Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Devotion

Let me begin with an unusual statement:  I do not like the Christmas season.  I find it full of platitudes, false cheerfulness, and a false gospel.  Before you go on the defensive or just stop reading let me explain where I am coming from, and I believe you will find my argument more satisfying then cheerful Christmas’ carols.
What do I mean when I say that the Christmas season is full of platitudes, false cheerfulness and a false gospel?  Look at most Christmas carols, movies, and books and you will find them full of words like generosity, hope, peace, joy and love.  All of these things are good things, but as they stand in the Christmas celebration, they are at best platitudes, and at worst lies.  Look at the news, look around the world; the world is embroiled in strife and war.  It is overwhelmed by greed, jealousy, hatred, and violence.   Where is the peace?  Where is the joy? The hope?
Even as we shop for one another and spend time with family, there are millions who go to bed with nothing to eat, who go to bed with family members killed by war or disease.  Where are all the cheerful things that Christmas carols promise us?  Is the Angels’ message of peace and good will to mankind a lie? Is the message of our carols a delusion? No, neither the Christmas hymns nor the Angel’s message lead us astray.  Instead it is ourselves who warp the Christmas message, it is our sinful desires which lead us to strip Christmas of its ultimate context, the context of the Cross.  
We love the message of hope, peace, love, and joy.  We want to hear that message, we long to hear of Christ as King, Christ as the ruler of all the world, a good and gracious ruler who brings an endless peace!  But sadly for our desires that is not the case.  For Christ to be born in a manager means that Christ must die; because there is an incarnation there must be a Cross.
The story of God’s incarnation is irrevocably bound with the story of the Cross.  For God came to dwell among us, not to be a high and mighty king, nor a famous preacher, or a rich philanthropist; instead He came to die the death we deserve so that we don’t have to.  The Christmas story leads straight to the Cross, into the grave, and finally to Easter morn in the ultimate victory over sin death and the devil.
So where is the peace, hope, joy and love we sing about in Christmas carols?  The love is in God hanging upon a cross suffering a humiliating death for us; the peace is in God’s only son shedding His blood to atone for our sins; the joy is in the resurrection of Easter morn, and the hope is found in the promise that we too will one day be resurrected from the grave.  We cannot remember the Christmas story rightly without remembering how the story ends.
This Christmas I pray that you find peace in the atoning blood of Christ, that you find joy in the love of God that lead to giving up His only Son to death on a cross, and hope in the promise of the resurrection at the last day, when Christ will be seated at the right hand of the Father as King over all creation.  Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The sky o'er head hung grey,
clouds heavy with divine tears,
as the Father's hand from help did stay,
a Son victim to all our fears.

Seperated from the source of life,
the Son in anguish did loudly cry,
embracing the result of all our strife,
and once for all the Life did die.

The earth in shock might'ly shook,
and tears a mighty torrent formed,
while thunderous gasps the air took,
nature in anguish powerfully stormed.

It is said that tombs burst open,
and ancient dead rose to witness,
a new covenant to which we hearken,
in His blood is our forgiveness.

The Son seperated in our stead,
to death, sin, and satan three days lay,
while we morn in sorrowing dread,
til Christ bursts forth on Easter day!

Hope for Good Friday

Christianity is an extraordinary religion; now let me qualify that statement. I have studied many religions, both modern and ancient, and yet I have never come across another religion which teaches that God became man, suffered, and died for humanity. I know plenty of religions in which god(s) demand animal sacrifices of us, religions in which deities rape humans and unleash wrath upon their foes. But I know of only one religion which teaches that God became man, and died for us.
That central mystery of Christianity, the Cross, should be at the center of our teaching, at the center of our being. We ought to live with the Gospel as the center of our lives. No other message is as important. Seven steps to a better life, the power of prayer, social justice, fire and brimstone; these are not the messages of Christianity. Christianity has one message and that message is Christ crucified.
The entire history of humanity -it's creation, fall into sin, struggles, and salvation- pivots upon the Cross, upon the very Son of God suffering and dying for us. Our's was the sin that was atoned for upon that bitter tree. Our screw ups, our failures, our self centeredness and our tendency to turn ourselves into gods is what Christ atoned for. He the spotless lamb of God bore the full wrath of God's judgement so that we do not have to.
We are a people under the Cross. In baptism we are sealed with the sign of the cross on our foreheads, in our worship spaces the cross hangs(or stands) centrally, in our homes we hang crosses, and many wear crosses as constant reminders. Too often we allow these daily symbols to become common, and we forget the unbelievable message that they represent, the wonderful news which is the Gospel. May this Good Friday be filled with meditation upon the cross and renewed wonder for God's infinite love, and may we carry the message of this day, the message of the Cross, to all we meet. For there is no news more important, then that Christ suffered and died for you. Amen

Friday, July 3, 2009

Beyond the Infinite

‘Prophecy Son of man, prophecy to these dry bones’

All of man’s wisdom, all of man’s knowledge, all of his greatness, his achievements, they are all but dust, and man is but dry dusty bones. We seek meaning in wealth, in fame, in drugs, alcohol, sex! But not just in what the world would call darkness, but also in that which claims to be light! We seek meaning in work, in good deeds, in love, music , peace, nature. We seek meaning in so many things, but it is all vanity.

Modern man is the epitome of vanity. No afterlife, no eternity, everything has a beginning everything has an end. We have characterized and set bounds on the infinite, we have probed the depths of the see and the heights of heaven. Modern man the pinnacle of history, modern man the pinnacle of emptiness and vanity. All that exists is before us, all the mystery has been boiled down into theorems and conjectures. We have conquered we have won! No more subject to the hocus pocus and the superstitions of the past.

The modern church bends to the vanity, bends to be relevant, throwing out mystery for logic and proofs. Angels and demons, heaven and hell, these must be sacrificed in an age where everything is quantified and understood. Science tells us that if prayers aren’t answered there either isn’t a God, or God doesn’t answer prayer. The only faith worth having is one that has visible signs and benefits, there must always be proof.

When we look to the stars no longer do we see spheres controlling fates, nor the rings of heaven. No more do we hear the music of the spheres, or fear the dryads of the woods, or the demons of the deep.

We have pulled leviathan out with a fishhook, have seen Pleiades and Orion bound, and know the ordinances of Heaven. We were there when the foundations of the universe were laid, have walked the depths of the sea, and broken the gates of the dead.

Modern man has grasped the infinite, and has tamed it, the universe is bound to our whims, to our wills…or is it?

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.

The stars shine above without our willing them, the days go by without our influence. We have become complacent in assuming that the mere knowing of how something works means we have power over it. And so we have sought so desperately to know, to understand and claim power. But in the end, all human knowledge crumbles all thought fails and we realize there is no answer to that three letter question: why? It is a question of infinite iterations, an uncountably infinite question, and only a being beyond the finite, a being beyond the infinite can know and comprehend the answer, only such a being can be the answer.

All of modern thought and science, all logic and reason, all human endeavors fall flat and die upon the question why. Hear O Man! Thou art but dry and dusty bones in the valley of the dead, and the power of the Lord alone can give you form and give you sinews, the breath of the Lord alone can give you life.

The actual infinite arises in three contexts: first when it is realized in the most complete form, in a fully independent otherworldly being, in Deo, where I call it the Absolute Infinite or simply Absolute; second when it occurs in the contingent, created world; third when the mind grasps it in abstracto as a mathematical magnitude, number or order type. ~Georg Cantor

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Living Among the Bones

In my time here at WSU I often wonder what the entire point of this endeavor is. It’s certainly not money, as I will probably never be paid well. It is certainly not pleasure as graduate school is one of the most sadistic things you could do to yourself. Is it knowledge? I came into grad school thinking knowledge was the point of this endeavor, but now I realize differently. WSU certainly has the knowledge, there are a lot of great physicist here, but they have all missed the point. My experience here has been one of great amounts of knowledge but no understanding.
WSU is one of those bastions of secular thought, an Athens, full of all the modern science and modern ways of thinking, very progressive and on the cutting edge, but for all this they miss the point entirely. There is no understanding.
“Have you not heard? Have you not seen?” For all the proof, for all the glory, all the wonder that is revealed in this place of research and study, those here miss the Truth shouting at them. It depresses me how modern mans distrust and loathing of faith has made it impossible for them to see reality through the eyes of faith. They do not see the beauty, the life, the Divine Harmony in reality. All they see is atoms and molecules, numbers and figures. The universe is dead in this world view, a bland set of rules and matter that exists and acts for no reason and no purpose.
Why have I come to WSU? Why have I come to Athens? I doubt there are many schools that are different from WSU. The dead universe is the prevailing world view in academia. How can there be life in a worldview that rejects the Life? Why am I here in this dead place? To share the Life.

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD." Eze 37:1-6

God grant me the patience, the faith, and the perseverance to prophesy to this valley of dry bones, that your abundant life may flow into them and let them live. Amen

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Ecclesial Depression

I continually find myself frustrated and aggravated with modern Christianity. It is not one specific denomination or group, it is a predominate reality that very few people are educated about the Church. This often leads to false perceptions and expectations of God, and leads those outside the Church astray into believing that the Church is something its not. There are many reasons for this mistaken view of the Church, but the one that I believe is the most dangerous, and damaging is the individualization of faith.
Individualism was one of the great triumphs of the renaissance and modernism. It is wonderful to consider individual rights, and treating everyone with proper respect and dignity, but as with all ideas, there is a dark side tagging around. Individualism no longer means that each person has inherent dignity, now it means that the highest good is the individual. A long list of societal and political woes can be made because ‘I’ and ‘me’ have become our most favored pronouns, but my concern is with the Church. Individualism has crept into the Church in the form of individualizing God and our relationship to Him. The view of ‘me and my god’ is overwhelmingly present in the Church, at least in America. Congregation’s have begun to cease the proclamation of the Gospel and who God is, and instead now proclaim an individualized god, an individualized gospel. I have had the odd chance of traveling a lot and experiencing congregations across the US and it disheartens me the number of congregations that get the individualized gospel of “believe in God and he’ll make your life turn out alright”.
Christians have forgotten what it means to be the body of Christ. We have forgotten what it means to have a communal faith, a faith shared by the saints in heaven and here below. Faith is now about myself, in a room with my Bible and God, about praying and having God answer with warm tingly feelings. And if we cant get those experiences we cry to God and ask what is going on, why is my ‘individual walk with God’ going so rough. The reason is, there is no ‘individual walk with God’! The road of Faith is one filled with the communion of saints, it is one populated by those who have gone before us, those who come after us, and those who walk with us. When we suffer the body suffers, when the body suffers we suffer.
A few years ago I was suffering severe depression after my grandmother’s death, and I told my pastor that I wasn’t planning on coming to Church because I couldn’t bring myself to sing songs of praise when all I was doing was mourning. He replied that even when we cannot seem to sing praise, and we are in mourning, the Body is there to lift up songs of Praise, songs of Mourning and songs of intercession on our part. The One True Faith, is one shared by the body of Christ. It is not some individual path. God is not revealed by sitting alone with a Bible in some wilderness, God is revealed in the assembly, proclamation, and work of the Church. It is when we assemble and hear the Word proclaimed to us and for us that God is revealed.
There is a lack of strong Ecclesial theology in the Church in America, and not only does this lack harm the Church’s members by not doing its job of proclaiming Christ crucified for us, it also hurts its mission to the world. Individualism is a plague upon the Church, and its cure is for the Church teach and educate its members in its ecclesial nature. The American Church must reform or else it will follow Europe to the same depressing end.
If the Church is to survive and succeed in its mission of proclaiming Christ crucified we must stop going along with society and falling into all the popular ideologies. The Church plagued by individualism, must start healing by having individuals reject the lie that the self is the most important thing. Only by the death of self will the individual find life.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

While Christians slept: The Washington Euthanasia Initiative

In the elections of last November an initiative to legalize euthanasia was passed in Washington State, making it the second state in the United States to do so, Oregon being the first. Below I post the wording of the initiative:

Initiative Measure No. 1000 concerns allowing certain terminally ill competent adults to obtain lethal prescriptions.

This measure would permit terminally ill, competent, adult Washington residents, who are medically predicted to have six months or less to live, to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician.

The passing of such a bill in a liberal state, with a predominately secular population is not terribly surprising. The surprising aspect of the situation is the somnolence of Christians in the face of evil.
Neither before the elections, nor after elections did I hear the initiative discussed in Churches. There were no protests, no petitions, no signs of Christians even knowing or caring what was going on. It was as if the Church in Washington fell asleep while the roots of evil were passed into law.
Now you may think I am overreacting, I mean the bill is for euthanasia lite, but in the face of evil there is no such thing as overreacting. Certain nations in Europe passed similar laws many years ago. The allowance of those first laws has led to a situation in which doctors in much of Europe can kill anyone, even against there will, if the doctor deems their quality of life to be inadequate. Think I am still overreacting? Sociologists commonly say that the United States tends to follow trends in Europe with regards to society, laws, etc. If this is true, then one day in the near future, you may go for a doctor visit because of a runny nose, and the doctor will lay you, say that the runny nose makes your life quality poor, and kill you with a lethal injection, no matter how much you protest. If we do not stand now and root out the evil, then it will spread, and doctors may become dealers of death.
We legalized abortion in certain cases, and now women can kill their babies at any point in pregnancy: million of children have been murdered. We are legalizing killing the elderly, soon there will be no retirement as we kill off anyone over 60. And after that? Who is left but those in the middle? If life is not sacred at the beginning or the end, then it isn’t in the middle either, and murder at any state will be legal.
I leave you a poem by Martin Niemoller:

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."