Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love pt. 2

So, my last note seemed (to me, at least) very disjointed and incomplete. Thinking about it, I realized that this was because I had tried to focus on the human aspect of love without addressing the divine aspect, which was, in hindsight, a ridiculous thing to attempt.

We were created in the image of a loving God, a God who is, in fact, love, according to 1 John. When we fell, we retained this image, albeit a now-broken, imperfect image. When we love, we are conforming more fully to God, becoming more like that image we were created in. However, even unfallen we were but images of God, not gods ourselves, and our fallen status further compounds this. All this to say that every single instance of human love is but a shadow, a distorted reflection in a broken mirror of the great love God has for his prodigal children.

I think this is why God gave us love, and people to be the objects of this love. Paul tells husbands to love their wives "as Christ loved the church." This goes both ways. If husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, that means that when a husband really loves his wife as he should, he experiences firsthand a shadow of the love Christ has for us, his church and his bride. Isn't that crazy? And it doesn't stop there. God is our Father; numerous passages attest to this. When a father (or mother) loves a child, he or she is experiencing a small portion of this divine love God the Father bears for us, his children. When we love, not only do we become more like God, but we experience in a small way the love God the Father has for us as His children, and the love Christ, God the Son, has for us as his bride, his beloved. This, to me, is mind-blowing.

Now I move to the other side of the coin. If, when we love rightly, we love as God loves, what happens when we experience pain arising from this love? What does that say about the pain a parent feels when a child runs away from home, scorning the parent? I am not a parent. Most of you reading this probably aren't either (most, not all. I'm pretty sure my mom reads this: hi, mom!). Picture this: your own child, that you have loved and raised and taken care of, as soon as he has the chance, betrays you, spits in your face and turns away from you. Imagine the pain you would feel. Then magnify this to infinity, and you have an idea of the sadness that God felt when He " was grieved in His heart" and said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth... for I am sorry that I have made them" (Genesis6:5-7). If you are married (or hope to be some day) imagine the pain of having the love of your life turn from your open arms and run, claiming never to return. Magnify this pain until you can think of nothing else, and you may come close to the pain that caused Christ to weep when he caught sight of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41).

Think about that. If you're anything like me, you don't think about it enough. Every time we sin, we are children rebelling against their Father, an unworthy bride running away from her infinitely worthy Lord. I leave you (and myself) with this thought: what we do, every tiny action we make, has consequences greater than we can imagine. Either we act in accordance with God's will, and please him, or we don't, and we grieve and disappoint our Creator, who knew and loved each one of us before we were made.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Undeserved Love

So, this coming Sunday is Valentine's Day. So I thought I'd write a note about the basis for Valentine's Day- love. I'm really getting stuck trying to figure out a good, funny (but not too funny, nor merely begging for laughs with some cheap joke) intro, so I'm just going to dive right in. Note that the love I am primarily addressing here is love between humans, which is in turn possible because of the love God has for us. I am not here attempting to write about this love God has for us, except in so much as it pertains to this unmerited gift of love.

Have you ever stopped to think about love? Have you ever wondered why we fallen humans can experience this divine thing? Love is not natural to fallen humanity; if you want proof, look at Genesis. Adam and Eve, the first two people, the two members of the first marriage, were in the garden, and although the Bible doesn't tell us much about life pre-fall, we have every reason to believe that Adam and Eve loved each other, living together in the truest form of wedded bliss. Then the Fall happened, and within minutes, hours at most, of this tragic event, Adam and Eve have fallen so far from this state of love that Adam's first reaction, when faced with the sin he committed, is to blame it on Eve. To have fallen so far, so fast, that instead of taking the blame for the person with whom he is literally "one flesh," he turns on her, attempting to divert the wrath of God from him to her... it boggles the mind. Love was natural for pre-fall humanity. Post-fall, love is unnatural, and every single instance of love in this fallen world is an example of grace straight from God.

We do not deserve this grace, this unmerited gift of God. We rejected the love of God in the garden, and in turn lost the natural ability and right to feel love ourselves. God chose to give us the ability to love again, the ability to feel a small portion of what He feels for us. 1 John tells us that love is from God, and that God is love. Because of this, I believe that when we love, we are being more like God than at any other time. Isn't that incredible? God gives us the ability to feel love and, in loving, be like Him. The next time you think about someone you love, whether it be a parent, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or just a good friend, think about that love for a minute. Remember that when we love, we are being like God. And thank Him for the opportunity to love.

This didn't exactly turn out how I had thought it would. Of all my notes and blog entries, it seems the most disjointed and unexplained. For this I apologize. I would love to clarify anything that is unclear, or discuss anything you think to be incorrect. Feel free to post a comment, whether you liked it or not.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Where do we metaphorically draw the symbolic line?

A long time ago, it was a a practice of a certain group of people to, in times of special worship, bow down and pray before a wooden, gold-leafed box. This group of people considered the box, which had been expensively and lavishly decorated, so holy that it was unlawful to touch it. They claimed that the voice of their god came from the box, and that at times he would meet with them on the box. They carried it on poles, because it was said that if you touched it, you would die because of the great power and holiness with which this box had been imbued. They even carried it into battle in the belief that it would affect the outcome in their favor. Sound crazy yet? Does it seem like the the superstitious beliefs of some primitive tribe of aborigines? I tell you this, that if it is crazy, it's crazy in the same crazy-awesome way that the Incarnation is crazy, or the creation of the world. Because this group of people, as you the reader has probably already guessed, is none other than the nation of Israel, the Chosen People of God.

In the Old Testament, God worked and gave visible signs of his presence in physical objects. The Ark of the Covenant is a good example, as is the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple in Jerusalem. In each instance, God's presence is made tangible in a special, remarkable way. God demonstrates his presence in the Ark of the Covenant by literally striking dead any who touched it. The Ark was holy, and unholy people cannot touch holy things without death. When the tabernacle was completed, the glory of the Lord literally filled the tabernacle, and even Moses was unable to enter the tent because of the glory of God filling it. Likewise, when the great Temple at Jerusalem was finished and the Ark was brought in, a cloud filled the Temple, and "the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD" (1 Kings 8:11). These were not merely symbols of the presence of God. God was really, in a powerful, actual way, present in these physical objects. The glory of God literally filled the temple in a way not true of anywhere else.

Given this, why do Christians today have this fixation on symbols? Rather, why does a thing's status as a symbol disqualify it from having any actual power and real significance? Why is the bread and wine (well, crackers and grape juice at most churches) of communion merely a symbol of us partaking of Christ's body and blood? (I'm not going to get into baptism here, as that would require a far larger note and much more research and thought on my part). The tabernacle was a symbol of things to come. But it was also, at the same time, the very real dwelling place of the Most High on earth.

Now, communion is clearly a symbol of many things. I am not arguing against that. What I am arguing against is this idea that because it is symbolic, it is only symbolic. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, says that whoever eats and drinks unworthily "eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Cor. 11:29). Can something that is purely symbolic, with no actual power, really bring judgment upon a person? Paul goes on to say that "that is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." People died because they had an improper attitude towards communion. It reminds me of 2 Samuel 6, where Uzzah touches the Ark to steady it and is struck dead instantly.

I am not saying that the crackers we use for communion, as crackers, have any inherent power. What I am saying is that, when we take them for communion, they become, through the supernatural workings of God, something more than just crackers, just like the Ark was more than just a wooden box. I believe that when I take communion with a right heart, God uses the physical objects of communion to literally and powerfully impact and affect me on a spiritual level, not just as a reminder or a symbol.

You are, of course, welcome to disagree with me if you want. I have not studied near enough to be completely confident in my position. I welcome discussion on the matter, and in the quite likely event that you see me on a regular basis, I would love to discuss this further.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Familiarity-The Death of Excitement

I checked G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man out of Biola's library yesterday, and I just finished the introduction. He speaks about familiarity, and how all too often with fallen man familiarity leads to fatigue. As an example of this fatigue, Chesterton says that if we could just see the familiar story of Christ in a new light, we would see how truly incredible and supernatural that story is. He puts the story of Christ in the terms of an oriental religion, and the results, to me at least, are mind-blowing. He says, "We should admire the chivalry of the Chinese conception of god who fell from the sky to fight the dragons and save the wicked from being devoured by their own fault and folly." It's not quite as impressive separated from the rest of the page, but I think it still works pretty well. Is what Christ did any less impressive than this Chinese god Chesterton speaks of? Of course not. But I'll bet a chill ran down your spine as you read about the god who fell from the sky to save the wicked from themselves.

I wish that I could always see the story of Christ for what I know it to be, the awesome story of a God who saw his beloved in chains, being led to the fires of hell, and cried out to his beloved, "I will save you." It is the story of a high and mighty God who become low and weak to save his beloved, the story of the Living One who died so that his beloved might live. It is, without a doubt, the greatest story ever told, and it actually happened. To us.

But I am familiar with this story, and I know how it ends, so I would rather play video games than read the Book of Books, which the God of the universe wrote through dozens of human authors over thousands of years. I would rather check my Facebook than talk to the Creator, who knew me and loved me in the darkness before created things.

Now, those of you who know me (probably all two of you reading this) will know that I don't have anything against facebook or video games. But there's a problem when I see either of those things (or anything) as more exciting than meditating on the ultimate love story between Creator and creation, a Father and His children, and a Lover and His beloved. What's even crazier is that the story is all these things at once, and more! And we can read about it, reading the very words of God, and we, fallen, sinful, and filthy, can speak to, and be heard by, the Most High! I try, every day, to remind myself of these things, to see them as they really are. I don't know if I ever will see them on this side of eternity "face to face," as Paul says, but at least we can strive to see ever more clearly through the grace of God.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


So, this is my first blog ever. Cool. I'm pretty sure that this blog will only ever be read by people who already know me, and only in my wildest dreams do I anticipate someone I do not know visiting this blog, except by accident. Given this, I believe an introductory blog to be unnecessary, but should it become necessary, I guess it will be done. but for now, here's...the blog.

Flyleaf, in their latest CD Memento Mori, has a song called This Close. I was listening to it the other day, and the very first lines stuck in my head.
"I had a dream that we were dead/ But we pretended that we still lived./ With no regrets we never bled/ And we took everything life could give/ And came up broken, empty-handed in the end."

The rest of this note is going to state two things: the first is that the secular life–indeed, the whole of secular history–is just one attempt after another by the dead to pretend that they are alive. The second is possibly even more sad–that all too many of us who are actually alive, spend our time acting as though we are still dead.

The first of my statements is to me self-evident. On the day that Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they died, and we have all inherited that death. We are born dead, still-born in the truest sense, and, left to our own devices, we would never know what it is to be alive. Ezekiel paints a chilling picture of mankind without God; "The Spirit of the Lord... set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry" (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Although God is specifically showing Ezekiel Israel, it is just as true for all of us. We are the furthest possible we can be from life–we are bones, very dry and very dead. And, like bones, we have no power to bring ourselves back to life. But that doesn't stop us from doing what we see to be the next best thing. We pretend that we still live. Can anyone argue that this is not what the world has been doing since the fall of man? All of what we ironically call life is spent merely pretending to be alive, presenting the facade of life to all the other dead, in the hope that eventually we will fool even ourselves.
This is a vain hope. We are dead, and we know ourselves to be dead, and all our pretense otherwise is just that; pretense. We are like children pretending to be adults, doing what they think are adult things, drinking their coffee and driving to work, except that even children know that make-believe cannot last forever. We think that, if we feel pleasure, it will be like being alive, and so we fill our lives with every kind of pleasure we can think of–and afterwards, when the pleasures are gone, we find our bones still just as dry.

I am a Christian. As a Christian, I have been brought to life by Christ; sinews and flesh have covered my dry bones, and life has entered into me where before there was only death. As Christians, we are the only ones who are alive in this world, and God wants to use us to bring still more people to life. How tragic, then, that many of us, myself included, spend so much time acting as though we are still dead. We have access to the only truly lasting and fulfilling pleasure in this temporary, disappointing world, and we turn away from it. We leave the land of the living and willingly enter back into the valley of death, seeking pleasure where we should know there is no pleasure to be found. We are like the prodigal son, only instead of leaving the pig pen and running back to our father, we leave our father's house to dine with swine.

But we don't have to be like this. We are alive in Christ–we are new creations. We are no longer slaves to sin–let's live like it. Let God use us to bring life to the dead, and in doing so let us live more fully in Him who died for us.
I know that if I was able, in my heart of hearts, to fully believe what I am writing, I would sin a lot less. So I ask for prayer. To everyone reading this, I ask for your prayers to open myself more fully every day to the life that is in Christ, and every day to let more of my dead, sinful self go.