Benjamin Hammond

Musings

Nothing at all makes sense in life.

I can’t feel God. I can’t see God. I’m shrouded in meaninglessness. My thoughts and feelings aren’t organised. I stopped trying to organise them as a kind of attempt to stop trusting in myself. But it seems I can’t go long without it.

I told God today that I couldn’t feel Him. I asked Him why I was alive. What is my goal? Where is He?

Jesus died for my sins. So? What does that even mean? When I think about it, I don’t even really know what it means. I know so much in my head, but so little in my heart. What difference does Jesus’ death make to my life? I asked God this.

I’ve been told Jesus changes lives. I’ve heard stories. I’ve seen ‘examples’. I’ve read the Bible. But so what? Until I meet God, what difference does it make? I want to meet God. I don’t think I ever really have. I’ve thought about Him, and I’ve reasoned about Him. Philosophised about Him. I ‘believe’ in Him, I think.

But, if God is real, He’s a person – not a piece of logic, like a maths question. People are complicated. If a person was a maths question, 2+2 could equal 109. That’s how little sense people make. God is a being. He cannot be grasped or understood. But He can be met. A child does not understand the biological workings of it’s mother or father. Nor will he/she understand why they do certain things. But they have a relationship. What a relationship is, I don’t think I’ll ever know. They surpass understanding. And that’s precisely why someone who relies on understanding and logic, like me, can never be in a real relationship. That’s why I’m so confused. I’ve dropped my understanding and self-awareness. I want to relate, not understand. The scary thing is that I don’t know if it’ll work. I told God I was doing it. I don’t know any better. My previous way of life didn’t work, so I’m experimenting. It may work, it may not. I know nothing. It’s in God’s hands.

But that’s faith I suppose.

This Path

Hello. My thoughts and feelings recently have been very much towards the challenges I currently face, as is the case with most human beings. These thoughts and feelings have caused me to meditate about the path that we, as Christians, have chosen to embark upon and about what that path entails.

My first observation is that this, ‘path’ isn’t really a path at all. If it were a path, we’d be able to follow it with a basic ease. In fact, I’d say that the Christian journey is more like a barren wasteland – a vast desert with the horizon as the only apparent guide. It’s not simple, and it’s not necessarily easy. Well, no it’s not easy. The truth is, it just doesn’t make any sense sometimes. And that’s why I have compared it to a barren wasteland.

But why doesn’t it make sense sometimes? And if that is the case – and I am sure some of you will agree that this is the case – how can we continue? Well, to answer the first question I will present to you a simple truth. We are under construction. Every single part of our little souls is constantly being altered by the hand of God Himself. He’s taking away the bits that aren’t needed, moving one bit and putting it somewhere else, adding new bits – He’s doing all sorts to our souls! We are incomplete beings. We are still being created. One identifiable part of us that is always being altered is our understanding. I think that you will agree that your understanding as a baby is quite different to your understanding now, however old you are. That’s because it’s changed! And it will continue to change! God is changing us – so naturally it follows that we will not know what on earth is going on in our lives sometimes. We thought one thing was true at one point – and then the next our understanding has changed completely. It’s the bit in-between when our understanding is changing that throws us. This is why stages of life such as the toddler years, adolescence, and menopause are famous for being tough. Because they are mind altering periods of life. God is still making us – we are under construction, and this is why life can be a little confusing sometimes.

To address my second question (How on earth can we continue if we have no idea what is going on?) I will answer with a simple childlike quality. It’s called trust. Trust in what, you ask? Trust in God. I think it is fair to say that God – being God – knows what He is doing. The fact that God is God alone should be enough for us to have complete faith in God that He knows what He is doing, and to be able to summon enough strength to get on with our day to day lives, even in periods of confusion. You see, sometimes we can become consumed by our problems. What am I going to do next year? How will I earn enough money for this? I need to finish this task before this date etc. There are so many problems that we can think about and think about, and our thinking about them will only end up damaging us and making our problems worse. But, when we trust in God – when we say, I know that God is going to bring good out of this – things change. We begin to tackle our problems with God on our minds, rather than the problem on our minds. You could say God is like a drug (I wouldn’t lower Him to that – but purely for example). When He’s running through your mind, you don’t worry about things and you get on with them, rather than worrying about them instead of doing them. Involving God in your day doesn’t take the problem away, but it sure makes dealing with them an experience you can handle (or that God handles, rather), and what’s more – it becomes rewarding. This ‘path’ is tricky, but when we keep our eyes on the one who laid down the ‘path’ – we find we can conquer it with a Godly power.

To conclude, I will ask two more questions – hopefully to challenge you, and to give you an idea as to how this ‘path’ can be walked. The first is this: Are you teachable enough to know that you may sometimes be wrong? Because if we can agree that we are sometimes (if not most, or all of the time) wrong and accept responsibility for our circumstances – then we are in the right condition for God to alter us. Therefore, we are in the right position to grow in Christlikeness, and move a little further forward on this journey. The second is this: Are you childlike and humble enough to trust God? Because if you can say to yourself – “I don’t know it all, but God does – and God is for me” then you are in the right position to allow God to change you actively while you continue to live with the inner peace and security that you are in the hands of a master craftsman. Be aware of God’s presence as He walks with you on this journey, and as He carries you with the wind of His Spirit while you are idle and confused.

I know I probably should have begun with this, but, finally, here is a little extract from the Bible. The best advice for walking this ‘path.’ Do you know what I love about the Bible? God has communicated perfectly, with upmost clarity in eight words what I have taken to bluntly communicate in a few paragraphs:

Be still, and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Grace

In our lives, we strive for the best. We all have different definitions of ‘best’, of course, but whatever it is – we want it and we strive for it. Often, we don’t meet our own standards of best, or our cultural standards of best (as they usually are cultural). We always make mistakes, no matter what it is we have set out to do, or no matter what has been set out for us to do. It is in our nature as human beings to make mistakes and be imperfect – it’s what we do. It’s our ‘speciality’, you could say. And I am sure you can relate to that. If not, I applaud you. You must be God. In which case, yes, I applaud you, because I love you.

In Christianity, we have goals, and we have a certain standard. They have been set out for us by God, and can be found in the Bible. Now, if I think about this I am inclined to say: “How ridiculous. Utterly, utterly ridiculous.” How on earth are we supposed to meet standards laid down for us by God, when we cannot even meet our own standards?! Seriously – it is impossible for us to meet such standards. And that is indeed the right notion. We cannot meet the standards God has set down for us. So why are they there? Why did God give them to us?

Although it does seem ridiculous that God should set down such standards, a reason for them can be found. We, by nature, are failures. Paul writes:

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. – Romans 3:20 (NIV)

This verse shows us that the law (the standard set down for us) cannot make us right with God. We cannot follow it. All it can do is show us our sin. So why does God want to show us our sin? Why does He want to show us that we are failures by our own nature?

There is a very good reason for this. You see, the law – which shows us our sin – has another part. The law is only half of something bigger. The other half of the law (God’s standard) is called Grace. Grace is simply this: Unconditional acceptance. When we find out that we are failures by nature, we are humbled. What is the point to life if we cannot truly succeed? This is where God’s grace comes in. God’s grace accepts us no matter what. Grace is God saying: “I don’t care that you messed up. I love you madly – I am going to forget every mistake you’ve ever made, and I will bless you.” The law humbles every man, and God’s grace humbles us some more.

We can choose in life which we will be judged by when time ends, and God judges every single one of us. We can choose to be judged by how we will did on earth, or God’s grace. If we live life thinking that we are defined by how well we followed the standards of God (in other words – if you believe you can be as good as God) – then God will judge us accordingly. But because, as a human, I am a natural failure, my judgement will not end well, and I will be sentenced, because these things do not stand before God. But we can also choose to be judged by God’s grace. If you choose to be judged by God’s grace, you will understand that in life – if you define yourself by how well you do what you do, you are set up for failure, because no man can succeed in pleasing God by what he does. Someone who chooses to be judged by grace will know that they are failures, but they will also know that despite this – God has accepted them. Therefore, they will accordingly be judged, and accepted.

If you try to be the best by God’s standards – by the law – do not expect to succeed. We are failures, and you cannot be the best. But if you understand this, and simply believe that God has accepted you, even though you cannot be the best – God will accept you, and you will end up being the best.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Matthew 23:12

If you ever feel as if you’ve let God down, or you aren’t good enough – don’t worry. None of us are. We’re all failures by God’s standards. But that’s okay, because it’s meant to be that way. We were meant to fail God’s standards so we could look to his grace. It incorporates a sense of trust within us, it humbles us, and it takes the weight of having to follow rules and regulations off our shoulders. God loves you regardless. Remember that. It doesn’t mean we should stop trying to live by God’s standards – because that would defeat the point – but it does mean that we can stop judging ourselves by it. We are saved by grace, and grace alone.

The Morality of Mankind

Recently I have been in a brooding state, and as I have come closer and closer to God I had a brief moment when I was outside of everything. I looked particularly at the ways of life that I live by, and that others live by from a point of view that I believe to be that of God. What I found was rather upsetting, or saddening. I took a look at the morals of myself and mankind, and in contrast to God’s pure and living morality for us it is gut-wrenching.

The closest human description of the way of life that I observed is Hedonism. The definition of Hedonism is as follows:

he·don·ism     |ˈhēdnˌizəm|
1. The pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence
2. The ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and the proper aim of human life

This is what I believe to be the human moral structure. One must always remember that whatever you believe to be your moral structure does not make it your moral structure – but simply what you believe. Your moral structure is what you actually live by, wether you believe it or not. I believe that it is not good to steal from the cookie jar. But I do it everyday. Therefore, I am not living by the moral that I believe I should live by: Do not steal from the cookie jar. But I am living by the morality that seeks pleasure, and so I take the cookies anyway.

Wether you believe in constantly seeking pleasure or not, it does not mean anything unless you are actually doing it or not. Unfortunately, it seems as if the majority of our culture lives by a Hedonistic morality. You may have heard the expression, “Just have some fun.” It is usually directed at someone who has a strong moral system, or someone who has limits that they do not cross over. It is usually said to make that person forget their moralities for a moment, and gratify biological desires. The person directing this remark is showing all too well that to them, ‘Just having fun’ is all the more important than having a consistent moral system.

It is all too common today for people to spend a lot of their time over-stimulating their senses. Lights, loud music, wild body movements, intoxication, sex… etc. All of these things in today’s culture often constitutes a ‘good time.’

“So?” you ask, “What is wrong with that?”. Well… I could sit here and quote Bible verses at you, but it is possible that it won’t mean a thing to you. I may do so later for those who are interested, but for you who are not, I will argue from another perspective, and you are probably likely to agree with it. It is simply to do with the matter of health. A Hedonistic lifestyle is not healthy in almost every realm. Physically: The pursuit of pleasure will bring about things like drugs, drinking, smoking – all of which are commonly known as damaging to the human body. Mentally: Again, all these things affect mental health. Today the amount of people with mental health is rising extremely fast. It is thought that one day, those with instable mental health may become the majority. Spiritually: In a secular sense, all this things lead to a lacking sense of purpose. If your goal is to seek pleasure (knowingly or not) – depression can creep in, because your life will be about the moments at which hormones in the brain peak alone – that’s a life that is settling for chemical reactions as the ultimate goal. Suicide due to depression is soon to become the leading cause of death in the west.

Finally, from a Christian perepctive, I can only look at the ultimate purpose of a Christian – to glorify God and follow His Spirit.

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. – Romans 8:13

I hate for it to sound so in your face, but there is no other way of putting it. The truth is, today, all people live for is the pleasures of this life, wether it be sex, money, or even say, the success of a business 40 years down the line. Hedonism is the closest I could get to a description of what mankind lives by, but it isn’t detailed enough. The morality I am trying to outline is simply everything that isn’t about glorifying Jesus. If it isn’t for God, it isn’t of any value. Because when this world passes away, everything in it will pass away, including all the pleasures we had and the succeses we made. All that will stand is what we have done for God. We can’t bring that wicked rave we had last weekend to God. It will be gone. That’s not what God is looking for.

In the end, if we seek pleasure as our ultimate end, we are not headed for the eternal joy that God can offer us. The road of Hedonism, or the road of seeking after things in this life leads to death. It leads to a place without God, and of pain and suffering. The morality of mankind – to gratify the flesh and the short life that we have – leads to a sad and forboding destination. But the pure and living morality of God – to do everything for Jesus – leads to life and eternal peace. God so badly wants people to know that. It hursts Him when he sees people living for pleasure rather than Him. Because he doesn’t want anyone to end up anywhere rather than with Him at the end of time, in His loving arms.

Judgement & Hell

Some of the many questions amongst Christians and Non-Christians surrounds the concept of hell. In western culture, the most common view of hell is that it is a place God sends ‘bad people’, whereas a ‘good person’ would go to heaven. I am going to try and challenge this paradigm. I believe that our eternal destination depends on something far more complicated, and far deeper than simply being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – not to mention that these terms are not even clearly defined.

First of all, when dealing with such a matter from a Christian perspective, it is imperative to understand that God is the only qualified judge. Only God has the understanding, wisdom, knowledge and insight to judge correctly and fairly. Humans cannot judge, angels cannot judge, animals cannot judge, demons cannot judge – God is the only one who can judge you. Reason backs this up. For anybody to judge 100% wholly and fairly, they must have an eternal wisdom and understanding. Any being who has this = God.

When we die, we will stand before God, and He will judge us. Judgement is mentioned countless times in the scriptures:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…” – Matthew 12:36

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…” – Romans 14:10

“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” – John 12:31

There are many more references to be found, but this is enough to show that we will be judged one day. The next logical step in most minds would be, ‘How can I survive this judgement?’ or ‘What am I to be judged on?’ The answer to this can be found in the Bible, yet again. One of the scriptures above (Matthew 12:36) suggests that we will be judged on every careless word we have spoken. Other Bible verses show us that we are to be judged according to our actions upon this earth. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says in the NLT version:

God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

Since we are following the logical thought trail, let us take the next step. My next thought when I read such verses is this: ‘Who can survive judgement?’ When I think of everything I have done, and I remember all the sins I have commited, I become saddened and wonder why I even bother. God will surely punish me, and all humanity. No man can survive God’s judgement. At this point, it seems we are all hell bound. But do not stop reading here, because there is hope.

Many people do not see beyond what has previously been explained. For many people, Christianity is this: ‘Good man – heaven. Bad man – Hell.’ … This is misunderstanding at it’s height! Christianity is about hope, and I am about to explain this hope to you.

If you have been paying attention, you will know that the Bible tells us of God’s judgement one day. But God is not stupid. Do you really think He expects us all to be 100% perfect human beings? He’d be having a dangerous gamble if he expected us to be 10% perfect! We are stained with sin. We have the mark of pure evil upon us – every one of us, or at least we did. God knows there is no way we are going to survive judgement on our own. We can’t enter heavens gates and walk into God’s presence with even one tiny spec of sin. So He devised a plan. He was going to take away our sin.

How was he going to do this? The same way the Israelites had been doing it for hundreds of years. An offering.

If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done… If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering. – Leviticus 4:1-3

The ‘Sin Offering’ – a common practice in the Old Testament. It is used to take away the sins of the people, but it was only temporary. Therefore, it had to be carried out regularly. Job, a man from the book of Job would carry out offerings daily for himself and his family. It was usually done with a lamb. The interesting thing about this offering, is that the lamb had to be spotless. It could not have had any illness, and could not even have any spots or freckles!

So, it follows that God needed to take away our sin in the same way. With a spotless lamb. His name is Jesus. God provided a perfect lamb, and that lamb suffered, and that lamb was killed. His blood is on us, and our children, just as the people shouted:

All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’ – Matthew 27:25

But that is a good thing, because His blood washed our sins away. That sacrifice took away the stains of sin, and the stamp of pure evil. Jesus took on our every sin. He accepted the punishment we should have received. He passed through the judgement, with our sin, and did not survive. Just as we would not have survived if we were to pass through judgement with our sin. He loved us too much to see us condemned, and so he condemned Himself.

Now you don’t have to worry about surviving judgement day. If you know Jesus, and you have accepted Jesus as your saviour – when you stand before God on that day, God will see the pure blood of His son Jesus. He will say to you: “Come, be blessed.” and you will enter into His kingdom. Don’t try and get in by your own works – it won’t work. The only way to the Father is through the Son. Jesus is the only one who can save you. He can save you from sin – and that entails a lot. Hell is not a place for ‘bad people’. We’re all ‘bad people’ in the sense that we have all sinned! If we went by that philosophy, we’re all doomed. Judgement and hell are for those who are not saved by the blood of Jesus. If you’re saved, praise God. If not, God is calling out to you. Come, be blessed… ?

Here is a prayer one can pray to remind you of what Jesus has done for you, or to ask Him to become your saviour. It takes no more than a prayer from your heart:

Dear Jesus, thank you for saving me. I could not have done it on my own, and you loved me too much to see me suffer. Thank you that I am saved by your blood. I have a guaranteed place in Your kingdom. Now I ask You to come into my life, and to do things the way You know is best for me and for Your kingdom. Amen.

The Map of Humanity

The map in the coming link is a really interesting one (click here). As you may have noticed, it is no map of a real geographical place. It is called ‘The Map of Humanity’. It is a map documenting human history and the avenues that humans have explored and discovered. It shows our trials and successions, our actions and beliefs. When I found it, I was quite excited. What a fascinating way to record or document anything. It was assembled by professors in History, Philosophy, Sciences, Literature, and a computer too offered some help.

Take a look at some of the locations. I find it interesting that the largest continent holds names such as ‘Abomination’, ‘Hedonism’, ‘Hate’, and ‘Destruction’. Perhaps because these things are what we, as humans, have to show for ourselves in our history? The capital of the land mass ‘Hedonism’ is ‘Gomorrah’. Gomorrah is considered, in the Bible to be one of the two most abominable cities in history alongside Sodom because they just did whatever pleased them. That is the fundamental basis of Hedonism. Sodom can be found on this map elsewhere in the ‘country’ of Lust.

One of the countries on the largest land mass is called Zealotry. The capital of Zealotry is Tehran. Tehran is a real city today, and is the capital of Iran. The word ‘Zealot’ is a name for a person who is fanatical and uncompromising when it comes to their religious beliefs. This word can be related to Tehran and Iran. The city is highly associated with zealotry in western culture, as the middle east is well known for apparent fanatical attitude – especially with the Islamic faith.

Another one of the countries is called, Tyranny. The capital of Tyranny is Moscow (the capital of Russia). Again, there are associations between Moscow and Tyranny, and it’s history supports the reasons that this city would be categorised as such. Russia is recognised as an old communist nation. It is no longer communist, but it used to be. It has had leaders that have reigned in Moscow, and have made the citizens of Russia subject to Tyranny. One of the most famous of these would probably be Joseph Stalin – general secretary of the communist party of the Soviet Union.

To the right of the largest continent is ‘Fool’s Paradise’, of which one of the cities is Babel – a renowned city for being foolish (Old Testament). On the top right of the map, under the words, ‘Oceanus Cognitum’ is a small island called, ‘Workaholic Island’. The capital of this island is Tokyo. Tokyo is one of the worlds leading economic cities at the moment, and also one of the most (if not the most) densely populated cities. It is so because of how productive it is. The worlds leading economic cities (London, New York, Tokyo, Berlin) have an extremely active night life – because work does not really stop. Tokyo is, to say the least, one of the cities that does not stop working.

Look at the land mass that reads, ‘Reason’ and ‘Ingenuity’. It has a district called ‘Disney’! How wonderful. Over to the left of that, the land mass that reads ‘Wisdom’ is a bunch of amazing stuff! In the district of ‘Wonder’ are cities such as New York, Venice and London. In the Imagination district we have the Land of Oz and the Shakespearean Mountains. In the district of Truth is the city of Zion and the Jesus Penninsula. We also have Narnia in the district of Freedom, and Ghandi’s Basin in the district’s of Dreams, Tranquility and Hope. The city of Tel Aviv (a famous Israeli city) in the district of Goals.

This is such a fascinating map! My understanding is that it is constantly being updated and changed to make it more accurate and detailed. I shall not explain or describe anything to you any longer, but I urge you to take a look yourself. Maybe one day you will have such an effect on the world that you will find the imaginary world you created on this map. Or maybe your name will have it’s own mountain range. Who knows? Maybe not, but there are more important maps to be found on – so do not fret.

Christmas

Hello folks. I thought it would be rather silly not to post about Christmas. So I decided to make a post about the thoughts I have towards Christmas concerning the original reason for the season, and the current reason for the season.

If you are a Christian, you will know the reason for the season of Christmas. It is there to commemorate the birth of our King and Saviour, Jesus. If it wasn’t for Him, we wouldn’t know the peace we do today, and the impending joy when time ends. The fact that he has saved us from our deserved destination (eternity in a place without God’s presence – hell) is something to celebrate. We celebrate the man (God) who brought this about.

The next point is to identify the current reason for the season. Why is Christmas ultimately celebrated today? Because it has become recognised as a cultural holiday and relaxation period. It is a time for people to step out of their daily routine and indulge. For many it is the time where they ‘get to do what they want’. As far as I understand, this is why Christmas is celebrated today. We give and get gifts, we watch T.V. and we listen to festive music. What human in our society doesn’t find that attractive?

Now, I will analyse. As much as I enjoy the current reason for the season, or the reason Christmas is celebrated today, it saddens me that the real reason has been forgotten. It is such a loss. Jesus came to bring us peace and fellowship with Him – nothing could be more joyful. Yet as Christmas approaches, we seek joy in indulgence and greed. We celebrate the current reason for the season in excess, rather than balancing the current reason and the original reason. We fall short of the joy that we could have when we forget why Christmas came about. Christ. The whole reason for Christmas. C.S. Lewis writes:

Adherents of Xmas are exhausted & overextended but Christmas worshipers are joyful.

I worship the Christ of Christmas, rather than remove Him and replace Him with ‘X’. That’s extremely dangerous, because we don’t know the value of X – and in the spiritual world when Christ is taken out of the equation, ‘X’ can’t be anything good.

To conclude, by all means, have a lot of turkey, enjoy the television, get excited about presents and sing a long to the music. But primary to this, adore and worship Jesus, the saviour of the world. That doesn’t mean you should keep him in the back of your mind during the season, but include Him in everything you do, talking to Him and thanking Him all the time. And when the tree is dead and chucked out, He’ll still be there by your side, and you’ll still be able to involve Him in every activity and routine. And so now, on Boxing Day, although the indulgence has ended, and the presents have been opened, the chocolate has been eaten, and the turkey violently consumed, the real joy of Christmas still resounds in my heart, because Jesus didn’t die for us so that we could remember Him on one single day. He died that we might have Him, and He have us for eternity. When you’re a Christian, and when you know Jesus, everyday is Christmas day (as the famous song has it) because we celebrate the original reason for the season. Do you want it to be Christmas everyday? Then focus on the Christ in Christmas.