Tag Archives: Religion

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.

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Mythopoeia

This is a beautiful poem I just came across by J.R.R. Tolkien, author of “The Lord of the Rings” to his good friend C.S. Lewis just before Lewis came to Christ.

“To one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’.

Philomythus to Misomythus

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star’s a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend
(and must), but only dimly apprehend,
great processes march on, as Time unrolls
from dark beginnings to uncertain goals;
and as on page o’er-written without clue,
with script and limning packed of various hue,
an endless multitude of forms appear,
some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,
each alien, except as kin from one
remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.
God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.
The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brain’s contortions with a separate dint.
Yet trees are not ‘trees’, until so named and seen
and never were so named, tifi those had been
who speech’s involuted breath unfurled,
faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense.
Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves
and looking backward they beheld the elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined.

He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers bencath an ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-pattemed; and no earth,
unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.
The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.

Yes! ‘wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat
our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,
or some things fair and others ugly deem?
All wishes are not idle, nor in vain
fulfilment we devise — for pain is pain,
not for itself to be desired, but ill;
or else to strive or to subdue the will
alike were graceless; and of Evil this
alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom
weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build
their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,
and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,
a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
of things not found within recorded time.
It is not they that have forgot the Night,
or bid us flee to organized delight,
in lotus-isles of economic bliss
forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss
(and counterfeit at that, machine-produced,
bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).
Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,
and those that hear them yet may yet beware.
They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat,
but oft to victory have tuned the lyre
and kindled hearts with legendary fire,
illuminating Now and dark Hath-been
with light of suns as yet by no man seen.

I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.
I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not treat your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker’s art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in malicious choice,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.”


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.