Paris 01: Lets get down to business

Cue the intro to “Be a man” !

The day has come. Training is over and we fly for the city of light tomorrow!?

We have a tight team and already God has shown us how good He is and how much He knows us and loves us. We haven’t even left and there are already a few cool stories, a number of examples of “coincidental”, “that was lucky”, “guess that worked itself out” moments. AKA God-ordained, super cool, crisis averted moments.

From “happening” to have extra essential things to cover exactly what was forgotten, to “happening” to be all musically talented with hearts for worship, to “happening” to be perfectly compatible housemates… I’m amazed.

What training has challenged me most in is making a habit of checking where my heart is at with regard to pride, my attitude towards others, especially my team mates. To not hide behind a surface version of me, but to not be afraid to be vulnerable. Amidst all the fun and the teasing, I have to be careful with my words and use them to edify and encourage also. Not only that, but to be caught in His grace if I fail and something weird and unnecessary comes out of the mouth. Also, being ready to generously offer grace to others, especially in ou varying degrees in French fluency.

What I find encouraging is that we’re all learning and for many of us, but I’ll speak only for me, there is less fear in asking what words mean or how to translate a saying. And there is no shame when gently corrected.

Our very wise directors gave us some potential points of culture shock and the most worrying is the cultural sport of invigorating discussion. Debating with rationality and rhetoric. Did I mention that most Parisians would identify themselves as atheist? Ouf, debating… not my cup of tea. Nor my glass of wine, or slice of brie, or bite of croissant. (Can you tell I’m looking forward to the food?)

And yet by God’s grace and the wise training we just went through, I’m going on this mission trip without any significant feelings of fear. I have no expectations because what God has planned is far more magnificent than anything I can imagine.

The other day I was reading Isaiah 55, and it is my prayer for Paris, that they would see the compassion of the Lord.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. …Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way,and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. €œFor as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace…”

Jesus is enough to satisfy, and the Gospel is enough for an answer. God in His sovereignty and the power of the Holy Spirit is stronger than our human hearts, He is mighty to save. His word is enough to water this hardened soil, and I trust that the next 5 weeks will yield fruit, even if we never see it.

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Daily bread, not weekly buffet.

My heart is so full. I don’t think I can comprehend or express how blessed I am to have the community that I have around me. Surely, this is how we were designed to be– a family of families, caring for one another, genuinely being thankful for someone’s existence, loving one another, blessing and being blessed by one another. Essentially loving one another under the unity of Christ.

I didn’t get much writing done, so the “muse” is coming out in a blog. And why shouldn’t it if that’s where my heart is overflowing right now.

It’s only Monday night (technically Tuesday morning) and I’ve already learned 3 interesting things:

  1. The folly of God is still wiser than the wisdom of men
  2. The weakness of God is still stronger than the strength of men
  3. The riddles of God are still more satisfying than the solutions of men

Perhaps the past tense “learned” is a bit premature… three things I was taught and am still learning.

I do not have all the answers, I don’t have a comeback for every argument or debate, I don’t know what is to come, or how or when, or why.

And I don’t need to.

Well how’s that for an unsatisfying answer? Right up there with “well, it depends.”

It’s taken me this long to realize it, and will continue to be a wrestling point I’m sure, but not having to know the answers, not having to be strong in my reasoning… is so freeing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it’s so true… “Hallelujah we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free.” (Mike Donehey).

We can fail, we can walk away from an excitable discussion unscathed by the tongues of men because we’re told that to them it’s folly. We are free to be confident in the truth. As Matt Chandler put it (roughly), if it’s true, it’s of God… we’ve got the market cornered on Truth.

And so our only task is to preach Christ, as Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians.

Bonus thing I learned this week: The Lord is my portion.

What does that even mean? Who talks like that anyway, what does that look like? I’m still unpacking it to be honest, but He is our daily bread.

He is enough for today, He is everything I need for today. He is the strength that helps me peel off the warm covers to get me out of bed, He is the joy and energy that sustains me throughout a long day, He is my companion who walks me to wherever I’m going, He is the provider who chases away worry and fear, He is the one who makes room in my busy schedule for rest and community, He is the creator who is glorified when the wisps of sparkling snow race alongside me when I look out the bus window.

Who am I that you are mindful of me? How wonderful are your works O Lord. You are my prize and my portion, my God and my deliverer, my refuge and strength, my Rock and my Redeemer. Praise be to God in the highest.

Every day is an adventure and every soul encountered has a moving and epic story worthy of the big screen, and He is moving in all of it, and He is God through all of it.

Tomorrow, next week, next month, next semester, next year, the next five, ten, twenty, fifty years… starts with today.

Not weekly buffet. Daily bread for the daily grind.

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Never Ending Joy

A dear friend sent me this daily devotion the other day, and while I’m sure its author meant well, it did get me thinking…

Bless Yourself

I love those who love me, and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me.
—Proverbs 8:17

Our motives are misplaced if we think we read the Bible and pray to please God, or to keep from making Him mad at us. God once told me, “You think, when you read the Bible, that you are making Me happy. I am going to be happy whether you read it or not. No, if you read the Bible, you’re happy. If you pray, you’re happy. If you give, you receive.”

Every single thing that God tells us to do, He tells us to do so to bless ourselves. He doesn’t ask us to devote ourselves to study and prayer for Him; it is for us. The good life is our choice.

We don’t have the power or authority to bless ourselves. When we read the Word, God gave us the Word and the Spirit to move us to read it. When we read the Bible, it’s still God blessing ‎us. Blessing us with the air in our lungs and the eyes to see and the heart to accept and understand His Word.

And I’m not sure if God is happy “whether we read the Bible or not.” He wants us to draw near to Him, and we do so when we read His word. We get closer to God when we are meditating in the word daily. When we don’t read His word, it grieves Him that we would turn away from his counsel, because it’s there for our good.‎ He wants us and pursues us. Think about all the things he orchestrated through time and space to give us His word for our good, think about everything He did on the cross to make sure we could be reconciled and near to Him, for our good. Why would he be happy when we ignore him in His word? To me, “good” here means so much more than mere happiness. Being in the word has nothing to do with happiness, but everything to do with His glory and our obedience. Those two things are “our good.”

“He loves those who love Him” because they search and thirst for Him, and He is pleased that His children return to Him. It’s not a cause and effect, we love then He loves, no. His unconditional love for us feeds our love for Him into a gloriously vicious cycle. “Those who seek Him early and diligently shall find Him” because they are the ones who love Him enough to look. He is omnipresent, He’s there all the time for the whole world to see. He’s not hard to find for those who want to. It’s like that CS Lewis quote, “It is safe to say ‘blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’ for only the pure in heart want to.”

If God is happy even when we don’t read the Bible, why read it? Not to be happy, but to be fully and deeply satisfied in Him, because that’s what we were made for, God, not our own happiness. We pray to be with our Father, we give in obedience to our Father. Not our own happiness.

I guess I just don’t like the word “happy”… it seems to imply if we do (works), we’ll be happy, if we give, we receive and prosper. But the lives of the apostles show that they gave and they suffered, even Christ gave everything, and He suffered. They obeyed the Father in love, and their reward wasn’t found in the consequences of their giving, but in obeying itself.‎ When we obey the Father, He is glorified, and we are satisfied… not necessarily happy, but satisfied. And when we are satisfied, He is glorified. In that sense, our devotion to Him is for Him. For us too, but mostly for His sake. Not because he’s egotistical and self-absorbed, but because He wants to show us that we can trust that He is the God of all creation for eternity, that we really don’t have to be afraid when he reminds us that He is for us not against us. He’s got this. He’s like the climbing rope that can hold 3000lbs that a 160lb climber brings to the mountain. The greater that we see that He is, the more faith we have in Him, and the easier it is for us to draw near to Him, and feed that cycle again.

Happiness is fleeting, but Christ is the rock that never changes, never moves, never fails. We can trust in Him, we can find our peace and our joy in Him. That is why we ought to seek after Him in reading the Bible, seek Him in prayer and seek Him in obeying His commands. Christ. Not happiness. We don’t need happiness from anything or anyone or any works if we’ve got Christ. We can be suffering, crying, dying and still be satisfied. We can still say, “It is well with my soul.”

Happiness is shiny, but cheap in light of God’s brilliant glory and His everlasting Kingdom to come. Happiness is dangerous, even happiness in faith, because it makes us self-sufficient, makes us think we’re okay, we don’t need a saviour, I saved myself, blessed myself today. Happiness makes us comfortable here in this world. Joy in what Christ has done is so much more robust, it gives us strength to look forward, to wait daily, patiently for our King, even when the world around us crumbles.

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From Useless Pirate to Surrendered Captain

The end of the semester came out of nowhere. Has it really been 12 weeks since I started? This winter term, if I’m to follow the schedule I’ve set out for myself, is the climax of my time here. Or at least, in terms of fun courses. So much fun in fact, that after the first week, I was dreading the last.

This mentality of course did not last very long, because I got swept up in the work that I thoroughly enjoyed. And now the end has come and gone. Perhaps it’s a mercy that I didn’t brace myself for the end, or else it would have been a bitter end.

Fortunately, I plan much too far in advance and those future plans, when they become present and urgent plans, are always modified. So this is most likely not the climax. It’s not all downhill from here, as many people try to tell me.

They’re right, of course, but they’re wrong too. There’s always something better and worse around the corner, I find.

Anyway, the sudden evaporation of my daily routine left me with a work vacuum. For the first few days, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Do I relax? Watch hours of YouTube and Netflix? Check emails? Do chores? Work on personal projects? I could do all of these and should do all of these, but with a schedule wiped clean, my brain went, OKAY YOU HAVE TIME TO DO THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS, ISN’T THAT EXCITING? LET’S DO ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. And… cut to white noise.

There were no boundaries, no structures, no coherence to organize or prioritize. And so I got nothing done.

I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to think about anything… for lack of a better way to put it, I was in a lethargic waking coma.

It was a dry season spiritually too… I couldn’t decide if I wanted to sleep or get up, one part of me wanted to dig into a new Bible study while another part wanted to binge watch Orphan Black, going outside or having any human interaction was suddenly a lot of effort… the list goes on. My internal soundtrack may as well have been, “we are the pirates who don’t do anything, we just stay home, and lie around!”

But there’s good news. The reason I felt compelled to write this post is because I am OUT of that space now. Mostly because I’ve actually got to study for exams now… but also because once I got back into prayer, scripture and community, everything came back into focus.

I’m moving ahead with a new project now, and I’m researching and just moving forward with purpose again. This research incidentally requires Biblical investigation. History, culture, extra-biblical sources, looking for experts… some very fun stuff I might add.

After a few days of spiritual drought, the sudden thirst for the Word is just exploding in me, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like. I was about to go to bed when I decided to skim through Hebrews and 13:20-21 caught my eye. Of course, my writing impulses forbid me to leave this blogpost til morning.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Especially right after Easter, this verse is such an encouragement and a reminder. We’ve celebrated, now it’s time to get to work. Work? I thought the cross was all about not having to work. This is true, for our salvation. That work is being done in us, but not by us. That’s Christ’s work. His work then motivates us to fulfill the purpose he designed us for.

If we are motors designed to fulfill a purpose, He is the beautiful, dangerous, essential, electrical power source without which the motor is useless.

As I’m working on this new writing project, it was a great reminder to me that my writing is worthless without His power in me. My words would be meaningless, my stories ephemeral, my voice unintelligible. He has equipped me with everything I need to do his will, and he is working in me the map to doing it. He is creating in me something new… Lord willing, a person of the Jeremiah 31 people, and a Proverbs 31 woman.

The project is Esther’s story, one of providence and presence. God provides, and God is present. In a time when God’s presence appeared much more tangibly than it does now, whether it be booming voices, blinding visions, miracles, burning bushes, oncoming storms… the book of Esther shows His presence in a much more invisible kind of visibility.

This post is full of paradoxes, isn’t it? God’s name is never mentioned in the book, and nothing strictly supernatural happens either. Events just sort of… fall into place. One after another.

God was definitely in control of what was going on. He set his plan for the Jews’ deliverance into motion before they even faced destruction. He wasn’t there, but boy he was definitely there. At work. In people. Esther was equipped naturally with everything she needed to face the king and win his favour: faith, obedience, wisdom and modesty. Mordecai was equipped to be at the right place at the right time to discover the plot against the king’s life.

After watching a documentary about the incredible trials that come with the incredible… eventual… precious… rare rewards of writing in the TV industry, it’s so good to know that God is present through it all, and that he provides the “inside,” like the personality and the skills, as well as the “outside,” as in the circumstances and doors.

What does this mean? I’m realizing as I write that this post has become an “unriddling,” a place for me to digest my inward thoughts. If I’m preaching, this is not my intention. I simply cannot let myself forget these truths, lest I fall for the lie that my life is in my hands, that I am the captain of my destiny.

If I am to pursue this career, I will have to bring the right idea, to the right person, in the right place at the right time, and do it consistently and constantly. A daunting, impossible task for me, but all too easy for God. I must keep reminding myself of this, that everything that happens to my scripts and stories are under control. If they succeed, God did that. If they fail, God let that happen for a reason. I want to fight my pride to the sweet sweet end. These stories aren’t for me, or my living. I need to keep my eyes on that which they cannot see; write toward a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, for a King who is never changing.

Clearly, this is in my “head knowledge.” But what of the heart?

My “big break” hasn’t come yet, but neither have I faced any kind of searing rejection… yet. This is all the more reason to remember that while I am equipped with the quill, I am not the writer. My darkest and finest hours of my early career are coming, so let my heart (as well as my head) ever remember:

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

And with that, friend, may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Come Stay and Come Fail

What is school for? Wisdom or information?

As much as it ought to be wisdom, we get the ironically less useful information. It’s right or it’s wrong. You know it or you don’t. You remember it or you don’t. It’s acceptable or it’s not.

But at the end of the day, or the course, what did you learn other than memorized facts?

Now, facts are good. and essential in some careers. However, there are others where facts are important, but not essential. In either case, wisdom and life’s lessons, are far more useful and applicable.

With information, success is getting the right answer, with wisdom, success is learning from failure.

Learning from failure means we are free to fail. Free to struggle. Encouraged to try, and keep trying, to keep learning the same lessons in different ways over and over again. What an education that would be if every course could be like that. We’d be free of pressure, we’d be free to innovate, we’d be free to express, we’d be free to discover.

It’s a paradox that I wish more teachers, mentors, etc. understood and applied. Tell students to succeed and they will find themselves failing. Tell students to fail, and they will find themselves succeeding.

It’s not about setting a low standard so that more students “succeed.” It’s about extracting wisdom from whatever situation. If you “failed” and got the wrong answer, what lesson did you learn? If you “succeeded” and got the right answer, what lesson did you learn? In that way, the grade or metric or evaluation almost comes before the lesson.

After class today, my music shuffled to Scars by Colton Dixon and the chorus was quite fitting:

Today’s another day, to learn from our mistakes, knowing that we’re not forsaken. They give life to where we’ve been, when we fall and start again, scars remind us who we are.

After discussing wisdom vs information in class, and then hearing the song, and then remembering what the song is really talking about — that is, the the gospel — a connection was made.

In my experience, the best teachers don’t care about what you got on a test or an exam, they only care that you learned the lesson they were trying to teach you. Imagine you were guaranteed a 100% at the beginning of a course – you didn’t earn it, it was given. Striving for perfection isn’t the point. Learning and a willingness to learn is the point. If you got it right away, fantastic. If it took you a few tries at first before you got it, great.

In this class, the first three important things we were given was a good grade guaranteed, an invitation to stay and a mission to learn something more valuable than facts: how to think and how to change the world.

Those who left, turned down the opportunity to wisdom and steps toward self-actualization. Those who stayed, don’t necessarily make the best looking collages or videos, but what is that compared to knowing and embracing our identity a little better?

Not only that, but the small handful of us in the course get closer to each other with every pressure-free attempt we make. We naturally want to encourage each other because we all know none of us are good at this since a lot of it is brand new to us. We don’t celebrate the product of our projects, but the thinking behind it.

Now from the outside looking in, you would think a guaranteed good grade should be incentive to not bother going to class, and yet we all keep coming back week after week, night after night, not because we have to but because we want to. We’re hungry for this “wisdom” that is so different from the unsatisfying and draining amounts of “information” we’re forced to digest everywhere else.

So where do the parallels align?

God demands perfection, but we can’t overcome our imperfection. What Christ’s death on the cross in our place is, is the free 100%, given not earned — His perfection for our imperfection. He invites us in and says if you take it and stay, you’ll get so much more than the 100%.

Those who choose to leave get nothing, those who choose to stay and learn, practice how to think about people differently, how to see through Heaven’s eyes, how to change the world because of the change within us. Of course, practice means failing and learning from our mistakes, and it’s this learning and growth toward godliness that is the real treasure.

So when we fail and sin, we’re caught in a grace that says don’t worry about your grade or your standing, that’s been covered. Just get back up and try again. Also, if you see a brother or sister in Christ, someone else in your community, fail, it becomes natural to encourage them with the same words.

And finally, why not get up and walk away? Because walking away means going back to the emptiness of what the rest of the world has to offer. Once you taste wisdom and truth like this, there’s a hunger that keeps bringing you back.

So the invitation to the cross (and THST 2450) is here: come stay and come fail. It’s worth it.

Hollywood and the Trinity

Re-post from last year. This is me trying to make sense of the Trinity. For now, I still stand by this analogy, I think it works. But here’s another one that I heard soon after posting this:
The Trinity is like the Sun.
The Father is the star itself.
The Son is the light that we see and that exposes us and that shows us where we’re going.
The Spirit is the warmth of the sun, what we feel when we feel God’s presence, and what keeps us alive.

This past Sunday, Will touched a bit on the Trinity. To me that’s always been a weird thing to explain to people, even to Christians. Sometimes I’d use the egg analogy, but it never quite sounded like the satisfying answer I thought it should have been.
For those of you who don’t know, the egg analogy goes something like this: If you see an eggshell, you can describe it as EGG. If you see a hard boiled egg white, you can describe it as EGG. If you see an egg yoke, you could describe it as EGG. But you can never look at one, and describe it as the other two.
In the same way, the three persons of the Trinity are God, and fully God, but are not each other.
But the parts of an egg, are 3 that make a whole, where God is whole in each of his 3 persons. He’s 300% God, and awesome because of it.
Will put it this way, God is in three persons, and each of them have distinct roles, but are fully God. But what does that mean? Back to that in a bit.
Oscar season just came and went, and people are celebrating over the winners, carping over who should have won, and poking fun in general. Well, maybe just with Leo.
Anyway, we’re going through the different roles and doing a sort of “who’s who” in my Theatre Studies class and someone mentioned this: The writer is god and the director is king.
Well this is interesting. What do these people do that make people say that?
(bear with me, blogging and studying for the exam kills two birds with one stone. NOTE: no birds were harmed in the writing of this post.)
The writer. The creator, the one who uses words and stories to figure out a particular problem in life and culture. What they write and say is the blue print for the set, the wellspring of ideas, its potential infinite in terms of creative interpretation. It’s where the themes are, it’s where the plot comes from, it’s where the characters’ psyches are mapped out. It is, the source. What is on the page, goes.
The director. They’re the ones that bring it all together, that make sure all the different production components are speaking the same message, are scoring the same themes, are telling the same story. From the actors, to the set design, they piece together this billion piece puzzle into something extraordinary. Their goal is to reconcile the world of the stage or the screen, with reality. To elicit a particular response from the audience, because that is what all art is. Ed Roy, who came to talk about what he does (and is a fantastic speaker) said (something like) this and I love it: “all art is a reaction to the artist’s cultural and living conditions and times.” Directors have to understand the context of the real world in order to make the hypothetical world relevant and engaging to the audience.
The actor. They bring the character to life, they put a face to this personality, they inhabit and exhibit the story through dialogue, monologue, soliloquy and action, or lack thereof. They become the face, or faces, of the piece. They become the personification of what the writer wanted to get across. They engage directly, or at least most closely, with the audience and the real world. They also disappear in the role. They are still themselves, it’s still their body, their voice, but on stage or on screen, they are equally their character, as defined by the writer. Even after their performance, if they’ve played iconic roles, they continue to represent that character. Sometimes they are recognized as that character rather than themselves. They are, both.
Those of you who can conceptualize the Trinity can probably see where I’m going. And those who don’t, probably can too to some degree… I trust that most people are just as clever if not more so than I.
So what happens when these three jobs or roles, the writer, the director and the actor… Are all done by the same person?
Take Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) for example. He starred in, directed and wrote one of his latest films, Don Jon. What it’s about doesn’t really matter in this post, and I haven’t seen it yet, although from what I understand, it would be a good one to talk about for idolatry. Noting to self.
Anyway, so back to what Will said on Sunday: Each of the three persons of the trinity have distinct roles.
As the writer, JGL had a very specific role, as the director, he had another, and as the actor he had another. He’s got to think about what he wants this movie to say through a story, which is about image. Then he’s got to decide how he’s going make that story relevant and relatable so that the message gets across. Then he’s got to figure out how to paint that picture with people, how to make that message more tangible. At every step, he’s in a different mindset, but with the same goal.
The writer is not the director, the director is not the actor, and the actor is not the writer. BUT.
The writer is JGL. The director is JGL. The actor is JGL. They are the same person.
In the same way, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father.
The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God.
Distinct rolessame person, and the one person can be up to all three roles at the same timeBut let’s superimpose those parallels.
The writer. The Father. God. The one who creates the story that solves a particular problem. That story is the gospel, and that problem is sin. What He says goes. What He says is law.
The director. The Spirit. God. The one that is in charge of eliciting a response from the audience. You don’t often see the director, but they are the mastermind behind everything, working everything together, putting the puzzle pieces in place. One of the ways they do that, is pointing to the actor, to the set, to the score, to the world, telling the audience, don’t mind me, watch what they do, watch what the actor does and you’ll see what I did, through the actor, during all those hours of rehearsal. The Spirit bears witness to Christ. (Acts 1:8) He’s the one that moves in us, that pulls our heartstrings and gets us to respond to the story, to the Gospel.
The actor. The Son. God. The face of the story, the one acting it out and seeing it through. He engages directly with the audience, speaking at them if not to them. Christ saw the Gospel through, Christ did as he was told by the Father, Christ followed where the Spirit led Him, Christ engaged directly with the world, the audience. He is as the world knows and sees Him, a man, but equally He is as He knows Himself to be, God. Fully God, fully man.
It sounds a little egotistical of God that He’s pointing to Himself all the time, but it’s more than that. He’s not pointing at who Jesus is, as much as He’s pointing at what Jesus did… And who He did it for. He isn’t bragging, He’s telling the story.
Finally, at the risk of repeating myself, let’s put it all together.
The writer writes a story to challenge to world and solve a problem. The director tells that story to the audience through various elements, while putting focus on the actor, who sees the story through and makes it something tangible for the world to understand and engage in.
God wrote the Gospel, to challenge the world and solve this problem of sin. The Spirit, moves in so many of us to tell this story in the wonderfully unique ways we each live our lives, using our lives to point to Christ and what HE DID, not what any of us did. And what is this story, what did He do? Jesus Christ, who was sinless, died for our sin on the cross, paying our debt according to the Father’s law, so that whosoever believes in Him, can be counted as righteous and blameless, and be redeemed and eligible for eternal life.
Also, a writer, director and actor are the three main elements one needs to make a performance. Take one away, and there’s no show, no story.
Not only is the Holy Trinity one person, He is the same God being all three persons at the same time, and He is complete. He is a community in Himself. He doesn’t need us to tell that story for Him. It’s already been told, and told well, by Him.
We just recommend the show and let Him speak for Himself to others.
1100

Hell is Other People

Re-post.


“Hell is other people.”

I first heard this quotation in philosophy class as an introduction to writer, philosopher and atheist Jean-Paul Sartre.

At first I thought it was amusing, and if you’re an introvert like me, I thought there was truth in it. Some might even go parading these four words as their mantra, proud of preferring solitude over gathering, staying aloof and aloft over getting involved in a social environment.

But this statement is one of life’s many great lies.

We were built for community, made for fellowship with one another. God Himself is a community, a trinity.

How do I know this?

When you were a kid, why were timeouts so bad? Being away from all the fun with the other kids, you were forced to stay inside, to watch, to be alone and away from your friends.

When you were a teenager playing sports, why were penalty boxes, red cards, benches, the worst place to be? You didn’t contribute to the team, they played on without you while you sat by yourself, waiting. Waiting to get back in, staring at the clock.

When you are an adult, why is jail a punishment? Being away from society, confined in solitude, with minimal human contact. Why is exile and deportation a severe consequence?

Rejection from a group (rejection in general actually), fear of it, and fear of it happening again, is why. We may not admit it, or we may ignore it, or harden ourselves against it, but these are soul shattering experiences that we love to bury. It could be under wit, or drugs, alcohol, lust, unhealthy relationships, anything to keep our minds off it.

We long to belong, to be with other people, to share the life we’ve been given. We always have.

Genesis 1:27 ESV
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Male and female he created THEM.

1 John 1:3 says “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

The Bible, though written across hundreds of years, by dozens of authors, in different media of litterature, featuring thousands of people including prophets, kings, servants, the wicked, the righteous, shepherds, warriors, peacekeepers, and radicals… All tell and point to one person and one story. Jesus Christ, and His burning desire to reconcile and fellowship with His wayward and unfaithful people.

HOWEVER, this is not to say that solitude in itself is a bad thing. I’m an introvert, I like my alone time (how else would I have blog material???). Having time away from the craziness of life and resting is in fact essential for growth, especially spiritual growth. Private meditation, prayer, whatever it is you do, fills your cup again to be poured out. Even Jesus did it.

Matthew 26:36 ESV
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”

He also commands us to do the same.

Matthew 6:6 ESV
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

But even in those instances, you are not alone, because God, who is ever present is WITH YOU. Which I believe is really encouraging.

Solitude, true solitude, is when and where even God is not. Hell, eternal separation from that which is holy.

Someone, I believe it was C.S. Lewis in his book The Great Divorce, depicted one version (not necessarily biblical) of Hell as a huge expanse of darkness, where every individual was millions of miles away from the closest person in any direction.

Another way to put that, is if two people managed to walk directly toward each other, and maintain a straight line, they could walk for eternity and never meet.

Could you imagine that? You can’t see, it’s cold, it’s mostly silent except for the distant calls and cries of your neighbours. You have no one to talk to, your thoughts louder than anything else. You wait, you walk, with only your hopes and fears exaggerated by your imagination for company.

I imagine Gollum went through something similar.

But if everyone is so far, it must be a pretty big place right? And yet Lewis also describes it as so infinitely small compared to reality and heaven. I think at one point, the residents of his allegory to Hell felt shrunken and minuscule next to those of the “heavenly” counterpart. They were so close, and yet so far.

So close and yet so far. That’s the tie breaker a split second after the buzzer, the split second on the clock between gold and silver, the half mark away from 100%, the single percentile from top in class, from the really big scholarship, the last minute decision that took your big break away.

People, are complicated, and frankly sometimes a pain to be around. But without them, what would we do? What would we become? How would we function? We are in each other’s lives for a reason, maybe even multiple ones.

So.

Hell is other people? The exact opposite is true.

1100

TCWT12 – Day 4: Seniors II

Re-post. Part 5 of 5. Recap vid here:


LAST DAY OF TC!!!!!

I’ll try to keep this one brief since most of the day was pretty similar to the previous 3.

I’d say the only thing that was different was that everything was MUCH LOUDER and even harder to try and get some sleep.

Funny story… After spending lots of down time journaling, praying, just meditating on everything that I’ve learned from this experience so far, I went up to the Sanctuary, lay down in the back pew and tried to get some sleep, earphones in to drown out any other sounds. Some of the media girls were already there, as was Funfun so I think they slept, but during a break within songs, the conversation of the workshop going on caught my attention for some reason.

I think it was about how to respond to those tough questions that friends have probably asked you because you’re a Christian.

Q: What do you say to someone who’s gay?
A: Just say “Hi!” God calls us to love unconditionally 😀

Q: Is God real?
A: This question took up a lot of time as you can imagine, and we got a very sidetracked but the speaker managed to bring it all back. He just did a quick Christianity vs. Evolution because there was an entire workshop on that question happening in another room. But in a nutshell, and I agree with this for now, that according to the Theory of Evolution, every human being alive, every newborn baby is a mistake, a sum of mistakes over time. No one is supposed to be here, we’re all here by accident. And because we’re here by accident, there’s no purpose in life. Without a purpose in life, without a God that will judge us at the end of our life, we are free to do WHATEVER WE WANT. Go ahead, drop school, go do some fun crimes, if you die, so what? You weren’t supposed to be here anyway. With evolution, it is implied that morals and ethics are as worthless as the bubbles in your coke: it’s just chemistry.

Obviously there’s still an enormous amount of debate going on, but this question of where we came from has been asked since the beginning of history, and whether the Earth is thousands or millions of years, there’s still no way for us to be 100% sure of what happened in the past. And while there is “evidence” you can often use the same evidence to prove opposite points, which just keeps us chasing our tails and causing more division and more resentment.

ANYWAY.

I had to go downstairs and meet up with everyone so I couldn’t stay for the whole workshop.

So that morning, Christine did a sermon on the need for continual cleansing.

Jesus took on the task of a lowly servant and washed the disciples’ feet, to symbolize the spiritual cleansing. We are declared righteous, saved, sanctified in Jesus Christ.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9

We CAN’T claim to be sinless. We need to be cleansed, like taking a “spiritual shower” of love and grace. We are NOT cleansed by DOING things, although we do strive on towards the goal and prize of salvation. We are cleansed by repenting, admitting that we are dirty and broken, as well as accepting Christ’s forgiveness. 

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Phillippians 3:12-14

We need to confess our sins to one another… keep each other ACCOUNTABLE to stop sinning. Just because we are sinful by nature, does not make it an excuse to say, “I can’t help myself”. It’s still possible to sin less.

We’ve all sinned and done something crazy/stupid, so no one can judge, no on evan blame another for something. From the judgmental “woooooooooowww” to “hey… you know what? I’ve done that too.”

In confessing, your deep, dark, secret sin that only you know, that sin is laid down into the light and CLEANSED.

Though our sin is like scarlett, Jesus washes it til it’s white as snow.

We need to repent DAILY and cleanse DAILY.

So how is cleansing good news? I love this analogy she made:
It’s like going to a doctor and you get diagnosed with cancer. It’s good that it was found, since it was always there. Then, say the cancer is CURABLE. Removable, whatever.

That is good news!

The fact that you were dying, suffering, but that you have a chance to live on!

Going back to that song, Before the Throne of God Above

Because a sinless saviour died
My sinful sound is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me(emphasis mine)

In our little corner outside the Sanctuary, Planning Committee put up encouragement verses to each team, including the speakers.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:22-25

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ… We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:6, 8-10

So I mentioned that each of us on the team had some down time to just reflect on the past 3 days and everything that’s happened so here’s a bit of what I wrote…

Our God is able, He has done GREAT things. It’s the last day of TC and I haven’t REALLY been convicted of anything. I feel like, up ’til now, I haven’t taken anything away except for just having fun. but as I sit here, sink down under the weight of… I don’t even know, I feel Him. I hear Him. Like a gentle whisper in my heart, a silent embrace of love around my soul. MY GOD IS ALIVE!!

I won’t worry about the hundred tomorrows, I’ll trust in what You say.

God, you are so amazing, that you can use so many writings to speak to me, INCLUDING my own. Lord, I pray for your wisdom, for your comfort, and for your glory Lord. On the last day of TC, tonight, be with us all in your house. Make your presence INCREDIBLY LOUD to us so that more might come to you, might be freed… Cleanse me Lord, I want to be with you. I feel bad that I’m always asking, asking, asking, and even though you don’t five all the time, when you give, you deliver and you make it the best there is. So thank you 😀 Thank you for being who You are and always being by my side. I will seek you in the morning, and I will learn to walk in your ways, and step by step you’ll lead me and I will follow you all of my days…

In your glorious name,
Amen.

1100

TCWT12 – Day 3: Seniors I

Re-post. Part 4 of 5


Seniors.

Not old people… well… oldER people… grade 10-12s!!!

Rinse, wash and repeat.

For the Senior Conference it was basically the same thing, except we had A LOT more time on our hands because we weren’t assigned to teams.

A few of us tried to get some sleep, but I certainly didn’t succeed. Raph was doing homework and Christine and Charis were doing some outstanding legit art, so I did the iPod on face thing 😛 I think it kinda annoyed people though so they gave me earphones LOL.

Haha everyone was taking the smack down pretty seriously, so after nap time, we started singing our rep in our room. Some of us went to workshops, others went to learn their parts on their own and then joined us all in B26.

I took a break and hang out with media for a bit with Raph. We chilled, I got to know some of them a bit better, until the rest of us next door started singing REALLY loud with harmonies and all (it was pretty darn awesome) so we all migrated again. We set up chairs in a circle, and we just worshipped. Eliot came in at some point and fixed us, Michelle SR did too 😀

Next thing we knew, it was 2 hours later, and media had to go for their rehearsal. We followed them (heehee) and watched them rehearse, and experience first hand what El and Lorr were talking about when they talked about media in our smack down.

Us music kids got to participate in their piece called MOBS to kind of fill in their mob and have more than just 10 people. It was… interesting… to be an angry member wanting to destroy God. It was REALLY hard not to laugh, but again, their coach James talked to us about the striving for excellence, and it was very beneficial observing media and how they work.

Maybe it’s because we can get away with blips in music that we’re very laid back and not a very serious bunch, but watching them and their “no tolerance for mistakes” was incredibly inspiring 😀

Christine Lee, the speaker for the Seniors was always a joy to be around, but to be honest, I was so tired I couldn’t really concentrate on the sermons… SO GOOD THING I TOOK NOTES hehe 😛 (from the powerpoint)

Everyone struggles with sin, and sometimes it’s the same sin from youth to maturity. What’s often the most personal is the most universal… you’d be surprised how many people can relate to your story 😀

Alright, sin. So what? Why do we need to be spiritually cleansed?
1. The peace in your heart (1 Peter 1:24)
2. Confidence in life (Jeremiah 29:11)
3. Victory over sin (1 Corinthians 15:57)
4. Wisdom of the Word
5. Eternal Life <- comes only through this cleansing

^Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere (Psalm 84:10)

But above all, here are the MAJOR reasons for our continual need for spiritual cleansing:
1. The Glory of God
-Psalm 19:1
-Isaiah 43:6-7

2. ONLY GOD SATISFIES
-Psalm 17:15

Hmmm…

God you are amazing… beyond description, there isn’t a word that best describes you in your entirety, in your perfect love, and holy presence.

At the beginning of each conference they played a call of worship video. It’s amazing how simple words, and soft music could do so much. I know for me both times I watched it, I couldn’t help but take slow deep breaths and just calm my heart, close my eyes, and smile…

I don’t remember the words exactly, and I hope it goes on YouTube, though I doubt it, but I wrote down my thoughts in my journal as it was playing.

YOU ARE HERE.