Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Invisible consequences

Sin can go on for a lifetime and not seem to have any consequences, as I mentioned in my previous post. This is one of the dangers of sin. It masks itself as something that is "ok to continue." Only when the sin causes us some kind of pain, mental or physical, do we wonder what could possibly be wrong.

From my psych classes I learned that, in training an animal, the synchronicity of events matters. When you place a reward directly after a desired action, along with a neutral stimulus, eventually the desired action will occur in the presence of only the neutral stimulus. The famous example of this being Pavlov's dogs. Further studies were done and it was discovered that animals learn best only if the reward and the desired action are paired within a few moments of each other. With each successive moment away from that action, the animal has trouble associating the two. It's the same with us.

Until our actions result in a negative consequence we'll just go on glibly without remorse for them. Our conscience may get piqued, or our spirit may hear from God, but more often than not we ignore those warning signs. With each successive action without a consequence it becomes easier to justify, and easier to ignore the warnings. For example, I know that I need to go to bed early or I'll wake up tired. In fact I did this last night. I went to bed at 1:00am and had a real tough time waking up at 7:00. The consequence is so far apart from the action, and the justifications are so strong I have a real hard time associating the two, at least enough to take action.

Sin in some forms continues for years without a consequence. Michael Bahey, the man who founded Porn Nation (an organization to raise awareness of the dangers of pornography), didn't experience any extremely adverse consequences for over 10 years. He was married, had children and a great job. But then his addiction to pornography led subtly into an affair, which led to a divorce, which led to losing his family and job. He's an extreme case but there are other dangers that sin can easily manifest after years of no consequences.

So that's why I need to realize that I've been given a memory, an advanced mental capacity (in comparison to animals) and a consciousness in order to connect disparate events. I have also been given warnings, in the form of people like my parents, the form of words from the bible, and of examples in my own personal life. I can take action and change the things in my life, in the strength of Jesus redemptive power, to avoid the sufferings that come as a consequence of prolonged sin.

Without using those gifts that were graced upon us we won't learn without suffering. Not to say that suffering isn't going to happen if we don't sin, but much unnecessary suffering can be avoided by connecting events and heeding warnings.

So heed the rebukes you receive, listen to the warnings you hear, notice the examples around you, and learn from the previous consequences you have suffered. For just because you don't feel any pain now, doesn't mean you won't in the future. However, don't worry about these things as if they were all life and death, God will be faithful to put his finger on them in your life. The Holy Spirit will guide you as you allow him to search you and know your anxious thoughts.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pride and who we are

The first sin of man was Pride, "the movement whereby a creature (that is an essentially dependent being whose principle of existence lies not in itself but in another) tries to set up on its own, to exist for itself." (The Problem of Pain C.S. Lewis) We are entirely dependent on God to survive, whether or not we acknowledge it is up to our free will. The very fact that God allows free will means that we have been given the option to live without any contact with God. But the issue arises that since we are dependent on this "other" how can we expect to survive if we don't draw from it?

If we grew up in a Christian home, or even a moral home, our parents taught us to obey their authority so that, when we became of the appropriate age, we would obey the greater authorities. This was done in order for us to be law abiding citizens, or willingly say to God "here am I, send me." We understand obedience to God because of our obedience to God's authority wielders. In the same way, we were dependent on our parents for every need growing up. When we came to the appropriate age we became independent. Now, you would think that this would result in the same conclusion, independence from parents, independence from God. However, God calls us to grow ever more dependent on him. In fact the natural order that God intended was complete dependence in every aspect.

Adam and Eve in the garden had such a relationship with God, that involved giving up their selves, it was a choice but a very easy choice then. The concept of self was there but it was not sullied by the history of the human race, or tempted as such by the world system that is in place today. Yet, they had the same directive that we have today: die daily to the self that lies within in order to become more yourself. God designed us to be vessels, open containers, that give and receive freely to and from God. He designed all of humanity to live in such a way that nothing is owned, it is shared and given. I'm not advocating communism, I'm pointing out that we weren't meant to be independent.

The world around us is screaming for us to rely on no one but ourselves. To throw off any measure of authority that might hold us down. So no wonder it is difficult to realize how dependent we should be. I've been taught my whole life to create my own empire, to make sure that every action I take is beneficial to me and my kingdom. But my strength will eventually fail. Even if it never failed and I became rich and famous, my design would still be the same, I would still require the things that only my Designer can provide.

This idea of dependence makes it clear why Jesus said it was practically impossible for those with much wealth, to enter the kingdom of heaven. Since all their needs are taken care of and all their actions seem right to them, they will rarely come to a place where their independence from God is visible. Whereas those on the street corners, or living lives of debauchery, will more readily come to a place of need.

The problem with sin is that it works for awhile and for some their entire lives. It shades us in a veil of darkness, and only pain or suffering can ever wake us up from that, to turn to God. God humbly accepts us even when we come to him with nothing to give, because, well, we have nothing to offer except ourselves.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Living Sacrifice

Romans 12

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

John 12:24-26

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

I think there are enough people in this world that even if every Christian did this, it would still function. Even if every Christian gave up what they were doing and fully devoted their life to Christ, giving up everything to follow him, the world would go on. It would go on but it would be changed completely.

In this life we seem to be given a choice daily of whether or not we will follow our own will, or God's. And that choice in it's implications, grows bigger each time we refuse it. I think that if we follow God's will everyday when he eventually asks us to do something seemingly drastic or huge, it won't be as difficult. I don't speak from experience on that one, I just think it maybe true.

The world around us would change if we individually began dying to ourselves and serving others. Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.
Our sacrifice creates many seeds that can fall to the ground as well and multiply. This principle is something that Jesus lived out to the fullest. Because of his death billions have been saved. Imagine if Jesus decided he wanted to just live for himself! Imagine if William Wilberforce decided he would just live for himself and not continually sacrifice to end slavery in England. Imagine if Paul decided to live for himself and didn't follow Jesus after he was struck down. Imagine if Mother Theresa hadn't decided to serve the diseased and dying in the streets of India.

Imagine and ask God where he can make you like these people. People who decided not to live for themselves and grow comfortable in their retirement funds. People who decided it was better to live on the street than let one person suffer. People who decided it was better to give up riches and minimal philanthropy to save thousands.

Imagine and believe God will change you to change the world.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

An open letter to my sin

Dear Sin,

We need to break up. You've brought me many hours worth of fun and good feelings. You've made me feel like a a rock star so many times, for awhile I thought I was one. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't know what mercy or forgiveness are. I wouldn't know what it means to have grace bestowed on me. But without you I wouldn't need any of those things. So I'm telling you this is the end. We have many better things we can do with our lives. You can go on influencing millions into the wide path to destruction, I've found someone new.

You can kind of say I've been cheating on you. I enjoyed our times together but, you see, you never satisfied me. I liked all the pleasure and highs that I got from you but they never lasted. You made me feel really awesome but then I felt really crappy. This other partner, well he doesn't do that to me. He treats me with respect. He doesn't always give me what I want but he does give me what I need. He gives me pure love, something I don't think you have a concept of. Sure you loved me, I know you did, but you never loved me enough to deny me anything that was ultimately bad for me. You just gave me everything and everything is too much.

Who is he? Well, to give you a hint, he created me, so he knows exactly the kind of love I need. He had so much patience for when I was with you. He let me see that you weren't going to keep me happy, even though it hurt me. He loves me that much. He could see that I would come back to him. Yes, back, I loved him before I loved you. In fact he loved me before I ever knew him. He wooed me before I knew I needed to be wooed. Then I followed your call and came running to you.

So please understand, I really liked our times together, but you need to leave. We need to never see each other, or talk to each other, or even think about each other. It will probably be hard on me, and I may come running to your arms again, but know that I won't ever stay with you. Your ultimate destiny is death. In fact you are dead, you just don't know it yet. So please stop calling me, stop writing me letters, sending me movies, and pictures, I'm done with you. I'm going to throw them all out so I won't be reminded of you.

Sin, I once loved you. I love another now, his name is Jesus.

rest in pieces,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

God is love

What does it mean that God is love? Well from how I understand it, after reading the first couple of chapters of C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain, is that God is and always has been loving himself. For us to love ourselves it is looked down upon, at least to love only ourselves. For God though it is perfectly fine for him to love himself because he is the greatest thing in the universe. He is the most worthy to be loved of all beings in existence. So for him to love something else would be tantamount to calling that thing the greatest thing in existence. Now I don't mean that he can't love us because he certainly can, but he loves us because he died for us and covered us with himself, so by loving us under those conditions, he's still loving himself. (This might be off so please correct me if so).

Since God is trinitarian in nature he has been able to have a relationship even before there were creatures for him to have a relationship with. The father can love the son, the son can love the father and the holy spirit can love them both, and so on. Now I'm saying this in language that implies there is more than one God, but don't get me wrong, God is ONE. I think part of the mystery of God is understood by married couples. Though they are two, they become one. God is in perpetual oneness with himself.

Since God is the greatest thing to be loved, Jesus came to earth and showed us how to do the most important thing in the world, love God. He knows what is best for us and that is himself. Because of sin we were separated from the privilege of loving God. Jesus made that wonderful and necessary thing possible again and in doing so he was also loving God. By obeying his will.

People, since they are made in the image of God, try to get people to love them the same way that God tries to get people to love him. If you ever listen to a rapper, rapping about himself, he puffs himself up, he makes huge statements about himself, statements with no basis or purpose except to make him look good. God does the same thing, but his statements have a basis in a firm foundation and they have a high purpose, to make God glorious. It's OK for God to be selfish because he is the only self perfect enough to also have the wisdom to be selfless. See, the reason Jesus is so hard to imagine as God's son is because God is so much higher than us. He's so much more than us. He has justification for being selfish and yet he, as Jesus, came to earth and became the exact opposite that he has every right to be.

I thank God that I am counted among those able to talk to him. If it wasn't for his infinite effort to bring us into a right relationship with the father, I wouldn't even be able to breathe anymore. God's mercy spared my life and his grace gave me the gift of a beautiful friendship with the one who made me. Thank you Jesus for your love.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

God's time and our time

We have time here on this earth to live within. How we experience time depends upon many things, our nature, our nurture, our age, our health, our culture and our emotions. In the physical sense, time goes forward, always forward, never back, and at a seemingly constant (although observer dependent) rate. In the psychological sense time travels fast or slow depending on our physical state, if we're sick with a fever we may experience a slowing down of time. If we're really cold we may experience a speeding up of time. Time depends upon our age, when we were kids time was much slower. The ages 7 - 18 move much slower than the ages 18-29. We experience and learn much more over those first 11 years than we do over the next 11. So time is very flexible and very different from person to person.

For God time is something that he can observe from the outside. God dwells within an eternal unbounded NOW (according to C.S. Lewis) and therefore has no past and no future, he merely IS. We, however, are on a time-line. If you saw a picture of it, there would be a horizontal line representing time. It would have a beginning "in the beginning" and an end somewhere in the future. Eternity would be a vertical line that intersects time at one, single point. So time only has any relation to eternity where eternity is intersecting it. Since God is eternal he can intersect time at any single point, or all of them, and see what is happening in that NOW, for him all times are NOW.

The point of free-will comes to mind, since I was discussing it last night with a friend. The argument that "we don't have a free-will because God knows what we're going to do and can therefore know whether we will accept him in the future" can be debunked because of this knowledge. We all have a choice, during our time of life, to choose whether or not we accept Christ as God. God has no influence on that decision just because he can see if we are going to make it. He can just see it, in his unbounded now, he has no more influence on it than somebody watching us do something. He doesn't stop us or force us to choose anything just because he can see the results of those choices ahead of us.

Of course God does sometimes come directly into people's conscious experience and at that point they almost have no choice. That could be construed as "influence" but the people he does that to still have a choice to make whether or not they know it.

When Jesus was here on earth, being a man, he must have lost his unbounded now vision. He must have, for the first time, had to see as we saw. He must have needed to use the eyes of faith to trust, just as much as we need to, in the father's word. The spirit was there on him, the word was in his mind, but his limitations as a man forced him to be an example for us. If we can just learn to see through the eyes of faith and understand through the spirit of God, we can become more like Christ was on earth.

Monday, March 5, 2007


Biblegateway put a new Verse of the Day tool on their website that requires less computer knowledge than usual. It's at this link.


Strength and Endurance

Jesus must have been the strongest man in the world, ever. Why do I say this? Well, this past weekend I spent a good portion of it in agony and misery. I woke up on Saturday early morning, like 5 am, and I had to throw up. I then went back to sleep, woke up, threw up, and repeated this a few more times. All day Saturday I lay on the couch, writhing, trying for the life of me to rest. My back hurt, my neck hurt, my head hurt, I had a fever, and I felt like I was dying. I've only had this feeling once before, and it was just as bad if not worse this time. So back to my point...

Jesus suffered that kind of pain and lived to make it to the cross, where he suffered more pain. He hung on the cross for 6 hours (ref.) and yet he stayed alive to endure it. I can't imagine the amount of strength that arduous task took to accomplish but I'm very glad he did it.

Isaiah 53:5 "...he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed."

Because of his suffering we can be healed here on earth. Because of his sufferings, our eternal souls are healed and restored. We will be reunited with our father in heaven because of the selfless love Jesus showed, and because of the strength God gave him to endure. The worst punishment conceived of by man and our savior went through it for us, such love I can't even imagine.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Tell me something...

The following is my recounting of a story that was told to me last night. It's my imagination and probably not exactly what happened, but what I pictured in my head when I was told the story. I'm going to tell it in the first person, even though it didn't happen to me...

I had a dream last night that Jesus came to me. My relationship with God is very close now and I've done many things that I can thank God for doing through me. He brought me out of the closed world of a closed country, out of a box within a box, into glorious freedom. So when I saw Jesus, walking towards me, I was enamored with his beauty. I saw him, in my dream, walking towards me, bathed in a light that I can only describe as emanating from within. He walked with calm smooth strides taking each step with a strange mix of care and abandon. Each of his steps mesmerized me. I could not stop watching how he walked, how his arms swung so lightly at his sides, like tree branches in a spring breeze. How his heels struck the ground with each step as if somehow a Clydesdale and a mouse were contained in one being. How his broad shoulders shifted and inspired me. I could not take my eyes off of him.

Then I saw his face, the face of the almighty God, the face of Jesus, the face of the Holy Spirit. It kept changing, he was all three, all at once, but I could only focus on one at a time. It was almost like looking at an optical illusion, but somehow it was more real than reality. It was as if I were only a shadow in comparison to this actual thing, this glorious object before me. If all your life you only saw mannequins, strange yes, and you never had the opportunity to see yourself, never saw anyone real, imagine what it would be like to suddenly see another human! He was like the die from which all humans were cast.

I stared at his face as he walked toward me, awe struck by the novelty of his face. How his eyes remained steadily on mine, how his visage morphed and flitted through the aspects of his nature. I couldn't ask for anything more. I had all I wanted at that point, there was no need for him to come closer. If he just continued to walk toward me for all eternity I would be content just staring at how he moved. But he got closer.

As he drew near I felt questions welling up inside me, what might he want to tell me when he gets here? What does he want to say? I could see his nose, bigger than I expected and perfect. I saw his cheeks, full and rich flesh, like he had just finished running. I could almost touch his chin, stout and framed, without defect. And there his eyes pulled me in. I have no words to describe his eyes, they are ineffable, expressionless, beyond comparison to even his changing face. If I were to describe them, it was like diving into a crystal lake and when you hit the water, you keep falling, as if the water were air. Falling through water, falling through a galaxy of healing water.

He came to me and please don't think me blasphemous, he came to me and he knelt before me. The creator of the universe, the almighty, knelt down before me. The creator of all knows how to humble himself, but this was too much for me, so I knelt as well. I reached for his hand and he went to hold mine and the moment he touched me, eternity entered my soul. That's the only way to describe it. Eternity filled me. I don't know how it's possible for all of creation and infinite space to enter into the heart, but God made us that way. You could ask all the scientists and psychologists how that could be possible and they could never tell you. But I know that it's possible because everything went in, every bit went inside my heart and I felt satisfied.

While I was reveling in the glory of being filled he began to lean in. I knew he was going to tell me something. I know that God has plans for our lives, that he makes sure that everything we go through is under his control and his eye. So I had this thought that he was going to tell me my calling, what I was to do here on earth. I was ready for that. But God wanted to tell me something different. What he told me has to do with the fact that God can have anything. God can make an entire other earth, a whole other heaven, with angels and creatures praising him. He can form universes at the snap of his fingers. Yet the one thing he cannot simply create is our love. He can't force us to love him. If you were to go to a billionaire and talk with him, what could you possibly offer him that he can't have, that he couldn't just buy? Nothing.

Jesus leaned in, I felt his hair brushing my cheek, and felt his breath warm on my ear and he said to me "Tell me something romantic."