I Have This Hope – Cover

This song.

This hope. How quickly we forget it and take it for granted. He is with us, and we have hope, He is the one who takes our sins away and gives us grace. That should blow our minds every single day.

I had it on repeat all day today so I decided to practice some rough harmonies and slap ’em together.

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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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Matrimony of the Cross

Wow, what an interesting week. All building up to this weekend of celebration, first of Christ’s death and then His resurrection.

This morning as the sky lightened, dawn set crystal trees on fire, seemingly bent and frozen in mourning. How is it that something as destructive and displeasurable as an ice storm could be so beautiful?

How is it that the worst death of all time became so influential that it brought people of all eras, all cultures, together? How is it that they — that we — can say it was so beautiful, it changed our lives forever?

How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news.

Christ took away the sin of the world — the sin of people like you and me, people of all eras, all nations, all cultures — absorbing the wrath of God in our place on the cross. He who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become righteous. He died so that we might have eternal life with Him. He loves and pursues us, an unfaithful people who rejected Him. Christ demonstrates his love in this, that while we were still sinners, he died.

Hear that? We had nothing acceptable to God. Nothing. He didn’t do what he did on the cross because we “did our best” — we didn’t even try. He didn’t meet us half way or 75% of the way or 25% of the way, he met us ALL the way.

That is why it is beautiful.

This Good Friday we celebrate the marriage proposal of the Lamb to His bride, the Church. The cross, is the ring.

I was reminded of that this morning when rehearsing with the band for the worship service. I was having fun singing, I was worshipping, I was trying so hard to let the words and his memory and his promise sink in. To meditate on them.

But I didn’t “feel” it.

Had my heart gone cold, had it hardened? What was going on? Was there some sin I’ve been holding on to that doesn’t make me right with God??

Except, that’s the whole point of Easter weekend, isn’t it?

While I was up on stage, worrying about all these things while outwardly worshipping with solemnity, a thought put those worries to rest… “don’t pursue feelings, pursue Me, for I first pursued you.”

He took our sin to make us right with God. And not by any effort of mine.

One of the songs was “Jesus Paid It All,” and we skipped the bridge “O praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead” because the Disciples had no idea that Sunday was coming.

But Sunday is coming. Jesus is coming.

Happy Easter!

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When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour content on all my pride // I hear the Saviour say, thy strength indeed is small, child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow // The Lamb of God in my place, Your blood poured out, my sin erased it was my death You died, I am raised to life, Hallelujah the Lamb of God. There is no greater love… ||

Dream come true

If the title has you excited, I’d hold your applause and congratulations until the end of this post… it’s probably not what you think.

In my last post, I admitted that my pride had kind of snuck up on me and all of a sudden I was planning my future life and career like I know what’s going to happen, like I know what’s best for me, like I’m in control. I knew I needed to come back to that place of open-handedness with that future.

Open-handedness…? That is, what if my dream job isn’t the thing I’m “supposed” to be doing? Would I be okay with that? If I were honest, no, no I wouldn’t be okay with that. Why does God’s best for us have to be so unimaginable that it’s hard for our rebellious human nature to trust Him?

Well, last night I dreamt that I was in LA, making phone calls, pitching to execs, desperate to make my scripts happen. The unfortunate downside to the dream career that I’m pursuing. Maybe it’s a personality thing, but I’m just not a good verbal communicator. On the page, sure, maybe… but I have to be mentally prepared for a spontaneous presentation. Anyway, I like to think that my passion for the craft is big enough to make that kind of stuff bearable, but today kind of challenged that.

There have been countless theories on dreams and their meanings and interpretations. One of them is that dreams prepare you for real life situations, something like a built-in simulation mechanism. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s besides the point.

I wake up feeling stressed and shoot my roommate a text about the dream, to which she replies, “it’s prophetic!” I smile, knowing that should make me feel better but it doesn’t.

I walk into my first class of the day, the highlight of my day — Screenwriting. Except, the agenda is — you guessed it — pitching our final projects.

Given the nightmare I held back any and all participation. But as Irony would have it, the entire class called on a classmate and I to pitch. He’s a fairly performative guy and as talented as the best of them, so I figured I’d go first… don’t want to get stuck on the follow-up act.

Needless to say, the pitch was an abysmal failure — I didn’t get to the end of the story, I blanked on what made me love this story and what excites me about it. I even blanked on what actually happens, who the characters are… I knew I wanted to get to the big twist reveals, but didn’t know how to set them up dramatically… I only found solace in the fact that now no one else in class will be nervous about pitching their ideas.

And that is the story of how my nightmare came true.

Thankfully there were no real stakes, and my prof and classmates were so generous and gracious.

In all seriousness, this little incident was an eye-opening reminder of how small I am, how powerless and insignificant I am, that I’m not special, and that I have no reason to boast about any skills, knowledge or talents that I have– that I’ve been given.

As I write to cope with the mortification, I’ve got Ascend the Hill’s Be Thou My Vision blasting on Spotify…

O God be my everything, be my delight, be Jesus, my glory, my soul satisfied.

What a balm to this heart floundering in years of insecurity drudged up to the surface. I’ve still got the adrenaline rush, that fight or flight response, and my body screaming FLIGHT! I want to run away, crawl into bed and hide for the rest of the day, and that’s no exaggeration. What a strange impulse. Have I been fooling myself this whole time? Is this industry actually not for me? Do I turn back while I still can? I thought I’d found my “thing,” do I have to go back to that state of aimlessness?

Some might say, “don’t quit! Nothing was meant to be easy.” Others might say, “do what makes you happy.” While these are true and helpful to some degree, it is still a limited degree.

My identity isn’t in my career. My ambitions may not be what comes to pass. In fact, my ambitions may not be what I actually want. It shouldn’t be where I go for satisfaction.

My vision shouldn’t be on how high I can pull myself up (and anything higher than 0 is a delusion), but on how I can make much of the name of Jesus in all aspects of my life… in this case, giving him praise for this humbling morning.

It is incredibly easier to say “I am nothing apart from Christ” today than it was yesterday. The life He calls us to, a life of holiness, is hard. It hurts. And yet… it’s so sweet to return to Lord and be reminded that the pressure’s not on us to “be all that you can be,” it’s not on us to look all put together, it’s not on us to be the champions of this world, it’s not on us to be our own saviours, it’s not on us to fix ourselves, or anyone else. He already did the work, and we are free to train, and learn and fail.

In a way this whole pitching snafu reminded me of the hidden inspiration for one of the big reveals of the story in the first place: “No longer I, but Christ in me.”

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Cakes of Raisin

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1)

Some of you have heard the story, “Hosea, Hosea, your wife was such a player.”

The first command that God gives Hosea in the text, is to marry a prostitute, which is difficult enough if you’re hoping for a long term stable marriage. Even so, Hosea obeys because God wants to show the people of Israel how unfaithful they’ve been, and how much He abounds in love and grace. How much more difficult is the second command to keep loving her after she rejects him and pursues a life of shame, dishonor and worthlessness? Truly, love is a choice, decision, promise and commitment before it is a feeling.

Will brought up this cakes of raisin thing this morning… it’s a fun sounding cultural-historical thing, but given th context, it’s safe to assume it involves pagan worship and idolatry.

Cakes of raisin. Entertainment? Career? Future? Image. Status. Money. Pleasure. When they come before God, when they replace our first love, they are despicable. And though we turn to these empty wells, still He pursues us and purchases for us our freedom, restores our dignity by the blood of Christ, and offers us the peace, rest and living water we’ve been searching for: Himself.

I was challenged… I had forgotten that my sin is wicked and offensive in His Holy presence, that apart from Him I can do nothing; I am nothing, and deserve death.

But for the grace of God, we have been redeemed and restored if we are in Christ.

In 1 Samuel, the Israelites go up against the Philistines by their own might, but are defeated and lose the ark of the covenant. The only reason why they got it back, is because God made the Philistines send it back… the Israelites had nothing to do with its restoration, or the plight of the Philistines. We are no different today. We are powerless (less in general, if we’re honest) apart from God.

Something that I’ve been catching myself doing lately, is not worrying about the future, but planning for it. Obsessively. It gives me the illusion of control, that I know the best way for me, that circumstances will obey my every whim — or that God will make it so.

Surely, we have control over our own lives at least? We make our own choices, but we have no say in what actually happens, the consequences of those choices. I don’t know what’s in store tomorrow, I may not last the night, let alone next year, 2021, 2026, 2036…

CS Lewis once remarked, “there are those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.'”

Indeed, pride has reared its ugly head and I am nothing.

Come now, you who say, “€œToday or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”€” yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “€œIf the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

 

Father, thank you for your goodness and grace and mercy and steadfast love. Would you teach my heart to come to you always because you are more than enough. Though my heart and flesh may fail, you are my portion forever. You’re all I need, and Lord I need you, every hour I need you. Teach me to be Holy and obey despite imperfect human execution of obedience… Let me renounce my idols and my cakes of raisins. Do not give me up to the desires of my heart, but deliver me from evil. Break my heart from what breaks yours…

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Joy and Death

November 1st… the day where we enter the Halloween-Christmas limbo period.

I was walking home just now, and passed two houses, side by side. One had the lights and sparkles, red and green decorations, the works. The only thing missing was a pristine, light fluffy layer of fallen snow.

Their neighbours on the other hand had demons in the trees, skulls and monsters in the yard, smashed pumpkin on the porch, cobwebs on the hedges… Seriously, the cobwebs were everywhere, someone went crazy with it. It almost looked like someone toilet-papered their yard.

One house was ready for joy, the other was clinging to death.

This Sunday, Pastor Jacob preached about the joy of repentance, of leaving our sin behind us and trusting in the Lord. Trusting that the good He has planned for us far outweighs the valley of suffering that we may have to cross to get there. Moreover, when we put our trust in Him, the pressure and the focus is no longer on us. Why– how is that a good thing? Imagine it. Our world stops being about us… we can step off stage and just… enjoy. Laugh, cry, connect, be strung along for the ride of what Christ is doing centre stage.

In Genesis 45, after decades of bottled emotions, Joseph sends his brothers back to get their father Jacob in Canaan, to unite the people of God as a family once again. And he tells them, “do not quarrel on the way.” Do not fear, don’t stress, don’t fight.

Jacob fought his whole life for his inheritance, God’s promise to his grandfather Abraham that nations would come from him. But his 12 sons, the nation of Israel was crumbling before his eyes. His first born slept with his father’s concubine, Simeon and Levi slaughter a whole city, Judah sells Joseph into slavery, Joseph’s mother dies in childbirth to Benjamin…

Is anyone to blame? Maybe. But does it matter? When Joseph sends his brothers back, they’ve all accepted that God can bring beauty from the ashes. There’s no need to point fingers, or to wallow in remorse. What’s done is done. What God’s people meant for evil, God meant for good.

So what is this good?

The good is the fact that it’s November 1st. We don’t have to cling to death anymore, it’s time to get ready for joy. Not only is Christmas time the season for joy, it is the celebration of the Messiah’s arrival, the one who takes away the sin of the world, the one who loosens our white-knuckled grip on death.

Colossians 3 invites us to “put on the new self.” In Christ, getting rid of death is as simple as changing your clothes. Or for the sake of this metaphor, as easy as cleaning and redecorating a front yard, because Christ already did the cleaning 2000 years ago on the cross.

In the same way that snowfall covers the city in pure, sparkling beauty, in the same way that it heralds the season of joy and cheer, let us let go of death and find joy in repentance: “Repent and believe the gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

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P.S. Oh, and move over Pumpkin Spice Latte… bring on the Peppermint White Hot Chocolates!!

A Proliferation of Ironically Straight Rainbows

I first wrote this 4 months ago when the US Supreme Court ruling came out. I held back from posting right away because, well, I think the whole western world was emotional one way or another, including myself. I process through writing, and now that the dust has somewhat settled, at least on my feeds it has, I’ve decided to come back to it. So if you’re reading, thanks for taking the time and caring about my voice.

Much love and grace, 1100.


I was initially going to title this post “Double Rainbows All the Way Across the Sky!” but as I opened the empty text box to compose this blog, WordPress has hoisted the rainbow banner at the top of the page. And why not? Yesterday’s event dropped like a boulder into the ocean, sending supporters like water to the sky, and shaking up everyone else like the sand below.

But yes, that was strangely my first thought when I saw the colours. A straight banner of each of our seven colours as a symbol to celebrate gay marriage. And yet after the flood, God used a bent banner of the same kind as a symbol of His promise and mercy.

Before I go any further, let me invite you to read this post by Mike Donehey titled “To hear or be heard.” (May require scrolling.)

Most of this post is an echoing of what he wrote. I’m not here to judge, I’m not here to mock, I’m not here to condemn, and I’m not here to dish out an opinion simply for the sake of being counter-cultural. And I apologize if in this post I do any or all of these things, this is not my intention. As with many of my other posts, this is just me trying to figure things out. Unpack and process the thoughts I’ve bottled up for years.

For a long time, I’ve shied away from topics like this online. There was an instance (maybe more) where I didn’t, and I was still new to this whole Christianity thing, and I was writing out of frustration. I’m hoping I won’t make that mistake again today.

Since that time, I’ve stayed far away from this discussion and one other one (cough cough evolution) because I could empathize with, if not understand, both sides, and no matter what I said, I knew I would get labelled. And fitting into boxes just isn’t my style. (Except if it’s a physical cardboard box/spaceship. Those are fun.) Not to mention that all of those labels, from either side, are meant to tear down not just an argument or an opinion, but one’s character.

But enough stalling (can you hear the eggshells creaking?), after yesterday, now’s a good time as any to open this particular can of worms. Or come out of the closet, if you will. (Sorry.)

I’ve posted before on my thoughts on marriage, intentionally leaving gay marriage out of it, not because I’m discriminating, but because that would’ve been way too much for one post. Just to be clear. But I’m here now. Nervous, afraid, vulnerable. I am neither gay nor married, so do I know what I’m talking about? Probably not. But here it goes.

I disagree with and do not condone gay marriage or homosexual activity. Does that make me a homophobe? To some people, absolutely. Do I hate people of the LGBTQ community? By no means. On the contrary I respect those I know and commend them for their bravery. I even work for one. (Hi Mark.)

So how do I reconcile that? At first I told myself, well, it’s the law, and has been for a decade now (in Canada), what choice do I have? But that wasn’t quite it for me. So then I thought about the definition and purpose of marriage now, compared to that of the church. Of course if people are defining marriage only as a proclamation of love and pleasure, all this marriage equality and marriage rights talk makes sense. But getting into the gospel applications of heterosexual marriage kind of seemed like the wrong approach to this. I wonder why.

So how about just the good ol’ gospel itself? There’s a song from the Prince of Egypt Soundtrack that has always captivated me, called Through Heaven’s Eyes. One, because it gets your eyes off of yourself and onto the big picture, and most importantly onto God. Similarly, Brandon Heath’s Give Me Your Eyes invites us to see and remember what God has done.

The sea of faces you see everywhere you go, or the throngs of pride parade attendees, are all precious to God. That means that they are infinitely more than their sexuality (or their ethnicity or gender for that matter). Every human being is an image bearer of the Most High God, and should be treated with worth, love and respect. Let me be the first to say that I don’t always do this. I try to see everyone as a God-breathed masterpiece who are loved to the point where Christ died for them. But I confess that, among other things, I have looked with lust before, that I have idolized and objectified people, I have committed adultery in the heart. Willingly, involuntarily, it doesn’t matter. The point is, who am I to judge and throw stones at the biblically sexually immoral? (That is, whom the Bible calls sexually immoral, whether you think they are or not.) But fear or avoidance of hypocrisy isn’t the only drive here.

While I won’t and can’t judge, I think there is a difference between not judging and agreeing/celebrating/glorifying. A huge difference. “Well if you think being gay is wrong, that’s being judgmental.” But isn’t saying that being gay is good and fine also a judgment? I’m not convinced that judgment and opinion are as closely tied as people think it is.

To me, being non-judgmental means loving and respecting in spite of what you see as flaws. The love and respect alone doesn’t stop the flaws from being flaws, but neither do the flaws hinder the love and respect. And I think the gospel facilitates this because it is the story of unconditional love, after all.

Whether you perceive homosexuality as a sin or not is really of no consequence, not that I’m saying I believe it isn’t sin. But even if it weren’t, there are plenty of other sins that have us covered. That’s the bad news. The good news, is that

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)

Maybe you don’t see yourself as a sinner. Maybe you don’t want this “reconciliation with Christ.” Maybe you still don’t get why Christ had to die. Many don’t.

But if you’re willing to find out, come exactly as you are, because you don’t have to find God, He’s already found you. You don’t have to work to earn His favour, He is already at work in you, inclining your heart towards Him.

In the end, Love does win, but not the comparatively cheap, divorce-susceptible love driven solely by sexual attraction, whether homosexual, heterosexual, or otherwise.

God’s love wins, not simply over hatred or injustice, but death itself — and it can never be undone.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:9-12)

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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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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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