Rest

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Our lives are spent striving for wind-full gain
We chase after vanity
Our breathing is labored, our muscles strain
To no longer be empty

And you say

Come unto Me for rest
Come lay down at My feet
Come unto Me for rest, O soul,
Lie down and sleep in peace.

We shout and we dance around in the hope
That our own pride may be fed
We long to be noticed, long to be known
We long to be loved instead

And you say

Come unto Me for rest
Come lay down at My feet
Come unto Me for rest, O soul,
Lie down and sleep in peace.

10-3-2017

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Jesus is Not Zeus

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I’ve been reading through Richmond Lattimore’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey. I first read the Odyssey in high school, but it’s interesting to me to read it now that high school is twenty years gone (!).

One of the things that stands out to me throughout the Odyssey is how awful the Olympian gods are. Odysseus is caught in the middle of Poseidon’s grudge, Zeus’ sadism, and Athene’s favoritism. He is frequently called “son of Laertes, seed of Zeus,” yet Zeus shows a decided lack of fatherly affection (or even concern) for his offspring.

Odysseus is left to the mercy of vengeful, petty, distractable, and promiscuous deities.

Jesus is not Zeus.

The Trinity is not Zeus.

And that makes all the difference in the world!

Compare the vindictiveness and pettiness of Zeus and Poseidon with the true, living God:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 CSB).

“I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:23 CSB).

Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).

The LORD your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17 CSB).

We are not God’s playthings. He does not toy with us out of pleasure in jerking us around. He does not delight in judgment but mercy; His pleasure is in forgiveness, not damnation.

So often, though, we think and believe the opposite. We think, “I have to be good so God will give me enough money for the bills this month.” “I better read two chapters of the Bible today, since I didn’t read anything yesterday.” “I need to be really obedient these next few days so God will be happy enough with me to give me the promotion I’m applying for at work.” “That didn’t work out because God was getting back at me for sinning so bad yesterday.”

In Christ, we are loved, not left; we are delighted in, not dramatized; we are endeared to God, not His entertainment.

Never-Failing Treasure

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Apart from him you should never desire even to breathe. For he is my hope, he is my boast, he is my never-failing wealth.

— Pseudo-Ignatius, Ephesians, 11:2.

What would I gain to have the whole world
To be king of silver and of gold
But at the cost of losing You
Getting wealth in exchange for my soul?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

Why would I long to live in a tent
When room in Your house is kept for me?
Why would I keep failing, frailing dust
When a body like Yours I’ll receive?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

Why would I drink from empty bottles
That can never quench my thirsty heart?
Why waste my time on deadly shadows
That will only drive us further apart?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

5-25-2017

Wonder Wanderings 5: Light is Smart

Wonder Wanderings is a periodic blog series at Melody+Theology, where I point out fascinating things I’ve come across in my reading wanderings. These amazing things show us an amazing God and yet another reason to marvel at His power and creativity.

refracted-1525452-639x852.jpgSnell’s Law describes how light rays bend when they pass from air into water, as they do when the sun shines into a swimming pool. Light moves more slowly in water, … and it bends accordingly to minimize its travel time. Similarly, light bends when it travels from air into glass or plastic, as when it refracts through your eyeglass lenses.

The eerie point is that light behaves as if it were considering all possible paths and then taking the best one. Nature—cue the them from The Twilight Zone—somehow knows calculus.

— Steven Strogatz, The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity, 137.

Fourfold Message on Three Levels

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Here, then is a fourfold message— two events (Christ’s death and resurrection), as attested by two witnesses (prophets and apostles), on the basis of which God makes two promises (forgiveness and the Spirit), on two conditions (repentance and faith, with baptism).

It is not enough to ‘proclaim Jesus’. For there are many different Jesuses being presented today. According to the New Testament gospel, however, he is historical (he really lived, died rose and ascended in the arena of history), theological (his life, death, resurrection and ascension all have saving significance) and contemporary (he lives and reigns to bestow salvation on those who respond to him). Thus the apostles told the same story of Jesus at three levels— as historical event (witnessed by their own eyes), as having theological significance (interpreted by the Scriptures), and as contemporary message (confronting men and women with the necessity of decision).

— John Stott, Acts: The Bible Speaks Today, KL 1338-1347, emphasis original.

Death, When It Met Him

Athanasius, answering the question why Jesus, having become incarnate, had to die a public death like crucifixion (instead of just dying and being raised privately):

For as it was not fitting for the Word of God, being the life, to inflict death himself on his own body, so neither was it suitable to fly from death offered by others, but rather to follow it up unto destruction, for which reason he naturall41pyhgxginly neither laid aside his body of his own accord, nor, again, fled from the Jews when they took counsel against him. But this did not show weakness on the Word’s part, but, on the contrary, showed him to be the Saviour and Life; in that he both awaited death to destroy it and hasted to accomplish the death offered him for the salvation of all. And besides, the Saviour came to accomplish not his own death, but the death of men; when he did not lay aside his body by a death of his own—for he was life and had none—but received that death which came from men, in order perfectly to do away with this when it met him in his own body.

Now, death must precede resurrection, as it would be no resurrection did not death precede; so that if the death of his body had taken place anywhere in secret, the death not being apparent nor taking place before witnesses, his resurrection too had been hidden and without evidence. Or why, while when he had risen he proclaimed the resurrection, should he cause his death to take place in secret? or why, while he drove out evil spirits in the presence of all, and made the man blind from his birth recover his sight, and changed the water into wine, that by these means he might be believed to be the Word of God, should he not manifest his mortal nature as incorruptible in the presence of all, that he might be believed himself to be the Life?

— Athanasius, On the Incarnation, para 22.

Time Travel, Part 1

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I became a Doctor Who fan rather late in the game, (binge-) watching on Netflix a couple of years ago. I struggled through the first episode; I think it took me three tries to finish it. I couldn’t see what the big deal was: it was a goofy show with props and sets reminiscent of original Star Trek episodes. I persevered, however, and the hook was set. I missed the Ninth Doctor for a few episodes of Series Two, only to have David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor become my favorite. (Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor gave Tennant’s Tenth a surprising run for his money. The jury’s still out on Peter Capaldi.)

It’s not surprising from this first paragraph that Doctor Who has become one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I love “Blink,” with the Weeping Angels who remain immobile and stone as long as you look directly at them. It also has one of the timeless (pun intended!) quotes in it:

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. But actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey…stuff… (quoted in Christian Leithart’s superb essay in Thornbury and Bustard’s Bigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who, 25).

I love the pathos of “Vincent and the Doctor.” I love the truly excellent storytelling of “A Good Man Goes to War.” (Seriously, what an episode!)

The fascinating thing about my affinity for Doctor Who is that I have, for a long time, been unable to stomach pretty much any story that involves time travel. “I don’t do time travel,” I have often said. The paradoxes about changing the past and future, the impracticality of actually accomplishing such travel, and the naive way that most movies, shows, or stories deal with these things–usually by ignoring them outright–was just a bridge too far for me.

Of course, time travel is science fiction. Is it possible in real life, though? Will we one day build our own TARDISes (TARDISi? TARDii?)? Will we encounter an alien species who has?

My answer is no. I don’t think the Bible allows for such a thing as time travel, other than the one-moment-at-a-time pace God has decreed for us (we’ll talk relativity later. maybe.). I say no for two reasons: first, certain Bible passages seem to categorically deny the possibility; and two, overall Biblical theology would deny the possibility as well.

In this post, I’ll discuss God as the true Time Lord. In a second post, I’ll discuss our relationship to time. In a third post, I’ll address how the “theology of time” and shows like Doctor Who can still help us worship.

The One True Time Lord

One of the ways that God taunts the idols and their worshipers, showing that they are empty and powerless, is to point out that He alone can declare what has been in the past and what will be in the future:

“Submit your case,” says the LORD. “Present your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Let them [the idols] come and tell us what will happen. Tell us the past events, so that we may reflect on them and know the outcome, or tell us the future. Tell us the coming events, then we will know that you are gods. Indeed, do something good or bad, then we will be in awe when we see it. Look, you are nothing and your work is worthless. Anyone who chooses you is detestable” (Isaiah 41:21-24 CSB, emphasis added).

God determines not only where we live, but when we live, and we have no say in the matter:

From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live (Acts 17:26 CSB, emphasis added).

God is the one who establishes time and how we are to mark it:

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14 CSB).

Joshua 10 relates the story of the Battle of Gilgal. Yahweh promises Joshua that Israel will be victorious. Joshua, believing that promise, prays for the sun to stand still to give them more time to finish the rout:

On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the LORD in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

And the sun stood still
and the moon stopped
until the nation took vengeance on its enemies.

Isn’t this written in the book of Jashar?

So the sun stopped
in the middle of the sky
and delayed its setting
almost a full day.

There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD listened to a man, because the LORD fought for Israel (Joshua 10:12-14 CSB).

Notice that Joshua prayed (“Joshua spoke to the LORD”). Joshua wasn’t able to make more time in the day, but Yahweh Almighty could.

God’s testimony is that of filling time, and yet living beyond it as well:

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
your rule is for all generations (Psalm 145:13a CSB).

“And as for the dead being raised—haven’t you read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush [Exodus 3], how God said to him: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are badly mistaken” (Mark 12:26-27 CSB).

Lord, you have been our refuge
in every generation.
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from eternity to eternity, you are God. …

For in your sight a thousand years
are like yesterday that passes by,
like a few hours of the night (Psalm 90:1-2, 4 CSB).

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:56-58 CSB).

In these passages (and many more), God is not bound by time as we are. He fills it, His reign extends for all of time, but He is not limited by its progression as we are.

The point of all this is to provoke a holy “Whoa….” from us. Time is not a factor of concern for God. Psalm 121 tells us that He never gets tired. God never has to rush. He never has to worry about being late or getting everything done in a day. His schedule is never overbooked. He is completely, joyfully, gladly sovereign all the time. And beyond time. (You know what I mean.)

This also means that we never have to worry about God needing to “squeeze us in” between appointments. We’re never “penciled in” on God’s schedule. He is never rushing past us to get to something “more important.” To Him, there’s no such thing.

In fact, God’s “slowness” as it seems to us in time is actually His immense kindness:

Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9 CSB).

Don’t blink. Bask in the glory of the One who is I AM, beyond and filling time!

Beneath Your Wings’ Shadow (Psalm 61)

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8.7.8.7.8.7.

With the last gasp of a crushed heart
Hearken to my cry, my God!
Set the pieces of my crushed soul
On a rock so high above.
You have been for me a fortress:
Strong, secure before the foe;
In your presence I will ever
Dwell beneath your wings’ shadow.

In that shadow, wings o’erspreading,
In your tabernacle dwell:
Where no priest dare come without blood
Where the wrath-fire is kindled.
Mercy there will be my shelter;
I will not there be consumed.
But in perfect peace before you
Watch your endless days ensue.

May your King, whom you appointed,
Reign forever on your throne.
May his days be without number;
May his years be ever long.
Faithful love and truth to stand by,
Guarding, obeying his will.
Then may I in loving gladness
Live obediently still.

4-4-2017