Monday, December 3, 2007

The Nature of God: Part 1

The Nature of God
A Brief Explanation:

Through the last few months, my life has been intensely focused on seeking God and desiring above all else to know Him more intimately. I have sacrificed much of my time to this pursuit and God in His infinite grace and mercy has answered me in unexpected ways, and in His answers, I have begun to understand more and more about His nature and in that understanding to love him all the more.

 I have tried to share these revelations with people, and have tried to write them down several times, but my words never seem to encapsulate the simplicity of God’s words, and I stumble over the finitude of my communicative abilities. However, over the past few days, I’ve felt God’s call to start setting down what He’s shown me about His triune nature, so my purpose is to keep my words as simple and reverential as one should be when speaking about an infinite, holy God.

 If you take the time to read what I’ve written, I urge you to read the scriptures I’ve included in the larger context in which they appear. I wish I could just include entire chapters of scriptures, but for the sake of brevity, I’ve tried to condense the message to the most concise sections.

My Earnest Prayer:

Lord,

Give me words to speak that you might be glorified and not me. Guide my hands, renew my mind, let me not lean onto mine own understanding, purge all that is contrary to you from my mind, let my words be a reflection of you, and give understanding and discernment to those who read these words by the power of Your Spirit, so that no one will unduly value my words above You.

Amen

Part 1 - Imagio De Trindade

In my BC days, I read an article about the work of Michael D. Lemonick, which led me to the work of Steinhardt and Turok and ultimately made me consider the possibility of parallel universes not in the fantasy of science fiction but in the absolutes of reality. Their theory posits the existence of a parallel universe (maybe several but at least one) that exists a mere proton’s breadth out of sync with our own. 

Certain forces move between the universes, like gravity. These forces bind the universes together like glue, and while the universes are separate and invisible to each other, actions that affect these forces, must cause some interaction between them. The mathematics of string theory supports the existence of this other universe, and there is hope that the French particle accelerator expected to be finished in 2010 will provide indirect physical evidence of its existence. At the same time as I was delving into the mysteries of the physical universe, I was working on my thesis on the works of St. Augustine, particularly his treatise De Trindade (Of the Trinity) and its influence on medieval drama. But since I was approaching Augustine with a secular interest, I didn’t seriously consider the two (physical reality and religious writings) to be connected, but after I surrendered everything to God, something clicked.

Perhaps this theory can give us a glimpse into the nature of God’s triune nature? There are numerous references in the Bible to a world unseen, one that exists around us, that affects us and we it. Colossians 1:16 says,

“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

For the sake of clarity, I will refer to the visible/earthly realm as “the physical” and the invisible/heavenly realm as “the spiritual” from this point forward. If we view the physical and spiritual realms as parallel universes just out of sync with one another, an understanding of the Trinity becomes clear, and a clear understanding of the Trinity will ultimately lead to a revelation of the nature of God.

Augustine used common examples like the roots, the trunk, and the branches of a tree to explain the Trinity. Each is a separate aspect of the tree, but all are equally the tree. He also attempted to explain human beings in the sense of a triune being. After all God says, “

Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26 [NIV]),

so if God is triune, human beings must inherently be triune as well. Augustine tries several combinations of a triune nature before settling on mind, understanding, and will as his best explanation for human trinity. However, the aspects he chooses are very much Platonic in nature, aspects of what the Greeks referred to as the anima or soul. Freud would later adopt these aspects as the id, the ego, and the superego. And while these aspects do have merit in terms of our actions and the bible’s accounts of the soul’s choice between good and evil, the bible also makes it very clear what humanity’s trinity is in context to the triune God, and it is NOT a separation within the soul of man, just as God’s trinity is not a separation within the soul of God. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says,

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you wholly. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (NIV).”

The wholeness of man is three parts: body, soul, and spirit.

Augustine was a neoplatonist and by association thought everything physical was bad, that the trinity of God and the trinity of humanity could not be physical, but the Bible indicates that the trinity of humanity does include the physical, not only in 1Thessalonians, but also in the creation, and the scriptures are adamant about the physicality of God; 1 John 4:2-3 says,

“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (NIV).”

In John 4:24, Jesus says,

“God is a spirit, and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”, and then in 14:9 He says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (NIV).”

So, if Jesus came in the flesh (physical) and claimed to be God, and God is spirit, God must be both physical and spiritual, but also something else beyond both of these two: something to which the physical and spiritual submit, after-all in John 14:26 and in other places Jesus says,

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (NIV).”

The Father sends the Spirit in the Son’s name, even though Jesus has already said He is one with the Father and the Father is one with the Spirit. They are one but separate and the Father is the controlling aspect. He is the force moving between the physical and spiritual that holds the two together. Since man was made in God’s image, it stands to reason that man’s composition would be similar. Genesis 2:7 says,

“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the spirit of life, and the man became a living soul (Literal Translation).”

God breathed a spirit into Adam, which brought his soul to life. God created the animals and gave them souls, yep that’s right, animals have souls. In Genesis 1, the Hebrew words used to describe the creatures/animals are “nephesh chay” which literally translated mean “living soul”, the same words used in Genesis 2:7 after God breathes life into Adam. The difference between humans and animals is not the existence of the soul but the spirit. Got spoke the animals’ spirits into existence, a powerful work of the physical nature of God, but He incorporated all the power of the trinity into the creation of humanity, commanding via His soul “let us make man in our image”, creating with His body, “formed man from the dust”, and instilling power via his Spirit (breathed the spirit of life). Animals having a living soul is not the same as human beings having a living spirit. Consider the two universe example yet again. Just because your couch exists in this universe, it does not mean it exists in the other, but the force of gravity it exerts transcends the divide, and it affects and is affected by both. Similarly, your dog may exist in the physical, but that does not mean it exists in the spiritual, but its soul affects and is affected by both (see the stories of Balaam’s donkey and Legion and the swine).

On the other hand, human beings were created to live in both worlds simultaneously, connected to God physically and spiritually. When Adam and Eve fell; they died immediately, not physically i.e. they remained living souls, but the living spirit that made them triune beings died, and they were separated from the spiritual world, although the actions of their soul and flesh still affected and were affected by that world. Ephesians 2:1-2 says,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (NIV).”

Their flesh was also sentenced to death, as their soul and body deteriorated without the spirit of life. However, the good news is that God embodied His physical nature in a man and came to pay the debt of death imparted at the fall, so that our spirit might be renewed by the impartation of His spirit, so like Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, we could worship Him in spirit and truth just as we were created to.

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life – Jesus (John 6:63)

***To be continued in Part 2 – Jesus: The Physical Aspect

Monday, August 6, 2007

Problems with Postmodern Pedagogy

This is a long, dense post: not for the faint of heart. It was a final response to one of my classes

Problems with Postmodern Purpose in Education

The discussion in class that was generated based on the post by Steven Grunewald titled “Vico and the Absence of Truth in the University” really hits at the foundations of modern pedagogical theories and the inherent fallacies informed by postmodernism and the lack of Truth. I see that Steven has posted his final exam on the same issue, and hopefully it will be acceptable for me to use my final exam, in continuation of the from-afar tradition, as a response to his post and also as a clarification of my own views and their foundations. In order to really see the purpose of pedagogy as defined by postmodernism, we must first attempt to define the indefinable and refute the irrefutable.

What exactly is postmodernism? Ihab Hassan (Dale might recognize the name, he was at RPI), who has been writing about postmodernism since the seventies, recently wrote, “What was postmodernism, and what is it still? I believe it is a revenant, the return of the irrepressible; every time we are rid of it, its ghost rises back. And like a ghost, it eludes definition. Certainly, I know less about postmodernism today than I did thirty years ago, when I began to write about it” (Postmodernism). Postmodernism defies definition because it is in its essence infinite: whatever you or I or anyone else believes at this moment or that moment; that is postmodern truth. It is multiculturalism, pluralism, pragmatic idealism, a slippery-slope to nihilism: it is an ill-defined circle with fuzzy edges and an even fuzzier center, where everything is true and by association everything is false: a reality constructed by the human experience and simultaneously deconstructed by human philosophy. Pilate once asked mockingly, “What is truth?” The postmodernist goes one step further and asks, “Is there truth?”

The problem that comes up if the answer to that question is “no”, outside of the obvious self-contradiction of the statement (can “truth does not exist” be true?), is that we have left ourselves with no foundation of ethics outside of socially constructed norms: a point that Seth made several times during class, although not quite in the same fashion as I am presenting it here. And yet, we rail against social norms such as polygamy, cannibalism, human sacrifice, and genocide, but what makes these social norms any less valuable in a pluralistic world than others? Why can we not accept the need and social purpose for concentration camps? What is it that sets these practices up as monstrosities in a world where “truth” is relative? We can answer these questions by saying that these practices hurt others or force social “truths” on others who do not share them, but I would ask, “are we not then trying to force our social truth of tolerance and respect of human life onto cultures that do not believe the same way we do?” What about self-mutilation and suicide? Those are individual acts that are considered wrong. For instance, India recently outlawed the practice of the widow throwing herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. Is that not her choice based on her personal beliefs? Since, we as a global society are maintaining that there are universal rights and wrongs in our legal systems, then it seems logical that postmodernism’s pluralistic and multiculturalistic “truths” are some how incompatible with real world governance, and if a philosophy does not reflect reality, it must be inherently false.

I do not think that Steven was happy with the way the conversation turned in class, moving from a discussion of the disappearance of Truth in the university to one of tolerance, and yet, that is the direction that particular conversation must go. If there is not one Truth but several equal truths, then no one should be intolerant of another’s beliefs because all beliefs are relevant. A search for Truth in the university, however, will undoubtedly negate several of those individual truths and thus, would be intolerant and not allowed in the postmodern university system. If postmodernism is indeed a flawed philosophical doctrine, as I maintain it is, then Truth can and ought to return to the university, but it will return at the cost of tolerance, which is only a pipe dream at best anyways, since we do not really tolerate everyone’s beliefs—unless, of course, they are willing to set aside certain precepts of their beliefs to be tolerant of others.

So, where does postmodernism and tolerance take us in terms of today’s pedagogy and the writing classroom? The answer can be seen in the current view of rhetoric. In the most recent pedagogical theories dealing with composition, postmodernism is seen as the only means of critical thinking, a sentiment I sorrowfully heard repeated many times in our own classroom. Let me explain. In 2000, Thomas Rickert argued,

For a pedagogy that entails post-odepial forms of subjectivity, deploying “strategies that circumvent, forestall, or resist the replication of authoritarian or proto-violent modes of control.” Such subjectivity, he maintained, is conducive to a “post-pedagogy of the ‘act’,” demanding “the new, the unthought, the un-accomodatable”, decentering the stable subjects and allowing a subject to transgress social norms. This pedagogy, he claimed, is an “exhortation to dare, to invent, to create, to risk”, not a set of codifiable strategies but a valuing of unorthodox work. (Lauer 145).

What exactly do we mean when we throw around the term “critical thinking”? Are we teaching students how to discern Truth as Steven suggests, or are we teaching them the ability to question and “transgress social norms”. How many times in the class did the idea that somehow our students were defunct because they came into the class “buying into” their parents’ ideologies, and then someone would say, “we don’t care what they believe, as long as they can express their belief and give us reasons for it”. My question then becomes, “why are we not teaching them how to defend their beliefs?”
The postmodern conception of critical thinking does not lend itself to apologetics; rather, it is the process of “decentering” and “transgressing” social norms, which is why composition teachers in the university assign books like Fargo Rock City or Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs to farmers’ kids that have been raised conservatively. We are trying to break them out of their social norms. And all in the name of what? Creating questioning, thinking individuals, capable of addressing and maybe even solving the world’s problems through educated tolerance? Maybe ideally, but realistically, we are creating individuals who distrust their families, their government, their friends, all forms of religion, all cultures, all ideas, and even themselves, which probably explains the $10 billion in anti-depressant sales last year.

Why do we feel the need to break our students in this fashion? In 2002, Debra Jacobs said that “dismissing process theories and pedagogies by conflating all of them with expressivism or by pointing out limitations of other strands of process . . . can limit instructional practices aimed at intervening in students’ ethical development” (664). She is clearly maintaining a position similar to classical pedagogies that “ethics” is a factor in the teaching of rhetoric; however, she continues by defining what “In(ter)ventional acts” of critical inquiry ought to do: “[they should] foster affective engagement, challenge existing doxa, and contribute to new understanding” (670). So, Truth is not found in tradition, and truths can be created in the classroom relative to student invention, creating a self-defined doctrine of life, and ethics are defined and created by the individual rather than an over-arching standard. If this is the case, then “might” makes “right” because intellectual approaches to ethics are individualized and worthless. Is it any wonder, after decades of teaching this stuff, that the U.S. has the most cultural influence on the planet all the way from media saturation to defining what human rights are, but they also have the most advanced military?

And then once we have stripped our students of all hope in the tradition of their parents and the world they knew, we trap them--perhaps unknowingly, perhaps purposively, but always helplessly--in the spider webs of linguistic theory, particularly the writings of Saussure, who says, “psychologically, what are our ideas, apart from our language? They probably do not exist. Or in a form that may be described as amorphous. We should probably be unable according to philosophers and linguists to distinguish two ideas clearly without the help of a language (internal language naturally)” (Saussure). As if somehow, we construct the idea of things solely by language: a theory that has become a cornerstone in postmodern pedagogy. Hassan says,

Language is an army of metaphors become rigid like those terracotta soldiers at Xian . . . the insight remains valid as far as it goes—and it goes far. These loose, slippery sounds—arbitrary signifiers, as every graduate student of literature has learned to say—sometimes seem, to the sophisticated or sophistical mind, a mirage, sand dunes drifting with every wind. How can you pitch in them a tent? Through these drifting, blowing sands, we stagger blindly, arms flailing—it's that desert again, and the desert grows. (Hassan)

But even in this beautifully written prose the problem of Saussure’s theory becomes evident. If the world is constructed solely on metaphor, it is lost to us and pointless; it would be better to exchange glances with the abyss as Nietzsche says, then to go on floundering in a world of shadow. Language is far from a perfect means of exchanging ideas, but its very imperfection suggests that there is something above it that cannot be expressed perfectly; the world of forms, the ideal, the spiritual, Truth; call it what you will; it is not turtles all the way down.

Language only becomes “arbitrary signifiers” if the sign itself is arbitrary, which is a precept of postmodernism. C.S. Lewis takes issue with this very subject in The Abolition of Man with the famous example of Gaius and Titius (his pseudonymed text book writers) and their remarks on Coleridge’s waterfall:
You remember that there were two tourists present: that one called it “sublime” and the other “pretty”; and that Coleridge mentally endorsed the first judgment and rejected the second with disgust. Gaius and Titius comment as follows: “When the man said, This is sublime, he appeared to making a remark about the waterfall . . . Actually . . . he was not making a remark about the waterfall, but a remark about his own feelings.” (2)

Lewis continues by ridiculing the notion that somehow all language is based on individual feelings and not inspired by the world around us. The example I used in class was a table; in the U.S., we call a table “table” and in Mexico they call it a “mesa”, does that change the nature of the thing? Does our language somehow change the substance of the thing itself? Do our words create truths through social interaction? If we were to agree that it was not a table but a “ball”, would I not be able to set my drink on it?
If we were to shift focus in the classroom and begin to discuss the power of language, not as a social construction, but as an ability to defend and discover Truth in the universe, then I believe student papers would consequentially improve. What is the point in writing, when everything else, especially language is pointless? The issue here is not just wrapped up in pedagogical differences; it is wrapped up in differences in worldviews. We are not just teaching our students skills, although the skills they learn will be invaluable, we are indoctrinating them with a philosophy of life, and if that philosophy is postmodernism, we cannot expect an improvement in their papers or in society in general. And yet, I wonder if the infinite nature of postmodernism makes it impossible to kill. I can rave all I want about the ludicrousness and the insanity of postmodern thought, and my audience can just brush it all aside with a simple, “that’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it”, without giving any thought or credence to my argument: without even once having considered that life is not arbitrary: there is more than proximate meaning, but such are the pitfalls of modern academia. I could also go on and offer an alternative to postmodernism, but I am guessing the Truth slant gives my leanings away.
Stephen P Porter S.D.G.

Friday, June 29, 2007

He Brought Me to His Banqueting Table: A Villanelle

He Brought Me to His Banqueting Table


He brought me to His banqueting table,
Via sacrificial invitation
Through the blood that speaks better than Abel’s.

The foundation of my heart was unstable
Ever slipping in spiritual starvation;
He brought me to His banqueting table.

The deepest desires of my soul were labile,
But He stripped my sinful passion
Through the blood that speaks better than Abel’s.

Though I dared to call His love a fable,
Still He embraced this prodigal son;
He brought me to His banqueting table.

I stand secure because He is able,
Ever desiring to cleanse my sin
Through the blood that speaks better than Abel’s

On my forehead, He has placed His label.
He embraces me in holy adoption.
He brought me to His banqueting table
Through the blood that speaks better than Abel’s.



--For those of you wondering what a villanelle is . . .

Villanelle: An intricate French lyric form, the most famous modern example of which is Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night." The form consists of five three-line stanzas and a sixth stanza of four lines, for a total of 19 lines. Lines 1 and 3 become a refrain, with line 1 repeated in lines 6, 12, and 18 and line 3 in lines 9, 15, and 19. All the tercets rhyme "aba" and the quatrain rhymes "abaa."

Friday, June 1, 2007

What do You do When Everyone is Busy?

In my BC days, I was something of a loner . . . let’s face it; I was staunchly antisocial. The further I divorced myself from God, the further I divorced myself from the company of people. After I bent the knee to Christ, almost immediately, my social life blossomed. It’s a rare day that someone isn’t calling me to do something, or that I’m not initiating the doing, and I love this new life. However, something has gone amiss the past couple of weeks, and I haven’t really understood why. It seemed like my interactions with people were becoming more and more superficial, and I have had to work harder to enjoy others’ company. Last night, I figured out what had changed. For the first time in months, all my friends were busy and I spent the evening alone. The BC Stephen is definitely dead because I couldn’t sit still. I got in my car and just drove, and as I drove, I started to talk to God. As soon as I did, His presence filled my car, and I realized what my problem has been lately.

In my enjoyment of the friends and social life He so graciously gave me, I had stopped spending time with Him. Sure I prayed and read daily, but it wasn’t the intimate time with God that I used to have in the beginning of this relationship. And when you get too caught up in the gifts rather than the Giver, the gifts begin to lose their meaning. For instance, my grandfather left me a painting when he died that has a fairly significant market value (it’s a numbered print of Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ). After my surrender to Christ, I sold all the worldly collectables I had, and what didn't sell, I gave away (literally thousands of dollars worth of stuff, that I just gave away). But, I couldn't sell or give away the painting because it’s not just a painting; it’s a gift from my grandfather. Likewise my friends aren’t just friends, they’re gifts from God, and in that light, they’re invaluable and I wouldn’t give them up for the world. But without the reference of the Giver, I started looking at their values, and my enjoyment of them diminished. As soon as I made time for intimacy with God, I found my joy, and my friends returned to their rightful place in my heart.

None of this is to say that I want to spend less time with them or become antisocial again because that’s my natural tendency, and I don’t think that’s what God wants from me; rather, I know that I have to keep these gifts in perspective to the Giver and not sacrifice my time with Him because I’m tired or in a hurry to go out and have fun.

And to my friends that are reading this, at the risk of sounding corny, I want to say, “I love you guys”, I do value you more than a painting, and I thank God for you daily.

To God Be All the Power and Glory Forever,
Amen

Monday, May 21, 2007

What if the Landing Gear Doesn't Drop?

God has done some amazing things in my life, and I've learned alot of lessons about relying on Him for everything, not putting value on Earthly possesions, giving everything to Him, being a steward of His stuff, the list goes on and on. The lesson He taught me this weekend extends far beyond anything I could have imagined having to learn, yet it was by far the easiest.

Brandon and I went to Detroit for a Computers and Writing conference this weekend, which went fairly well. We got to sit in a giant conference room in over-stuffed chairs and talk about all the nonsensical rhetorical theory that supports the technical writing we're building our careers and education around. It was a pretty laid back experience, and the down-time we had in our dorm rooms gave me a lot of opportunity to spend in prayer and devotion. I actually received some direct answers to some questions in my life I had been asking and was feeling pretty peaceful about everything in general.

We had ended up booking a roundtrip flight from Chicago to Detroit in order to save some driving time. After the conference, which ended two hours earlier than we expected, we got a ride back to the airport. We gathered our meager belongings and headed toward the terminal expecting to wait four hours for our flight. We were walking into the airport, and Brandon turns to me and says, "you should ask if we can get on an earlier flight." I responded, "I can ask, but it may cost extra." We arrived at the counter and the ticket guy takes one look at our agenda and says, "do you guys want an earlier flight?" We looked at each other, then back at him, and nodded.

Now, usually when strange coincidences like this start to occur, I get really excited because I've come to recognize the handiwork of God when I see it, but this time, I let my guard down and just thought, "Well, that was convenient." We got on the plane immediately and found that the nice ticket agent had given us the emergency exit seats, which for two 6 foot + guys is amazing because of all the extra leg room, and really the only price you have to pay is helping people exit the plane if you crash. Very convenient, yet again.

We took off, and everything went fine, until we reached Chicago. The captain announced that we were beginning our descent, the stewardesses all rushed to their foldout chairs, and a loud crunching noise issued from the floor below us. Brandon and I looked at each other and both said, "that didn't sound good", and the plane that had been dropping rapidly toward the runway, sped up and rose back into the sky.

The pilot made the following announcement: "Sorry, ladies and gentleman, our panel indicates that one of the landing gear doors didn't lock back into place correctly, so we decided to review the emergency regulations for that situation, and it doesn't look like it should be a problem, so we're just going to circle Chicago, and we'll go ahead and land in about ten minutes."

We heard some more grinding below us and wondered why the pilot was retracting a malfunctioning landing gear back into the plane. We circled Chicago and came back around for another landing attempt. This time the crunching was proceeded by a high pitch whine, and Brandon said, "The landing gear didn't go down at all this time." Sure enough, we rose back into the sky, and the pilot announced an affirmation.

I thought the thing that probably crossed everyone's mind at this point, "we're going to crash". I've watched the news enough to know that landing a plane without the landing gears usually results in great big rolling balls of fire.

The woman sitting behind us leaned forward and asked if we understood how to operate the emergency exits.

We assured her we did.

She laughed nervously and pointed to her two-year old grandson who was sitting peacefully next to her daughter-in-law, a miracle in-and-of-itself. "That's my grandson; he'll need you two to be his heroes."

We smiled and nodded encouragingly.

To make a long story short, the pilots managed to lower the gear automatically, and we landed amidst an armada of emergency vehicles and federal agents. We were towed into the gates, and our fellow passengers broke out into audible rejoicing.

The point of the story isn't God's hand in delivering us safely to the ground--I have no doubt he intended that the whole time--the point of the story is that for the first time in my Christian walk I understood what Fanny Crosby was singing about in 1873 when she wrote, "Bless├Ęd assurance, Jesus is mine! / O what a foretaste of glory divine! / Heir of salvation, purchase of God, / Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood" or what John was writing about in 1 John 5:11-14: "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life" (emphasis mine). In my BC days, I had a few brushes with death, and there was always a knawing fear, but this time as my life hung precariously in the balance of a malfunctioning airplane's questionable landing, I had no fear whatsoever. I knew that no matter what, the situation was in God's hands. If this was the moment He choose to call me home, Hallelujah! If He intended me to live and carry on with the work He's called me to, Hallelujah! If He intended me to crash and burn and live a life maimed, broken, and scarred, Hallelujah! I was so content with whatever outcome He had in mind, that I very nearly dozed off during the crisis.

As I look back on the experience, I can't help but thank God that He gave me the opportunity to build my faith in this way and share it. It really isn't about living in His protection, though that's amazing and important; it's about living in assurance that I'm never out of His will as long as I don't choose to be. If my focus is Him, then everything that happens to me will glorify Him, and that's the only position to be in that will make every event, even death or physical harm, peaceful and joyous.

To God be the praise and the glory forever,
Amen

Monday, April 9, 2007

Personal Nineveh

I wrote this poem not long after I returned to Christ, broken and battered by a life spent running from God. Even now months later, what I wrote still holds true in my life, and I thought it would be worth sharing . . .

Personal Nineveh

You showed me Your perfect plan in my youth,
And I cowardly jumped ship to Tarshish. (1)
You called me to be a witness of truth,
And I chose the belly of the fish.

I turned my camel away from the needle.
I kept my riches and ignored your decrees.
My gourd’s shadow was devoured by the weevil,
And still I lived in iniquity.

Who was I to question the Lord’s guidance:
To have dared to exalt my imagination
Against His most holy ordinance:
To have said, “I do not need salvation?”

I foolishly spent my inheritance
And sowed the only seeds I could sow:
Seeds of destruction and mischance,
Whose fruit is a life of sorrow and woe.

Woe to the man that turns his face from God.
Woe to the man who lives by my example.
Woe to the man who lives a life of fraud.
Woe to the man with the spirit of Babel.

Brethren cast down your man-made towers:
Those conclusions contrary to God’s great plan.
Be mindful of your numbered hours
And the time lost outside His caring hands.

Great is the man who knows God’s will;
Blessed be the man who knows and follows,
For in doing His will are His promises fulfilled,
Defying His will brings His curses also.

Yet, Praise be to God, though we may run,
He is never too far: never so removed,
To withhold welcome for the prodigal son,
Whose sins, washed clean by the blood, are not reproved.

Barukh attah Adonai Elohaynu, (2)
You who are worthy of all my praise.
Because you lovingly drew me back to you,
Despite my rebellious ways.

Thank You for never giving up the chase,
Though I ran a thousand miles,
I could not escape your loving embrace.
You have brought me back to Your church’s aisle.

Blessed be the Lord God and His only Son,
Though I have lost everything that I built,
What is any of that in comparison
To what I have gained through the blood spilt?

Thank you, Adonai Tsuri v’go’ali, (3)
You are the foundation of my soul’s rebirth,
And it will stand against adversity,
Even unto the end of the Earth.

To God be the power and the Glory forever,
Amen.

(1) Jon 1:2-3 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

(2) Hebrew transliteration: Blessed be the name of the Lord our God

(3) Hebrew tranlsiteration: The Lord my rock and my salvation.

When God Shows Up

I learned to read reading the King James Bible. The knowledge of God has been an intrinsical part of my life--all my life; even when I was running from God, I used my biblical knowledge of God's word to deny Him. That said, I think we can all agree that a knowledge of God is not the same as knowing God. We know a lot about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but we don't really know them personally. However, the issue that has been bothering me since Christmas break is what does knowing God really mean. Sure, we can say it means believing in Jesus Christ, praying, reading the Bible, living a life that reflects God, doing right, etc. and I think these things are important, but do they really demonstrate knowing God, or just a knowledge of God? Is it possible that even these simple Christian truths that we rely so heavily on miss the mark?

So often I've heard the phrase "have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ", and I ask what does that relationship look like? Does God only maintain His side of the relationship with that soft voice we've come to recognize as divine and maybe sometimes through circumstances that look like coincidence, but everyone knows really aren't. I've had a lot of relationships in my lifetime, and they all had much more direct interaction than this. Relationships involve conversations, emotional involvement, physical contact, etc. God's comparison of His people to prostitutes and adulteresses, to Himself as Father, and to us as friends throughout the scriptures shows that He views our relationship with Him in more intimate terms as well.

I think God uses the small voice and the coincidences because we hold back in our part of the relationship and only respond to these things. We're like autistic children; too much stimulus and we start screaming and run away. There have been times in my relationship with God, that He has moved beyond typical interactions, and I've felt His presence physically touching me; I've heard His voice in more audible tones. Every time I've approached this intimate relationship with God, I've pulled back, and yet it is the type of relationship I desire most. It is this simultaneous desire and hesitancy that creates a constant struggle in my life. When I sin, it is usually a direct result of this struggle. I start to get too close to God and pull back and do something to purposely push Him away. Those of you who know my whole testimony are probably thinking this sounds very familiar, you'd be right. However, unlike the last time, I'm taking a stand right here, right now, to press on in this relationship God desires from me, and overcome the desire to run.

In an attempt to better understand exactly what an intimate relationship with God is going to require of me, I plan on using this blog as a place to collect my thoughts and studies, and I hope that what God shows me here will be helpful to others looking for a deeper relationship with the Most High. I am going to begin by looking at different men and women of God in the Bible and elsewhere, their lives, and their relationships with God, and attempt to build a guide for my own life. I realize that an intellectual study of these relationships isn't going to build my own relationship, but I want to know everything I can about the One who I am building this relationship with. When we make new friends, we start by asking questions, "what do you do for a living?", "what do you like to do in your spare time?", "where are you from?", "what do you want to do?", etc. I think our relationship with God must begin with the same search for information, it's impossible to intimately know someone and know nothing about them. I just hope that this knowledge about God gives me some insight about how to interact with Him when He comes near, and more importantly the strength to stand in His presence and not pull away, because I love Him with all my heart, and I know He loves me infinitely more.

Most of all, I want to know Him more.

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