Thursday, March 31, 2011

Musings on a Candle

Last Saturday at 8:30pm was Earth Hour.  My Dad proposed turning all the lights on and flashing them on and off for an hour.  :P  Our electricity comes from a hydro dam, so really it probably produces more pollution to burn a candle than a light bulb (although I suppose you'd have to take disposal and production of light bulbs into account).  To be honest, I think the whole "green" movement is slightly ridiculous and Global Warming is a huge hoax. :P  That being said, I do believe in being good stewards of our planet.  I love candlelight though, so I convinced my family to turn the lights off for the evening.  I used a candle to light the way to bed that night, and in the darkness of the room, it illuminated the words of scripture as I read my Bible and journaled.  Not relying on electricity gives you a whole new appreciation for light - and it set me to musing about light and dark. 
Not only are candles beautiful, but they happen to be pretty effective at chasing away the darkness.  Without electricity, the darkness becomes that much more tangible, and the light becomes that much more appreciated.  I couldn't help but think of scriptural references to light... like Jesus saying in John 8:12, "I am the Light of the world."  Or Him saying to us, His followers, that we are also the "light of the world." (Matt 5:15)  He followed the proclamation with this exhortation: "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

I think sometimes we forget the depth of the darkness of the world, because our lamp is hidden under a bowl.  I contemplated my small candle by my bedside and saw that the pool of light was produced by a small flame - a tiny fire consuming the wick.  The Holy Spirit is compared with fire in the New Testament.  We are told, "do not quench the Spirit."  If we do that, we will no longer be light, because He is the fire within us that is the light source... Anyways, those were just some musings I had about my little candle. :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dying of Cancer

Western society is dying of cancer - and most of us don't even know it. North America is falling.  We are being ravaged by a terminal illness - the Cancer of apathy.

The church is not immune to this disease; indeed, professing Christians are often among the most affected.  In North America, the true church is smaller than ever, while mega-churches run by emergent leaders like Rob Bell, Rick Warren, and Joel Osteen are drawing in millions of seekers. 

The Western church is standing on false promises and promoting a false gospel.  Will you and I sit idly by while so many are being consumed by their appetites?  There are so many who are truly hungering to be filled and healed.  Our society is covering a fatal wound with the band-aid of health-and-wealth teaching.  So many are proclaiming that we have all the power we need within ourselves, and that we must believe that God will give us everything our hearts desire - because we deserve it.  Dear friends, we deserve nothing - nothing but judgment and an eternity in hell.  Christ truly is the only Healer and Redeemer.  The only true freedom comes in giving up everything and grasping onto the one saving truth that God loved us enough to ransom us with the blood of His Son.  We are not beautiful.  He is.  We are not entitled to wealth or health - but God has granted us the greatest treasure: the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us not be "godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done." (Hebrews 12:16-17)  So many have sold their eternal inheritance for things that will perish, and have likewise perished.  May it not be so for us!

"Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."(Hebrews 12:12-13) 

God has blessed us with a great abundance of material things, but we must throw off everything that seeks to entangle us.  "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)

I am so often convicted of complacency and apathy in my own life, both in my response to sin in my own life, and to those who are perishing.  It is staggering to think that the Holocaust was caused just as much by the complacency of the Allied countries as by the brutality of the Nazis.  Are we standing idly by in the face of a spiritual holocaust?  Today, I look at our society, and I see little source to hope that the free world will stand in the event of any approaching calamity.  Western civilization has thrown away the anchor of faith and biblical principles that was set down by our founders. 

We have lost sight of the goal for which God has called us heavenward!  As Christians, this should concern us.  In the midst of programs and social gospels, have we forgotten Christ, our first love?  What do we feel when we hear the faith stories of Christian martyrs like Stephen (Acts 6-7), Vivia Perpetua, or Richard Wurmbrant? We too should be laying our lives down on behalf of others, for the sake of Christ!

Christians in this culture have experienced the "frog in boiling water" phenomenon - we have become so influenced by this world that we have become lukewarm and detestable to God.  This complacency and acceptance of worldly values should not be! I pray that it would not be so in my life.  May we be willing to hold out the message of the cross with confidence, no matter what the cost, because it is the only cure to those who are being consumed by spiritual cancer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You Aren't Good Unless You're Perfect

We cannot be perfect at anything. What a frustrating reality! But oh so true. We try- we hold up some kind of standard, and try to live up to it- but we can't. We can't even do the same imperfect thing the same way twice. The term “better” refers to a progression towards an ultimate good. To say that we can become better, is to admit that there is a good towards which we are aiming. How is it that we even have a notion of this if there is not something greater than the imperfection we see in ourselves and the created universe? Plato indeed realized something great in his theory of the forms. There must be something more real than we can see. Why else do we desire what we cannot see, and long for something barely imagined? True, some people try to live in a way that defies all laws of order or a higher good. Abstract art is one visual and tangible manifestation of this sensibility. In a way it is a reaction against the unpredictability and imperfection of life- the inability for humanity to achieve what we innately desire: peace and perfection. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” (Hebrews 10:1 - emphasis added) Paul was surely familiar with the ideas of Socrates and Plato, and he identified the true nature of the shadow, and the identity of the Reality, who is Christ Jesus. In light of the exclusive, elusive nature of perfection, people, especially in our present age, have thought to rebel against it. We pretend we don't want to be perfect; we even pretend to celebrate being “real”, but in reality, we all want to be better than we are. Our problem is that we try to become better people on our own terms and in our own strength. A good analogy of the human condition is that of a hamster on a rodent wheel. We have grand, vague visions of the goal we are running towards, but we end up exhausted and futile. As Jesus said in Mark 10:18, “No one is good- except God alone”. We have no hope of becoming better in any true or lasting way.

God's Word illuminates this problem. By looking at Genesis, we see that Adam's original sin brought sin and death into the lives of all his descendants. This fall from perfection, from being “good” as God originally declared his creation, is inherent in each of us. Our birthright is death. There is a great rift between us and God, but all our striving, all our running, all our effort to build a bridge using the resources of a fallen nature, leads to nothing but destruction in the deadly chasm. We can see the law that we must follow- but we are incapable of meeting its demands because we are enslaved to the law of sin and death. We are desperately in need of salvation! God is the only one who could offer that salvation, and in his mercy, at just the right time, he sent his son to redeem the lost and to offer a way to God- the Author of the perfection that we marred. “The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:16-17) By His gift, and the sacrifice of His perfect life, our lives are redeemed! The law that we saw dimly and tried to attain, can become our heart as the life of Christ is transfused into us. Christ, “by one sacrifice [...] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)

Just trying to conform ourselves to what culture dictates as desirable, or to the moral requirements of a religion, will not turn us into better people. This dilemma is illustrated eloquently by Paul in Romans 7:18-19: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” The sacrifice of Christ is all-sufficient. He is our rest, and our Sabbath. The cross he bore must also become ours so that we are resurrected into a new life and purpose. We are no longer captive to futility. And yet, we are still in this world, and we are yet imperfect. Paul in Romans 12:2 exhorts believers with the following words: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Our minds can be renewed in Christ and his Word. His life transforms us to truly desire to be sanctified, to become purer reflections of Christ. Through His divine perfection, we are empowered to live a holy life- not through our own effort, but by His grace alone. This is how we become better people- not by good deeds, but by becoming a more transparent vessel of Immanuel. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9) Through him, we can grow toward the image of what is better. All our efforts to become better on our own strength will only make our failures seem worse. Diminution of self and surrender to Christ is the only way to become a better person.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Heavenly City

"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:8-10)

I think this is such an amazing passage, because there are so many spiritual parallels to draw out of it.  I read these verses in late December when my family was taking a brief vacation.  Somehow they just hit me with so much meaning, in ways I had never understood them before.  Hebrews is a book where the Old Testament and the New Testament are woven together to point to Christ, who is the fulfillment of history, the Messiah and perfect sacrifice.  God has authored history in such a way that even the minutest details in the lives of the patriarchs can be marvelous reflections of realities fulfilled only in Christ.

Even though he didn't know exactly what his journey would bring, Abraham obeyed the call of God to leave behind his old life. He was a "stranger in a foreign country" - just as we are strangers here on this earth. The tent he lived in represents the "tent", or body, in which our spirits dwell.  Another really amazing parallel is in John 1:14 which says of Jesus, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." The word "dwelling" means "tabernacled", or "tented".  The promise of God has been fulfilled in us, who are now tabernacles of the Holy Spirit while we are traveling this fallen world.  Imperfect as these "tents" are, Paul confirms this incredible reality in 1 Corinthians 3:17.  "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"

Tents are a pretty temporary home, but that's the whole point.  The last verse in the Hebrews passage sums it up so amazingly - "he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."  Abraham looked forward and saw Christ, the corner stone.  By faith, we are wanderers in the wilderness, filled with the hope of our destination - the Heavenly City.  Revelation 21:22-23 says that "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."  What a home we have to look forward to, as children of God whose inheritance and citizenship have been bought by the blood of Christ!  

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What to say...

Hey there...
Be prepared for some major incoherency.  It's been a long week.
Just to let you know I have about 3 draft posts on the go right now, I just don't have the motivation to actually post them.  Shall I?  I'm not really sure what direction I'm going with this blog, because I'm not really the serious, committed, theme-oriented blogger type. Really, I'm just doing this for kicks. Does anyone read this blog? It's ok if you don't, but honestly, it would be nice to know.  Please leave a comment if you don't read this blog.

I feel like I've been really bombarded with a lot of things lately, and I'm feeling a bit of shell shock.  God is so amazing though, and I know that He alone is carrying me through.  Normally, I would be resenting having lots of stuff thrown at me like this, but the Holy Spirit is changing my attitudes to see that this is a time of training and testing.  I have been so blessed by the following verses, and I have been using them as prayers and promises.  I truly want to be tested, even though I know it won't always be pleasant, because I want to grow.  I want to glorify God by trusting in Him as my perfect Father.

"But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold." (Job 23:10)

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

And what have I been up to, you ask? (I don't know if there is a you. Am I hearing voices? I may be talking to myself again, but that's nothing new...)  Well, I played piano twice at the music festival this past week.  I've been doing this for years now, but I still get super nervous.  Funny, it seems to always hit halfway through my piece.  The first time, it caused my fingers to fumble so I missed a couple bars that I knew super well at home.  The second piece, I was ready for it, so I made it through with minimal stumbles.  I received silver for both pieces, which isn't up to my previous standard, but I was completely satisfied with that. I'm glad to be done - pretty sure this will be my last year at the Festival.

Trial Number Two: I've been dealing with a cold since last Monday.  Icky stuff.  I'm not a fan of congestion. Even through that though, God has been so good! I was really nervous and feeling yucky, yes, but beneath all that has been this wonderful joy, just in knowing that my God is with me, and the fact that nothing else matters in comparison to Him.

On a more interpersonal and spiritual level, God has been teaching me a lot lately.  For one, He's been teaching me just how much I still need to grow!  I've been sitting under some wonderful, deep, and convicting teaching recently.  It's so easy to let even the best teaching just sort of slide over the surface of my consciousness, but the Holy Spirit has been working to get it to pierce my heart.  I feel like my whole perspective is being shaken, and I'm praying that it won't settle until I see things the way God does.

Many more things of scariness and import are lurking in the shadows.  Like school.  And friends... and the fear of being seen as judgmental if I take a stand.  And also futuristic things, like finding a summer job and preparing for graduation and university.  Fun fun!

So much more I could say, but this is turning into a full-fledged journal entry.  Or maybe an autobiography. Oh, wouldn't that be interesting. Or not.  Haha, apparently I didn't have much trouble tonight with "What to say".  Please disregard the title to this post.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CS Lewis - Truth or Despair?

"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair."

- CS Lewis, Mere Christianity