Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our Sympathetic High Priest: Facing Our Temptations

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone is trying to comfort you, but they have never experienced what you’re going through? It’s hard to trust in someone’s sympathy when they’ve never been where you are. As humans, we seek shared experiences. Without them, bonds of trust can be more difficult to form. Sympathetic High Priest

Yet Christ is our ultimate Comforter. And He truly understands everything that we go through. In our time, the church, the Bible, and God are often considered to be irrelevant. Something established two-thousand years ago can’t apply to the present, they say. Conceptions about God are out-of-date and out-of-tune with a post-modern age. That’s what some say.

I disagree.

Our God is timeless. He has no beginning and no end. And His relevance to our lives certainly doesn’t end just because some human time has passed.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest Who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14 –16

That’s what I love about this passage in Hebrews. We can stand confident in the fact that Jesus understands. It’s easy to think that, because Jesus didn’t come to Earth in our time, He didn’t face the same temptations as us. That’s not true.

In Matthew 4, the story is told of Jesus facing Satan in the wilderness. He faced three separate temptations, and in them can be found the same issues we confront.

  • Security: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread,” Satan says in verse 2. Jesus had been fasting for forty days. I imagine He must have been starving. Imagine the picture of soft, delicious bread dancing before your eyes as you stare at the dusty rocks. You’re God in human flesh; of course you can create food right then and there. Now, Scripture doesn’t specifically say Jesus imagined those things, but He was human. Yet Jesus chose to trust in God’s plan. He knew that He was in the desert for a reason; He chose not to put His immediate needs in front of God’s purpose. There are many security needs that can be overwhelming for us: food, shelter, money, relationships. And in our search for them, we can so easily lose sight of God. Jesus knows what it feels like to need something badly. He’s there to lift you up when Satan attacks you at your time of need.


Courtesy of Pixabay

  • Control: Satan next took Jesus to a high building and told Him to jump, trusting God to save Him. I’m sure Jesus knew that God would save Him. He could have stepped off that building and felt completely in control of the situation. Instead, He chose not to test God. We come up against so many situations that we want to control. All of our anxiety comes from wanting control, and most of us are extremely anxious. Yet letting go of control is freedom. Jesus knew that He didn’t have to be in control; He was letting God direct His path. When we face the desire for control, He’s right there, telling us He knows and urging us to let go.
  • Power: All the wealth of the world. All the power in every kingdom. Immense. Amazing. Unfathomable. Satan offered it all to Jesus and He refused. One of the great struggles of humankind is the struggle for wealth and power. We want it so badly. We make it our idol. We hurt ourselves and others in the pursuit of power. It can be as simple as wanting to be friends with the “cool kids” or as drastic as creating an empire that spans the globe. It’s all about power. And it all takes our focus off God. Satan tells us we need power to be happy. He told Jesus the same thing. Yet Jesus responded that only God deserves our worship. When we face a longing for power, Jesus knows what it feels like.

It’s interesting that the passage in Hebrews talks about Jesus as our sympathetic high priest. Jesus isn’t like our politicians, seemingly so removed from our lives that their “representation” is ludicrous. Jesus walked among us; He faced our trials. He was tempted by the desire for security, the fight for control, and the lust for power. And He overcame them all. He understands whatever it is you’re going through. He knows what it feels like. He cares. So don’t be afraid to take it all to Jesus. He’ll hold you in His arms and give you the strength to overcome.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Entertainment of the Week: July 28, 2015

This has been a week full of many things, not the least of which has been a diverse breadth of entertainment.

Book of the Week:

After reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, it’s easy to see why it reached #1 on the New York Bestsellers list. Death, as the book’s narrator, is one of story’s core concepts. Death and words. It is a curious experience to read a story told by Death. It’s told in a way that lets you engage with the characters, yet, in a way, every emotion in the book is tinged by a kind of distance. That is the character of Death in a nutshell: distant but nonetheless engaged. Collecting souls is just a job for him; he neither particularly enjoys nor abhors it. He finds distraction from his job in colors: the color of a person’s soul, the colors of the sky.He tells himself not to get invested in the people he encounters, but every now and then one person catches his attention. One such person is Liesel Meminger, the book thief. This is her story, a story of a German childhood lived in Nazi Germany. It’s a deeply poignant and philosophical book, unfortunately marred by the excessive language. Nonetheless, I may find myself reading The Book Thief again.

Movie of the Week:

Honestly, I was only marginally excited for Ant-Man, the latest release from Marvel Studios. I think my interest got lost somewhere between the craziness of Avengers: Age of Ultron and my anticipation/terror about Captain America: Civil War. I was distinctly wrong about this film. In a refreshing change of pace, this movie focuses on the story of Scott Lang, a convicted cat-burglar with a strong love for his daughter, Cassie. Desperate to find a job, he is recruited by Dr. Hank Pym to wear a special suit that shrinks him to the size of an ant. Filled with great humor, loveable characters, and a nice break from the carnage of superhero films, Ant-Man is highly enjoyable and sets up Civil War in a gentle way while maintaining its own independence as a story.

Music of the Week:

Franz Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

Liszt was one of the superstar musicians of the 1800’s in Europe. And not just as a pianist; his compositions are quite beautiful, as well. This orchestral rendition of his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in particular brings to mind the Slavonic Dances of Dvorak with a distinctly European flavor and quick, soaring melody that incorporates marches.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Truth in Space, Part 9

Today we continue our space adventure via my short story, Truth in Space. If you’re just joining, please feel free to catch up on the adventure:

Parts 1 and 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Parts 6 and 7

Part 8

Truth in Space Part 9

Laos’ surface unsatisfactory. Continuing deeper into sector as planned.

Map sector as you go.

October 18, 3021

Well, things may have changed a bit since I sent that warpagram. I sent it after launching off the surface of Laos. Now we’ve been in flight for five hours, and, if my plan works, we won’t be heading deeper into Zako Sector. For about an hour after takeoff, I just rested. Well, as much as I rest these days. Then my brain started going. I’m actually supposed to visit a star next. Not to land, of course, but to run an energy assessment. Then I’m to land on the nearby mega-planet Jasper 9. I intend to do neither.

At the moment, Fergus is covered in grease and wiring residue, his sleeves shoved above his elbows and his hands fiddling with a mess of wires, gears, and lasers. My hands are covered in singe marks from the two hours I spent in there. The only reason I’m writing instead of helping is because Fergus told me to go lie down. I tried, but sleep wouldn’t come. What in the heavens am I doing? Somehow I’ve let my mindset change in the last week. Before I landed on Vortega, I was determined to grit my way through this mission for my family’s sake. When a powerful entity threatens death to your parents, you quickly become inclined to do whatever they want. And I kind of wanted to hang on to my own life, too. So do I no longer care about my parents?

Of course I care! Our relationship hasn’t been the best in the last eight years, ever since the move. But that doesn’t mean I want them to die, especially if I’m the cause of it. That’s what makes this so hard. I don’t want them to die. Yet my going off-course may result, probably will result, in their deaths. I’m an emotional wreck right now. For most of this trip, I’ve tried to push my conscience aside. I’ve tried to ignore the ramifications of my actions. I told myself that if I didn’t do this someone else would, and all I would have accomplished would be endangering my family. So I focused on them and suffered from an ache in my heart that only grew stronger with time. On days I thought I would explode, I wrote everything in here. Then I burned it until each and every rebellious, dangerous word was a meaningless filament of ash, released into the endless reaches of space.

And now I have nine days’ worth of journal entries in my palm, sizzling with what the NCSP would consider treason. I can still burn them. But that’s ridiculous. I’ve made my decision. This is the debate I waged with myself and with Fergus for an hour and a half. And, clearly, the arguments are still spinning in my brain. See, about an hour out of Laos, something snapped inside me. I was studying the flight orders pertaining to Jasper 9 and the star Arcadian. Mission leaders are hoping to power the sector base by harnessing Arcadian’s energy. They’re also hoping to use it for weapons. Reading that, I smashed my fist into the dash, cracking the reader’s screen. That got Fergus’ attention, and, when he asked, I laid it all out there. What did he do? He listened, nodded, and asked one question: “What path will you choose?” We went over every aspect – my parents, Fergus’ life, my own survival, the impending destruction of millions of people – and it came down to that one question. What would I choose?

When I was six or seven, my dad used to take me outside and point out constellations. He’d say, “See, there’s a mighty lion,” or “there’s the crown of a beautiful queen.” He’d tell me about people who travelled among the stars and say that they got to fly inside God’s glow-in-the-dark painting. Space travel was simple to me back then. It wasn’t another field for war; it was beautiful. When I was a little older, he told me something else as we gazed up at the heavens. He said that people made history among the stars, that our whole age was shaped by the decisions they made. Then he turned me to face him and said, “Just as much history was made by people too scared to make the right decision.” Whatever decision I make will have painful consequences, but I know deep down what the right decision is. Not the selfish one, unfortunately.

Once I told Fergus that I was aborting the mission, we discussed the best way to do that. I considered disappearing into space for a while, but I’d only have supplies for eight or nine months, probably fewer with Fergus on board. So I’d only be delaying the end result. Besides, I’m pretty sure there’s a tracking device somewhere on the ship. And we have a wild card that could change everything: this journal. So, we decided to head for Earth. We’ve hit a snag, though. The navigation system on the ship is much more strictly regulated than the one on the Wanderer, Fergus’ ship. I have enough freedom to avoid unexpected obstacles, but the ship largely flies itself via the computer hidden behind that mess we’ve been digging in. It’s a very delicate, complicated system that we’re trying not to ruin. The computer is key, of course, but the wires and gears are also important. I’m pretty sure I made exactly no progress earlier. Hopefully Fergus is having more success.


I went down and assisted Fergus for a while, but when an hour passed and he was still scratching his head, we decided to take a break. Fergus is sleeping and I’m, well, writing. And worrying. I’m not surprised that I had trouble with the nav system, but Fergus is a navigator. That’s what he studied to be. And he’s as lost as I am. I checked the dash when we came up just to make sure we hadn’t knocked something out accidentally. We had some minor shiftings while we worked, but nothing seemed out of place. We’re still hugging our designated course, racing toward Arcadian. What if we can’t reset the nav system? Do we just continue on as if it never happened? I don’t think I have the mental or emotional strength to do that. I’m afraid I would just break, shatter even. There must be something we’re missing. In order to reach the computer, we have to disable the lasers. But the lasers hold certain elements steady, so their function has to be duplicated. Or neutralized…


I am sweaty and covered in grease. I have a nasty singe mark along my forearm. I am exhausted. But I am headed home. We did it! I remembered earlier that the ship has different modes. One of those is Protective Mode, to be used in case of a close solar flare or some kind of space storm. When engaged, that mode retracts all parts that extend from the hull. Including those controlled by the lasers. With Protective Mode enabled, all but one of the lasers shut off. When we broke through the flight controller two hours later, a tremendous shudder went through the ship. I raced up to check the steering just in time to keep us from colliding with a meteor. The narrow escape took my breath away, and then I realized how much navigational control I had. We did it. Fergus finished up in the nav console, and then I turned us around. We’re going to visit Veritas on our way, maybe give Fergus some kind of closure. If he needs it. Maybe I’m the one who needs the reminder, not him. A reminder of why his friends died and why I’m going back. The journey will take us about four months, but we’re headed for Earth. The question is what awaits us when we arrive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Entertainment of the Week: July 21st, 2015

So, I’ve decided to try out a new segment here on The Ink Loft. Every week, on either Monday or Tuesday (I haven’t decided which, yet), I’ll do a quick post highlighting my favorite books, movies, and music of the past seven days. It will be similar in a way to the Reviews in Miniature post that I had last Friday, though not as long. Anyway, it’s going to be a work in progress, so please let me know if you like it or not!

Book of the Week:

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I’m loving Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series. This third book, The Strength of His Hand, has continued the trend. In this book, King Hezekiah comes up against the greatest threat he has ever faced, and in the process come important lessons about the idolatry in one’s own heart. This book was definitely thought-provoking, and I loved seeing it bring the story in the Bible books of Chronicles and Kings to life. Highly recommended for lovers of biblical fiction.

Movie of the Week:

I’ve never seen a Studio Ghibli film before, but a friend introduced me to this little gem and I really liked it. This animated movie, Castle in the Sky, tells the story of a girl named Sheeta, whose necklace puts her at the center of a military operation and an attack by pirates, both looking for the mythical, floating city of Laputa. With the help of a boy named Pazu, she is launched on a fantastical journey into the mysteries of the city. The English version utilizes the voices of Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, and Mark Hamill to take the viewer through a whimsical world filled with flying machines and quirky characters. It also has a gorgeous soundtrack. Though definitely different than what I’m used to, Castle in the Sky is adorable and unique.

Music of the Week:

MercyMe -"Flawless"

We’ve all got our problems that we can’t fix on our own, but, in the cross, we’re made flawless.

Chris Tomlin - "At the Cross (Love Ran Red)"

Though not brand new, this song has made quite an impact on me recently, talking about being washed clean at the cross. In some ways, it has the same message as “Flawless,” but the two songs tell it in completely different ways.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reviews in Miniature: Inkheart, Inside Out, and More

Inspired in large part by a blogger that I follow and also by the fact that full reviews are exhausting to write, I’ve decided to give quick reviews of some recent books and movies that I’ve experienced. Hopefully they’ll be helpful to you.

Reviews in Miniature 1

The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke

 I first read Inkheart more than a year ago and loved it. For some reason, though, I didn’t get around to reading its sequels, Inkspell and Inkdeath, until recently. In this trilogy, Meggie’s father has the gift of reading characters to life from any book. He views it more as a curse, though, since it also sucked his wife into the book Inkheart. Through the course of the trilogy, the book’s author, Fenoglio, becomes an important character himself, Meggie discovers that she, too, has the gift, and everyone finds that the Inkworld has a mind of its own. These books are incredibly thick, and I loved every moment of them. Funke’s characters are deep and layered, and her world is breathtaking. The only caution I have is that, though they’re considered children’s books, I would hesitate to give them to anyone under about thirteen, because of violence and occasional language. Beyond that, though, I highly recommend them as an absorbing and imaginative read.

Inside Out (2015)Inside Out Sadness poster

Gah, I love this movie so much. That is my rather unprofessional summary statement. Anyway, in Inside Out, the latest release from Disney/Pixar, we’re transported into the head of Riley, an 11-year-old girl, to experience the story of her emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. Each is a distinct personality, but they’re all bound together by the collective “we” of Riley. When the young girl’s idyllic childhood is interrupted by a move to San Francisco, chaos erupts in Headquarters. Joy and Sadness are lost in the mind, and Riley quickly spins toward a breakdown. The film has, of course, gorgeous animation and appropriate humor, but its real draw is the emotional impact. I’ve seen it twice, and I was struck both times by its themes about growing up, learning to grieve, and letting go of childish things. Inside Out is very possibly Pixar’s best film ever, and, from me, that’s saying a lot.

Gods and Kings by Lynn Austin

  I love Lynn Austin’s books, but, until recently, I hadn’t dug into her biblical fiction. With Gods and Kings, I rectified that. In this book, Austin tells the story of King Hezekiah, brought up in a land of idol worshippers but destined for God’s work. Bringing together biblical stories of Hezekiah, Zechariah, and Isaiah, Gods and Kings is enthralling and filled me with an incredible sense of history. I’m on book three of the five-book series now, and I’m enjoying every minute. Austin doesn’t shy away from the pain that sin brings, on full display in a land where the One True God is barely noticed while children are sacrificed to Molech. Nonetheless, God’s redemption is painted in a beautiful light, and I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical and/or biblical fiction.

Now, to round out this post, a few albums I recommend:


  Title: Diamonds by Hawk Nelson

  Genre: Christian/Gospel

  Favorite Track: Only You




Title: I Will Follow by Jeremy Camp

Genre: Christian/Gospel

Favorite Track: He Knows




  Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 by Alexandre Desplat

  Genre: Soundtrack

  Favorite Track: Courtyard Apocalypse


What books, movies, and music have you been enjoying lately? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Truth in Space, Part 8

Catch up on the space adventure:

Parts 1 and 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Parts 6 and 7

Truth in Space Part 8

Second test 8% neon remaining. Storm cleared. Orange sky.

Survey planet’s surface.

October 17, 3021

Well, I certainly wouldn’t recommend that anyone settle here. I mean, 8% neon? With such a low concentration of oxygen, that’s quite high. And that’s the strongest filter in existence, to my knowledge! The filter in my helmet is barely as good, making me hesitant to go survey. When I told Fergus that I might not make it back (I was mostly joking), he insisted on coming with me! I tried to refuse, but, since I do have an extra suit, he said I didn’t have any argument that he considers legitimate. I wanted to say he could die, but he just would have given me a long-suffering look. So, apparently, we’re both going. My extra suit fits him terribly, but he’s short enough that he can just barely fasten the important spots. His own suit wore through in several spots more than a year ago, but, thankfully, his boots still work. Mostly. My helmet, of course, has a five years’ newer temperature regulator and filtering system, so…


What my helmets don’t have is a radio. What’s the point when you have no crew and home base is too far away for radio? As it turns out, the lack of that particular feature is quite irritating when one is scouting an unknown planet with an only-slightly-less-unknown man. Yeah, that occurred to me on our hours’ long hike. I barely know Fergus. And, until a few days ago, I didn’t even know he existed. But I think knowing a person’s story is a big part of knowing him. When you’ve heard someone’s deepest pain and biggest regret, you’ve caught a glimpse of their soul. So, despite not knowing Fergus long, I feel deeply connected to him.

We set out at sunrise and stayed out about half an hour after dark. What a long five hours. I took soil samples, dug holes to see if there’s any water deeper down (there’s not), and did some mapping. My feet ache now. And Fergus hurts, too. I could tell by the little wince that kept crossing his face. He’s in surprisingly good shape, though. I don’t know exactly what he did on Vortega, but he’s pretty fit. Skinny, but fit.

When we got back to the ship, he startled me by echoing my own thoughts.

He said, “I never realized before how lonely you can be walking beside someone. I was lonely on Vortega, but it’s much worse being near another human being and unable to communicate with them.”

He said it was enough to drive you crazy. He would know, I suppose. How do you spend five years alone on an empty planet with nearly nothing and not go crazy? The four month journey from Earth to Vortega nearly did me in some days. After launch, I had audio contact with one of the lunar bases for all of a week. Then it was just me. I brought a lot of music and, thankfully, recordings of people talking. I learned Russian, for goodness’ sake! Otherwise I would have gone plum insane.

But, though Fergus has his oddities – his sleep pattern, his lack of communication, his tendency to startle easily, his little tics – he’s not crazy. His mind still spins normally, so to speak. So, I asked him how he kept from going insane. Apparently, he nearly did that first month or so, especially after his watch stopped working. Then, according to him, God gave him a routine. He explored every inch of the planet, moving his camp so that he was never in the cold too long. That routine is the reason his sleep cycle’s strange. For the first four hours (I’m still not entirely sure how he kept time), he worked out, ate, and did mind exercises. Then he would sleep, and when he woke up an hour and a half later, he’d explore and talk to God. Then he’d sleep and repeat.

The one thing he said that stuck out the most was one sentence near the end of our conversation. He looked me in the eyes and said, “I would have gone stark raving mad but for the purpose God gave me.” And that was basically the end of it. Soon afterward, he went to bed, and I haven’t seen him in three hours. I, meanwhile, have been nursing a brandy and staring out at the shadowy, pockmarked surface of Laos. The very idea of him attributing his survival to God’s provision makes me a little bit angry. That’s how people always talked at the little church where I spent elementary school. And I was a model churchgoing child until the summer before eighth grade, when the pastor’s son broke my heart and I realized that God wasn’t actually helping me. When we moved to Virginia the following spring, I went to our new church for two weeks and then never went back. So, no, I don’t have a habit of attributing things to God.

The problem, of course, is that Fergus’ state of mind matches his story. I honestly don’t know how he would stay sane for five years. Unless he’s right… I’m not sure I want to think about that right now. I’m not sure I want to think about anything.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Unseen: The Movement of God



Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Job 42:1-5 “…I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted…”

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.”

All throughout the history of the world, people have felt the touch of the unseen, gliding just under the surface of the explained. Some attribute this to magic and fairies. Others say it’s a cosmic convergence. Still others refuse to admit that it’s real, either never having felt it or not wanting to believe they did.

Yet I know that the explanation lies with God. He works constantly in this world, even when we don’t notice. He moves in a realm that can’t be seen, that can only be touched by faith. But He is always working. I’ve seen so many signs of His Presence: healing in my family, provision during difficult moves, protection for me when my heart got in too deep. How much more must He be working on my behalf than I even notice?

Never let me forget Your work in my life, Lord. Strengthen my faith; help me to understand that You work in ways I cannot fathom, that the world is so much more than what I see. Teach me to be open to Your leading, Lord. Use me and take away my fear.

How do you see God working in your life? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to hear about it!