Month: February 2015

Previews and Promises: The Best Moments

(For the introduction to this series, go here.)

It’s always amazing how in a two minute trailer, almost any movie, regardless of the true level of cinematic quality, can seem worth watching. This idea reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite television shows, Seinfeld. In one particular episode, the flawed “people’s person” George Constanza found himself dating a girl with no knowledge of his lost list of faults, flaws, disappointments, and setbacks. He proceeded to act like everything he’d accomplished in his life (a job with a steady and competitive salary, knowledge of New York City and a stable standard of living) had all miraculously come together within days. By doing this, he hoped to impress his new girlfriend with his sudden success and accomplishments. While telling his friend Jerry about this plan, he said, “You know, if you take everything I’ve done in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent!”

To me this is exactly what a movie preview attempts to do. The movie preview has two minutes to condense the best moments, the most action-packed fight scenes and the funniest one-liners into a compact one-two punch experience that will leave everyone anxious for its release. It is for this very reason that so many movies wind up failing at the box office. In many cases, the preview outdoes the feature film.

 

Speaking in terms of our earthly life and its relation to heaven, what we experience in this life is what the Bible calls a “foretaste.” Embodied in the life of Jesus Christ, but then regenerated in the lives of disciples, are experiences and foretastes of things unknown, yet promised. At the heart of each of our lives are experiences of purity and perfection that are only attained and experienced intermittently.

 

Paul writes about these experiences by comparing them to “fruit” when he writes in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

During our lives, God willing, we all will experience each of these at their purest form at least once. These moments tend to last only for a little while and then disappear, but we remember the experience forever. The moment that we were truly loved by someone, we never forget. The moment someone was truly faithful to us, we never forget. The same can be said about all nine “fruits.” These fruits are born out of the Spirit and the Spirit is born out of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his being and identity, Jesus embodied all of these fruits. They are, in turn, recreated and reflected in the lives of those reborn of the Spirit.

The difference between the way that we experience this “foretaste” and the way that a movie preview attempts to impress a moviegoer, is that there is no secret that the movie preview is attempting to sell something that cannot entirely satisfy. If the movie is not as good as the preview, the audience leaves unsatisfied. However, even if the movie is as good as the preview promises, the movie is still simply a movie. In this case the audience, while completely entertained, leaves exchanging comments like, “Well, life’s not like the movies.” But the essence of the fruit of the Spirit as a foretaste to something unknown, something wonderful, and something promised, is the truth that the foretaste is for something that exists.  That offers satisfaction, and ultimately delivers. This “thing” is heaven, and it is there that we not only can experience these fruits independent from one another, but also where we experience all fruits simultaneously in an ongoing coexistence with the “gardener” himself, God, who planted the fruits in the beginning.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Song of Songs 2-3

bibleShe
16 My beloved is mine and I am his;

    he browses among the lilies.
17 Until the day breaks and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved,

    and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag on the rugged hills.

3 All night long on my bed
    I looked for the one my heart loves;
    I looked for him but did not find him.
I will get up now and go about the city,

    through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.

    So I looked for him but did not find him.
The watchmen found me

    as they made their rounds in the city.
    “Have you seen the one my heart loves?”
Scarcely had I passed them

    when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go

    till I had brought him to my mother’s house,
    to the room of the one who conceived me.
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you

    by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love

    until it so desires.
Who is this coming up from the wilderness

    like a column of smoke,perfumed with myrrh and incense
made from all the spices of the merchant?
Look! It is Solomon’s carriage,
    escorted by sixty warriors,
    the noblest of Israel,
all of them wearing the sword,

    all experienced in battle,
each with his sword at his side,

    prepared for the terrors of the night.
King Solomon made for himself the carriage;

    he made it of wood from Lebanon.
10 Its posts he made of silver,

    its base of gold.
Its seat was upholstered with purple,

    its interior inlaid with love.
Daughters of Jerusalem, 11 come out,
    and look, you daughters of Zion.
Look on King Solomon wearing a crown,

    the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,

    the day his heart rejoiced.

 

Love aroused is more powerful than anything in the entire human experience.  True love has the power to defy reason.  It has the power to contradict logic.  It has the power to dismantle immovable barriers and boundaries.  True love is an elixir for the soul that makes us believe that anything is possible.  When we experience true love it provides us with sweetness and flavor that instantly makes all other tastes and pleasures pale in comparison.  True love makes us sleepless, not out of worry but out of anxious anticipation of the new day that our love will inevitably be fueling and revealing.  True love keeps the heart smiling when there is nothing visible to smile about, and it keeps the heart laughing although sadness dominates our surroundings.  True love is something that we rarely receive but when we do we never want to let it out of our grasp.  True love is something we never forget.  The love of God can be nothing less than this to someone who professes faith in him.  If the love of God is reduced to anything less than “true love” the structures that currently reinforce our lives, that often provide more obstacles than free-passage, will remain unaffected and unmoved.  If the love of God is anything less than “true love” there is no hope of a better day.  All that remains is wishful thinking and empty promises.  If the love of God is in fact “true” you will find yourself always aware of it, always thankful for it, daily overwhelmed by it and transformed by it.

Thursday Reflection Series: Previews and Promises

(via)

The relationship between the moviegoer and the movie preview is a complicated one. It’s bittersweet, it’s a double-edged sword, it’s pros and cons, et cetera. On the one side, we appreciate the previews because by them we stay hooked into the world of movies and entertainment. By watching the previews we are updated to the latest and greatest in cinematic brilliance and keep our interest in movies consistently high. On the other hand, the movie preview is something we’d often rather do without. The sole motivation that brings most of us to the movie theater in the first place is to watch the feature film, not just a preview. It is for the feature that we blocked out 3 hours in our schedule and paid such a high price for our tickets.  We know that in order to stay excited and in tune with the latest movies, we must see the previews.  Therefore, we humbly accept the preview as more something to be endured than enjoyed, but they have a job to do. Previews are made to achieve three primary goals. They should:

  •  Display the best aspects and moments
  • Make radically confident claims
  • Leave us wanting more

Over the next several weeks, we will reflect on how a good movie preview connects to what we know and what we can hope for about Heaven. Join us every Thursday to learn more.

ASK: Isaiah 56

This update is from this week’s meeting of ASK Daegu, with a reading from Isaiah 56. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us. 

Chosen. Blessed. Favored. Children. Called. Saved. These words possess the potential of being a blessing or a curse to the world in the hands of sinful man. While a place in the presence of God is defined by such terms, claiming those terms without understanding their context or purpose makes them a weapon of condemnation both for the speaker and the listener. In the hands of religion and not the Gospel of Jesus, these terms establish boundaries and divisions, separating people between the “ins” and the “outs.” Or in other words, the “citizens of God” and the “foreigners to God,” implying that God’s presence is limited to only those who claim, in word alone, to know Him.

Are Christians chosen? Yes. However, that word chosen must find its way back to Genesis 1:26 when God “chose” to created mankind in His very image. Therefore, to reduce the meaning of “chosen” to Christians in your vicinity, church or part of the world is to completely deny the will and purpose of God to bring ALL people of ALL nations back into his presence.

Are Christians blessed? Yes. However, the nature of being blessed must never be confined to the material world. Blessings from God can certainly take on a material nature, however, the blessedness of a Christian is most powerfully found in the nature of being “chosen.” Being blessed as a Christian is not expressed merely in “Christian” terms. Our blessedness was forged in the dust of Genesis, where without God we had no life. However, our blessedness is made complete in the coming of Jesus Christ and his willingness to offer us life once again where we had none. More than any material gift or physical blessing, the blessed nature of life is the truest and most universal gift of God.

Are Christians favored? Yes. Following God undoubtedly produces an increase of his presence and therefore a “favored” existence. However, being favored has nothing to do with success, status, safety, security or honor in the eyes of the world. The favored nature of a Christian is simply the truth that God’s eye is on you, and is content in your reliance and love for him. Being favored is only true if it first arises from a nature of humility to know that we receive God’s favor and have not earned or deserved it.

Are Christians children? Yes. However, not privileged children. We are his children as much as our neighbor that professes no faith in Jesus. It is our responsibility to shun our sinful desires to offer that person anything but Jesus, who illuminates the fact that they are also loved, blessed, favored and a child of God that is being called back into their father’s presence to live and have life.

Are Christians called? Yes. Christians are most certainly called. However, we are called to follow Jesus. And following Jesus always means having an eye and a heart for those that have not yet understood the love of God. We are called not to control or to impose our will. We are called to sacrifice control of our own lives and release God’s will to heal and save those in this world.

Are Christians saved? Yes. Christians are saved, but only in our willingness to admit that were it not for Christ’s love, life and death, we would be without hope and without life as God designed us to have. Being saved is not that we put ourselves in a place where God could finish our work and ultimately save us. Being saved is knowing that in the moment of certain death, the hand of God intervened and offered life where there was none. Therefore, being saved is the grace given to a foreigner who knows that, in defiance of logic and beyond rational explanation, he is now admitted with complete access to a life and kingdom that he does not deserve and has not earned. Therefore, we must see that all Christians were foreigners at heart in order to understand the saving grace now offered to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday Devotional: Ecclesiastes 3

bibleThere is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
    and what will be has been before;
    and God will call the past to account.

16 And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
17 I said to myself,
“God will bring into judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
    a time to judge every deed.”
18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work,because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?

The older we become, the more complex we find our lives to be.  With each passing year we come to the realization that life as we knew it is far more complicated and delicate than we had once envisioned.  While in childhood we saw one or two directions that life could follow, we come to find out that these two simple directions branch out into hundreds of smaller ones that we often have difficulty navigating through.  However, as we grow older we are also brought into levels of blessing that were unthinkable as a child, and many come to the understanding that life is more precious than we’d thought and far shorter than we’d like.  Throughout life we learn that while we all encounter moments and situations that were less than desirable at the time, all of them held value from a holistic perspective.  If life was simple when we were children, life was also incomplete, lacking the experience of life’s subtle intricacies that include the “good” and the “bad.”  As one comes into a greater understanding of God and how he views our lives and world we live in, we discover that he desires two things for all of us.  First, he desires that we use this life.   If we view only the “good” moments in our lives as useful, we will never understand the journey or the story he has created for us to experience.  For example, if one watches a movie only for the “good” moments that we like, we’ll never finish an entire movie and will never understand the ones we start but never finish.  Second, God desires that we enjoy this creation that he has put us in the middle of.  While we share humbling similarities to the animals that we share this planet with, we will always have something they don’t.  Our hearts long for more, long to reach farther than we see possible in this life because we were created by the One who originally created us to experience and have those things for which our hearts ultimately long.  Receiving joy in this world is not receiving joy about this world.  Receiving joy means finding meaning in the One who placed us here, to be used by Him and to be thankful for what He daily gives us.

ASK: Job 28-29

This update is from last week’s meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us. We’ll have this week’s ASK recap up tomorrow.

(via)

The metaphor in Job of a man digging deeper and deeper into the recesses of the earth to find something of worth, all the while finding nothing of true value, offers wonderful insight into the heart of mankind. Sure, treasures found as a result of exploration and tiring physical labor are beautiful and impressive. However, as the man reaches the end of his search, dangling dangerously in the dark, alone, with only the cold rock and oppressive darkness to offer him company, he understands that what he is truly searching for, the world itself cannot offer him. He discovers that his hunger for something the world ultimately could not provide him is not a trick or a mistake. He comes to learn that his craving that seems to stretch beyond the limitations of this world is a craving that only something free from the limitations of this world can offer him. God.

As the man turns to God and looks to Him alone for his fulfillment and value, the darkness is suddenly replaced by the all-encompassing light of the creator God. The man realizes that all of his desperation and toil in the darkness was not a result of God’s punishment or absence. His time in the darkness was a result of his own absence from God and his desire to find value in life apart from Him.

Through the encounter with the living God the man discovers wisdom and understands that wisdom is a gift and the truest treasure we have in this life. It is wisdom that not only transforms the man; once a slave to self-validation and worship through works and ability, to a man remade in the image of God, who receives the light of God and then blesses those around him with that same light.

We all are seeking, but few of us are finding. The reason for this is not that there is nothing to find. The truth is that we are burdening ourselves searching where there is no light. God offers us light through Jesus Christ and it is our choice whether or not to be graced with the light of his wisdom and life and be changed.