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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Only We Would Leave the King of the Universe Hanging

What happens when runaway thoughts spin themselves into a hurricane inside your heart, but all you want at that moment is to go to bed?

“Spirit, can you hold these thoughts, bookmark them or something ’til morning?”

The storm only presses upon me like a firm and gentle push on the swings, adding momentum. Very well. Here I am.

In the past two weeks, I’ve experienced the same conversation several times, which I found rather curious. It went something along the lines of, “Well you have your Christianity thing, but I prefer the buddhist philosophy if I had to choose.”

I’ve heard many people express their admiration for the buddhist worldview, my own grandmother being a devout practitioner.

I’d always wondered what made it so attractive until I saw a booth on campus a few semesters ago, that encouraged students to develop spirituality or oneness with the universe… but where God was optional.

One part of me said, yeah um, good luck with that. God is inviting you into true spirituality, that is, a relationship with His Holy Spirit (and the Son and the Father), how can you possibly do that without Him? You can’t fist bump without a fist to bump! There have been many times when a friend would hold out their fist and I’d miss it, so to add some dramatic flair to the situation and reduce the embarrassment, they’d make a big deal about leaving them hanging. I do it by accident of course, though Freud might disagree. However, we do do this on purpose to God all the time, on a daily maybe even hourly basis. He’s set up the relationship so that He contacts us, we just have to be there and be willing. Instead, we don’t just leave Him hanging, we left Him, the King of all things, high and dry!

But back to the booth. The other part of me empathized. We were made to worship, and worship we do. We are constantly searching for it. Some will worship things like money or success or approval, not in the golden calf sort of way, but in putting their identity in relationships (self is only in relation to so and so), image (I live to appear like this to the world), reputation (I am who people tell me or expect me to be) or a career (I am no one without my career and/or my salary), and so many other things. Others will worship virtue, being and doing and living according to some moral standard, a constant process of atonement. In fact, since the Fall, these are the defaults in you, in me, and in everyone else who ever lived.

In seeking just spirituality, people are looking for the “way of life” part of worship, which is why I can understand the thought process behind “why can’t people just believe what they want to believe, do what works for them?” Another phrase I’ve heard often, but oddly more frequently in the past bit.

Worship, the kind that we were designed for, includes another component: loving and generous volition. In other words, a relationship. Without that, nothing will work or satisfy your soul. At least not forever. When we say that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the way, the truth and the life, we’re not trying to take away people’s free will! If a treasure hunter finds the room with the jackpot, a sea of treasure, won’t they say, “hey guys, come here, I found it!” It’s a jackpot, you really can’t miss it, which is why it doesn’t make sense for the other treasure hunters to ask, “are you sure you found it? There’s a smaller room here with some cool trinkets, that might be it.”

As followers of Christ, we are not just servants to the King of the universe, but heirs. Heirs! The one who holds the name above all names is not just our Lord or our Master… He is our friend and Father who knows us deeply. He cares much less about us and His rules than us and Himself. Matt Chandler puts it this way, “God is more interested in progress than perfection.” Progress of course, requires an interaction with the one assessing you.

I’m not sure what kind of spirituality people have found without a deep and personal relationship with God, but I can imagine the peace it brings is more about keeping your hands busy than finding rest and purpose… A peace that comes at the price of never ending toil, with the resulting fruit leaving something to be desired.

Here’s another one I hear often enough: “So many other religions and worldviews are similar, what makes Christianity right or better than them? It’s not even the first one.”

Many people go to this point of the argument to discredit Christianity, but to me I see it as a proof of its legitimacy. Communicating what I see is of course the issue, but I will try. The most basic common ground for all the religions of world history is the human condition. It’s all about advancing or improving the human condition in some way. That is the common thread — a sinful heart that needs fixing.

This common thread extends far beyond religion, and into everything we do, since everything we do is a direct result of our sinful heart. But written on that same heart is God’s law — our conscience, our own moral standards. I’m most interested in storytelling, and so I see echoes of the soul yearning for the gospel all the time there.

The villains must always get their just deserts, because we know that sin and evil must be punished. The hero always starts out flawed or unprepared for the task, because we know that we aren’t perfect and need something or someone to make us whole, to prepare us for our destiny. The hero must always go through a great ordeal before succeeding, because we know that justice comes at a sacrificial cost. The hero always achieves the goal and overcomes the ordeal, rewarded with honour or revelation.

But these are just the standard givens of story structure, of the monomyth or infamous hero’s journey! Yes, but why? Why are they taken for granted, why is this what we want to see, why is it that if a story defies these laws, we are left cheated or unsatisfied?

After all, a story where the hero dies and the antagonist wins and the whole journey was for naught, is often considered a bad story, not a creative twist. We feel like we’ve wasted our time. What’s worse is that sometimes life is like that, intrinsically wrong and a waste. It’s that deep pit of dissatisfaction and despair.

I propose that at the root, we know in our core that there is a certain way things are supposed to be, and every human knows it. The gospel tells the story that is the balm to our souls. It doesn’t just give us hope and peace and love and fuzzy, flimsy emotions… it is a solid anchor to cling on to.

The hero’s journey example I just used is only one of many places I’ve seen the yearning for the gospel. There are more specific examples. Take the superhero boom. Of course many factors played into this, but at the root, I would say its appeal comes from our deep intrinsic need for a saviour with greater power or skills than ourselves. One, or a small group, must represent and save all of humanity from evil and tyranny. Or how about a show like Once Upon A Time? At the time of writing this, a saviour is being tempted in the wilderness to turn to darkness so that the laws of storytelling might be reversed — villains will get their happy endings, evil will reign, heroes are forever fated to fail and their redemption becomes a futility. Will she succumb and leave everyone without any chance of hope, or will she prevail and let redemption win? Or how about a movie like Jupiter Ascending that I just watched a couple hours ago? SPOILERS: it ends with the protagonist inheriting the Earth… Sound familiar?

I see elements of the human condition echoing the biblical narrative in stories, on TV, on the news, in movies, in people, in other worldviews… it’s everywhere! And I’m not surprised. In awe, definitely, but not surprised. The bible itself was written across centuries by different people in different contexts for different purposes through different mediums. Letters, instructions, songs, poems, historical documents, prophets, fishermen, tax collectors, priests. All this… and yet the common thread tying all these things together is the narrative of the cross. Everything pre-cross in the old testament points to it, and everything post-cross points to it. Prophecies of a Messiah, of a coming kingdom, meant as an encouragement to God’s people in the old testament, and a proclamation of what was done on the cross meant as an encouragement to the early church in the new testament.

My point is that, if the gospel is a common thread throughout the incredible diversity within the Bible, why should it be any different today? The existence of common threads among religions and worldviews isn’t discrediting the gospel, but rather reaffirms it in that we can all agree that we’re broken and need help — admitting this is the very foundation of our faith.

For some, this still doesn’t answer your questions or satisfy your stirrings, and this is to be expected. I couldn’t possibly explain everything because there is still a lot that I don’t fully understand. Even the apostle Paul said “I am perplexed, but not crushed” in 2 Corinthians 4. The guy who wrote most of the new testament still didn’t get stuff, so there’s no way I will.

However, I’ll touch a bit on why Christianity not being the “first” is not really an issue. Firstly, God understands what it is to exist outside of space and time, so linear thinking can’t really be applied here. I know that answer isn’t good enough for some of you, so I will go further.

Christianity didn’t “start” when we entered the story. The beginning wasn’t when humans finally understood what Jesus meant all those times after he died and rose again. It wasn’t when God showed us a virgin birth. It wasn’t when the prophets of Israel told God’s people that God was coming to humankind through a Messiah. It wasn’t when God himself told Adam and Eve that their seed would crush that of the serpent’s. No.

Everyone knows how it goes. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In the beginning, God. He is the beginning, He is where it all starts (and ends, but I won’t get into that here).

God planned everything from before creation, whenever that was. He wasn’t surprised at man’s rebellion, He wasn’t scrambling to come up with a plan to save humanity after the rebellion… He knew all along. He planned all of history before time existed. The cross and Christianity pre-dates time itself.

Your acceptance of this answer inevitably depends on your own worldview of course, but there is no talking about faith without faith.

I guess if there’s a take away point at all from all of this, it’s that God wants a meaningful relationship with you and has programmed that desire in you. That programming has come out in, among other things, the value we place over spirituality, our eternal search for steadfast peace everlasting, and our intrinsic sense of justice and redemption.

CS Lewis describes this unique God-us relationship like this:

You asked for a loving God: you have one… not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible of the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

If you’re searching for steadfast peace everlasting that does not waver in even the worst of circumstances and that transcends a mere code or creed, I can only tell you that I have found it here in Christ and have not yet heard of someone who found the exact same thing elsewhere. Will you cave to the backwards instinct to fight and run away from the very thing you’re looking for, or will you be called a friend of a King?

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The Artist’s Collapse

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift from God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

This is no obscure verse. There are cards and mugs and T-shirts and bumper stickers that probably have this verse on it. It’s great for encouraging one another, especially in those times (cough cough teen angst) when we question our worth, our existence, and our future.

I remember seeing it and reading it and coming back to it time and time again but as always, the Word of God always has something to say to the soul no matter how many times you’ve heard it. The ramifications of this verse are stunning; literally and figuratively. It’s huge! It’s almost unbelievable. It’s a compliment as big as God’s heart, and it’s so hard to take in. I have a hard time dealing with mortal compliments, that is, my response to them. How am I supposed to handle these words breathed from the God of all creation to me?

“Who am I that you are mindful of me?” asks the psalmist.

Here’s the usual breakdown of what this verse is actually saying:

1) If you are a human, we are told that each of us are masterpieces worth dying for.

2) We are chosen, and chosen well. We have purpose. We have a destiny. No one who has ever lived or will ever live, is an accident. No one is useless. Not only that, this purpose was carefully chosen long before you arrived.

3) Our salvation is a gift. This is the Bible turning backwards thinking right side up again. To us of course, the backwards part seems forward, and God’s forward seems backwards.

You do something to earn the reward, right? Not with God.

He gives first, now go do good work. We didn’t earn God’s gift, we can’t boast in our efforts toward it. But in truly receiving the gift of grace, our works and effort become a natural response of joy and gratitude. Natural. As if it were supposed to be that way all along. Right side up, right way forward.

Ours is a culture where chosen ones and heroes and destiny resonate so deeply with us. Most, if not every child has at least dreamed or pictured themselves as their favourite hero character. Maybe I’m an alien with powers that will develop in the near future. Maybe this body mark means I’m destined for greatness. Maybe my crazy old uncle has a double or triple life and will find me worthy enough to invite me into it. Maybe my family has a secret they will take to the grave and I’m about to join their ranks.

Maybe someday a mysterious stranger or mysterious circumstance will come knock at my door, tell me I’m chosen, present me with a purpose and turn my life upside down, but also make it so much more interesting.

I’ll be honest, with that last one I was initially thinking of Harry Potter or something like that, but reading it again… in many ways, isn’t it what we’ve been exploring in Ephesians 2:10 just now?

Sure, but that’s fiction, people have told me. Well how about an analogy, penned no less by CS Lewis in his book, The Problem of Pain, in which he answers the anxiety-inducing question, “if God is so good and loving, if God loves us, if God finds us precious and worthwhile, why does He allow pain and suffering into our lives?”

Not to belittle any painful experiences, but… well I guess I should just let him explain:

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the ‘intolerable compliment.’

Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would, doubtless thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.

He goes on to show this love in a man’s despotic love for a beast or a pet, a father’s provident and venerable love for a child, and the inexorable love between husband and wife.

For the artist’s love for his work, it is persistent, according to Lewis. God’s love is persistent. It’s taken me a while to really believe the truth in Ephesian 2:10, and even now I haven’t plundered all its truth yet. But God is faithfully persistent in revealing it.

When all the other voices tell me what’s wrong with my body, my fitness, my intellect, my personality, my social image, my beliefs, my behaviour, whatever it might be… The cross tells me who I am.

Not that my identity is in religion, necessarily. Far from it. I am labelled under “Christian,” but its implications are far more interesting. The cross, and my faith in what was done on it, tells me that while I still deserved His wrath over my sin, God in all His glory and power died in my place because He loves me and thinks I am worth that cost.

Let me note that my revealing these voices is not to garner pity or validation… it’s not a secret cry for compliments. I rarely know what to do with compliments, it’s not my love language, if you will.

But the cross, the act committed upon it. That is love at its truest.

I love Lewis’ illustration of a sentient work of art. If we were to take the analogy a bit further, Christ’s incarnation would be like the artist being collapsed into his own creation, only to be scorned by it.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional painter is collapsed into a few two dimensional strokes of colour, and then blotted out.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional author is collapsed into a few lines of fiction, and then scribbled and scratched out beyond recognition.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional dancer is collapsed into pattern of movement, then practiced poorly, abandoned and forgotten.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional musician is collapsed into a simple melodious pressure wave, lost in a cacophonous symphony.

But the story isn’t over…

The painter, the author, the dancer, the musician, the creator… is so much more than their creation. Immeasurably more, as our friends at Rend Collective sing. What is a blot of paint to the painter, a scribble to the writer, poor repetition to a dancer, noise to a musician? A nuisance sure, but certainly not enough to wipe them from existence.

What is death to the creator of life?

But the story still isn’t over…

What if the art maker, like Gepetto, desired so much more, not of but for the artwork? For a wooden toy to become a son? For the creation to be like the creator?

[See] that you put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.

Colossians 3:9-11

What if the artist could lift the world on the canvas and bring it to life? What if the writer could lift a character from the page and hang out? What if a dancer could meet their dance personified in all its richness and complexity and beauty? What if a musician could duet with their opus?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Christ’s invitation to draw near to Him, to enter a covenant relationship with Him, is not for misery in righteousness, not an ideological cage or a prison. It’s an invitation to a life outside the confines of this reality.

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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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“Cup Song” Throwback

Assignments 9 and 11, remixing and bricolage.

Listen and sing along with the score. Orange play button is on the bottom left.


Reflection

My first mash-up! All of the songs in there seem somewhat dated now, but they weren’t when I first started.

For this project I used an online program called Noteflight, which I hadn’t really touched since my time in the Trudeau Wind Symphony (high school).

I’d been thinking about starting a “real” YouTube channel for some time now, and I’m a little closer to getting there, but at the time of starting this particular project, the “cup song” from Pitch Perfect was all the rage. With a new creative cover of the song appearing every time I signed in online, 2012 me thought I’d do an a cappella cover of my own. I was supposed to perform and film it with some talented friends but never finished it until now.

I first learned how to do the cup beat from the movie to Nothing But the Blood, a classic hymn, which is what got this whole cover ambition going. Alas, as with many of my grand ideas, very few of them get executed, and of those, even fewer are completed. While I learned to actually put a mash-up of 5 very different songs together, I think for me, this assignment was more about confronting my tendency to abandon ideas before they’ve been played with, before their potential has even been explored. After three odd years of gathering dust, this mash-up isn’t where I thought it would be, but it’s finished, and I like it enough. Maybe it’s time I gave all my “rejects” another chance — or rather their first chance.

As for bricolage, changing something’s meaning, that almost happened by accident. I was challenged last week to further my media literacy by using it to actually say something. Playing and exploring is an important first step, but now that I’ve discovered the tool, how am I going to use it?

The 5 songs I used in the mash-up are really only related by their tempo and time signature so that they could match the beat. Otherwise, their styles and their genres are all fairly different. Each story the lyrics tell is different.

When I’m Gone by Lulu and the Lampshades. What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction. Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North. Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars. Nothing But the Blood by Robert Lowry.

It’s hard to tell without the lyrics actually being sung, but once every song has been showcased, the lyrics meld together at the end to say this:

When I’m gone, this is where the healing begins. What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus, ’cause You’re amazing just the way You are… and that’s what makes you beautiful.

Not to alienate anyone who doesn’t share my worldview, but it seems to work its way into most of everything I do, and I think the gospel is a story worth over and over again. Our brokenness can only begin to heal when we take our eyes off ourselves, and that healing is possible because of Christ’s blood on the cross. Not Santa Claus Jesus who ought to give you everything you ask for, not military Jesus who only gives orders or penalties, but Jesus as He is, the perfect Lamb who was slain in our place… and that’s what makes us beautiful, whole again.

In a society that’s becoming more and more secular, not only have people developed a deeper yearning for some sense of spirituality, but shamefully, I’m finding myself to be more apologetic for my own. The gospel isn’t popular in this day and age, or else I wouldn’t be apologizing.

This course, but this assignment in particular was definitely a challenge and an exercise in vulnerability. First going back and fixing what I had written off as a failure, but more importantly taking a risk and being myself without apology or compromise.

He is Jealous for Me

Last re-post! We’ve finally caught up! Some of you might remember this one.


I’ve often wondered why the Bible describes God as a jealous God all over the place; Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua… and yet commands us, “you shall not covet.”

At first glance, seems a little hypocritical, contradictory, right?

Jealousy. Envy. Covetousness. Our culture has amalgamated these three words and made them synonymous, when the reality is that though there are subtle differences, that’s all it takes to completely change the meaning of the text.

Exodus 20:17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Of course, one of the 10 commandments. I’ve heard this sometimes translated as “you shall not envy.”

ENVY: A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Or,

ENVY: Desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to something or someone else.

Pretty straightforward, usually what most people think envy means.

Now COVET on its own, means to yearn, to crave for a possession – a person, a quality, an object, anything. That possession may not be already owned.

But of course in this case, “you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour,” is very much in the realm of envy. The reason though, that I think they used covet rather than envy, is because it is driven by a desire, a craving, rather than resentment. I’m sure someone, a scholar who has read this text in its original language could answer this much better than I.

Well okay, I’ve told you more or else what you already know.

JEALOUSY: Fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions.

I’d first heard of the difference between envy and jealousy last week in my first acting class. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when I was reminded that our God is a jealous God… it was very much a do-you-know-what-this-means?!? kind of moment.

Fiercely protective.

See, envy is about possessing that which isn’t yet yours… but jealousy is almost the opposite. Jealousy is about preventing the loss of what you already possess.

Some people will say that God’s most important quality is His love.

Some of you are reading that and thinking, ‘you say that like it isn’t.’

It is important, yes, but overwhelmingly, I think it’s God’s holiness. The fact that He is perfect, whole, complete, set apart. His love for us is an overflow of the love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, God doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need our love to be complete, He is complete, He is a community, it’s not like He’s lonely without us.

And yet… He is fiercely protective. Fiercely.

If you look at the contexts of the old testament passages that describe God as a jealous God, it is in relation to idolatry…

If you’re like me, whenever you catch yourself putting anything above God, or putting God under other things, you pray and repent, and learn and grow from that “season.” And growing is good. But then you fall for it again. And again. And again. And you feel guilt, and shame. What’s wrong with me? Why do I keep stumbling, why does this keep happening? Did I not do it right? Did I not truly repent?

And behind those questions is a growing doubt, a seedling of a lie that says that even in Christ you are worthless, beyond saving, and a complete failure.

But God is sovereign. He is true. He is holy. It’s not about us in the slightest.

Once you are God’s, nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

He is fiercely protective. Of us. Our idols, whatever they may be, are under His control, nothing in our walk or our journey or our relationship with God happens without crossing His desk first, so to speak.

Obviously, don’t actively go and sin, but when you do stumble, and we all will, see if you can figure out what God is trying to get at. What I mean is, our stumbling in sin is not a punishment, or ‘haha look how worthless you are.’ It is a tool meant for us to learn. Maybe the first time it’s to learn humility. Then the next time to learn surrender. Then the next time to learn gratitude. Then trust. Not only that, every time we learn a new lesson from the same “exercise,” we often apply what we already learned.

As a result, every time, whether we know it or not, we come out of a “stumbling” learning something, and every time, our Father is using that lesson to protect us in the future. Making us holy. Teaching us, guiding us, to becoming more and more like Christ. Transforming us, rather than condemning us, grace rather than judgement.

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree, bending beneath
The weight of His wind and mercy
 
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these
Afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great your affections are for me
1100

The Will of God

Re-post. Tricky stuff.


What is God’s will? More importantly, what is God’s will for me?

Seems to be a question on many minds, a question that haunts us whenever big decisions have to be made.

It always feels like the answer is so hard to discern we become as impatient as Sarah and try to help God out. My servant will have a child for me. I will handle this. God let me choose a sign. If this happens, this is your will, if that happens, that is your will. Let me handle this.

Suddenly “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” isn’t so easy.

Just words, empty words. Almost an incantation.

Surely the Bible has something about God’s will for us! …right?

Except we want answers now. And specifics. The bible doesn’t have the specifics to your particular life trajectory. Don’t flatter yourself.

So what are the “go to” verses? Trust in the Lord. Fear not. Take heart. Love the Lord your God. Be strong and courageous. Glorify His name.

Encouraging in their contexts, and very much a light in our time of darkness.

But difficult all the same.

And still kind of vague about God’s actual will. These are more by products of us being and doing His will.

If we were doing God’s will, of course we would trust Him, of course we would not fear, of course we would love him and be strong and glorify him.

But how do we know if we’re there or not?

And then that anxiety starts up again and we’re three steps behind square one.

Believe it or not, the Bible states is very plainly. So much so we often miss it. Just like that.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1) REJOICE ALWAYS.

Difficult to do, especially on those nasty mornings.

2) PRAY ALWAYS.

Also difficult to do. Most first reactions are along the lines of:

Whaa…?
Excuse me?
Come again?
That’s not even possible… Is it?

Come on God, we’ve got things to do, places to be… People to save?

3) GIVE THANKS ALWAYS.

This is the punchline we almost always miss.

Needless to say, difficult to do.

But the first two, especially the second, have already blown our minds, we’re already dismissing and not registering perhaps the most important of the three.

If we gave thanks to God, we would always be rejoicing.

If we gave thanks to God, we would always be praying and communicating with him.

If we gave thanks to God, we wouldn’t have the entitlement mentality of this generation to have our cake and eat it too. We wouldn’t need specific answers. We wouldn’t want God’s will to really be our will. We’d be giving thanks for everything He has already given us and done for us.

In essence, we wouldn’t be “seeking God’s will” because we’d already be in it.

He doesn’t need you to do anything for Him. All he wants you to do is give thanks with a grateful heart.

Look at the contrast between King Melchizedek and the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.

After being rescued from captivity, Sodom’s first words are “Give me.”
Melchizedek says “Blessed be God Most High, possessor of Heaven and Earth.”

#blessed.

So when you’re anxious about that job? When you’re worrying about your future? When you’re afraid that you’ll be wrong about what to do next? When you’re tempted to take matters into your own hands to get the results you want to see? When you’re seeking God’s will?

Give thanks. Look back on the beautiful work He just finished up in your life. It’ll make you wonder how magnificent are the days to come.

And then look further… To the endless days of His kingdom. How excited are you? How grateful are you? How mind blown are you by His grace and unconditional love that He gave up everything, including his life, so you could see and experience that?

God’s will? Simple, yet challenging. Give thanks.

1100

Oceans

Re-post. Still learning to apply this one.


Long post today.

I read this article today on the shape of the industry I’m thinking of entering, and all the social dynamics, etc. Of course they’re things that I already knew, and that people have been telling me, and what I’ve been studying in class… But hearing it yet again made it that much more real, especially from a scholarly article (not to dismiss all the other people who told me the same thing.)

To diverge a little, you know when every once in a while, this one song resonates so strongly with you that you listen to it over and over and over again? It may not necessarily be your favourite song, it just speaks to you and puts into words what you’ve been feeling, or what you need to feel. Right now, for me, that song is Oceans by Hillsong.

You call me out upon the water
The great unknown,
Where feet may fail.

Those are the first few lines of the song and they grabbed me instantly. The rest of the lyrics are just as resonant for me, but I won’t type it all out here. However, the bridge is what I really want to talk about:

Spirit lead me where by trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my saviour.

The more I listen to it, the more I think about it, and the more I sing it. And as always, be careful what you sing, and be careful what you sing as a prayer… Because it’s when you don’t fully realize what you’re asking God that he shows you what those words mean. In other words, He answers that prayer. Which is good… it also means that you’re in for some exciting turbulence, good and “bad.”

So let’s see. Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders? Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander? Well I definitely feel like I’m in the deep end.

I was revisiting the Doctor Who series 5 two part finale as a little treat for myself after finishing the day’s studying, and the Doctor said something interesting. (Well, I know… When does he not?)

Doctor: I need you to trust me.
Amy: But you don’t always tell the truth.
Doctor: If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t have to ask you to trust me.

Makes sense. Most characters believe everything the Doctor says because he’s clever and will gladly tell you “I told you so” in some way if you don’t. But as has been repeated on several occasions, Rule number 1: The Doctor lies.

So if the Doctor told the truth all the time, and he said everything is going to be all right, no one would have to ask, “is that a lie?” And he wouldn’t have to answer, “quite possibly.” They’d trust him. All that being said, most of the time, the characters trust him anyway. Wouldn’t make for a satisfying story if they didn’t.

If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t have to ask you to trust me.

If that statement makes sense… Then why does this happen:

1. I believe that God always tells the truth.
2. He asks us to trust him.
3. It should be a quick yes because of #1 (in theory).
4. But we don’t.

Or at least I don’t, not in this situation. I wish I did, and I tell myself I do, but I know I don’t because deep down I’m still worrying.

What if this isn’t the right way?
What if you’re not calling me to this industry?
What if all these sacrifices are made and it turns out that they were for nothing and based on hollow dreams?
What if I don’t have the patience and persistence I think I have and I lose my resolve and quit?
What if I do end up regretting this path and the warnings people are giving me will haunt me til I see you?
What if I don’t make enough to survive in a world where the cost of living is going up every year?

Hmm. The cost of living. I wonder how Jesus would define that. But that’s for another post.

Even as I type those questions, they seem so silly and materialistic, and I know that asking them is asking the wrong questions. And yet there they are.

Well, first thing. How do I know that this is where I think I’m being called. Honestly, I’m not sure that I do. I do know, that nothing makes me feel more alive… Like I’m a machine that’s figured out what it can do. A few other times, I felt the same way and I thought I was being led in one direction, but then it passed. This could be a phase… But whether it is or not, all the other other times taught me something, and deepened my understanding of something in some way, and opened the door to the next “phase.”

I could just be justifying all this to make myself feel better, but through all the “phases,” they still had the same goal, but a different form. (Hehe, not unlike the last of the Timelords himself… Different shapes, different personalities, same person.) Each phase was born out of the last. So is this a phase? Maybe, but in other ways, not really.

Second thing. I’ve said it before, but… Does it matter? Does what I do or end up doing and how I do it matter? Well… Yes and no.

No not really, because God has a goal in mind, and can use anything to achieve it. If we were all tools in a shed, He could MacGyver paperclips into a bicycle. The question is, why?

If a screwdriver says I want to hammer nails… It’s possible to do it if you’re creative enough, but it wouldn’t be as good as the hammer’s job and… Why on earth would you let the screwdriver hammer nails? So it does matter what you do in terms of what you were made to do, but it’s God thats doing the work through you.

Also, it’s a humbling and relieving reminder that whatever God is building… He could do it with his bare hands. He doesn’t need us. But how are the tools in the shed going to know what they can do and what they were made to do if they aren’t used?

To sum up all that… This is today’s verse if the day:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 40:28

I don’t know what you’re doing God, I don’t know how this is all going to get figured out, but I know that you’ll pull through and that you mean it when you say that you will provide and you will deliver because you love me.

Well… I know with my head, but do I believe with my heart?

The first verse of Oceans alludes a little to this passage, when Jesus walks on the water and calls Peter to do the same:

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

Matthew 14:22-33 ESV

“Immediately.” Interesting word choice. The instant the crowds started to form, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him. He sent them out, separating them from the crowds. And while they did that, He did his own work. We’re the disciples aware of what he was doing? Maybe, maybe not. But when God sends us out, He sets us apart and protects us from the swarms of people. I think it’s because we’re delicate and easily influenced. As sensitive to noise as a soufflé. (I’m on a roll with these DW references…)

Anyway, when we are sent ahead, we’re also kind of distanced from Him. But we know He’s never far, and we know He’s busy doing something that will help is out later. We may not know what, but we know He is.

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

I wonder if the disciples were praying. Jesus prayed after dismissing the crowds… Did people exhaust him spiritually, or did he just enjoy the presence of the Father that much? Both? When and why do we pray then?

When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

Evening?! Whoa, he prayed for hours. I feel guilt tripped.

Anyway, the boat was a long way from land. Here we go, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. They are in the deep end. Not only are they in the deep end, the waves were beating the boat, the wind was blowing against them. We’ve got to remember, that these are fishermen. Did they see signs of the storm? Probably. Surely, their instincts and red flags were going nuts. This is terrible weather! They shouldn’t be out here, it’s not safe, and who would blame them for regretting coming out here in the first place.

But then again… Did they have much choice in the matter? Jesus sent them ahead. Plus, at the time, between boat and noisy crowds… Boat won.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

Fourth watch?! How late and how long were they on the rough seas? I guess like them, we don’t know when Jesus will come back from whatever He does without us, we just know that He will. It could be short, could be a while. But when He does, it’ll look awesome. Come on, “he came to them, walking on the sea.” Think about that.

1) Sea
2) Walking

The sea is raging and the storm is howling, and He’s on it, fully exposed. More than that, He’s WALKING. Not running, not trying to protect himself, not sinking for that matter, He’s completely calm when everything is not… when the disciples have no idea what’s going on.

But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.

I don’t know if the disciples were terrified because they saw him walking on the sea, or if amidst all the chaos and danger, seeing someone walking on water just freaked them out. Not unreasonably I guess… it’s not like they’ve seen someone do that before.

Ghost! Fear! Again… Did they really believe in ghosts, given what they believed about where souls go, or did they just have death on their minds as they got tossed around in the storm like salad?

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

There’s that word again, immediately. The disciples were far enough away to mistake Jesus for a ghost, and a raging storm isn’t quiet. So Jesus has super hearing. Or telepathy. Or knew what they were going to say and when, in order to reply immediately. But if you believe He’s God then… Of course he does. He knows our thoughts. What I wanna know, is how did the disciples hear Him?

Also, “take heart (have courage), it is I. Do not be afraid.” As much as I don’t blame the disciples for freaking out… Jesus is right (duh).

The disciples just saw Jesus do miracles and speak with authority with the crowds. You’ve heard his voice before, so don’t you recognize it? Not a ghost. Jesus is there, and is WALKING. ON. WATER. If He can do that, is it really that much of a leap to believe that He’ll calm the storm, or at least keep you safe from it?

Oh man. Anyone else drawing parallels from that last paragraph? We’ve seen God in action before. We’ve heard his voice before, so why don’t we listen to Him, or believe it when he says, “Have courage, do not be afraid.” We don’t know exactly what He’s doing, or how He’s doing it, but it’s strange and mysterious and magnificent. If we can see Him do that and hear Him say that… Is it that much of a leap to trust Him with the storms that are shaking up our lives?

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Okay. So Peter heard and recognized Jesus. But he’s still unsure ’cause he asked for proof. Or is it?

“Command me to come to you on the water.” Is that Peter’s pride or faith talking, thinking that he can reach Jesus? Or does he just really want to walk on water? I would.

Often times when we’re unsure about a decision, or at least for me, I find myself praying for signs, or for open doors, to know that, yes, this is where I’m supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do. But shouldn’t his word be enough?

And then He humours us anyway, well with Peter in this case. He commands with one word: come. He doesn’t say go, or do, He says come. Come towards him, and He will make a way for you to do it, to get closer to him. It’s not us that’s allows us to walk on water, it’s all Him. Drawing us near. Peter obeyed, and Peter walked on water, just like Jesus. When we obey… What will He allow us to do despite the winds and the rain and the waves trying to knock us down? He cant be knocked down, and He won’t let us either. Not permanently.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Um. Okay. I thought wind was invisible. And they’re on water, it’s not like there were flapping trees and bending trunks. Was it snow? Was it big waves being snatched up into the air by the wind? That’s a strong wind. A fearsome wind. So yeah, that would be scary.

But Jesus is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU PETER.

Yes. Isn’t he just. He’s always right in front of us, telling us to come, to have courage, to not have a spirit of fear.

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Immediately. As soon as Peter began to sink, Jesus was on him, reaching out to him, and holding him, keeping him from drowning or being harmed or touched by the storm.

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Excellent question.

We know it’s Jesus because we’ve seen him do extraordinary things before. We know its Him because we recognize His “voice.” We even ask for “signs” or “proof,” and a lot of times we get it. We get a little closer to Him, close enough to hear him properly, which is close enough to see his face… and yet we STILL DOUBT.

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus gets into our boat. He knows what it’s like to be in the storm, to feel the waves beating the boat. He also brings back friends changed or grown.

But still, we only worship when the winds cease.

So I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace.
For I am yours
And You are mine.

Spirit lead me. Take me deeper. Strengthen my faith. Deepen my trust in You.

1100

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.
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To Thine Own Self Be True

Re-post. Shakespeare and the Bible. Related?


This above all: to thine own self be true.

Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet 1.3.78

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

A friend was telling me earlier today about prospective career plans. A popular topic of discussion among my peers, because contrary to popular belief, students don’t know what to do with their lives at the end of secondary school**(see N.B.) But I’ll refrain, that’s a different subject.

When thinking of advice to give her, I thought of the first quote, but then… something didn’t feel right about it, and I was reminded of the second.

Two of my favourite inspirational quotations, by two of my favourite sources of literature. But it’s only recently that I’ve put them side by side… and how interesting they are indeed.

First, they both start with the superlative “above all.” (*cue song* #songforeverything) Basically, WHAT FOLLOWS IS REALLY REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT. IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT.

Second, the emphasis on one is very different from that of the other. Well, both can’t be true, can they? They can’t both be above all, one has to be higher, more important than the other. But which one? They both seem equally inspiring, it feels as though they should both be the best advice one could give, but at the same time (or at least to me), one ought to cancel the other too.

Okay I’ll get to the point now. “To thine own self be true.” Obviously, the emphasis is on the self. Me. But how do you be “true” to yourself? How do you do that? What does that mean? What does that look like?
See, ever since I read that, it seemed like something so deep, the kind of thing where you go “ooh, yeah, that’s good.” It’s also a great pick me up, but until I asked myself the above questions, I didn’t really know what it meant. This goes for a lot of things, by the way. Product of being challenged by your mentors… *ahem ahem… you know who you are.*

So how do you be true to yourself? Well who is yourself? That’s a huge question in itself, isn’t it? One that I will let you, dear reader, reflect on.

What does being true to yourself mean and look like? Does it mean amplifying who or what you already are? Is it avoiding everything you’re not? Is it trying to make yourself better, whatever that means?

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

And they’re all about me. You? The self. This is the world’s view. The self. We are so focused on it that there are compelling arguments that altruism doesn’t exist, that every act is egotistic, self-serving. Volunteering, well, some might say that oh it’s just something to put on their CV, or at the very least, to feel like a better person. Giving gifts, it’s to get gifts in return, in some shape or form, etc. (**these are all OPINIONS voiced in a philosophy class**)

So many times, you hear it’s all about success in school, in the workforce. It’s all about how much you have, in money, in the material, in the people you know, in how many people you know. You hear in the media, in counselling, wherever, be bigger, better, faster, happier.

And those aren’t bad things, striving for excellence is… an excellent thing to strive for. Things start getting tricky when your mind is consumed with itself. What can I do to be x, y, or z? Am I too a, b, or c? What if d, e, or f happens to me?

Again, those questions aren’t bad questions to ask, but when you get so caught up in the world with respect to you, without knowing it, your mind is in a rather self-centred mode. And you end up with more questions and less answers than what you started with.

Now. Let’s put that aside for a moment, shall we?

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

Emphasis, is on one another. That is the most important thing: other people, and loving them. I also find it interesting that a reason follows the advice, to say why it’s the most important thing: love covers a multitude of sins.

Aside: In Hamlet, Polonius does say two lines later, “Thou canst not then be false to any man,” which could count as a reason I suppose, but I feel it was more to contrast the part about being true, showing that it’s important, as opposed to being an explicit argument that backs up the advice like it does in 1 Peter.

Well, why does Peter say all that? Why should love cover a multitude of sins? It’s not our love that covers a multitude of sins, it’s God’s. His love was, is, and always will be, the purest and most self-less. Christ died on the cross for our sins, out of love for us, and it is that sacrificial and unconditional love that covers our sins.

I used to find it really difficult to comprehend how self-less God’s love is. Surely, surely, He had something in it for Him. (After all, humanly speaking, there’s always a little something that’s in it for us, even if it’s just to feel good.) Glory, victory, something. But God is the most high. He already had glory, he was already praised and worshiped by the hosts of heaven, he doesn’t need our affection. God is the most high, he doesn’t need the triumph over death to declare victory, He is eternal and alive. He could have easily defeated the darkness without coming back for us.

But he chose not to.

He chose to GIVE UP the greatness He had in heaven to come down as an infant that depended on a young woman for everything. Up there, he had the power to FORGE STARS. But he chose to come here, where he would be rejected by an innkeeper, where an entire village cried for his crucifixion, where the very creatures he brought into existence would think Him as their inferior.

For what?

Nothing. He gave everything He had, His glory, His life, His soul, and gained nothing. The glory He gets, he already had, he didn’t gain it. The victory he has over death, he already had, he didn’t gain it. There is NOTHING He could have gained that he didn’t already have. He gained nothing. But He gained us. So what does that say about you?

But let’s take a look at Shakespeare again.

“Above all: to thine own self be true.” But… Who are you? Where is your identity?

If you are in Christ, you are His, and He is yours. You belong to Him because He bought you with a price, and He belongs to you because He gave Himself to and for You. He loved, loves and always will love you, which is why He says to love one another. He loves you so much that He wants his love to spill over through you because He is in you. There is joy in being loved, but there is greater joy in loving others I think (parents, you know what I mean.) Our love is imperfect, impure, and can be slightly self-serving, but can you even imagine God’s perfect, self-less love? That perfect love is fixed on us. On the receiving end, it feels pretty awesome… I say pass it on mates, there’s plenty to go around 🙂

In brief, brothers and sisters, to thine own self be true: love one another.

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N.B. The part of the brain that regulates emotion, discipline and is responsible for permanently settling into what we would outwardly call maturity, is most active between 18-23… which is when we’re being bombarded with really important, potentially life-changing decisions. So bombarders: bear with us, we’re doing the best we can. From a neuroscientific perspective, we’re only just working out the kinks.