Monday, May 5, 2014

New Blog URL

Thank you for being a follower of BenCabeBlog! I am moving this blog – All new posts will be posted on the new website.

I hope to be talking to you (over coffee).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On Pornography And Personhood – Abiding Or Not Abiding In Christ

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time now; and I feel as though it needs to be written. I’m not exactly sure how this will go because I’m not exactly sure how to explain it. But the truth shines through even the dirtiest windows. So please forgive the inadequacy of my words and know that I am writing not as one exempted from such temptation but as one who has struggled, and struggles, with this issue. Wherever you find yourself, this problem is one that affects even you. For I believe that pornography addiction among Christian men is only one of the most obvious areas affected by a deeper lie that we have been buying for quite some time.

Recent research has shown the devastating effects of Pornography on the human brain; porn actually rewires the brain to create new neuropathways. But there have been several adequate articles that have spoken to this aspect of pornography and I see no need to rehash what has already been said.  It is my purpose to talk about what Pornography–and more broadly, sin in general–does to our personhood. This being the case, the journey on which we are about to embark will be more philosophical and abstract in nature. So bear with me as I attempt to use language to incarnate the truth about personhood. May God lead us.

Nature Of The Problem

First a word on the nature of the problem: I am not necessarily convinced that the prevalence of pornography addiction within the Church is a result of its accessibility. Accessibility is a problem but it’s not the problem. Society is certainly overrun with sexually provocative images and porn has literally been placed at our fingertips but this fact should lead us to ask a more substantive question: why has it breached the walls of the Church?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

One Thousand Gifts Or One Thousand Wrong Theological Assertions? – Ann Voskamp Book Review

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

My sister recommended reading, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp so I decided to give it a try. After carefully hiding the dust cover (the picture was a little girly for me) I dove in. Ann recounts in the first chapter how she, “snapped shut” to grace–to God–when she witnessed her younger sister get hit by a car and die in her parents' arms. Yeah, so here’s the disclaimer: the first chapter will hook you, but you’ll feel the hook as it penetrates each layer of your skin and finds a home in the flesh of your chest. Ann has an incredible ability to make her pain present by using words that incarnate her hurt thereby allowing the reader, not only to gaze deeply into her soul but, to participate in her heartache. The book is written as poetry–in prose–and for some, this style will not only frustrate, but also nauseate. A few times I found myself slightly overwhelmed by her vivid descriptions–this being the case, I still greatly appreciated the book and I will tell you why. But first, a word on some of the critical reviews I’ve read of the book. (This may get really boring and forgive me if it does but I feel certain “objections” to this book must be addressed–if you’re not interested in the following, please skip the next two paragraphs and proceed to the actual review).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Who Is My Neighbor?

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

One of the most dangerous tendencies of every human being is to mentally divide people into categories of people. It’s dangerous because half the time we don’t even know we’re doing it. Christians are particularly good at this; and yet, acting on this tendency is perilous to the Christian life. Breaking down this framework isn’t easy but it is necessary if we are going to live as Christ called us to live. The truth is, these mentally constructed categories don’t exist. There is not a distinction between who is my neighbor and who is not–Jesus told us this explicitly and yet for some reason we still don’t get it. Everyone is our neighbor.

When we start thinking this way it changes how we interact with people. And this is important because that guy who waited on you last night at the restaurant . . . that girl that cut your hair . . . they’re not just some waiter . . . or some hairdresser . . . they’re people. People who may be struggling . . . hurting . . . waiting for someone, anyone, to talk to. But when we label them by what they do we cease to see them as persons; persons who are infinitely precious, incredibly valuable, and unceasingly loved by God–and for this very reason they should also mean that much to us. Because every person is objectively valuable. As Christians we should recognize this but we don’t. We’re all human and we’re all in this together and the gospel is the gospel not just for me and my friends at Church but for the man who brings my mail . . . the woman who rings up my coffee . . . and that guy that asked for directions.

I have done a great job forgetting this truth. I am really good at valuing things, tasks, or even ideas, more than people. But how we view people, and how we interact with people, impacts our entire worldview. And our worldview impacts how we live our lives. And our lives as Christians impact the way the world views Christ. And sometimes the picture of Christ that we’re showing the world isn’t so Christ-like.

So how do live this truth day-to-day?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Christians Are Meant To Suffer

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The most impactful thing you can do as a Christian is suffer without loosing your Christianity.  This fact donned on me over the weekend. My wife and I just bought a house. And I was contemplating what we could do to positively influence our neighbors. My mind raced over several options. We could have them over for dinner . . . but nothing makes that act uniquely Christian or even influential . . . Well maybe I could help our elderly neighbors with lawn work . . . but I know tons of people who don’t profess to be Christians that help out their neighbors more than people that do profess Christianity . . .

Well then, I thought to myself, I’ll just have to love them like Christ loves them. And that’s when it hit me . . . In order to do this I have to be willing to love them regardless of who they are or what they do. This should be a life-altering truth. It’s proclaimed in the Bible time and time again and yet I never allowed it to make any difference in my every day life. If there’s one thing that Jesus assures his followers in the gospel, it’s that they will suffer. But in the midst of this suffering, Jesus says, bless those who persecute you and pray for those who despitefully use you.

As Christians we are called to be little christs. We are called to endure the depths of human agony and do so joyfully because we know that our suffering, when offered back to God through prayer in humility, will lead to fruition, not just in our lives but also in the lives of those who persecute us. Here’s why this truth hit me like a semi-truck going 70 down the freeway: the only action that is uniquely Christian is to love your enemies.

I used to read the “love your enemies” passage and think to myself, well, I don’t really have any enemies. But I’m beginning to realize that I let the semantics determine whom I love. I may not have any personal enemies. That’s fine. But we are called to love everyone. You know, that guy that cut you off this morning . . . love him . . . pray for him . . . You know those people that cause anger to burn in your chest? For me, it’s people like Westburo Baptist Church . . . Well we are called to love them . . . to pray for them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Truth Behind The Boston Marathon Bombing

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

What happened during the Boston Marathon is horrific. Just horrific. Two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed 3 people and injured more than 180. One of those three people killed was 8 year old boy, Martin Richard, who was waiting for his dad to cross the finish line. An 8 year old boy . . . and his 6 year old sister lost her leg . . . My heart is broken . . . The official story seems to suggest that this was, indeed, a planned act of terror. Some have even suggested that the bomb squad knew about the threat before the bombings took place. This is theory is backed by witnesses who claim that the bomb squad, along with bomb-sniffing dogs, were present at the finish line before the bombs went off.

Whatever surfaces about the culprit, or culprits, behind the bombing, we are left with this harrowing truth: human beings are capable of tremendous evil. Think about it. The movie theatre shooting in Colorado, the Newtown shooting which killed 26, most of which were children . . . and countless other horrific events over the past year. It’s gut wrenching. I can’t name the number of times this past year my vision has been blurred with tears. Hearts across America have been broken, ripped out, and wrangled, as tragedy after tragedy play out before the eyes of our Nation.

It is times like these that cause our Nation to mourn together. With tears trailing down our faces we cry out, we mourn, with one voice. Regardless of race or religion we gather to pay the innocent homage–we wonder what we can do to prevent events like these. Facebook lights up with prayers for the victims and the families and we cry out for some kind of reform to prevent things like this from happening in the future. It is times like these when the American people gather together and affirm that life is precious and justice will be served.

. . . but there is a double standard.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell – Book Review

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

There has been a lot of heresy-hype centered on Rob Bell’s new book entitled, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, and after having read it I have to be honest . . . I have no idea why. The only reason the book is controversial is because of . . . well . . . the name of the author. What Bell does in his new book is challenge the intellectualism of the Western Church by explaining that when we focus on knowledge about something we are missing the point; it is the experience of that something, or someone, that we should seek. It is within this context that Bell says, “To elevate abstract doctrines and dogmas over living, breathing, embodied experiences of God’s love and grace, then, is going the wrong direction. It’s taking flesh and turning it back into words” (149).

Unfortunately, I’ve read some reviews that misunderstood Bell to be saying that doctrine is not important–which is a complete misreading of what he is trying to say ( . . . and it’s ironic because in the book Bell states that language is ambiguous and isn’t big enough or clear enough to convey exactly what we mean when we talk about God). Bell is attempting to reintroduce a kind of mysticism that is necessary within the context of a transcendent God. A mysticism that was lost during the age of reason. After all, if God is so far beyond us, it makes sense that there will be things that we can’t understand–a lot of things. Bell notes that the age of reason (beginning late 16th century) was a “ . . . good and needed leap . . . But these understandings [reason and logic] also have limits, limits that we become acutely aware of when we talk about God” (68, parenthetical statement added). He goes on to mention that,
As reason and logic became more and more prominent, other ways of knowing became less emphasized. If the only way we know things is through the testing and poking and prodding of the scientific method, what happens when we know something in a way that bypasses those particular tests and processes? Does everything you know have to be able to be proven intellectually? (ibid).
After all of this, he goes on to explain that, “there are other ways of knowing than those of the intellect” (ibid). The sad truth is that these “other ways of knowing” have been subjugated by the intellect even though the intellect cannot make up for it. Bell illustrates this fact by contrasting a scientist in a lab who is studying lips (or kissing) with actually experiencing a kiss–being kissed. There’s something that you experience from being kissed that cannot be analyzed in a lab.

He has a point.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is Rob Bell A False Teacher Or Are Evangelicals Judging Hypocrites?

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

I have not read Rob Bell's new book. But, in all likely-hood, neither have the Evangelicals that are hurling insults at him in various forms across the web. I intend to read, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, I just haven't yet had the chance. In fact, I am excited to read it. I actually enjoyed his previous book, Love Wins. I did not agree with everything he had to say but I do believe he made some important points–points that are often lost within the modern evangelical world.

This background, of having read Love Wins and finding most of the accusations against him to be unfounded and uncalled for, has caused strong feelings to arise within me about the controversy surrounding his new book. In fact, I was tempted to write a blog post a week ago about judging your neighbor before calling in to account your own sins–tempted, that is, until I realized I was guilty of the same thing. All the while I thought I was maintaining a healthy, middle of the road "do not judge" attitude when, in actuality, I was judging those who judge Rob Bell because they were judging Rob Bell.

Satan is a slippery one alright. Just when you think you've overcome a certain sin is when you're failing blindly. And that's the thing. I can't judge anyone's heart except my own–and I know my heart is wicked. I must pray, and work towards, healing in my own life and I must be extremely careful before I try to pick apart the lives of others. And when reprimanding is in order, it must be done in humility–and that's where I feel the internet is actually harmful to the witness of the Christian world. It's easy to make accusations against someone when sitting in the safety of your own home behind the mask of supposed anonymity. But we never do anything anonymously–the Bible tells us this! God always knows. He knows what is done, how it is done, and the motive behind it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Thousand Words

Last night my wife and I watched a movie entitled, A Thousand Words. Jack McCall, played by Eddie Murphy, is a fast talking, self-centered, book publisher who is willing to do anything in order to bolster his career. With his sights set on success, McCall hones in on Dr. Sinja, a new age philosopher with a huge following. Dr. Sinja's philosophy, centered on silence, self-reflection, and forgiveness, is sharply contrasted by McCall's outspoken attitude, self-centeredness, and bitterness toward his father. After meeting with Dr. Sinja, a tree pops up in McCall's yard and every time he says a word, a leaf falls off the tree. He soon realizes that if the tree looses all its leaves, that tree, and McCall himself, will die.

I actually really appreciated this movie. I think it presents a message that our culture really needs to hear: words are not to be used flippantly. Words have a peculiar kind of power that affects the speaker and the hearer. Whenever you speak, whatever it is that you speak affects the central part of you and it either helps you take a step towards life or a step towards death. It is the same thing, perhaps even more so, with our thoughts. It is not enough to just "hold our tongue" we must also take our thoughts into captivity to Christ. That's why Jesus says that if we "hate our brother then we have committed murder in our hearts".

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The World is Going to End Tomorrow

There has been widespread speculation that the world will end when the Mayan Calendar ends. Well the Mayan Calendar ends December 21, 2012–and that's tomorrow. When I found out that the world is going to end tomorrow I did what any sensible person would do: I checked my Facebook. As it turns out, several other people had the same idea because there were countless posts about the end of the world and all of them carried the same vein of thought:

"The world is going to end tomorrow so I'm going to do some amazing things today".

Just think about that for a second. Who wouldn't have a list of things to do today if the world really was going to end tomorrow? What would you want to do?