Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finding Beauty in Hidden Mysteries

I've never met anyone who doesn't like the suspense of a good mystery novel.  I love trying to figure it out before the characters in the book, putting together the evidence to find a logical solution.  We love being caught up into the intensity of an intricately tangled plot, working to untangle it before the solution unfolds.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we want to understand things, we can't always wrap our minds around spiritual things.  If we could explain everything to do with God, wouldn't we ourselves become god?  We are but a small part of God's creation, and as such, there must be things beyond the scope of human comprehension.   It is impossible to experience a sense of wonder and awe towards anything that fits perfectly into human computations and formulas.

Somehow, there is great comfort in knowing that God is bigger than I can understand.  There are so many things to which I must simply say, with great joy, "I don't know".  The trinity is one such concept that I can't wrap my mind around - how can three equal one?  For some time I wrestled with the subject of predestination - how can people be held accountable for their lack of belief if they have never been called?  What relief there is in the faith that God is big enough to do things beyond our understanding, acknowledging humbly and joyfully that we cannot fit the answers inside our minds.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
   “What no eye has seen,
   what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
   the things God has prepared for those who love him— 

                                                                           - 1 Corinthians 2:6-9

Praise God that His thoughts are bigger than human logic, reasoning, and mathematics.  Many people reject Christianity because it is a religion based on faith.  It is a simple faith that trusts even when so much is unknown and uncertain.  It holds on even when faced with extreme hardship and persecution- when nothing seems to make sense, faith still remains.  This is weak and foolish in the eyes of the world.  What kind of God would choose to create such a history as ours?  Why would He allow us to rebel against Him, only to punish His Son on our behalf?  Better to ignore the possibility that such a God exists than to give in to such foolishness, many say.  Ah, but on the contrary, it is foolishness to trust only in the scope of the fallible, limited bounds of human wisdom.  To say one cannot understand and therefore will not believe is fatal if indeed there is a truth greater than one's understanding.  This manner of thought is so indicative of our postmodern era, in which we are always seeking, always looking for answers, but never trusting them when they come.  I think of a child being told not to put a paper clip in the electrical outlet.  They cannot remotely understand the concept of electricity, and unfortunately, many will listen compliantly to the concerned entreaties of their parents, and go right back to playing with those fascinating holes in the wall.  The fate of those who turn from divine revelation is to one day come face-to-face with the inescapable majesty of God.  For them, that unfathomable Power will prove fatal indeed.

Truth then, lies not only in what is seen, nor in what is known, but what is real.  "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Whiter than Snow

The snow fell softly, brightly, and steadily on Wednesday night.  I looked out at 11:30pm, having been reading my Bible, and was startled to see how light it was outside.  Even the smallest light was magnified by the snow until the slumbering world was illuminated as far as I could see.  Everything jarring and ugly about our yard, everything that we wanted to fix or clean up- all the darkness of that winter night disappeared under the bright beauty of the new-fallen snow. 

So often, my efforts to act righteously end up looking like a dark and barren place, devoid of any beauty or life.  I cannot rid myself of failure, and despite my best efforts, I am infinitely separated from perfection.  So often I feel inescapably crushed beneath the weight of inadequacy.  I will never be able to please God, no matter how noble my intentions may be.  Even if I manage to do something amazingly selfless or heroic, my true nature is that of a sinner.  And yet, hope beyond hope, something marvelous has been promised me!  Even I myself can be covered and purified as with a white blanket of snow, dazzling in the light of the moon.  

    "Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
         Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
                                                        (Psalm 51:7 NASB)

Hyssop branches are a significant symbolism of the Exodus account, where they were used to brush the blood of the Passover lamb upon the door posts of those who trusted in God.  That blood was the ransom for the life of the first-born son, a shadow of Christ's spilled blood, the ransom for all who believe.  No longer are we held under the tyranny of trying to achieve perfect righteousness in our own strength, nor do we need to conduct endless rituals to atone for sin.  We are washed and made perfect in the sight of God, once and for all, by the blood of Jesus Christ!

 "For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9:13-15 NASB)
Thanks be to my God and Father that when he looks at me, he sees his Son.  And so, in the end, I will stand with the saints before the throne of God, praising the One who has given me everything.  How terrible it would be if the rags of my self-made righteousness still proudly hung about me- how terrible if He turned his face away: "I never knew you". (Matt 7:23)  But by His grace, I am clothed in the pure white robe of Christ's righteousness.  How often do I truly feel like I am truly pure, spotless, and perfect?  Could it possibly be me who was spoken of in Revelation 19:8?  "It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." Praise God that he has shown mercy, giving me a spotless beauty of which I remain undeserving!  And yet, by the undeserved scorn of the cross, I have been ransomed "to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light." (Col 1:12 NASB)