Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Melodies

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

For many, Christmas is all about warm fuzzy feelings. It's about being with family and having "chestnuts roasted o'er an open fire".  We dream of a white Christmas, remembering the times of old.  These things are not inherently bad, but for Christians this should not be the focus of our the holiday.  True, Christ was probably not born on December 25th, but we remember Jesus' birth for a reason- so that we would not become caught up in a "winter wonderland" but in the "wonders of His love".  We should focus, this season and every season, on the gift of God who sent Christ to the world, coming in the likeness of sinful flesh, to save us.  He came as the perfect, spotless lamb of God, to carry our sins upon him and wash them away with his blood.  We are unworthy of the gift of His life! Oh so unworthy!  But he came to us, meek and lowly, to heal, to bind up the broken, to be the Good Shepherd, to convict and rebuke, and ultimately to suffer and to die for my sin.  For your sin.  I feel helpless to adequately convey how astonishing this is!  He was perfect and he was complete.  God is in no way dependent on us.  He could have wiped away the blight of the human race from the earth with a word, but instead he took compassion on us, vile and hateful as we were, and died for us- while we were yet rejecting him!

So I pray that you and yours would have a wonderful Christmas- a Christmas caught up in the wonder of Christ's sacrifice which washed us white as snow.  Isaiah 1:18b - "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Eternal Kingdom

As some of you may know, this past year I went on a trip to Europe with my Comparative Civilizations class.  Through the trip and the lectures, I was able to see history in more than a surface context, as a manifestation of the human heart, over-arched by God's powerful sub-story. 
I was able to gaze upon the ruins, artifacts and masterpieces that each empire had left behind.  Reviewing the rise and fall of each empire, I was impressed with a sense of futility and fatality.  Most of the world looks at kingdoms such as the Roman Empire and are lost in awe.  I myself have the same feeling when I see the beautiful things people have created by their hands.  We can so easily latch onto this feeling of awe, allowing it to be our sole pusuit.  We long to worship something larger than ourselves, but only when it feeds into the sense that we can somehow attain to the level of what we worship.  No matter how great the object we behold is, we manage to bring ourselves to the center of gratification once again.  We are our own black hole, grasping to other things to feed us and fill us, but in the end, we are still empty.  We feed off the mighty empires of the world, gaining security while acting for our own interests.  Man has accomplished great things on this earth, but at some point we must realize the worthlessness of these accomplishments.

Even the most selfish person realizes that there must be some greater cause, some "greater good" that supersedes themselves.  Nonetheless, people set up elaborate stories for themselves to explain their existence. Darwinian evolution is one of the most powerful stories that has been set up in the past century to explain human life.  I had to laugh when I heard atheistic evolutionists describing the amazing structures and functions of a giraffe, and accidentally saying it has been "amazingly designed"! "Designed"?  The evolutionists laughed at the comment, but clearly, we are endowed with a conscience that we have made every attempt to sear.  We know something that we won't let ourselves believe.  We have a Creator, but if we were to acknowledge Him, we believe we would somehow become less.  Less in our own eyes, yes, but in reality, humility is of great worth in the eyes of the Lord.  Our greatest fear is to have our self-built kingdom torn down around us, because this is where we have invested our thoughts, time, money, and energy.  Yet, the thing we need most of all is to be stripped of our corrupt palace and have our eyes opened to the Eternal Kingdom.
There are few great kingdom on earth that have given glory to God.  Even those who honoured Him in name displayed their true object of worship by their actions.  Always, it comes down to self.  People invest into a society or an ideal because they believe it will fill them.  They believe that it will help them ascend to a new level of excellence, comfort, or whatever it is that they are seeking.  Solomon, the wisest and richest man in history, poignantly exposed the lie that meaning can be found in any human pursuit.  The book of Ecclesiastes begins with the assertion that toil produces nothing of meaning.  In verse 14 or the first chapter he declares that everything done under the sun is "meaningless, a chasing after the wind".  As the intellectuals of Greece, Solomon chased after knowledge and wisdom.  He saw that it gained him nothing, so he turned to wine, pleasure, and folly, in an attempt to drown the meaninglessness of life.  Reflecting on his failure to fill his emptiness, Solomon observed that no matter what one did in life, all experience the same fate- all would die.  Mortality is a key theme in Solomon's treatise.  We cannot bring earthly treasures with us after death.  Throughout Solomon's philosophical discourse, he comes back again and again to the authority and power of God.  Apart from this sovereign Creator, how could the works of any man account to anything?  Truly, they cannot.  The poverty of a man who is reverent before God is more valuable than the riches of a man who oppresses his neighbor and mocks the Lord.

This is the story that I saw woven throughout my study of civilizations and peoples throughout history.  We can so often look with blind admiration on human accomplishments, but they have all failed.  The promise is empty.  The bread of Egypt and Rome has turned to dust.  The great towers have crumbled, and what remains serves to memorialize failure.  The Parthenon and the Coliseum are great boasts, but the empires that were founded upon them have been washed away.  Kingdoms rise and fall.  All of them will fall.  What then can stand, and upon what can we place our hope?  Hope is found in humility. True hope is founded upon the destruction of false hope.  We must abandon our trust in ourselves and in human institutions.  False idoles must be torn down, and with humble hearts we can then turn to a Saviour who will deliver us from ourselves.  He will lift us up on wings like eagles to walk and not faint.  He will establish the work of our hands when it is done in the strenght of the Lord and for His glory.  This is catacomb Christianity - a perfect trust that puts everything in the arms of the good Shepherd.  Hope is not in what is seen, but what is unseen.  It is not nullified by death, but fulfilled!
I pray that through looking at the failed glory stories of countless kingdoms of the world, we would be able to see them pale in comparison with the glory that will never fade.  I pray that we would relinquish the throne of death and be drawn to the true King.  My hope is that while we can enjoy the beauty of man-made things as a reflection of the insurmountable beauty of God, we will be able to look beyond history to the heart of humankind.  The truth is that all hearts are dead and rotting without the resurrection of Christ.  For those who will look to the Author of history, there is new life.  A life rooted in the true vine will be a life free of striving and servitude to self.  As a child of the true King of Creation there is freedom and peace and lasting joy.  May this marvelous King come to dethrone and free the hearts of all who live in bondage to self.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:13-14

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Woman's Highest Calling

The highest calling for Christian women is not to be a wife, mother and homemaker.

Perhaps some of you were a little shocked by that statement.  Good.  That was my intent.  ;)  I will explain what I mean in a moment, but first for a little bit of clarification.

I believe that feminism is a dangerous inversion of a woman's biblical calling.  The biblical calling for women is to fill the God-given role of being a wife, mother, and homemaker.  While not all women will be married, they are still to act as women.  Our society is falling apart because both men and women have lost their sense of place and purpose.  Women want to be self-fulfilled by pursuing careers, but they often end up debilitating men from fulfilling their masculine role, which is to provide and protect.  Many women feel they have the potential and ability to fill less "traditional" roles.  These "career women" seek dominant positions, giving up their purpose as nurturers and managers of their homes to become driven, manipulative, and business-oriented.  The next generation faces the fate of being lost and motherless, passed from school to day care and seeing their parents only after they have been worn out by a busy work-day and just want to plunk down in front of the TV.  There are many other detrimental side-effects to a feminist society, but I will leave that for another time.

In the end, the lie of feminism comes down to pride.  We want to prove that we are just as good or better than men.  We reject the protection and provision of men because we want the pride of doing things ourselves.  Men are rebuffed and scorned when they so much as open a door for a lady.  Little wonder that godly manhood is little to be seen in our culture.  Pride.  We want what seems best to us, rather than what is best for others.  We want to be higher, to be able to support ourselves, rather than letting men have a position of dominance.   A biblical view of relationships shows there is protection when we place ourselves under God-ordained authority.  We can rest in the place in which God has put us, knowing that our authorities are ultimately responsible to Him, whether they be parents, husbands, teachers, pastors, or governments.  There are a few verses that speak strongly into this issue that I believe are worth sharing:

1 Peter 3:1-5a - "Wives, in the same way [as Jesus submitted himself to death] submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty [...] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves."

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12

"This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." Is 66:2   

From these verses, one can see that being a wife and mother is not the highest calling for women.  "What!?" you ask?  Indeed, our HIGHEST calling is to humble ourselves on behalf of others, for the sake of our Lord.  In these verses, God is calling all people, including women, to a life that is poured out for him - a life that strives to emulate the humility and love of Jesus.  I would love to be a wife and mother someday, but my highest calling, now and forever, is to pour my life out in love for Christ.

My prayer is to be shaped into the image of my Savior.

My desire is to become a more transparent vessel of Immanuel.

I long to be consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit and present the ashes of my life as an acceptable aroma to my Lord.  Hebrews 12:18-29 - "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire.'"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Jesus Wants You to Believe in Yourself" and Other Lies about Self-Confidence

Confidence is deceitful.  You may be confident that you can jump off a cliff, flap your arms, and soar through the air, but the truth is that you will plummet like a stone.  Sure, self-confidence may make us feel better about ourselves, and may make us feel more productive and willing to take risks.  But the truth is, we all fail regardless of how good we feel about ourselves.

Many books have been written in the attempt to free us to be content in who we are and to stop us from comparing ourselves to others.  That sounds good when you're talking about externals, but if you look at that from a spiritual angle, it falls flat.  We are NOT inherently good.  God did not choose us because he "believed in us", but because he saw that we are helpless and lost.  Even while his loving arms are reaching out to us, we are blind and cold to him.  By nature we hate God.  We hate what is pure, what is true, and what is good. 

If you are a Christian and think that you must make yourself believe that you have innate faith, beauty, or goodness, you are believing a lie.  Certainly, these attributes are imputed to us through Christ, but not because of any merit of our own.  God did not choose us because we are good enough- we can never be good enough!  He chose us because he loved us.

I often find myself comparing myself to others.  Sometimes the result is that I feel less beautiful, less lovable, or less spiritual... I can make myself miserable with the thought that I am somehow worth less.  Other times I compare myself with others in order to feel better about myself- "At least I would never do that!".  We all do this.  But we are so busy quantifying ourselves in comparison to fellow sinners that we are blind to the perfect righteousness that God requires.  What is the point in saying that we still have a few shreds of flesh left on our bones, when we are all dead anyways?  The life of Christ is the only thing worth comparing ourselves to.  When we see his spotless righteousness in light of our constant failings, our "self-confidence" is shattered.  There is no chance to redeem ourselves by comparing ourselves to others.  That kind of security is simply hanging from a thread.  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God", and thus we are all justly doomed to the same fate- an eternity in hell. 

When will we see that we are dry bones, devoid of the breath of life?  (Ezekiel 37)  Oh, but if we will see and recognize the reality that we were dead but now we live, what joy we find!  Because Christ took our sins upon himself and abolished them, we are resurrected to life with him through the breath of the Spirit.  The identity of a Christian therefore lies not in what we do, but who we are identified with.  And so we no longer look to others, or even to ourselves for identity or security- we are secure in Christ, who is our identity.  We esteem him above all, so that we are no longer concerned with esteeming ourselves.

This is why I marvel, and this is where my security lies: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)

While we were nothing, He became our everything.  Self-esteem, self-image, self-confidence... these are self-centered ideas that lead to disillusionment and discontentment.  But to exalt the Lord and to be confident that His plans and His salvation are unfailing, despite my failed efforts- this is the path to contentment and security.  We find unshakable confidence when we realize that we are worthless, and yet are loved by the one who is forever worthy.

So I challenge you- ask God to help you see your depravity this week, so that you might marvel in the beauty of his redemption and love.

My hope is in the Lord
Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price
of all my sin at Calvary.

No merit of my own
His anger to suppress,
My only hope is found
In Jesus' righteousness.

("My Hope is in the Lord" by Norman J. Clayton)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is He Enough?

Have you ever eaten your favorite food so often that you became sick of it? Have you ever had a good friend who became just plain annoying after you had to be with them for an extended length of time?

We all have. Because of our experiences, we as humans have trouble believing that any material thing, any good thing, any emotion, or any pleasure, will last forever.  We know from experience that no one thing will ever fulfill us, so we go from one thing to another, trying to find something that will last. Quite simply, no good thing in this world lasts forever, including our own lives. And so, when it comes to God, we do not come expecting to be satisfied- we are so used to having to move from one thing to another in order to find something that will fill us. It seems like eternal restlessness has been built into people. We face the reality that nothing in all the earth can quench our innate thirst for that “something” we have yet to find. So we search for that “something” in status, riches, food, drink, relationships- the list is endless. But we do not find it there. We feel that our emptiness is a mortal wound, and so we search fruitlessly for the cure. 

We do not think to find the grand paradox- we do not see the reality that to be the least is to be the greatest. The highest place is at the feet of the King of Kings. We are rich when we sell our filthy rags to gain the Pearl of great price (Matt 13:44-45). When we realize that we are starving, we find that true food is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). True drink flows from the Fountain of Living Water (John 4:13-14). A fulfilling and lasting relationship is found as the child (Gal 3:26-27), the slave (Rom 6:18), and the bride (Eph 5:25-27), of the Father (1 John 3:1), the Master (Matt 6:24), and the Bridegroom (Is 54:5) of our souls!

There is one thing in all the universe that will fully satisfy: his name is Jesus Christ.

There is no searching in Christ- there is no restlessness. His love does not grow tired, stale, or cold. His love is an ever-consuming fire with no beginning and no end. His eternal attributes; his justice, wrath, mercy, and grace are immeasurable.  His thoughts are higher than we could fathom. 

His power is enough to tear down the mountains and empty the seas. He could shake the stars from the heavens as easily as a child's breath could scatter a cloud of dandelion seeds.

Do not turn again to worldly things in the fear that God is not enough. Banish the reflex of ascent, instead resting in Him, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:7 Search and test Him. Plumb the unsearchable depths of His nature and be in awe. Be filled and amazed! Be lost in the worship of His glory. Drown in the spring which will never run dry.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart
   and my portion forever. 
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yummy Pumpkin Scones

I am so glad I decided to take Food Studies this year!  I love baking and cooking, and the incentive of taking a course helps me find time to do it.  Yesterday morning I made this scone recipe.  Were they ever good! I always begin craving pumpkin this time of year.  The spices seem to complement the crisp air so well. 
I decided to cut down on the sugar content, so I made only the spiced glaze, which seemed to be just the perfect amount of sweetness.  I'm planning to make these again tomorrow morning.  This recipe has quickly become a family favorite.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Beautiful Picture

I took this picture a while ago and ran across it tonight.  Hopefully you can read the words of Psalm 32 on the page.  I really don't know what else to say about this passage.  It's such a beautiful, true picture of guilt, conviction, repentance, and the blessedness of forgiveness.  And what beautiful foreshadowing to the atoning sacrifice of Christ there is in the words, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered... in whose spirit is no deceit".  We are not forgiven because of our righteousness or blamelessness- for we are by nature deceitful and objects of wrath- but because we are bought by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God- Jesus Christ.  We are clothed in his pure white garments.  What a blessed Saviour!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When Trials Come

So this is kind of a random post.  About frustrations.  And stress management.  I've been struggling with stress and anxiety a lot this past week.  I have to give it up to God, over and over and over.  But he is so gracious, carrying me on eagles wings, lifting me up to see his beauty when I feel weighed down by the mundane issues of my existence. 
I know I often take on too much... but the real problem is that I usually try to tackle things alone.  I soon realize that the weight is crushing me and I cry out for rescue.  I am beginning to realize that I need to constantly cast my anxiety on him.  I keep clutching my burdens to myself as if I can contain and destroy them, while the reality is that it will only destroy me, and could very well destroy those around me.  I need to remember the command to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) 

One of my main sources of anxiety (the kind the subtly and constantly gnaws beneath the surface) is the question of "what are you doing after you graduate?".  I really have no idea.  It seems that everyone is marching off confidently to become a doctor, a nurse, a mother, a teacher, a missionary, an engineer.  I have dreams, yes, but they are hazy.  I feel no "call" as such.  I often have a sense that I am marching steadily toward the edge of a precipice, to the doom of a purposeless fast food career.  Ok, so that was a bit dramatic.  But honestly, I need to constantly remind myself that God is the one who has written the story of my life before I drew my first breath.  I must rest in the promise that he knows the plans he has for me, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jer 29:11)
I know that God is sufficient, and I rejoice in his provisions.  One of these provisions is a nagging voice in my head that tells me to go out for a walk when I've sat staring at an unfinished English assignment for 2 hours.  There are practical things that can help to refresh my mind and spirit when I feel frustrated and uninspired.  For me that would definitely include exercise, but I also find refreshment and fulfillment in cleaning, baking, or doing laundry.  I love doing it because it's so different from the academic brain work I am chained to most of the day, and it's nice to be able to lighten my mom's load.  Even little things like taking a few minutes away from my work to practice worship songs on the piano, or get up to get a glass of water and meditate on a memory verse, can help phenomenally with my state of mind and productivity rate.  What kind of things do you do to manage stress?

"Even youths grow tired and weary,
       and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the LORD
       will renew their strength.
       They will soar on wings like eagles;
       they will run and not grow weary,
       they will walk and not be faint."  - Isaiah 40:30-31

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Magician's Nephew- Lessons in Human Nature

This, the account of the first human encounter with the world of Narnia, provides one of the most intimate views into the every-day struggles of human nature.  Although The Magician's Nephew has never been my favorite book in the series, I find that I can understand the subtle themes better than when I read it as a child.  Although this is the sixth book published in the Chronicles of Narnia, it functions much like the Genesis creation account, providing important background information that aids in the understanding of the events and conflicts of the other books.

Near the beginning of the narrative, in the dying world of Charn, Digory chooses to act cruelly and selfishly as he pushes Polly and her warning aside in his desire to strike the bell which awakens the evil Jadis, queen of Charn.  Although he initially seeks to justify himself as being enchanted by the inscription under the bell, when he comes face to face with Aslan in Narnia, he is instantly convicted of his wrongdoing, and sees that there is indeed no excuse.  The motif of the "forbidden fruit" is used repeatedly throughout the book.  Just as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, we often wonder why something is forbidden from us.  Why can we not eat from this beautiful tree, and only from the other trees?  Why must we not follow our impulses, when they seem so harmless at the time?  The very reason we ask such questions hints at the conscience God has placed within us.  Con/science, literally, means with knowledge.  God does not punish us for things we do unknowingly- no, we have no excuse because we know from the Law of his Word and the Law written on our hearts that our deeds are evil.  We make excuses only because we know at heart that we are guilty.  There is no excusing or denying our sin when we meet the Lord face to face, as we all must someday.
The creation scene is beautiful, as the sun rises and the voice of Aslan evokes several different, but strong and decisive responses from the group witnessing the scene.  Uncle Andrew is frightened and resents the voice, while the Witch becomes proud and hard in response to it.  The children feel a wonderful stirring in their hearts as they realize its beauty.  The cart-horse becomes joyful and spirited once again, and the cabby is lost in wonder at this voice which to him seems strangely familiar.  We must all react to the voice of God that stirs our soul.  Will you respond by worshiping God, or by hardening your heart and rejecting his call?

As one of the protagonists, Digory is a character with whom we empathize and relate.  After he meets with the Lion face to face, he sees the true nature of his sin and repents of his selfish attitude. In a poignant moment he fleetingly contemplates bargaining to do Aslan's bidding if the Lion would help his mother get well, but instantly realizes that Aslan isn't the sort of person to be "bargain[ed] with".  Instead, he agrees to embark on a quest to help remedy the evil that he brought into this new world.  Overcome with grief for his mother, Digory looks pleadingly into Aslan's face and marvels to see that Aslan's sorrow over his mother's sickness is even greater than his own.  What a comfort to us that "Jesus wept" for the death of a friend, and the sorrow of the mourners (John 11:35).  Many of us know this verse as the shortest verse in the Bible, but it is laced with such tenderness and should be held dearly to us in times of grief.  We do not grieve alone- Christ shares our sorrow.  He has borne the sorrow of the ages, and bears the sorrow of the future as well.  And yet, he cares for us individually, counting the very hairs of our heads.  He desires to heal our hearts and bind our wounds.

I realize that I have touched on many themes in this short synopsis, and I apologize if it is confusing... it will probably make more sense if you have read The Magician's Nephew.  I have one more point to make, and personally I think it is the most important to understand.  In light of the perfect, righteous, loving, and compassionate nature of Christ, who are we?  May I propose that we are all "Uncle Andrews" at heart?  Just to paint a brief picture of what that looks like, let's take a peek at Uncle Andrew's nature.  He believes he has a link into the world of magic- a "high and lonely destiny", if you will- through his possession of the magical rings.  He doesn't even understand them, but yet he uses them to cruelly destroy guinea pigs, and tricks his nephew and Polly into using the rings.  He justifies his actions to Digory by telling him that grown-ups, and especially magicians, don't have to live by the same code of ethics or morality.  When Uncle Andrew is unwittingly dragged to Narnia, he works hard to convince himself that the Narnian animals were roaring rather than speaking, and that Aslan was a "dumb animal" and did not in fact create the world of Narnia, that he eventually believes his own illusion.  Although this poor old man is obviously in a prison of his own making, we can't help but feel a bit sorry for him as he is enslaved by the powerful and evil witch, Jadis, who ironically also says she has a "high and lonely destiny".  How are we like this sniveling, despicable, pitiable man?  In almost every way.  We have seen the glory and perfect design of God's created world, but many close their minds to it.  God is not silent, but if people work hard enough to pretend to hear something else, they can eventually deceive even themselves.  We are utterly depraved and despicable, enslaved by our sin to the power of evil.  We serve the devil, an entity much more cunning and subversive than Jadis, but equally as alluring.  Indeed, Satan masquerades himself as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)  We can be freed only by the power of God, who has power over our sin, over death, and over Satan.  Do not harden your heart or close your ears!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Introduction to the Chronicles of Narnia

Despite the obvious connections with the biblical creation and redemption accounts, CS Lewis did not seek to create a solid allegory.  His purpose, as with his other works of fiction, is to imagine how God would create and redeem a world much different than our own.  In the Chronicles of Narnia, this is done subtly, never disturbing the fantasy world that children are so drawn to.  As I first picked up these books and devoured them at age 8 or 9, I would sometimes almost believe that such a world existed.  Of course, I knew in my head it didn't, but it was a delightful fantasy.  Even as a young child, I could see that the world was a place touched by evil and sorrow.  Surely, within all of us there is- or at least there has been at some point- the desire to believe that there is somewhere better.  As a Christian, I rest my life in the hope that neither this world, nor the imaginary world of Narnia is my home- my home is the place in heaven which Christ is preparing for me.  In my pre-teen and early teen years, I continued to read and re-read these books.  I still find them to be a refreshing and though-provoking read.  As CS Lewis said, "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."

image credit
As I grew older, the stories of talking animals, battles, and the glorious power of Aslan still entertained me, but I found myself drawn more and more to the meaning behind the words.  I noticed the brief notes and comments that Lewis placed unobtrusively throughout the text, and realized that they had a deeper meaning that often corresponded with the lessons I was learning in my study of the Bible.  Occasionally, I noticed that some ideas seemed to oppose biblical principles.  So, although I could not agree with 100% of what Lewis said, I was learning important lessons.  I knew that I should learn from and enjoy what I read, but that I must examine it by what I knew God said was true.  I admire CS Lewis for his skill at writing, apologetics, and rhetoric, but I have realized that no one person is entirely worthy of trust or emulation besides Christ.  That disclaimer and warning aside, I will, in my next post, embark on my purpose of unearthing an important lesson on battling evil and temptation that can be found in The Magician's Nephew.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Modern Message From the Past

Sorry, no Narnia notes yet.  I'm actually still reading the first book (for the 16th time- no, I'm not exaggerating).  

Instead, I'd like to share a short excerpt that was on the back of the church bulletin today.  It struck me- not just because it so accurately portrays the malaise of today's church, but because a sermon written on October 7, 1888, can so perfectly diagnose the church on October 3, 2010.  Words of truth are indeed timeless.

This excerpt from Charles Spurgeon's sermon isn't lengthy, but it is incredibly eye-opening.  I challenge you to take a minute or two and read it.  How important is Truth to you? 

No Compromise- Exposing the [Post]modern Missional Strategy

This is the suggestion of the present hour: if the world will not come to Jesus, shall Jesus tone down his teachings to the world? In other words, if the world will not rise to the church, shall not the church go down to the world? Instead of bidding men to be converted, and come out from among sinners, and be separate from them, let us join with the ungodly world, enter into union with it, and so pervade it with our influence by allowing it to influence us. Let us have a Christian world.

To this end let us revise our doctrines. Some are old-fashioned, grim, severe, unpopular; let us drop them out. Use the old phrases so as to please the obstinately orthodox, but give them new meanings so as to win philosophical infidels, who are prowling around. Pare off the edges of unpleasant truths, and moderate the dogmatic tone of infallible revelation: say that Abraham and Moses made mistakes, and that the books which have been so long had in reverence are full of errors. Undermine the old faith, and bring in the new doubt; for the times are altered, and the spirit of the age suggests the abandonment of everything that is too severely righteous, and too surely of God.
The deceitful adulteration of doctrine is attended by a falsification of experience. Men are now told that they were born good, or were made so by their infant baptism, and so that great sentence, "Ye must be born again," is deprived of its force. Repentance is ignored, faith is a drug in the market as compared with "honest doubt," and mourning for sin and communion with God are dispensed with, to make way for entertainments, and Socialism, and politics of varying shades. A new creature in Christ Jesus is looked upon as a sour invention of bigoted Puritans.

That is what "modern thought" is telling us; and under its guidance all religion is being toned down. Spiritual religion is despised, and a fashionable morality is set up in its place. Do yourself up tidily on Sunday; behave yourself; and above all, believe everything except what you read in the Bible, and you will be all right.

Be fashionable, and think with those who profess to be scientific—this is the first and great commandment of the modern school; and the second is like unto it—do not be singular, but be as worldly as your neighbours.

The new plan is to assimilate the church to the world, and so include a larger area within its bounds. By semi-dramatic performances they make houses of prayer to approximate to the theatre; they turn their services into musical displays, and their sermons into political harangues or philosophical essays—in fact, they exchange the temple for the theatre, and turn the ministers of God into actors, whose business it is to amuse men.

This, then, is the proposal. In order to win the world, the Lord Jesus must conform himself, his people, and his Word to the world. I will not dwell any longer on so loathsome a proposal.  In this fallen world, nothing is quite as evil as religion that departs from the truth.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Trip Highlights

Although I've been back from vacation for several weeks already, it's taken a while to settle back into the school routine and find time to do a quick post.  I thought it would be nice to compile some of the highlights from our road trip.

The museum in Newport
Becoming positively stuffed at a buffet in Montana!

Mountains in Glacier National Park
Mountain goats in Glacier.

We all enjoyed the beautiful scenery and the peaceful time as a family.  Unfortunately school became pretty crazy once again as soon as we got home, which is why it's been so long since my last post.  I would like to start posting again a few times a week.  Stay tuned for some musings about CS Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia in anticipation for the release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in December.  You can check out the trailer for that here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Montana Skies

It's hard to believe that this time of relaxing and recharging will soon be over!  I don't want it to end, but at the same time, with every mile we drive closer to home, I begin to miss it more... If you can believe it, I'm already making plans for cleaning the house, making a rag quilt, remodeling my room, and attacking the garage and shed.  Even stranger yet, I've hardly picked up a book this vacation!  Usually I'm reading whenever I get the chance, but the ever-changing scenery seems to have occupied my eyes most of the time.

Since internet access on our travels has been rather sporadic, I haven't been able to keeping up with blogging, so I'll just share some of the highlights from our travels thus far.

This lovely lady was part of the surprisingly extensive visitors center/museum in Newport, WA.
Slightly amusing... click on the picture to read the caption

I love love LOVE old stuff like this!!

They had tons of replica buildings outside... this is the inside of a settler's cabin.

From Newport we drove through Idaho to Missoula, Montana, where we camped for the night and did some shopping- and rejoiced in the low prices and lack of sales tax!

The next day we were on again for White Sulfur Springs, Montana.  At first were were a little skeptical as our devious GPS, affectionately dubbed Cruella, led us through a dismal, run-down, mobile home park and a gravel plant on the way to the campground.  Once we arrived at the correct location however, our apprehensions melted away.  When they call it "Big Sky Montana" they aren't kidding!  The western spirit, the wind, the blue skies and cotton ball clouds, captured my heart in no time flat.  If you ever travel through White Sulfur, a town of about 1000, a mile above sea level, don't cheat yourself by saying there's nothing to do.  Take a walk through the sleepy main street, chat with residents of the surrounding neighborhood, look through the "castle", or drive the backroads, simply soaking in the rustic, wild Montana charm. 

Isn't God a brilliant artist?
I found a friendly group of horses to stop and chat with. ;)

That's all for tonight!  Next will be featured Glacier National Park.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vacation- Day 1 and 2

I'm sooo happy to be done summer courses!!  Friday was a whirlwind of handing in last minute assignments and writing my math final, and then going to see the local play Little Women in the evening.  On Saturday, my mind was still whirling!  It was nice to be able to do some manual tasks, like packing the trailer, cleaning, and doing laundry, but my brain felt absolutely fried... I was feeling a bit better by Sunday, but still a little dizzy and nauseous.  Probably had something to do with the adrenalin crash, and maybe fighting a flu bug.

Thankfully I'm feeling back to normal today, in beautiful Snoqualmie.  The drive here was fairly uneventful, and despite the gray skies, it has been a very refreshing and relaxing change.

Here are some pictures from the past couple days:
Me with my much needed coffee from Jack-in-the-Box on our way down... unfortunately, it was a little weak. ;)

Me and my little? brother      

Gorgeous flowers that we saw on a recent walk
My mom was the first to spot this cute little salamander camouflaged in the grass. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Power of the Word

This is awful!  I've been so busy with trying to meet school deadlines, but I need to write at least a short post.  Instead of writing something completely new, I'll share something I wrote about a week ago.  Not polished poetry, to say the least, but something anyways.  Looking back over these words, I am convicted once again and made aware of the necessity of spending time reading my Bible.  Indeed, those words are sustenance for my soul!

His Word is my sustenance.
It strengthens and convicts,
Rescues and lays open,
Reveals folly and gives wisdom.

It is a sword and a mirror.
It illuminates the Way of life.
It is a staff that leads from sin's dark snare
to the green pastures of righteousness.

It breaks through lies with love's true light.
Not a word will perish, not a word will fail.
Thrown from the loving hand of God these word fly true
to break and bind my heart.

Their bitterness is a sweet, sweet wound.
I will eat of them, for in them is found life.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lessons from an Atheist

While reading Answers magazine the other day, I stumbled upon an article that is quite the call to action.  This video is a very sobering account from an atheistic comedian who was given an incredible gift, and contains some good lessons for communicating with people who seem hostile to God.
*Disclaimer* Penn's other YouTube clips are not recommended for viewing, due to their crude and profane content.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Remember and be Enraptured

Looking up at the sunset one summer evening, turning the sky to gold; magnifying itself, as every other thing, every blade of grass, becomes immersed in ever-darkening shadow.  The clouds, soft victory banners in crimson and gold, announce the Sun's glorious departure. There is no helping but to glory in the moment.

In times like these I feel that I have found my place, that I am beginning to realize how small I truly am.  My mind knows that even the piercing beauty of creation; the deafening roar of thunder, the heights of the stars, the depths of the mighty oceans- can never be more beautiful, mighty, lofty, or deep than the Lord.  My soul confirms this truth, making the beauty seen even more beautiful as my mind expands in the knowledge of a great and unimaginable hope.  God is greater than anything my perception or even emotions can experience, but even still, I find that God can use created things to deepen my understanding of Him.  In the resplendency of a beautiful sunset or a glorious mountain range, I am swept away, not only by the things I behold through my eyes, but the deeper truth that I hear whispered in my soul.  "I am greater far; I am more beautiful still".  And knowing this truth, I treasure the memory of that beauty as a shadow of what is to come.

I have noticed that God often breaks through to my heart in the times when I come to a new realization of my smallness and inadequacy.  Leaving for Europe from the Seattle airport back in March brought me one of those realizations.  I was embarking on a journey much larger than me, with people I had never met.  I didn't know what was ahead, but God did, and I could rest in that.  With those thoughts in my mind, I looked down at the people below.  How small they were!  And how numerous!  And here I was far up in the sky, so separate from their struggles and joys.  It came to me that God sees everyone at once, just as I was seeing those hundreds of scurrying people below.  I could be - should be- seen just as another minuscule ant on the pavement, but instead God looks into my heart and loves me.  And not only me, but the whole world!  It is such an elementary truth of the faith, but at that moment it blasted through to reality for me.  I go through life at times as if I am the center of the universe, but in reality, I am just a speck of dust traversing this little blue marble.  At the same moment as these truths were sinking in, God was impressing his love upon me.  Despite the smallness and self-centered atttitude of the human race, he loved us and died for us, in order to fill these poor earthen vessels with the living, breathing, Spirit of God.  Marvelous! 

Sadly, these moments of spiritual realization come far too seldom.  There are times when I am swept away in the monotony and busyness of the everyday.  I dutifully take in knowledge of the truth, but I do not do it in Spirit.  This past week, God has been impressing two themes into my mind: to "Remember", and to be "Enraptured".  Reading through Exodus, I was confronted with the constant mandates to build monuments of remembrance to the faithfulness of God.  Remembering helps to keep our faith alive in the desert.  It reminds us that God's promises are not void.  It reminds us that his love is true and constant, regardless of the dimness created by blinding circumstances.  Remembering keeps us looking ahead with childlike faith.  This childlike faith helps us go through life with wonder, reveling in beautiful truths that we do not fully understand.  And this is where the word "enraptured" comes in.  In Revelation 2:3-5, Jesus delivers words of praise and rebuke to the church of Ephesus. "You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first."  In Matthew 18:2-4, Jesus has some humbling and wonderful words to say: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
I will conclude with a quote by Samuel Chadwick  "Why does the church stay indoors?  They have a theology that has dwindled to philosophy, in which there is not thrill of faith, no terror of doom and no concern for souls.  Unbelief has put out the fires of passion, and worldliness garlands that altar of sacrifice with the tawdry glitter of unreality"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

As In a Mirror

How do we know God?

By looking at a picture of a person, do you know them? Can you have a relationship by only knowing the outside of a person? The body is not the person. The person is the spirit within, the thoughts and dreams and spiritual attributes. The true person guides the deeds and motions of the body- without the spirit, the body is dust, and without life. To know a person then, there must be a communication of the things of the heart.

God, on the other hand, is spirit. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) While it is true that the church is his body on earth, (1 Cor 12:27) we are imperfect human beings, while Christ, the head who is physically unseen, is perfect. He is fully alive, truly a person, unencumbered by the flesh. And yet Jesus came to wear the weakness of a human body. He became as dust to be glorified once again, bringing believers to eternal life through the glory of his resurrection!

How do we know this God? Can we see Him through His creation? Certainly, in a small way. But creation is such a small and fallen reflection of who God is. People are the only beings made “in the image of God”. But even at that, we are only created beings. By sin, the image of God in us has been all but destroyed, and by Adam's fall the whole world is subjected to sin's destructive influence. God is not his creation, any more than an artist is his painting. An artist paints a landscape, but by looking at that painting afterward would you know the artist? That is, would you have a relationship with the artist, with the artist knowing you as well as you knowing the artist? Art is certainly an expression of the soul of the artist, but it is not the artist himself. Likewise, God expresses part of who he is through nature, but appreciating the artwork doesn't translate to knowing what the artist looks like. If you already know the artist, you may find that you know them better after studying their work. You won't get far doing it the other way around because you will only be imagining what the artist is like. The essential part of the relationship, direct communication, will be lacking.

The communication that is so essential to truly knowing God is found through His Word. He has written a letter to all who will read it, and has given an interpreter, the Holy Spirit, to help us understand and live out those words. We are certainly well equipped. Not only are we freed from sin's lordship, but we have a letter filled with assurance and love, the Holy Spirit who is God living in us, and a promise of eternal life with God.

Why is it so hard to feel God's presence? Why do we find the Bible so dry and worldly entertainment so appealing? Why do we worry about our future on earth and fail to be excited about our inheritance in heaven? Why do we concern ourselves over our grades and salaries more than the salvation of the lost? May I propose that our relationship with God is lacking. We fail to listen and don't understand why he isn't speaking. What is our priority today? Is the station of our heart tuned in to his, or is the static of this world weakening the signal? Perhaps we need to become familiar with his voice once again by reading the words he has written to our hearts through the Bible.

May this be our cry! “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” (Psalm 119:18-20)

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)