Tag Archives: Christians

A Light in the Evanescence

Hey! It’s me again. I know, you probably thought I died or something because it’s been so long since I said anything here. Rest assured, I have not passed on but am instead alive, very well (thank you for your concern), and trying to restart this blog before IT dies.

Speaking about dying (bad transition, I know, but you’ll have to move on because I’m not changing it), I have been struck lately by how transient this world really is. From our births, we are stuck in a cycle that is doomed to end.

Whether it be fame, money, careers, youth, or even relationships, the cycle cannot last forever. Money is fleeting: princes have become paupers overnight. Youth only lasts for so long. Relationships very often end before they are properly started. And as for fame… can any of you name all the American Idols? I can’t. See. You can’t do it either. Case closed.

Even at its most basic level, life itself, we see a clear starting point and a definite end. Our world is built upon things that cannot and will not ever last. But, for some reason, we lose sight of the fact that the now is not the only thing that matters. It is so easy to get caught up in mindless entertainment and the trivial matters or today that we take our eyes down from the Goal and look down at the ground, or, as is oftentimes the case, into the gutter.

Everyone has their own things that distract them from the Goal. For some, as I mentioned earlier, it’s money. For some, sports. For some, relationships. I’m more of a I-want-as-much-personal-and-particularly-juicy-scoop-as-you-can-give-me sort of person. I’m not a gossip. Honest. Your secrets are safe with me. I promise. It’s just that I need to know what’s happening in people’s lives like some people need to know who won last night’s football (a.k.a. “soccer”) game. To me it’s just that kind of important. So when I heard that, for example, Carrie Underwood was getting married, I was very excited. Probably overexcited. But that’s not the point. Or, for something that more people can relate to, the Royal Wedding.

But what got me thinking was this: If a personal detail in the lives of a few people entire unconnected to myself can get me so excited, why can I not get so excited about what God (Someone very important) has done and is doing in me (someone entirely connected to myself) or my friends? Why can I not have at least the same level of concern for the salvation of those around me as for the floor I will get at Wheaton next year? What have I gotten out of knowing about Carrie’s wedding except for the ability to (finally) have a something to say in a conversation with an avid hockey fan (she married a hockey player)? Why would I rather spend my money on a new shirt, song, or video game when I could (and probably should) be thinking how to best maximize its impact in a place that matters.

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people that has to take everything to an extreme. Nothing is half-hearted. I either enthusiastically throw myself into a project or don’t even give it a second thought (or a first thought, for that matter). I either exercise fanatically or not at all. I can’t just like a singer – I either love her or hate her (keep your comments about Enya to yourself as we move on). But any one of those things – my hard-held opinions – can change in a heartbeat. A big mistake or continual frustration can quell my passion for the project I’m working on. A rainy day that throws off my workout routine can be enough to get me out of the gym for weeks. A few lame songs and I don’t really like the singer as much as I used to. Getting up a few minutes late or saying “I’ll do it later” can result in days without a quiet time.

But thanks be to God! For He is not like us! He is constant. Even though we may change, He is our firm Rock. He is an island in the chaos. He is our unwavering light in the cycle of evanescence (that’s my favorite word, just FYI). He is the Goal to which we should be striving, not the fleeting moment. I will die. My aviator sunglasses will go out of style and I will look back at the picture of myself and laugh in shame. I might end up hating my friends so much that I never want to see them again. I will get old and fat and ugly (and don’t you get so smug, because so will you). As Isaiah 40:6-8 says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Nobody’s going to remember or care who did what and who wore what at which awards, who beat whom at which games, what your wore, what you ate, how clean your house was, or anything like that 100, 50, 20, 10, or even 5 years from now. But what will matter is how we have spent our time serving our Lord and making His presence known on the earth until He returns. And I pray that when He returns He will find that I did indeed utilize all the resources, gifts, and talents He gave me to my best ability and to His glory alone.


Is St. Augustine Still Relevant Today?

When I first read St. Augustine’s popular book, Confessions, I did not see many ways in which this “antiquated” book could possibly be relevant to my life. Aside from further growing in the art of confession, the concept obviously derived from the title of the book, I feared that little would be left to learn. Fortunately, as I delved into the book rather hesitantly, I found to my delight that there are many truths to be derived from this classic work.

To begin, Confessions taught me that my presupposition of the work confession itself might have been slightly skewed. Confession to the Lord and to my fellow humans often becomes merely a list or an acknowledgement while completely ignoring the equally important aspects of true sorrow and repentance. The confessions of St. Augustine were very real – he made no attempt to justify the sins that were his own. This is another aspect in which I seek to grow. It is one thing to own to committing a sin; it is quite another to do so without making excuses or justifications.

While still unregenerate, Augustine’s search for truth was an all-consuming part of his life. This was a very convicting realisation for me as I examined the differences between his quest for truth and me for mine. Granted there is a rather stark contrast in the life situations which we find ourselves in: Augustine was born into a half-Christian home and was not raised with the Truth in the same way I have been. As one great teacher once told me, “It’s okay not to know, but it’s not okay to not know and be satisfied.” In other words, don’t be afraid to ask questions without knowing the answer, but don’t be satisfied in your ignorance. However there are ways in my life were I can see that I am content with not knowing, and this should not be so.

Perhaps one of the poignant ways St. Augustine has changed my life would be as an example of both sin and the effects thereof. I have meditated many times on the passage where he stated, “I was afraid that You would answer my prayer at once and cure me too soon of the disease of the lust, which I wanted satisfied, not quelled.” Unfortunately we as Christians are often caught in the state of the realisation of the fact that our sin must be dealt with but with the hesitation of dealing with that sin for fear of having our sinful desires left unfulfilled. Amid all this, though, is the joy that shines through we a transformed life is witnessed through the power of Christ working through a man to change his heart and his very desires.

Therefore, in my opinion, Confessions, though certainly very old, is hardly out-dated, for the truths and experiences are still very relevant to life today. The truths expressed in Confessions cannot change with time, for their Author does not change with time, and are consequently always relevant.


The Jew and also the Greek: An Essay

This was an essay that I wrote for school about the interactions between the Jews, early Christians, and Gentiles and then also addressing the issue of studying the Bible for devotional purposes verses studying the Bible for historical purposes. I know that it’s a little unpolished but I hope that you enjoy it!

 

The Jews, Gentiles, and the early Christians had many differences that often caused negative interaction between them, these differences primarily being differences of belief and religious practice. Throughout the Old Testament, by making a covenant with the Jews and giving them His law, the Lord set the Jews apart from the Gentile nations. The Jews were commanded to conquer the surrounding nations and not make peace with them unless they were very far away (Deuteronomy 20:10 – 15). On the other side of the same coin, the Lord used the pagan Gentile nations such as Egypt, Babylon, and Rome to conquer His people – usually when they were falling into sin. Thus, to the Jews, the Gentiles were either the hated conquered or the feared conquerors.  When Israel came into peace with the pagan nations, the Jews began to act as the pagans did and the Lord judged the nation of Israel for their sin. Thus, for those reasons, the Jews and the Gentiles almost continually had a strained relationship.

 

The Jews has a mixed response to Christ, and, likewise they had a mixed response to Christians. There were many Jews who wished to kill all the Christians, but there were others heard the word and believed, such as on the day known now as Pentecost, where, “those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2:41, NKJV). In contrast, often the Jews, especially the religious leaders, were so intent on eradicating the Christians that they relied on and/or stirred up the Gentiles to help them in their quest, as in Paul’s trip to the city of Iconium, where “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.” (Acts 14:2, NKJV)

 

The Christians had been commanded to take the Word to the Jews first, and also to the Greek. Thus, there were many Jewish converts. Surprisingly, the Gentiles came to Christ and to the early Christians for counseling and the Christians were happy to help, as evidenced by the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10, or, in the story of Philip and the eunuch in Acts 8:34 – 35 (NIV), “The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” The Gentiles were often wary of the Christians and treated them with suspicion. When the results of Christian teaching affected their business negatively, however, the Gentiles took strong measures against them, as in the case of Demetrius the Silversmith (Acts 19:23 – 41).

 

Another level at which the early Christians, Jews, and Gentiles differed was their reading of the Scriptures and their reasons for reading the Scriptures. By reading the Scriptures merely as a reliable historical source, one is seeking to gain historical insight on events of the past but is not necessarily reading for the purpose of tracing God’s plan of redemption through history. Reading the Scriptures for devotional purposes, on the other hand, implies studying it with the intent of learning what God has to say to His people. The mere facts of the Bible would have been such a major part of the Jews culture and tradition that it is likely that they already knew a large part of their history through the many feasts they attended and through oral tradition that is so prevalent in the Near and Middle East that Jews would have studied the Bible primarily for “devotional” purposes – for seeking God’s will and revelation through the law and the prophets. The Gentiles, as a whole, would have been unfamiliar with the Scriptures and likely didn’t study the Scriptures at all. Because the early Christians were a mix of converted Jews and Gentiles, many of them Gentiles, they would have studied the Scriptures for both historical and devotional purposes, because they, especially the Gentiles, would be unfamiliar with both the historical and devotional content of this new religion, and, for the Jews, they re-read or were re-taught the Scriptures in light of their new revelation.

 

In short, there were many factors which affected the interaction between the first-century Jews, Christians, and Gentiles. Although a significant amount of the interaction between these groups was negative due to differences of belief and practice, this was not always the case, especially between the early Christians and Gentiles. Like the early church, it is my prayer that we will all have the boldness to proclaim Jesus, crucified and resurrected, to all the world and wherever we go – to the Jew and also to the Gentile.


Idols

Hey, everyone! I’ve decided that it’s about time to do another good post, so here it is: in the form of a question.

It’s easy to see why non-Christians may make idols out of various things, but why do you think that Christians tend to make idols out of things just like non-Christians do? By idols, I mean things that become so important that they take up more of our thought, time, alove, and devotion than Christ.

I’d like to know your thoughts on this subject!

Thanks!

– Nathan

41 Days until Summer Camp 2009!