Tag Archives: Theology

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.


The Great Divorce

I recently revewis’ book, The Great Divorce, for a homework assignment. It’s an interesting read!

The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis, is one of Christianity’s classics. Filled with complex theological and philosophical ideas, this book was likely intended for older readers, but, with parental guidance, would be good for any age to tackle. There are no illustrations in the 128-page edition published by Macmillan Publishing Company.

The Great Divorce is an unusual tale in the first-person. The story follows Lewis as he begins his journey in a dismal, dreary town he later learns is Hell and then catches a bus ride with an ugly, boisterous crowd up to a land he discovers is Heaven. Heaven is a very real place. So real, in fact, that everything that comes from Hell pales in comparison. All the real things in Hell cannot compare with the reality of Heaven that all of the people who took the bus ride became, for all practical purposes, Ghosts. They cannot tread upon the grass without pain because the grass goes completely through them. They cannot lift a leaf off of the ground without great exertion because everything in Heaven is simply much more real then they are. Many Ghosts, however, are so wrapped up with their human, earthly pleasure that they have no desire in their hearts for the joys of Heaven and seek to return to Hell. There are many characters who float in and out of the storyline, such as the many Ghosts and the Spirits who are sent to try to convince the Ghosts to enter the joys of Heaven.

This story is different from many stories for the reason that the book focuses on philosophy and theology over an actual plot line. There are many conflicts between the different Ghosts and the Spirits who are trying to convince them to give up their world pleasures. The climax, however, is rarely reached because the narrative simply states that, as the Ghosts and Spirits walked out of earshot, Lewis never learned whether or not the Spirits actually convinced the ghosts to stay in Heaven. However, there are a few exceptions, which bring much-desired closure or completion to the many plot triangles that Lewis presents.

As with the conflict, there isn’t what could traditionally be called a climax, although the last three pages have somewhat of a great intensity than the rest of the book. When the end of the book is reached, Lewis’ point shines through. While we still have life upon this earth, we must give up our earthly desires so that we may persevere to Heaven.

Lewis was a powerful writer. Lewis had the unique ability to come to terms with your beliefs and with your relationship with God. You may not agree with everything he has to say, but that doesn’t mean you will necessarily enjoy the book less. His books make you examine your heart and your motives and your desires, which every Christian and non-Christian needs from time-to-time. Lewis was firmly grounded in his beliefs and we can only marvel at what God did through him.


Psalm 121

In looking forward to Summer Camp in 34 days, I thought that it would be appropriate to publish one of our Scripture memorization passages: Psalm 121. Apparently we have another one as well, but I don’t know what it is yet. This is a beautiful Psalm and our pastor just preached on it yesterday.

Enjoy!

Psalm 121
A Song of Ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.


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!


God’s Sovereignty in the Book of Esther

I know that I haven’t written in a while! Sorry…! I have decided to try to get back into the habit of blogging, especially because school has slowed down a bit.

In Sunday School, we have been doing a series on the book of Esther. In this book, there are so many things, as you clearly pointed out, Mr. Stern, which would seem to be remarkable “coincidences” and “good luck” to the world. However, even though God is never mentioned in the book, we know these to be sovereign acts of God and not just mere chance. To get a glimpse of how many of these “coincidences” there are, I thought that I would list some of them:

Xerxes just happens to throw a big party. At this party, his wife, Queen Vashti, just happens to refuse to show up. This just happens to make Xerxes really angry which just happens to make him want to “fire” her from her Queen-ship. Xerxes just happens to want another wife. Esther is a girl who just happens to be extraordinarily beautiful. She also just happens to be a Jew. Mordecai just happens to have adopted her after her parents just happened to die. It just so happens that Xerxes loved Esther more than any other woman and just happens to want her as his wife. Mordecai just happens to overhear a plot to kill Xerxes and his name just happens to get recorded in the records book but it so happens that Mordecai never get rewarded for his service. Haman’s lot just happened to fall on a date that was almost a year away. Mordecai learned of Haman’s plot to kill the Jews and it just so happened that he knew the queen, who was also a Jew and his niece. Esther just happened to find favour in the sight of the king and was able to invite him and Haman to two consecutive banquets, which the just happened to want to attend. The king just happened to be unable one night and learned the Mordecai had never been rewarded for saving his life. Haman just happened to build a gallows to hang Mordecai on. Haman just so happened to be hung on this gallows when the king learns of the plot to kill the Jews instead of Mordecai…

The list goes on and on…

Is it not amazing to know that the God Who can sovereignly ordain these things is in control over all the circumstances that we face every day?


Prayer

Today in Sunday School, we studied a very convicting topic: prayer. I, as well as many other Christians, fall into the habit of not praying. There are many reasons why, such as not understanding the importance of prayer, forgetting that it is a command and a privilege, getting our priorities wrong, etc… For me, I struggle with simple laziness and hypercalvinism (which, I discovered, is a fancy word for an idea I already knew: saying that God is sovereign over everything, so I don’t need to pray).  But I think that another issue (which I will not really dwell on) is that we simply have a lack of faith or think that we don’t truly need God to take care of it – we can handle it ourselves.

 

Prayer, however, is not something that God says, “Oh, you can take it or leave it, Nathan. It’s okay: you don’t have to pray today,” to. It’s not only expected from us, it’s a command.

 

Colossians 4:2 says: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving…” and I Thessalonians 5:16 – 17 says: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing…” Therefore, we see that prayer is a command, just like “don’t steal” and “don’t lie”. We seem to be very comfortable keeping those command and ask forgiveness when we break them, but how often are we horrified with ourselves, when, at the end of the day, we look back and see that we haven’t prayed at all.

 

When we pray consistently, we see that our will becomes shaped to God’s will. Psalm 37:4 – 5 says: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” As we become sanctified to become more and more like God, our desires become closer and closer to His will for us. Therefore, the passage does not say: “Ask the Lord for anything, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” It says: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” This is very convicting, because our prayers are often just one big wish-list. Now it may be that the iPod we want may be in God’s will for us, but, just because your prayer is answered with a “yes” doesn’t mean that you are delighting yourself in the Lord and committing our way to the Lord.

 

We wrapped up with a section on how to pray, practically. We had the ACTS Model which follows this format:

Adoration or praise to God,

Confession of sins

Thanksgiving to God for what He has given us

Supplication of requests to God.

 

Another way to make sure that your prayer time is structured is to keep a prayer journal. I did this a while ago and then never picked it up again, but I think that I will try it once more. This is kind of like a schedule for what you will pray for. For example, Monday might be “pray for immediate family day” in which you would record specific requests that you have pertaining to your immediate family and then, as new requests come off, you can add them on. This might be a particular blessing because, when a prayer request is answered, you may check it off and see God’s provision in your life – even if it is not exactly what you expected.

 

A sure-fire way to pray is always to pray straight Scripture. If you look through the Psalms, you will find many prayers that are beautiful and full of doctrine.

 

Anyway, these are my thoughts. Thanks, Josh, for teaching a great lesson today! I felt that it was a very appropriate reminder – something we could use more often!