The good things like food, drink, pleasure, sex, art, work, rest, play, words, music and the like. They were meant for her good and his glory, but she has used them falsely and corrupted the goodness of them all.

The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’

“That is, those who were leaders of faith were faithless. They did not seek God. Rather they turned religion into a means of gain.

Those who handle the law did not know me;

“That is, the scholars of the Bible did not understand the Lord of the word or the word of the Lord. They fell in love with their own brain pans.

The prophets prophesied by Baal

“That is, the pastors taught their flocks from secular psychology and pop-media, giving messages from popular culture rather than from the living God.

and went after things that do not profit.

“And all the people ran after those things that were useless. They pursued worthlessness and became worthless. The people who called themselves the Bride of Christ ran after rocks, trees, money, fame, cars, games, and whatever else they could find.”

The judge rose and spoke. “Therefore I still contend with you. You have spurned the grace of the most high God and judgment is coming. If you do not turn to me I will turn away from you. Behold the days will come when the Arab and the Chinese will recline at the table in the kingdom while the American and the European will be left out. Long ago I burst your bonds and broke your yoke. But you refused to serve and you turned to worthlessness. But even now, faithless Ariel, turn to me and I will heal your faithlessness. Even now…”


About a month back I wrote a short story called Ariel. Out of everything short I’ve written to this date it’s probably favorite piece. It’s very symbolic. Unfortunately it’s rather vague and I never bothered to explain it. I think I’d like to do that now. So here’s the interpretation of my dream.

Ariel is a Hebrew name that means Lion of God. At one point in the Old Testament God laments over his people, calling them Ariel, because they are unfaithful. The narrator represents a spiritual seeker who comes in contact with the established western church, represented by the lady and the house. The woman claims to love her husband (Christ) but it becomes clear that her love is for the house. The first thing she does is makes the man remove his shoes (visible sins or vices) and pile them with the others. The dirty shoes are actually not dealt with, just thrown to the side so they are harder to see. The woman hears the voice of her husband calling her and sets off with the man in a search for him.

The photo room represents all that is prized by the church. An out-of-focus view of Christ may be found if someone digs deep enough.

The kitchen represents the work the church does for Christ. Unfortunately she has made changes. The sink used to flow with living water to refresh the woman, but a useless garden now takes up her time. She used to eat bread and wine, symbolic of communion with Christ, but now the wine is watered down, the bread is unused and she prefers whisky, an intoxicating substitute for the joy that can be found in Christ. Also she refuses to eat meat, symbolic of deep study into the character of God and his Word, preferring water-down milk and bumper-sticker doctrine.

The doctors’ notes are a picture of the messengers Christ has sent ot the church to warn her of her dangerous lifestyle and whorish behaviour. She prostitues herself after anything that is not Christ. The doctors are ignored.

The room where she spends time with her husband is actuall a place for her to be distracted, a picture of how the church no longer seeks Christ himself, but programs and stimilations to fill the gap that seems to exist within her.

The bell tower represents evangelism, a dead art.

And then we get outside. When we look outside we find out something shocking. This woman is not actually Ariel. She’s not actually the church of God. She’s something else. The real church of Christ is outside fighting a perpetual battle against spiritual foes. She is always pressed but sustained by her husband who gives her strength through his words, communion (wine), teaching (meat) and wonder-working power on her behalf (the breath of his nostrils). We also find out that Ariel does not yet have a house, but the lasting house is promised to her once this battle is over.

And then the woman in the house pulls the reader away from the scene and tries to disctract him with anything besides the battle outside, content to dwell in the house that she herself has built.

Doctrine and Devotion

I can remember way back before I went to KLBC. I remember a dear brother who had been there talking excitedly about some of the stuff he was learning. He talked about a weird system of thought I had never heard of before called Calvinism. He outlined the points and started telling me how wonderful yet controversial it was. I rolled my eyes. “What’s the point of all this?” I asked. It seemed so silly to cause conflict because of petty theological issues. Why make an issue? Why not just follow God? How can this sort of study actually help me? My friend looked at me blankly for a moment. “It helps you worship God better.”

I had such noble dreams about ‘cleaning up’ the theological community. I thought I’d enter it and show them that the words on a page didn’t matter. What matters is what you do with your life. How you help people. Stuff like that. I couldn’t see how a systematic study of the Bible or doctrine could be useful.

Until I really met God.

There is a lethal trend these days away from serious Bible study. I can’t imagine why. Perhaps in our consumer-based, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, Big-mac-and-fries culture we’ve lost interest in things that are difficult to understand. Out with the systematic theology and in with the flashy, two minute devotional books.

I have found something. I get much more encouragement from meditating on the amazing doctrines God has revealed than from reading quirky, encouraging stories. The truth still stands that the easy things rarely benefit us much. If we want great encouragement in our faith we need to dig for it.

So back to what my buddy was talking about. A few years after the conversation I started to see evidence of his beliefs scattered throughout the whole Bible. It shocked me at first, but when the truth of it sank in it became a beautiful and precious thing. Think about it!

I was born with a broken heart (total depravity). From the time I could put a thought together my heart was trying to steer me down a path to destruction. I was born sinful in my entire person. I couldn’t even choose God if I wanted to. I hated him without knowing it. Every choice I made was an insult to his divine glory. Nevertheless he broke down the stony door of my heart (irresistible grace) and made it anew out of spirit and flesh. The scales fell off my eyes and I believed in what I could never have understood on my own. But it didn’t just end there, because every time I came near the brink of falling away to my old nature he was there to stop me (preservation of the saints). He has always and always will stop me from falling away, not because I am good, but because he has sealed me. I know that I’m secure because before the universe was made God said to himself, “I want Matthew Cook as my son” (election). Before the foundations were laid he saw the end from the beginning. He saw the day when I sinned the most and he still choose me and made me his own. Not because of anything that I have done, but according to his great mercy he saved me.

Am I a calvinist? I don’t rightly know what that word means. Nor do I really care. But I do believe that certain doctrines of grace like depravity, election, preservation, grace and atonement are true and beautiful things.

So what is the use of theology? What is the use of doctrine? How can we even know who God is without it? Without a thorough study of the Word he end up with a God of our own making. And the imagined God is far weaker and far less beautiful than the one who wrote us his autobiography. So read, study, write and dig. Be encouraged by hard doctrines, because easy things are rarely good.

Sporatic updating

I took some pictures. Wanna see them?

He’s Pakistani. He likes cricket.

Ruth’s mom and dad on Easter. Pretty.

I’m feeing pretty bad about Chai with Matt these days. Not much going on over there. It’s just way to hot for the creative jucies. In fact, I think the juices have mostly evaporated. Can someone give me any advice on how to feel alive in 40+ degree weather?

Boy, it’s hot here

I’m sitting here in a puddle of my own sweat. I can’t believe how hot it gets these days. I don’t remember it being this bad last year. It’s like being in a massive sauna that has no door. Yucky. It also brings to mind the tragic connection that seems to exist between the physical and the spiritual. I imagine that originally that connection would have been complementary, but that’s all screwed up now and the high temperature outside is sucking away my desire for Good Things inside.

How hot is it? Lemme give you a little illustration. This morning I was sitting in my favorite chair reading my favorite book. Suddenly I hear a massive electrical sound above me and I saw fire falling all around me. I leaped up and away and looked to see that the circuit box three feet from my head had burst into horrible flames! With much fear and intrepidation I was able to switch off the power and get the fire out. What was the cause of the fire? Melting wires. Melting wires!? The heat of the day combined with the current running through the wires and actually melted the insulation off.

So I’ve been thinking these days of ways to battle the fleshy, fatal tendancy to follow my homocidal heart. I read a wonderful story in Pilgrim’s Progress today that helped me a lot. It was the scene in the Interpreter’s house where Pilgrim sees the enterance to a glorious place with glorious people walking around inside. Many were standing around wanting to enter in but a slew of armed men were determined to keep them out. One by one all the folks who wanted in started to leave. Then a new man arrive. He walked up to the clerk who was taking the names of all those who wanted in and said, “Put my name down, sir.” He then put on his helmet, drew his sword and plunged into battle. After giving and receiving many wounds he arrived at his goal where he was healed and happy for the rest of existence.

Ya gotta fight. You gotta put on that helmet that reminds you of the certainty of your salvation, whip out your sword and do mortal combat against those desires and inclinations that would prevent you from entering into joy. What about when you get tired? You pray and fight. And when you get wounded? You pray and fight. And when it’s seven degrees hotter than hell? You pray and fight, realizing that what is at stake is far too important to shrug off because of a few difficults and inconvinces.

So that’s what has been on my mind these days. Fighting when there seems to be no strength to fight. The nice thing about our fight is that so long as we fight there is no way we can lose.

Burn, baby, burn.

Casting all your cares on him is a wonderfully therapeutic exercise. After a wonderful weekend Ruth and I ran into a massive wall of stresses and difficulties all in one day. It shook us huge. I wish you were here so I could tell you all about it. As it is just imagine five (count ’em, five) nasty, unsolvable stresses coming at you within one hour from five different angles. Not so fun, if you ask me. So Ruth and I sat down at home, totally depressed and thoroughly tired.

So we prayed.

And prayed once more.

And then we got it. Cast all your cares on him. Do not be anxious about anything, but tell King Jesus about it all and let him handle it. Anything I ask in his name he’ll do. Really? Is that true? Will the peace of God that surpasses understanding really guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus? We decided that it was.

And so we prayed again. We made a big list of all the crap that was tearing the life out of our souls. Just then the power went out. So I grabbed a candle and lit it. The rest seemed pretty obvious. We held hands and held the paper. We prayed about each one and gave it all to King Jesus. And then into the fire it went. It burned fast. And as we threw the burning paper to the ground we felt all the burdens lift and we laughed. We actually laughed out loud. We got up, stamped on the now harmless stresses and danced together. It was all done.

‘cuz who of us by worrying can add a single hour to his life? When we worry we are saying that we don’t actually trust King Jesus to take care of it for us! Today we saw that our stresses weren’t from outside, but inside. We get anxious and stressed because we don’t actually believe that God is working everything together for our good. That’s really the only reason, eh? If I knew it was good for me I wouldn’t get so upset.

So chew on that for a while, and next time the stuff hits the fan grab a pack of matches and hit your knees. God wants to show you what cool things he can build out of your problems.

Here’s some recent words.

And here’s some pictures:

These are the ashes left over by those sillyy little stresses. Harmless-looking, eh? That’s because they actually did turn out to be harmless in the end.

Dreams and pigeons

A friend of ours had a dream last week. Let me tell you about it:
She was on a bus with her son and myself. It was your typical Pakistani bus, crammed full of people and hurling down roads that would make SUVs cautious. For quite some time we travelling through mountains and valleys, sometimes coming very close to crashing or flying off the road. Eventually we came to a raging river which was running parallel to the road. After an especially large bump the bus flipped upside-down and landed in the river! It was deep and very fast. No hope for any of us. Suddenly some hands appeared. They grabbed me, my friend and her son, took us from the river and set us gently on the road where we were soon joined by our families. Everyone else drowned. And so she woke up.

I place a lot of value on the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints (though Preservation might be a better word to use). Not just because it is blatantly biblical, but also because it is wonderfully comforting and empowering. As we ride on the crazy Paki-bus of life over rocks and valleys we come close to crashing and burning many times. Usually we’re saved from falling too much. But what if we do fall too far? What if we find ourselves falling into the swelling rapids of depression, unbelief and sin? What if we find ourselves approaching a place that we know believers cannot go? It seems like we’re falling away, or perhaps we were never on board to begin with. Then what happens?

Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself struggling with depression. Ruth and I are rather alone here and it’s hard to keep looking at things with a biblical eye. It’s hard to remember why we’re here. It’s hard to be happy. It’s hard to love God, and that one’s scary because disobedience to the greatest command is the greatest sin. Shortly after hearing my friend’s dream I asked God to show me himself. Show me something that will wake me up from this sinful apathy. The next day an American showed up at my house who gave me no end of encouragement in the work that we’re trying to do. Two days after that I got a call from Nigel Barham who sent me a taxi so I could see him in Karachi. Time with him was unbelievable encouraging and fruitful as we talked about what’s going on in this crazy country. I met a wonderful Pakistani family who is doing amazing work here. I met with other people, too and got letters in the mail from others. I’m frustrated that I can’t share everything that happened this weekend with all these people because of security reasons. Suffice to say that we have been encouraged out of our minds!

So what happens when a believer comes close to the edge? What happens when your faith is in the whirlpool and on the verge of shipwreck? What happens when all hope is lost and you see no where to go but down?

When you’ve played out
Your last chance
And your directions
Have all been lost
When the roads that you look down
Are all dead ends
Look up
You could see if you’d just look up

You’re on the verge of a miracle
Standing there
Oh you’re on the verge of a miracle
Just waiting to be believed in
Open your eyes and see
You’re on the verge of a miracle

From the archives of encouragement

I was digging through some old journals the other days and I found this entry. I remember it encouraged me when I wrote it and it certainly encouraged me when I read it again. Maybe it’ll have the same effect on you. Bear in mind it’s rather old.

I came here to sit and figure out how to deal with the [non-specific stresses of the day]. I think I’ve coming to the conclusion that I just can’t get rid of it. [The issue]’s not leaving and as long as it’s here I will have conflicts. Stress will come. I can’t look for a way out anymore, I just need a plan of action to make it bearable. I need to make it so [these problems] don’t suck the life out of me anymore…
I suppose holding fast to the word of life would do that for me! It would be so nice to reach the day of Christ and be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain, even if I am to be poured out, stressed out and burned out I should be glad, yes?
Because all things are loss next to you.
All things are worthless from the right point of view.
All things are loss compared to you.
I only want one master, not two.

[Half a day later]

Here it is! 2 Corinthians 6:4-10
“But as servants of God we commend ourselves in everyway: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

What do we fight with? We fight with: Great endurance, purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God.

And remember, you have nothing, but you own everything.

Cook out.