Tuesday, December 25, 2012

God Came Down

I love listening to Christmas music for the entire month of December.  One of my favourite songs has a line that says, “…and God came down at Christmastime.”  It’s so easy to forget God – the God who spoke the heavens and the earth into being - came down as a helpless baby, dependent on the hands of humans He created.

It begs the question, why would God come to earth as a baby?  Or even more basic, is it true?

I heard a story recently about a man who had the same question.  His wife was a Christ follower, but her husband couldn’t believe the story about God, Jesus and the resurrection.  It was Christmastime and his wife was going to church on Christmas Eve.  She invited her husband but he declined, saying he would feel like a hypocrite if he went to church because he didn’t believe the story.

So the husband found himself alone in the house.  He heard a loud bang outside his living room window and he discovered two birds had flown into the window.  He went outside to have a better look at the birds and noticed that they were injured and not doing well.  The husband knew if he could get them in the barn where the warmth from the other animals were, they would mend quickly on their own.

He tried everything to get them to move toward the barn but the more he tried, the more flustered the birds became.  The husband knew the birds thought him to be big and scary and no matter what he would try, they would not trust him.  If only he could become like them – a bird – then he could lead them to safety.  Just then, he heard the bells from the church ringing and the husband fell to his knees, realizing that was the reason that “God came down at Christmastime”.

Even as I write, I’m verklempt as I think about the depth to which God went so that we, his creation, would trust him.  I hope you take a moment this Christmastime to reflect on why we celebrate and are filled with awe at the magnitude of what occurred so long ago when God came down at Christmastime.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Psalms for Sunday, LXX

The bars on the windows attempt to attach themselves to my heart but you are with me and the room becomes bigger. Death is around every corner but you are with me and life conquers death.

Your presence is my help, and it is my salvation. Thoughts assail and attack but the helmet of salvation renders the lies lifeless and they have no power. Show me your goodness; let me test your faithfulness. Extend your hand and give me strength.

In the deepest pit, you are there. The angel of the Lord is around the one who trusts you. The puzzle pieces are sorted and set in your light; there is no light except for you and those who stand in it have revelation.

Without the vision, people perish but in you is eternal life.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Metamorphoo? Is That a Swear Word?

The first time [I remember] that I gave my testimony was for Grade 12 English class. I don’t remember why or how it fit with the assignment but I do remember the absolute conviction I had when I shared a particular Bible verse. It was the crux of what was relevant to me at the time.

Romans 12:2, Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I admit, in my naivety I thought once I made the decision it was as good as done. No one could characterize me as wishy-washy about anything I do. Either I’m all in or I’m out. It’s kind of like someone’s preference for olives – either you like them or you don’t. No one is on the fence about olives*. You can imagine how frustrating it was when I realized there was still incongruence in what I was supposed to be and what I actually was and the older I am in the Lord, the more I realize transformation is not a one-time event but an on-going, continuous action.

While studying the original Greek language, the word, metamorphoo, means to have a different nature. The syntax of the language Paul uses suggests it is a continuous action, but not only that – it’s not a suggestion but a command. We are commanded to be transformed. It’s great for someone who loves challenges but unfortunately it’s a challenge we can’t overcome.  

Who, by sheer determination, can become a completely different than what they are? Metamorphoo means to change what is essential about us – that which makes you, you. Insanity has been defined by doing the same things and expecting a different result. Attempting to transform ourselves is similar. It’s frustrating and will eventually lead to despair for the one who strives to obey the command.

What’s the solution? (I’m glad you asked because I have some thoughts on it.)

The good news is the word is also in imperative form, which means it is the work of someone else, and we are the recipient. In other words, the Holy Spirit is at work in us to transform us [into the likeness of Christ, as Paul writes in Galatians 4:19]. This is a possibility because as per Romans 12:1, we have already made ourselves a living sacrifice as a form of worship.

Metamorphoo shows up 4 times in the Bible: Romans 12:2, Galatians 4:19, Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2. Paul uses the word in Romans and Galatians in relation to the Saints but the gospel writers translate the word as transfigured Jesus is the recipient of the action. Isn’t it shocking that Jesus needed to be transformed? If he was transfigured, how much more so do we?

It’s also interesting (at least to me) to note first the gospel writers mention Jesus’ metamorphoo, and then Paul writes later that Christ is metamorphoo in us. And all because we’ve given ourselves as a living sacrifice and have made a choice to turn from the prince of this world to the Holy One of heaven. How is it being accomplished and what’s the purpose? These questions (and more) are scattered throughout my thoughts and I’ll be writing more about it, using metamorphoo was a jumping off point.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! May you be abundantly blessed!

*I dislike 3 foods: olives, eggplant and salmon.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Psalms for Sunday, LXIX

How do you love me? I cannot count it all. My mouth is filled with a song and I dance for you because you are good.

In the light of your goodness, things that troubled my soul disappear and I look only on your face and feel your pleasure towards me and my household. Let all who come here experience your goodness. Let their hearts be glad and let us sing to the Lord forever – a new song, giving you praise and glory and honour.

You are good and only you create. The enemy makes mountains by deception, illusion and shadow but you’ve given us the victory. If I say to the mountain, “Be moved.” It moves because nothing can stand against the Lord. I sing to the Lord and make music for him and he lifts me from the pain and the shame.

Let the people hear your good works; how I love to sing your word and make praises to you.  Joy to the world; let earth receive her King. He comes in majesty, riding on the air because he has the prince of the air his footstool.

Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord.
Hallelujah! Give a shout to the King.
Hallelujah! Dance for the Christ, the anointed One.

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's a Mystery

I don’t often have conversations with self-professing atheists, not because I avoid them but I don’t have a lot of access to anyone with that mindset. This week was different; this week I had an online dialogue with someone who used really big words. Then she asked me for proof, not just any kind of proof – scientific proof – about a statement I made, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Within two sentences I was stumped. A bit more dialogue between us until she finally said I appeared to be willingly scientifically uninformed. Yep, you got that right. I don’t have to explain everything, especially things that don’t interest me; I’m okay with the mystery. Others, like her, want more information. And that’s okay, too. There are others who can intelligently argue for faith and Biblical claims. I’m smart enough to know it’s way over my head. Tell me when it’s over and I’ll rejoin the conversation.

I wonder if a self-professing atheist has to scientifically prove love or relationships? If I reduced my relationship with my Man to what I can prove, it would seem rather stale and limited. Love and relationships must be experienced. Because the other person is a “variable” (i.e., can’t be “controlled” – those are the extent of what I remember about science experiments), there is always an element of mystery to love and relationship. The closer the relationship and the stronger the love, the greater the mystery.

Several years ago, I was a guest lecturer for a World Religions course at the University of New Hampshire (I was asked to share the Christian perspective – in case you were wondering). In preparation for the course, I read the textbook required for the students to read. It was so dry I had to check my own pulse to make sure I was still alive. The textbook reduced a relationship with an eternal triune God, the Creator of the universe, to about 40 pages.

Anytime we limit God to our understanding, we become our own god. I’d probably become an atheist too if I was my own best hope. But our God is a living God - the only living God - and we can have a relationship with him. Mystery is part of it. Certainly there is a lot we’ve been given to know. Deuteronomy 29:29 says the things revealed belong to us and to our children [and future generations] forever. But since Jesus, we are given into greater revelation of the mystery (Colossians 1:27) but we still have fellowship of the mystery (Ephesians 3:9).

Mystery doesn’t squash questions. Mystery invites you to ask even more questions, and to be fully engaged.

Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis for man’s desire to understand.
~Neil Armstrong

I would not ask my Man to scientifically prove his love for me. I enjoy the process of knowing him better and experiencing his love. Likewise, I don’t want to be able to explain everything about God. That isn’t any kind of relationship – at least not one I want to be in. I want to discover new things about God while we are in relationship. Relationship without mystery is boring.

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.
~Anais Nin
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