Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: October, 2009

That All Men May Know…

I went to the ROM twice last week. I feel like I could go a half dozen more times. If you’ve never gone I highly recommend it. On Friday evenings you can go for half price. And the crowds are really low at that time, too.

I wish I could go into detail about the amazing things I saw there. We started at the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the scrolls on display was Psalm 121. Right beside the display there was a hidden speaker softly playing the voice of a Hebrew girl chanting the Psalm. After that went around to all the exhibits from the nations. We gazed at ancient wall-art from Egypt. We saw the magnificent statues of the Romans. We saw the art and beauty from the mightiest kingdoms of men; Japan, China, Persia, Africa, Europe and all other places where we dwell. And then we toured the Natural History section.

And we almost forgot about the art of Man.

Gazing at the ancient bones and fossils we felt awe. The marvelous gemstones took our breath away. What creativity! What beauty!

As we left we passed the hall that used to be the main entrance to the museum. Looking up at the ceiling we saw a beautiful mosaic with the words from Job 37:7 – That All Men May Know His Work.

Why do we have museums? Why do we glory in the natural and man-made marvels of the earth? So that all men may know his work.

I wonder if it’s possible to attach that slogan to all we do?

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A Sober Celebration

Last year, on October 17, Devraj Joseph was promoted. His body crumbled and his spirit soared, being loosed from the chains of death that had been pulling on him all his life.

In Pakistan we celebrate a loved one’s death anniversary the year after they die. So we’ve been thinking a lot about him and the impact he had on our lives.

He was a songwriter and singer. So in honor of his promotion I’ve decided to give out three of his songs. Download them!

Raja Yesu
This is probably my favorite song by him. It was originally written in Urdu, I think, but Devraj sings it here in Sindhi. The song goes, “King Jesus came / King Jesus came / In order to give utter peace / King Jesus came.”

Budho Sundayso

Hear the Message
Come into the presence of Jesus
To be rid of sin.

No salvation without him,
He will give you the water of life.
Drink! And quench your thirst.

He has the Bread of Life
Eat and kill the hunger.

Chaddo Jag Ji Mayo

Leave the world’s riches, wealth and possessions
There’s no peace found here.

Don’t trust in this world
Because this world is deceitful and small.

Yay for my father-in-law. Yay for Jesus

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Another World

Back row, left to right: Haleema, Izzit, John, Devraj
Front row, left to right: Rani, Ruth, Rakhil, Paul
My wife is from a different world. A world where some things are better and some things are worse. Did you know in her world you don’t need to have two incomes and two cars to make ends meet? In her world you talk to your neighbors and invite travelers and strangers in for tea. In her world you have time to juggle work, study, family and social life with little difficulty. It’s nice.
Of course, it’s not perfect. The climate is very difficult. Her world doesn’t have much of the nice, soft things we have in our world. Her world doesn’t have nearly as much education or health care as ours, either.

Four years ago, if you had asked me what I think of Canada I probably would have said (with a high and lofty smirk), “Pft. Canada is crap. Canadian culture is crap. It’s all crap and crappiness.”

But I actually do love my world, the world I was born into. It stresses me out sometimes, but so does my wife’s world. I think every world does, just because our worlds are made up of screwed-up people.

I want to live in two worlds. And I think I can do it. And maybe, by doing it, I’ll be making a newish sort of world. A world with the nice things of suburban Canada and the nice things of rural Pakistan. Wouldn’t that be a nice world? I think so.

What sort of world are you trying to make?

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Power…

I saw an interesting advertisement while driving home from work the other day. It was for a Camero. It looked lovely. The car was all nice and shiny; exactly how a car ought to look, right. The slogan seemed fitting:

The power of Lust.

So, what comes to your mind when you think of Cameros? Anything? Whenever I hear about or see a Camero my mind always pulls me back to a time when our family was living in Grimsby.

I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time. My mother suddenly wanted us to come home straight after school every day. We couldn’t play outside alone or after dark any more. And the police were pulling over and interviewing anyone with a cream-colored Camero. Do you remember that?

If you do then you probably remember names like Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka, Kristen French and the Leslie Mahaffy. Do you remember? Google their names if you don’t.

The power of Lust.

Lust is a scary thing. It convinces people to do scary things. It turns people into … what? I don’t want to say animals, because animals don’t do the sorts of things that lust suggests. But we are certainly less than people when we obey it. Lust destroys. Lust kills. Lust desecrates.

Be wary of the sheer power of Lust.

But Lust is nothing more than a destructive power. A strong one, but only destructive. It can’t hold a candle to Love,

for love is strong as death.

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3 Labels

Think about what you are going to do today. Get at least six things. I’m pretty sure you can break them down and organize them into three labels:
– Things you need to do. This is your basic, I-do-this-so-I-can-eat stuff. Your bread and butter. Your 9-5. This is what puts food on the plate and money in your landlord’s pocket.
– Things you ought to do. These are things that are good, in and of themselves. Hanging out with family. Talking with neighbors. Volunteering. Telling people about Jesus. Working out. Good stuff.
– Things you want to do. That which is fun. Hobbies, games, travels, etc.

On how many tasks can you put more than one label?

For most people, I think, very few of their tasks can hold more than one label. The things you need to do are usually very different from the ought and want lists. And as our tasks get more and more separated and are more and more exclusive in regards to these three labels, we get more stress. Think about the man who works a 9-5 job moving money around in a bank. He needs to do it. But it’s not what he wants and he can’t see much of an ought being fulfilled in it. Once he does what he needs we goes home and, since his day is mostly gone, he has to choose to either do what he wants or what he ought. Sucks.

But what if we pulled the three lists together? What if you could put all three labels on one task? Or on most of your tasks?

Happy.

That’s the dream, I think. To support yourself and your family while doing what is right and fun. How many people get that? How many of you are there? Are any of you on your way?

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A Late Motivator

I was digging around in my hard drive again and I found a neat little document I was creating while I was in KLBC. I had been writing down any quotes that I came across from sermons and books and such things. It was about fourteen pages long by the end of the year. Here’s an excerpt from the section called ‘Motivational’

• “My longings, my hopes, my dreams, and my every effort has been made to live for Him who rescued me. To study for Him who gave me this mind, to serve Him who fashioned my will and to speak for Him who gave me a voice. The passion for learning, the recognition of the value of study, and the need to understand great thinkers and their thoughts-all were gradually put into their legitimate place. Our intellect is not intended to be an end in itself, but only a means to the very mind of God. Books which were once a curse become a gold mine.” – Ravi Zacharias
• “My Jesus, my king, my life, my all. I again commit my life to you. I will place no value in anything I posses or in anything I do except in relation to thy kingdom and to thy service.” – David Livingstone kneeling on his wife’s grave at her burial
• “The shortest route isn’t always the best route because it bypasses some of life’s most important lessons.” – Ravi Zacharias
• “I love to hear my Lord spoken well of and where I see His footprint I’ve coveted to put mine there as well.” – John Bunyan
• “John Welsey preached more then 10,000 sermons in his lifetime. When he was he 83 records in his journal that he was angry at his doctor who would no longer allow him to preach 14 times a week. Also in his journal at the age of 86 he writes “laziness is slowly creeping in, there is a tendency to stay in bed past 5:30 am.”
• “The center beam proclaims God’s holiness, the cross beam declares his love. And oh how wide his love reaches. It is nice to be included. You aren’t always. Universities exclude you if you aren’t smart enough, Business exclude you if you aren’t qualified enough, and sadly some churches exclude you if you aren’t good enough. But though they may exclude you Christ includes you. When asked to describe the width of His love, He stretched out one hand to the right and the other to the left and then nailed then there in that position so you would know He died loving and thinking of you.” – Max Lucado
• “Is it a small thing in your eyes to be loved by God – to be the son, the spouse, the love the delight of the King of glory? Christian, believe this, and think about it: you will be eternally embraced in the arms of the love which was from everlasting, and will extend to everlasting – of the love which brought the Son of God’s love from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to glory – that love which was weary, hungry, tempted, scorned, scourged, buffeted, spat upon, crucified, pierced – which fasted, prayed, taught healed, wept, sweated, bled, died. That love will eternally embrace you.” – Richard Baxter
• “Remember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day’s work or approach any activity in the world, let HOLINESS TO THE LORD be written upon your hearts in all that you do.” – Richard Baxter

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Favs

Have you ever enjoyed a book that you knew was crappy?

I’m not really an admirer of Dan Brown. His books are all kinda similar, he doesn’t seem to push himself and his work never rises very high above entertaining. He’s not a particularly special writer. But whenever I pick up one of his books I manage to finish it in a day or two. I’m reading fast and enjoying myself, all the while thinking, “well…this isn’t really all that good.”

And then there’s L.M. Montgomery. I’ve said before that Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book. It’s not that long, but it took me quite some time to finish. Not because it was hard. Just because, to be honest, it didn’t catch my interest. It wasn’t flashy or exciting. It was good, yes. It was profound and deep and full of characters who were fully alive and settings that leaped off the page and begged you to come into them. But it wasn’t a ‘page-turner.’ It took work to read. Dan Brown books don’t take any work.

Sometimes poorly written books (and poorly made movies [Alien vs. Predator]) are fun. And sometimes masterpieces are hard to digest. Anne of Green Gables may be my favorite book. But it’s probably not the book I enjoyed the most. I may have enjoyed Deception Point. But I don’t respect it.

The really good books often seem hard to digest. Or, hard to digest if you want to understand them in their fullness. There isn’t much fullness to Dan Brown of Frank Peretti, so they are easy and fun to read. But You don’t remember books like that for very long. They don’t impact you.

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The Deadly Grey

Have you ever read the Wheel of Time? You should. It’s a great fantasy series that is liked even by people who don’t like fantasy. Go get it.

If you’ve read it you probably know about one of the strange servants of the Dark One: Grey Men (Gray Men?) A Grey Man is someone who sells his soul to the Dark One in exchange for the power to go about unnoticed. It’s not that he becomes invisible. You just don’t notice him. Until he plunges a knife into your chest, of course.

Defeating a Grey Man is theoretically easy, actually. It’s just noticing that he’s there at all that is the problem.

It seems that it’s the same way with the Christian life. Satan does not always roar as he prowls around. The Shadow which sometimes looks like an angel of light, and sometimes it looks like a Grey Man. Which is to say it looks like nothing at all.
But you know what? Rand al’Thor, the hero of the Wheel of Time, was never beaten by a Grey Man. No Grey Man even came close, really. Why? Because Rand was paranoid. Rand thought there was a servant of the Dark One around every corner. And he was mostly right. Good thing he was paranoid, too. Otherwise he’d be dead.

I realize that I’m not paranoid. In the physical world that’s a good thing. But in the spiritual war I signed up for, it’s a stupid thing. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I am a servant of the light in a mortal battle against the shadow. How have I been able to survive so long without being paranoid?

We’re in a war. There are casualties in war. And I think most of the casualties are the ones who live out that very word: CASUALty. A casual soldier is a dead one. We need to watch more. Pray more. Fight more.

Beware the Grey Man.

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From the Archives

I was wandering around in the bowels of my hard drive and I found this neat little document I made when I was still living in Pakistan. It’s worth a few chuckles, at least.

Things I’ve learned from living in Pakistan:
• Traveler’s diarrhea is a temporary affliction.
• Urdu language books and Urdu speakers do not necessarily agree.
• Gvaar, tinday and bindi are not cities in Asia, but vegetables.
• Malaria is a perfect weight-loss system.
• America is a bad, bad place.
• ‘Original DVD Version’ means some guy with a video camera filmed the movie while sitting in front of his buddy’s TV.
• Ceiling fans are your best friend.
• Water filters are your best friend.
• Goat is one of the tastiest meats on the market.
• Buffalo milk is ten times better and ten times cheaper than cow.
• 25 people can easily fit in a 10-person van.
• The skim that comes to the top of milk when you boil it is actually rather tasty.
• The words ‘Only to be sold with a prescription’ is more like a guideline than an actual rule.
• Everyone in the world is exactly the same, they just do different things.

I also want to add something that may not have been obvious to me when I first wrote this. Pakistan is a good place. It really is a good, nice place.

“But wait, Matt, isn’t it full of dirt and crap and violence and Tatooine-level heat?” Yeah, it is.

“And doesn’t it have a slew of horrible problems like poverty, terrorism and rampant ignorance?” Yep, sure does.

“What about the high crime rate and social injustices and political corruption?” Yes, Pakistan has more than it’s fair share of all that.

But it’s a good place. And I love it. I love it so much that I get angry when I see the problems it is forced to endure. I love it so much that I’d be willing to rock the boat to see those problems solved. So I’m going to move back there and do my part, whatever that part may be. Because I love it.

Do you love anything so much that you’d be willing to hurt it to make it better?

Angry

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.

We’ve all heard this verse. I usually hear it when people are talking about relationships. The idea is that you should never let your anger settle overnight. That you ought to deal with whatever relational problem you have before you say goodnight. Good advice, eh?

But, wait. Read the verse again. Be angry.

Let’s pretend I’m a writer for a moment. And let’s say that I am writing a love letter or something and I say:

Let not the sun set on your love.

What will you take that to mean? Will you assume that I’m saying that you should make sure you deal with your feelings of love before the sun sets and not harbor any feelings of love overnight?

No. You’ll assume (rightly) that I mean you should never let your love fade away. That you should keep it high in the sky like the sun. That it should be an obvious thing to everyone and it should, at least in some measure, guide you.

Hold that thought.

This verse is in Ephesians 4. What does that chapter talk about? It talks about how the Gentiles are blinded by the shadow. How they are hard in their hearts and how the shadow darkens them and (possibly) us.

Be angry and do not sin.

I don’t think Paul is telling us to be careful not to sin when we happen to get angry. I think he’s telling us to get angry! To get seriously angry about the shadow and the effects the shadow has over us and our fellow man! Be angry! And as you feed that anger, stay away from the sin that ought to be the object of the anger! And never let that anger go!

Now, you will point me to James 1:20 and say that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. And you’d be right to do that. Man’s anger is generally a pretty shallow, spiteful thing. Which is why the only anger we should be looking at here is godly anger. Spirit-led anger. Anger that has sin and its effects as its only object. Not anger directed toward people.

No revolution can be successful without anger. There is no such thing as a passive rebellion. No tyrant lost his crown to an indifferent crowd. And unless we are angry at the homicidal taint on our hearts we’ll never throw it off.

Are you angry at sin? Are you angry at how sin is poisoning your friends and neighbors? Are you angry at the scores of injustices in the world? Don’t let the sun set on that anger! Hold on to it! Stoke it! Made it burn and use its energy to watch out for the snares of the flesh and the devil. Use it to fight against sin in the world and in your heart. Be angry and stop sinning!

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